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Sex and Character

An Investigation of Fundamental Principles

Otto Weininger. Translated by Ladislaus Löb. Edited by Daniel Steuer with Laura Marcus. Introduction by Daniel Steuer.

Publication Year: 2005

Otto Weininger's controversial book Sex and Character, first published in Vienna in 1903, is a prime example of the conflicting discourses central to its time: antisemitism, scientific racism and biologism, misogyny, the cult and crisis of masculinity, psychological introspection versus empiricism, German idealism, the women's movement and the idea of human emancipation, the quest for sexual liberation, and the debates about homosexuality. Combining rational reasoning with irrational outbursts, in the context of today's scholarship, Sex and Character speaks to issues of gender, race, cultural identity, the roots of Nazism, and the intellectual history of modernism and modern European culture. This new translation presents, for the first time, the entire text, including Weininger's extensive appendix with amplifications of the text and bibliographical references, in a reliable English translation, together with a substantial introduction that places the book in its cultural and historical context.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. iii-x

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A Book That Won't Go Away: Otto Weininger's Sex and Character

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pp. xi-xlvi

The shorter a life the more difficult it can be to give an adequate account of it. In the case of the Viennese Otto Weininger, who was born in 1880 and died in 1903, this difficulty is further complicated by the fact that his writings—produced, not to be forgotten, in the short space of three years between the ages of 20 and 23—do not allow for a straight forward and simple reading. Neither his contemporaries nor...

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Translator's Note

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pp. xlvii-liv

The only English translation of Sex and Character until now was published in 1906 by William Heinemann, London, and G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York: a reprint was issued in 1975 by AMS Press Inc., New York, and in 2003 by Howard Fertig, New York. The title page refers to an “Authorised Translation from the sixth German Edition,” although there is no indication as to who authorized it or who the translator...

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pp. 3-6

This book attempts to throw a new and decisive light on the relationship between the sexes. It is not intended to list the largest possible number of discrete characteristics or to compile the results of the scientific measurements and experiments carried out so far, but tries to trace all the contrasts between Man and Woman back to a single principle. Consequently it differs from all other books...

First (Preparatory) Part: Sexual Diversity

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pp. 7

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pp. 9-11

All thinking begins with intermediate generalizations and then develops in two different directions, one toward concepts of ever higher abstraction, which encompass ever larger areas of reality by registering properties shared between ever more things, the other toward the intersection of all conceptual lines, the concrete complex unit, the individual, which we can only approach in our...

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Chapter I. "Men" and "Women"

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pp. 12-15

By classifying the majority of living things in the most general terms and simply calling them male or female, man or woman, we can no longer do justice to the facts. The inadequacy of these terms is felt more or less clearly by many.The first objective of this study is to get matters straight in this respect. Joining other authors who have recently written about phenomena related...

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Chapter II. Arrhenoplasm and Thelyplasm

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pp. 16-26

The first thing expected from a work designed to be a universal revision of all the relevant facts would be a new and complete representation of the anatomical and physiological qualities of the sexual types. However, since I have not undertaken any of the independent investigations required for that comprehensive task, and do not in any case regard the answers to those questions as...

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Chapter III. Laws of Sexual Attraction

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pp. 27-40

Expressed in the old terms, among all sexually differentiated organisms there is an attraction between males and females, Man and Woman, the objective of which is copulation. However, since Man and Woman are only types, not found in a pure form in reality, we can no longer say that sexual attraction seeks to...

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Chapter IV. Homosexuality and Pederasty

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pp. 41-46

The law of sexual attraction, which has just been discussed, also contains the—long sought—theory of sexual inversion, i.e., sexual inclination toward one’s own (and not, or not only, to the opposite) sex. Apart from one distinction,which will be made later, it can boldly be claimed that every sexual invert also exhibits the anatomical characteristics of the opposite sex. There is no such thing...

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Chapter V. Characterology and Morphology

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pp. 47-56

Given a certain correspondence between physical and psychic phenomena, the wide range of the principle of intermediate sexual forms, as demonstrated in the morphological and physiological context, may from the outset be expected to yield at least a similarly rich psychological harvest. There is certainly also a psychic type of Woman and of Man (at any rate the results obtained so far...

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Chapter VI. Emancipated Women

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pp. 57-65

Following directly from the application of the principle of intermediate sexual forms in differential psychology, I must now deal for the first time with the question that this book is above all else intended to solve in theoretical and practical terms, insofar as it is not a theoretical question of ethnology and political economy, i.e., social science in the broadest sense, or a practical question of the...

Second or Main Part: The Sexual Types

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pp. 67

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Chapter I. Man and Woman

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pp. 69-80

The way is cleared for the exploration of all the real contrasts between the sexes when we recognize that Man and Woman can only be understood as types, and that the confusing reality, which will forever supply the familiar controversies with new fuel, can only be reproduced by a mixture of these two types. The only really intermediate sexual forms were dealt with in the first part...

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Chapter II. Male and Female Sexuality

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pp. 81

Psychology as such is usually understood to mean the psychology of the psychologists, and psychologists are exclusively men: never in recorded history has a female psychologist been heard of. That is why the psychology of woman is usually dealt with in a chapter appended to general psychology in the same way as the psychology of the child. And since psychology has been regularly, albeit...

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Chapter III. Male and Female Consciousness

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pp. 82-90

Before we can deal in more detail with one of the main differences between the male and female psyche and the extent to which it transforms the objects of the world into its own contents, it will be necessary to take some psychological soundings and define some concepts. As the views and principles of the prevailing psychology have developed without regard to this particular topic it...

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Chapter IV. Endowment and Genius

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pp. 91-100

Since so much has been written in so many places about the nature of the predisposition to genius, it will prevent misunderstandings if I make some preliminary statements before embarking on a detailed discussion of the matter. First we must draw a line of demarcation from the concept of talent. In the popular view, genius and talent are almost always connected in such a way as...

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Chapter V. Endowment and Memory

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pp. 101-123

To start with the henid theory, I would like to report the following observation. I have just noted, half mechanically, the page number of a passage in a botanical treatise from which I intended to copy out an extract later. At the sametime I was thinking something in henid form, but what I was thinking, and how I was thinking it, what was knocking on the door of my consciousness, I...

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Chapter VI. Memory, Logic Ethics

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pp. 124-132

The title I have given to this chapter runs the immediate risk of being easily and gravely misunderstood. Judged by it, the author could appear to hold the view that logical and ethical valuations are exclusively the objects of empirical philosophy, or psychic phenomena just like sensation and feeling, and that logic and ethics therefore are special disciplines or sub-sections of psychology and...

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Chapter VII. Logic, Ethics, and the Self

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pp. 133-142

It is common knowledge that David Hume has criticized the concept of the self as a mere “bundle” of different “perceptions” in constant flux and motion. No matter how much he thought that this compromised the self, he presents his view in relatively moderate terms, and he covers himself impeccably by his choice of words. He declares that some metaphysicians, who believe that they...

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Chapter VIII. The Problem of the Self and Genius

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pp. 143-160

Many arguments on principles in psychology arise from the individual characterological differences between the contestants. Thus, as mentioned before, characterology could have an important role to play: while one person claims that he has found this in himself, and another that he has found that, characterology would have to teach why the self-observation of the

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Chapter IX. Male and Female Psychology

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pp. 161-187

It is time to return to the real task of this investigation in order to see how far it has been advanced by my lengthy digressions, which often seemed to distract. The principles I have developed are of such radical consequences for a psychology of the sexes that even those who have agreed with my deductions so far may shy away from these conclusions. We have not yet reached the point...

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Chapter X. Motherhood and Prostitution

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pp. 188-210

The main objection to my account so far will be that it cannot be valid for all women. It will be argued that what I have said may apply to some, or even many, I did not set out with the intention of dealing with any specific forms of femininity. Women can be classified according to various points of view, and one must certainly beware of claiming that what is true of an extreme type,...

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Chapter XI. Eroticism and Aesthetics

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pp. 211-229

With the exception of a few points still in need of consideration, I have now examined the arguments that are used time and again in an attempt to justify the high esteem in which woman is held and refuted them from the point of view of the critical philosophy on which, for the reasons given, my investigation is based. There is, of course, little hope that the debate will be carried out on...

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Chapter XII. The Nature of Women and Her Purpose in the Universe

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pp. 230-271

As my analysis has progressed, my esteem for Woman has sunk lower and lower, and I have been obliged to deny her an increasing number of lofty and noble, great and beautiful qualities. As I am about to take one more step in the same direction in this chapter—in fact the decisive and most extreme step—I hope to avoid any misunderstanding by remarking at this stage, although I shall...

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Chapter XIII. Judaism

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pp. 272-300

It would not be surprising if some readers felt that in my entire investigation so far “men” had been given too good a deal and collectively placed on too high a pedestal. Perhaps my investigation will be spared any cheap objections and I shall not be asked, for example, how surprised this philistine or that rascal would be to hear that he has the whole universe in him, but my treatment of the male sex...

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Chapter XIV. Woman and Humanity

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pp. 301-313

Now at last, cleansed and armed, we can once more confront the question of the emancipation of women. Cleansed, because our eye is no longer clouded by the ambiguities swarming around the subject like a thousand midges; armed, because we are in possession of firm theoretical concepts and assured ethical views. A long way from the playground of ordinary controversies and far be-...

Appendix: Additions and References

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pp. 315-425


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pp. 427-437

E-ISBN-13: 9780253111302
E-ISBN-10: 0253111307
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253344717

Page Count: 496
Illustrations: 1 index
Publication Year: 2005