Otto Weininger was a Viennese Austro-Hungarian Jew most famous for his philosophy of male glorification elaborated in 1903's "Sex and Character," a work that stirs many academics today for its shades of mysogyny and anti-semitism.

Weininger was a cultural philosopher who built a separate theory of knowledge for males and females. Though each woman had some degree of masculine in her and each male a degree of the feminine, the theory made males out to be superior to women. Men unlike women could be moral: the masculine factor's epistemology was based on men's ability to subdivide the world into logical parts and devise moral laws for themselves. Drawing on Fichtean philosophy, Weininger indicated men as moral, selfless beings who separated themselves from instincts and desires to approach the world in a cold, rational way that steered them towards obeing moral laws and resisting base impulses. The woman on the other hand could not derive and follow the same laws of morality because her relationship to the universe was not rational. She was at one with the universe and passively gave in to her instincts, whether they be kind or cruel. The point is that women could not do the right thing because they could not separate themselves from their emotions to think rationally. The example that he gives to the support this thesis are mothers who supposedly love their children unconditionally and do not allegeldy withdraw their affection even if their children commit heinous acts such as murder.

Let's go into more depth into how Weininger theoretically grounds men as rational and therefore moral and women as irrational and therefore immoral. The man's dualistic approach to self and world as separate allows him to keep a track of what he, an individual being, is doing to the people and things in other world. That's where the man's considerations of justice come from. He asks himself whether he abused another person or harmed some public resource, be it the water system, electricity, or a bank. Weininger points out that women unlike men do not actively use their memory to assemble facts of how they relate to objects and other people and therefore cannot judge whether they affect others negatively or not. They supposedly live in the moment, obeying whatever impulse it is that affects them at the time.(The image here to consider is women as vegetables, passively reaching towards the sunlight.) If a woman sees a child hungry for example, Weininger would imagine her running out to the nearest bakery and stealing a piece of bread for him without caring about how she is breaking the social contract of not stealing and thus hurting the bakery's profits and/or public order. According to this theory, the spontaneous unreflective woman would be called to crimes of passion and petty revenge against someone who she feels wronged her. (Not to mention susceptible to the temptation of cheating on her husband whenever another appealing man comes along. Weininger thought that the moral/rational acting man was less prone to infidelity than the pleasure-driven woman.)

But it is not only the advantage of morality that men supposedly have over women. You see, men's superior memory and ability to separate themselves from the world and to divide it into rational and logical parts makes them great artists/geniuses. Great writers are necessarily male because women's style of living spontaneously from moment to moment and not separating themselves from experience to think and reflect makes them incapable of storing up "reflections/thoughts about their life" that they can later use in writing. It must be kept mind since Weininger believes that each man and woman contain a certain percentage of the masculine and feminine in their constitution, he would attribute the unethical actions of a very impulsive man who doesn't control his behavior according to principles of morality to the fact that this man is predominantly, say 75% female, by type.

There is one group of males that Weininger believes to possess a very high quotient of irrational and immoral female behavior: Jews. Like women (since they constitute the female type), Jews can only act in their own interest to satisfy their own individual desires and are incapable of acting morally and fulfilling their obligations towards others. Deprived of reason, they cannot achieve genius as artists and their work is condemned to chaotic irrationalism and mediocrity. Being a Hungarian Jew, Weininger ended up commiting suicide over the fact that his ethnic roots prevented him from being a worthy human being. It is not as if he didn't try to escape the curse of being Jewish by converting to Protestantism. Though a Jew, Weininger apparently did aspire to genius since he chose to shoot himself in the same house that Beethoven died and thus perhaps managed to associate himself, however temporarily, with the great composer. He died as a 23-year old in 1903, the same year his opus magnum was published.

Noteworthy Fact: In a rather interesting argumentative twist, Weininger argues that a woman's motherly instincts are an outgrowth of her endless sexual lust for men. Its part of her "plant-like/vegetative" impulse to nurture and be nurtured that is also present in the prostitute. Thus, a woman's two possible roles as prostitute and mother are cut of the same cloth.


Lucka, Emil. Otto Weininger - Sein Werk und seine Persönlichkeit
Janik, Allen and Toulmin, Stephen. Wittgenstein's Vienna. Ivan R. Dee Inc: Chicago, 1996.