otto weininger on male and female psychology: text to teach my daughters one day on what sexism is

blogged from the kagablog

it is now time to return to the actual subject of this investigation in order to see how far its explanation has been helped by the lengthy digressions, which must often have seemed wide of the mark.

the consequence of the fundamental principles that have been developed are of such radical importance to the psychology of the sexes that, even if the former deductions have been assented to, the present conclusions may find no acceptance. this is not the place to analyse such a possibility; but in order to protect the theory i am now going to set up, from all objections, i shall fully substantiate it in the fullest possible manner by convincing arguments.

shortly speaking the matter stands as follows: i have shown that logical and ethical phenomena come together in the conception of truth as the ultimate good, and posit the existence of an intelligible ego or a soul, as a form of being of the highest super-empirical reality. in such a being as the absolute female there are no logical and ethical phenomena, and, therefore, the ground for the assumption of a soul is absent. the absolute female knows neither the logical nor the moral imperative, and the words law and duty, duty towards herself, are words which are least familiar to her. the inference that she is wanting in super-sensual personality is fully justified. the absolute female has no ego.

in a certain sense this is an end of the investigation, a final conclusion to which all analysis of the female leads. and although this conclusion, put thus concisely, seems harsh and intolerant, paradoxical and too abrupt in its novelty, it must be remembered that the author is not the first who has taken such a view; he is more in the position of one who has discovered the philosophical grounds for an opinion of long standing.

the chinese from time immemorial have denied that women possess a personal soul. if a chinaman is asked how many children he has, he counts only the boys, and will say none if he has only daughters. mahomet excluded women from paradise for the same reason, and on this view depends the degraded position of women in oriental countries.

amongst the philosophers, the opinions of aristotle must first be considered. he held that in procreation the male principle was the formative active agent, the “logos,” whilst the female was the passive material. when we remember that aristotle used the word “soul” for the active, formative, causative principle, it is plain that his idea was akin to mine, although, as he actually expressed it, it related only to the reproductive process; it is clear, moreover, that he, like all the greek philosophers except euripides, paid no heed to women, and did not consider her qualities from any other point of view than that of her share in reproduction.

amongst the fathers of the church, tertullian and origen certainly had a very low opinion of woman, and st. augustine, except for his relations with his mother, seems to have shared their view. at the renaissance the aristotelian conceptions gained many new adherents, amongst whom jean wier (1518-1588) may be cited specially. at that period there was general, more sensible and intuitive understanding on the subject, which is now treated as merely curious, contemporary science having bowed the knee to other than aristotelian gods.

in recent years henrik ibsen (in the characters of anitra, rita, and irene) and august strindberg have given utterance to this view. but the popularity of the idea of the soullessness of woman has been most attained by the wonderful fairy tales of fouqu,, who obtained the material for them from paracelsus, after deep study, and which have been set to music by e.t.a. hoffman, girschner, and albert lorzing.

undine, the soulless undine, is the platonic idea of woman. in spite of all bisexuality she most really resembles the actuality. the well-known phrase, “women have no character,” really means the same thing. personality and individuality (intelligible), ego and soul, will and (intelligible) character, all these are different expressions of the same actuality, an actuality the male of mankind attains, the female lacks.

but since the soul of man is the microcosm, and great men are those who live entirely in and through their souls, the whole universe thus having its being in them, the female must be described as absolutely without the quality of genius. the male has everything within him, and, as pico of mirandola put it, only specialises in this or that part of himself. it is possible for him to attain to the loftiest heights, or to sink to the lowest depths; he can become like animals, or plants, or even like women, and so there exist woman-like female men.

the woman, on the other hand, can never become a man. in this consists the most important limitation to the assertions in the first part of this work. whilst i know of many men who are practically completely psychically female, not merely half so, and have seen a considerable number of women with masculine traits, i have never yet seen a single woman who was not fundamentally female, even when this femaleness has been concealed by various accessories from the person herself, not to speak of others. one must be (chap. i. part i.) either man or woman, however many peculiarities of both sexes one may have, and this “being,” the problem of this work from the start, is determined by one’s relation to ethics and logic; but whilst there are people who are anatomically men and psychically women, there is no such thing as a person who is physically female and psychically male, notwithstanding the extreme maleness of their outward appearance and the unwomanliness of their expression.

we may now give, with certainty, a conclusive answer to the question as to the giftedness of the sexes: there are women with undoubted traits of genius, but there is no female genius, and there never has been one (not even amongst those masculine women of history which were dealt with in the first part), and there never can be one. those who are in favour of laxity in these matters, and are anxious to extend and enlarge the idea of genius in order to make it possible to include women, would simply by such action destroy the concept of genius. if it is in any way possible to frame a definition of genius that would thoroughly cover the ground, i believe that my definition succeeds. and how, then, could a soulless being possess genius? the possession of genius is identical with profundity; and if any one were to try to combine woman and profundity as subject and predicate, he would be contradicted on all sides. a female genius is a contradiction in terms, for genius is simply intensified, perfectly developed, universally conscious maleness.

the man of genius possesses, like everything else, the complete female in himself; but woman herself is only a part of the universe, and the part can never be the whole; femaleness can never include genius. this lack of genius on the part of woman is inevitable because woman is not a monad, and cannot reflect the universe.

(it would be a simple matter to introduce at this point a list of the works of the most famous women, and show by a few examples how little they deserve the title of genius. but it would be a wearisome task, and any one who would make use of such a list can easily procure it for himself, so that i shall not do so.)

the proof of the soullessness of woman is closely connected with much of what was contained in the earlier chapters. the third chapter explained that woman has her experiences in the form of henids, whilst those of men are in an organised form, so that the consciousness of the female is lower in grade than that of the male. consciousness, however, is psychologically a fundamental part of the theory of knowledge. from the point of view of the theory of knowledge, consciousness and the possession of a continuous ego, of a transcendental subjective soul, are identical conceptions. every ego exists only so far as it is self-conscious, conscious of the contents of its own thoughts; all real existence is conscious existence. i can now make an important contribution to the theory of henids. the organised contents of the thoughts of the male are not merely those of the female articulated and formed, they are not what was potential in the female becoming actual; from the very first there is a qualitative difference. the psychical contents of the male, even whilst they are still in the henid stage that they always try to emerge from, are already partly conceptual, and it is probable that even perceptions in the male have a direct tendency towards conceptions. in the female, on the other hand, there is no trace of conception either in recognition or in thinking.

the logical axioms are the foundation of all formation of mental conceptions, and women are devoid of these; the principle of identity is not for them an inevitable standard, nor do they fence off all other possibilities from their conception by using the principle of contradictories. this want of definiteness in the ideas of women is the source of that “sensitiveness” which gives the widest scope to vague associations and allows the most radically different things to be grouped together. and even women with the best and least limited memories never free themselves from this kind of association by feelings. for instance, if they “feel reminded” by a word of some definite colour, or by a human being of some definite thing to eat – forms of association common with women – they rest content with the subjective association, and do not try to find out the source of the comparison, and if there is any relation in it to actual fact. the complacency and self-satisfaction of women corresponds with what has been called their intellectual unscrupulousnesss, and will be referred to again in connection with their want of the power to form concepts. this subjection to waves of feeling, this want of respect for conceptions, this self-appreciation without any attempt to avoid shallowness, characterise as essentially female the changeable styles of many modern painters and novelists. male thought is fundamentally different from female thought in its craving for definite form, and all art that consists of moods is essentially a formless art.

the psychical contents of man’s thoughts, therefore, are more than the explicit realisation of what women think in henids. woman’s thought is a sliding and gliding through subjects, a superficial tasting of things that a man, who studies the depths, would scarcely notice; it is an extravagant and dainty method of skimming which has no grasp of accuracy. a woman’s thought is superficial, and touch is the most highly developed of the female senses, the most notable characteristic of the woman which she can bring to a high state by her unaided efforts. touch necessitates a limiting of the interest to superficialities, it is a vague effect of the whole and does not depend on definite details. when a woman “understands” a man (of the possibility or impossibility of any real understanding i shall speak later), she is simply, so to speak tasting (however wanting in taste the comparison may be) what he has thought about her. since, on her own part, there is no sharp differentiation, it is plain that she will often think that she herself has been understood when there is no more present than a vague similarity of perceptions. the incongruity between the man and woman depends, in a special measure, on the fact that the contents of the thoughts of the man are not merely those of the woman in a higher state of differentiation, but that the two have totally distinct sequences of thought applied to the same object, conceptual thought in the one and indistinct sensing in the other; and when what is called “understanding” in the two cases is compared, the comparison is not between a fully organised integrated thought and a lower stage of the same process; but in the understanding of man and woman there is on the one side a conceptual thought, on the other side an unconceptual “feeling,” a henid.

the unconceptual nature of the thinking of a woman is simply the result of her less perfect consciousness, of her want of an ego. it is the conception that unites the mere complex of perceptions into an object, and this it does independently of the presence of an actual perception. the existence of the complex of perceptions is dependent on the will; the will can shut the eyes and stop the ears so that the person no longer sees nor hears, but may get drunk or go to sleep and forget. it is the conception which brings freedom from the eternally subjective, eternally psychological relativity of the actual perceptions, and which creates the things in themselves. by its power of forming conceptions the intellect can spontaneously separate itself from the object; conversely, it is only when there is a comprehending function that subject and object can be separated and so distinguished; in all other cases there is only a mass of like and unlike images present mingling together without law and order. the conception creates definite realities from the floating images, the object from the perception, the object which stands like an enemy opposite the subject that the subject may measure its strength upon it. the conception is thus the creator of reality; it is the “transcendental object” of kant’s “critique of reason,” but it always involves a transcendental “subject.”

it is impossible to say of a mere complex of perceptions that it is like itself; in the moment that i have made the judgment of identity, the complex of perceptions has become a concept. and so the conception gives their value to all processes of verification and all syllogisms; the conception makes the contents of thought free by binding them. it gives freedom both to the subject and object; for the two freedoms involve each other. all freedom is in reality self-binding, both in logic and in ethics. man is free only when he himself is the law. and so the function of making concepts is the power by which man gives himself dignity; he honours himself by giving freedom to the objective world, by making it part of the objective body of knowledge to which recourse may be had when two men differ. the woman cannot in this way set herself over against realities, she and they swing together capriciously; she cannot give freedom to her objects as she herself is not free.

the mode in which perceptions acquire independence in conceptions is the means of getting free from subjectivity. the conception is that about which i think, write, and speak. and in this way there comes the belief that i can make judgments concerning it. hume, huxley, and other “immanent” psychologists, tried to identify the conception with a mere generalisation, so making no distinction between logical and psychological thought. in doing this they ignored the power of making judgments. in every judgment there is an act of verification or of contradiction, an approval or rejection, and the standard for these judgments, the idea of truth, must be something external to that on what it is acting. if there are nothing but perceptions, then all perceptions must have an equal validity, and there can be no standard by which to form a real world. empiricism in this fashion really destroys the reality of experience, and what is called positivism is no more than nihilism. the idea of a standard of truth, the idea of truth, cannot lie in experience. in every judgment this idea of the existence of truth is implicit. the claim to real knowledge depends on this capacity to judge, involves the conception of the possibility of truth in the judgment.

this claim to be able to reach knowledge is no more than to say that the subject can judge of the object, can say that the object is true. the objects on which we make judgments are conceptions; the conception is what we know. the conception places a subject and an object against one another, and the judgment then creates a relation between the two. the attainment of truth simply means that the subject can judge rightly of the object, and so the function of making judgments is what places the ego in relation to the all possible. and thus we reach an answer to the old problem as to whether conception or judgment has precedence; the answer is that the two are necessary to one another. the faculty of making conceptions cleaves subject and object and unites them again.

a being like the female, without the power of making concepts, is unable to make judgments. in her “mind” subjective and objective are not separated; there is no possibility of making judgments, and no possibility of reaching, or of desiring, truth. no woman is really interested in science; she may deceive herself and many good men, but bad psychologists, by thinking so. it may be taken as certain, that whenever a woman has done something of any little importance in the scientific world (sophie germain, mary somerville, &c.) it is always because of some man in the background whom they desire to please in this way. . . .

but there have never been any great discoveries in the world of science made by women, because the facility for truth only proceeds from a desire for truth, and the former is always in proportion to the latter. woman’s sense of reality is much less than man’s, in spite of much repetition of the contrary opinion. with women the pursuit of knowledge is always subordinated to something else, and if this alien impulse is sufficiently strong they can see sharply and unerringly, but woman will never be able to see the value of truth in itself and in relation to her own self. where there is some check to what she wishes (perhaps unconsciously) a woman becomes quite uncritical and loses all touch with reality. this is why women so often believe themselves to have been the victims of sexual overtures; this is the reason of the extreme frequency of hallucinations of the sense sense of touch in women, of the intensive reality of which it is almost impossible for a man to form an idea. this also is why the imagination of women is composed of lies and errors, whilst the imagination of the philosopher is the highest form of truth.

the idea of truth is the foundation of everything that deserves the name of judgment. knowledge is simply the making of judgments, and thought itself is simply another name for judgment. deduction is the necessary process in making judgments, and involves the propositions of identity and contradictories, and, as i have shown, these propositions are not axiomatic for women.

a psychological proof that the power of making judgments is a masculine trait lies in the fact that the woman recognises it as such, and that it acts on her as a tertiary sexual character of the male. a woman always expects definite convictions in a man, and appropriates them; she has no understanding of indecision in a man. she always expects a man to talk, and a man’s speech is to her a sign of his manliness. it is true that woman has the gift of speech, but she has not the art of talking; she converses (flirts) or chatters, but she does not talk. she is most dangerous, however, when she is dumb, for men are only too inclined to take her quiescence for silence.

the absolute female, then, is devoid not only of the logical rules, but of the functions of making concepts and judgments which depend on them. as the very nature of the conceptual faculty consists in posing subject against object, and as the subject takes its deepest and fullest meaning from its power of forming judgments on its objects, it is clear that women cannot be recognised as possessing even the subject.

i must add to the exposition of the non-logical nature of the female some statements as to her non-moral nature. the profound falseness of woman, the result of the want in her of a permanent relation to the idea of truth or to the idea of value, would prove a subject of discussion so exhaustive that i must go to work another way. there are such endless imitations of ethics, such confusing copies of morality, that women are often said to be on a moral plane higher than that of man. i have already pointed out the need to distinguish between the non-moral and the immoral, and i now repeat that with regard to women we can talk only of the non-moral, of the complete absence of a moral sense. it is a well-known fact of criminal statistics and of daily life that there are very few female criminals. the apologists of the morality of women always point to this fact.

but in deciding the question as to the morality of women we have to consider not if a particular person has objectively sinned against the idea, but if the person has or has not a subjective centre of being that can enter into a relation with the idea, a relation the value of which is lowered when a sin is committed. no doubt the male criminal inherits his criminal instincts, but none the less he is conscious in spite of theories of “moral insanity” – that by his action he has lowered the value of his claim on life. all criminals are cowardly in this matter, and there is none of them that thinks he has raised his value and his self-consciousness by his crime, or that would try to justify it to himself.

the male criminal has from birth a relation to the idea of value just like any other man, but the criminal impulse, when it succeeds in dominating him, destroys this almost completely. woman, on the contrary, often believes herself to have acted justly when, as a matter of fact, she has just done the greatest possible act of meanness; whilst the true criminal remains mute before reproach, a woman can at once give indignant expression to her astonishment and anger that any one should question her perfect right to act in this or that way. women are convinced of their own integrity without ever having sat in judgment on it. the criminal does not, it is true, reflect on himself, but he never urges his own integrity; he is much more inclined to get rid of the thought of his integrity, (a male even feels guilty when he has not actually done wrong. he can always accept the approaches of others as to deception, thieving, and so on, even if he has never committed such acts, because he knows he is capable of them. so also he feels himself “caught” when anyone is arrested) because it might remind him of his guilt; and in this is the proof that he had a relation to the idea (of truth), and only objects to be reminded of his unfaithfulness to his better self. no male criminal has ever believed that his punishment was unjust. a woman, on the contrary, is convinced of the animosity of her accuser, and if she does not wish to be convinced of it, no one can persuade her that she has done wrong.

if any one talks to her it usually happens that she bursts into tears, begs for pardon, and “confesses her fault,” and may really believe that she feels her guilt; but only when she desires to do so, and the outbreak of tears has given her a certain sort of satisfaction. the male criminal is callous; he does not spin round in a trice, as a woman would do in a similar instance if her accuser knew how to handle her skilfully.

the personal torture which arises from guilt, which cries aloud in its anguish at having brought such a stain upon herself, no woman knows, and an apparent exception (the penitent, who becomes a self-mortifying devotee,) will certainly prove that a woman only feels a vicarious guilt.

i am not arguing that woman is evil and anti-moral; i state that she cannot be really evil; she is merely non-moral.

womanly compassion and female modesty are the two other phenomena which are generally urged by the defenders of female virtue. it is especially from womanly kindness, womanly sympathy, that the beautiful descriptions of the soul of woman have gained most support, and the final argument of all belief in the superior morality of woman is the conception of her as the hospital nurse, the tender sister. i am sorry to have to mention this point, and should not have done so, but i have been forced to do so by a verbal objection made to me, which can be easily foreseen.

it is very shortsighted of any one to consider the nurse as a proof of the sympathy of women, because it really implies the opposite. for a man could never stand the sight of the sufferings of the sick; he would suffer so intensely that he would be completely upset and incapable of lengthy attendance on them. any one who has watched nursing sisters is astonished at their equanimity and “sweetness” even in the presence of most terrible death throes; and it is well that it is so, for man, who cannot stand suffering and death, would make a very bad nurse. a man would want to assuage the pain and ward off death; in a word, he would want to help; where there is nothing to be done he is better away; it is only then that nursing is justified and that woman offers herself for it. but it would be quite wrong to regard this capacity of women in an ethical aspect.

here it may be said that for woman the problem of solitude and society does not exist. she is well adapted for social relations (as, for instance, those of a companion or sick- nurse), simply because for her there is no transition from solitude to society. in the case of a man, the choice between solitude and society is serious when it has to be made. the woman gives up no solitude when she nurses the sick, as she would have to do were she to deserve moral credit for her action; a woman is never in a condition of solitude, and knows neither the love of it nor the fear of it. the woman is always living in a condition of fusion with all the human beings she knows, even when she is alone; she is not a “”monad,” for all monads are sharply marked off from other existences. women have no definite inidividual limits; they are not unlimited in the sense that geniuses have no limits, being one with the whole world; they are unlimited only in the sense that they are not marked off from the common stock of mankind.

this sense of continuity with the rest of mankind is a sexual character of the female, and displays itself in the desire to touch, to be in contact with, the object of her pity; the mode in which her tenderness expresses itself is a kind of animal sense of contact. it shows the absence of the sharp line that separates one real personality from another. the woman does not respect the sorrow of her neighbour by silence; she tries to raise him from his grief by speech, feeling that she must be in physical, rather than spiritual, contact with him.

this diffused life, one of the most fundamental qualities of the female nature, is the cause of the impressibility of all women, their unreserved and shameless readiness to shed tears on the most ordinary occasion. it is not without reason that we associate wailing with women, and think little of a man who sheds tears in public. a woman weeps with those that weep and laughs with those that laugh – unless she herself is the cause of the laughter – so that the greater part of female sympathy is ready-made.

it is only women who demand pity from other people, who weep before them and claim their sympathy. this is one of the strongest pieces of evidence for the psychical shamelessness of women. a woman provokes the compassion of strangers in order to weep with them and be able to pity herself more than she already does. it is not too much to say that even when a woman weeps alone she is weeping with those that she knows would pity her and so intensifying her self-pity by the thought of the pity of others. self-pity is eminently a female characteristic; a woman will associate herself with others, make herself the object of pity for these others, and then at once, deeply stirred, begin to weep with them about herself, the poor thing. perhaps nothing so stirs the feeling of shame in a man as to detect in himself the impulse towards this self-pity, this state of mind in which the subject becomes the object.

as schopenhauer put it, female sympathy is a matter of sobbing and wailing on the slightest provocation, without the smallest attempt to control the emotion; on the other hand, all true sorrow, like true sympathy, just because it is real sorrow, must be reserved; no sorrow can really be so reserved as sympathy and love, for these make us most fully conscious of the limits of each personality. love and its bashfulness will be considered later on; in the meantime let us be assured that in sympathy, in genuine masculine sympathy, there is always a strong feeling of reserve, a sense almost of guilt, because one’s friend is worse off than oneself, because i am not he, but a being separated from his being by extraneous circumstances. a man’s sympathy is the principle of individuality blushing for itself; and hence man’s sympathy is reserved whilst that of woman is aggressive.

the existence of modesty in women has been discussed already to a certain extent; i shall have more to say about it in relation with hysteria. but it is difficult to see how it can be maintained that this is a female virtue, if one reflect on the readiness with which women accept the habit of wearing low- necked dresses wherever custom prescribes it. a person is either modest or immodest, and modesty is not a quality which can be assumed or discarded from hour to hour.

strong evidence of the want of modesty in woman is to be derived from the fact that women dress and undress in the presence of one another with the greatest freedom, whilst men try to avoid similar circumstances. moreover, when women are alone together, they are very ready to discuss their physical qualities, especially with regard to their attractiveness for men; whilst men, practically without exception, avoid all notice of one another’s sexual characters.

i shall return to this subject again. in the meantime i wish to refer to the argument of the second chapter in this connection. one must be fully conscious of a thing before one can have a feeling of shame about it, and so differentiation is as necessary for the sense of shame as for consciousness. the female, who is only sexual, can appear to be asexual because she is sexuality itself, and so her sexuality does not stand out separately from the rest of her being, either in space or in time, as in the case of the male. woman can give an impression of being modest because there is nothing in her to contrast with her sexuality. and so the woman is always naked or never naked – we may express it either way – never naked, because the true feeling of nakedness is impossible to her; always naked, because there is not in her the material for the sense of relativity by which she could become aware of her nakedness and so make possible the desire to cover it.

what i have been discussing depends on the actual meaning of the word “ego” to a woman. if a woman were asked what she meant by her “ego” she would certainly think of her body. her superficies, that is the woman’s ego. the ego of the female is quite correctly described by mach in his “anti-metaphysical remarks.”

the ego of a woman is the cause of the vanity which is specific of women. the analogue of this in the male is an emanation of the set of his will towards his conception of the good, and its objective expression is a sensitiveness, a desire that no one shall call in question the possibility of attaining this supreme good. it is his personality that gives to man his value and his freedom from the conditions of time. this supreme good, which is beyond price, because, in the words of kant, there can be found no equivalent for it, is the dignity of man. women, in spite of what schiller has said, have no dignity, and the word “lady” was invented to supply this defect, and her pride will find its expression in what she regards as the supreme good, that is to say, in the preservation, improvement, and display of her personal beauty. the pride of the female is something quite peculiar to herself, something foreign even to the most handsome man, an obsession by her own body; a pleasure which displays itself, even in the least handsome girl, by admiring herself in the mirror, by stroking herself and playing with her own hair, but which comes to its full measure only in the effect that her body has on man. a woman has no true solitude, because she is always conscious of herself only in relation to others. the other side of the vanity of women is the desire to feel that her body is admired, or, rather, sexually coveted, by a man.

this desire is so strong that there are many women to whom it is sufficient merely to know that they are coveted.

the vanity of women is, then, always in relation to others; a woman lives only in the thoughts of others about her. the sensibility of women is directed to this. a woman never forgets that some one thought her ugly; a woman never considers herself ugly; the successes of others at the most only make her think of herself as perhaps less attractive. but no woman ever believes herself to be anything but beautiful and desirable when she looks at herself in the glass; she never accepts her own ugliness as a painful reality as a man would, and never ceases to try to persuade others of the contrary.

what is the source of this form of vanity, peculiar to the female? it comes from the absence of an intelligible ego, the only begetter of a constant and positive sense of value; it is, in fact, that she is devoid of a sense of personal value. as she sets no store by herself or on herself, she endeavours to attain to a value in the eyes of others by exciting their desire and admiration. the only thing which has any absolute and ultimate value in the world is the soul. “ye are better than many sparrows” were christ’s words to mankind. a woman does not value herself by the constancy and freedom of her personality; but this is the only possible method for every creature possessing an ego. but if a real woman, and this is certainly the case, can only value herself at the rate of the man who has fixed his choice on her; if it is only through her husband or lover that she can attain to a value not only in social and material things, but also in her innermost nature, it follows that she possesses no personal value, she is devoid of man’s sense of the value of his own personality for itself. and so women always get their sense of value from something outside themselves, from their money or estates, the number and richness of their garments, the position of their box at the opera, their children, and, above all, their husbands or lovers. when a woman is quarrelling with another woman, her final weapon, and the weapon she finds most effective and discomfiting, is to proclaim her superior social position, her wealth or title, and, above all, her youthfulness and the devotion of her husband or lover; whereas a man in similar case would lay himself open to contempt if he relied on anything except his own personal individuality.

the absence of the soul in woman may also be inferred from the following: whilst a woman is stimulated to try to impress a man from the mere fact that he has paid no attention to her (goethe gave this as a practical receipt), the whole life of a woman, in fact, being an expression of this side of her nature, a man, if a woman treats him rudely or indifferently, feels repelled by her. nothing makes a man so happy as the love of a girl; even if he did not at first return her love, there is a great probability of love being aroused in him. the love of a man for whom she does not care is only a gratification of the vanity of a woman, or an awakening and rousing of slumbering desires. a woman extends her claims equally to all men on earth.

the shamelessness and heartlessness of women are shown in the way in which they talk of being loved. a man feels ashamed of being loved, because he is always in the position of being the active, free agent, and because he knows that he can never give himself entirely to love, and there is nothing about which he is so silent, even when there is no special reason for him to fear that he might compromise the lady by talking. a woman boasts about her love affairs, and parades them before other women in order to make them envious of her. woman does not look upon a man’s inclination for her so much as a tribute to her actual worth, or a deep insight into her nature, as the bestowing a value on her which she otherwise would not have, as the gift to her of an existence and essence with which she justifies herself before others.

the remark in an earlier chapter about the unfailing memory of woman for all the compliments she has ever received since childhood is explained by the foregoing facts. it is from compliments, first of all, that woman gets a sense of her “value,” and that is why women expect men to be “polite.” politeness is the easiest form of pleasing a woman, and however little it costs a man it is dear to a woman, who never forgets an attention, and lives upon the most insipid flattery, even in her old age. one only remembers what possesses a value in one’s eyes; it may safely be said that it is for compliments women have the most developed memory. the woman can attain a sense of value by these external aids, because she does not possess within her an inner standard of value which diminishes everything outside her. the phenomena of courtesy and chivalry are simply additional proofs that women have no souls, and that when a man is being “polite” to a woman he is simply ascribing to her the minimum sense of personal value, a form of deference to which importance is attached precisely in the measure that it is misunderstood.

the non-moral nature of woman reveals itself in the mode in which she can so easily forget an immoral action she has committed. it is almost characteristic of a woman that she cannot believe that she has done wrong, and so is able to deceive both herself and her husband. men, on the other hand, remember nothing so well as the guilty episodes of their lives. here memory reveals itself as eminently a moral phenomenon. forgiving and forgetting, not forgiving and understanding, go together. when one remembers a lie, one reproaches oneself afresh about it. a woman forgets, because she does not blame herself for an act of meanness, because she does not understand it, having no relation to the moral idea. it is not surprising that she is ready to lie. women have been regarded as virtuous simply because the problem of morality has not presented itself to them; they have been held to be even more moral than man; this is simply because they do not understand immorality. the innocence of a child is not meritorious; if a patriarch could be innocent he might be praised for it.

introspection is an attribute confined to males, if we leave out of account the hysterical self-reproaches of certain women – and consciousness of guilt and repentance are equally male. the penances that women lay on themselves, remarkable imitations of the sense of guilt, will be discussed when i come to deal with what passes for introspection in the female sex. the “subject” of introspection is the moral agent; it has a relation to the psychical phenomena only in so far as it sits in judgment on them.

it is quite in the nature of positivism that comte denies the possibility of introspection, and throws ridicule on it. for certainly it is absurd that a psychical event and a judgment of it could coincide if the interpretations of the positivists be accepted. it is only on the assumption that there exists an ego unconditioned by time and intrinsically capable of moral judgments, endowed with memory and with the power of making comparisons, that we can justify the belief in the possibility of introspection.

if woman had a sense of personal value and the will to defend it against all external attacks she could not be jealous. apparently all women are jealous, and jealousy depends on the failure to recognise the rights of others. even the jealousy of a mother when she sees another woman’s daughters married before her own depends simply on her want of the sense of justice.

without justice there can be no society, so that jealousy is an absolutely unsocial quality. the formation of societies in reality presupposes the existence of true individuality. woman has no faculty for the affairs of state or politics, as she has no social inclinations; and women’s societies, from which men are excluded, are certain to break up after a short time. the family itself is not really a social structure; it is essentially unsocial, and men who give up their clubs and societies after marriage soon rejoin them. i had written this before the appearance of heinrich schurtz’ valuable ethnological work, in which he shows that associations of men, and not the family, form the beginnings of society.

pascal made the wonderful remark that human beings seek society only because they cannot bear solitude and wish to forget themselves. it is the fact expressed in these words which puts in harmony my earlier statement that women had not the faculty of solitude and my present statement that she is essentially unsociable.

if a woman possessed an “ego” she would have the sense of property both in her own case and that of others. the thieving instinct, however, is much more developed in men than in women. so-called “kleptomanics” (those who steal without necessity) are almost exclusively women. women understand power and riches but not personal property. when the thefts of female kleptomaniacs are discovered, the women defend themselves by saying that it appeared to them as if everything belonged to them. it is chiefly women who use circulating libraries, especially those who could quite well afford to buy quantities of books; but, as matter of fact, they are not more strongly attracted by what they have bought than by what they have borrowed. in all these matters the relation between individuality and society comes into view; just as a man must have personality himself to appreciate the personalities of others, so also he must acquire a sense of personal right in his own property to respect the rights of others.

one’s name and a strong devotion to it are even more dependent on personality than is the sense of property. the facts that confront us with reference to this are so salient that it is extraordinary to find so little notice taken of them. women are not bound to their names with any strong bond. when they marry they give up their own name and assume that of their husband without any sense of loss. they allow their husbands and lovers to call them by new names, delighting in them; and even when a woman marries a man that she does not love, she has never been known to suffer any psychical shock at the change of name. the name is a symbol of individuality; it is only amongst the lowest races on the face of the earth, such as the bushmen of south africa, that there are no personal names, because amongst such as these the desire for distinguishing individuals from the general stock is not felt. the fundamental namelessness of the woman is simply a sign of her undifferentiated personality.

an important observation may be mentioned here and may be confirmed by every one. whenever a man enters a place where a woman is, and she observes him, or hears his step, or even only guesses he is near, she becomes another person. her expression and her pose change with incredible swiftness; she “arranges her fringe” and her bodice, and rises, or pretends to be engrossed in her work. she is full of a half shameless, half-nervous expectation. in many cases one is only in doubt as to whether she is blushing for her shameless laugh, or laughing over her shameless blushing.

the soul, personality, character – as schopenhauer with marvelous sight recognised – are identical with free-will. and as the female has no ego, she has no free-will. only a creature with no will of its own, no character in the highest sense, could be so easily influenced by the mere proximity to a man as woman is, who remains in functional dependence on him instead of in free relationship to him. woman is the best medium, the male her best hypnotiser. for this reason alone it is inconceivable why women can be considered good as doctors; for many doctors admit that their principal work up to the present – and it will always be the same – lies in the suggestive influence on their patients.

the female is uniformly more easily hypnotised than the male throughout the animal world, and it may be seen from the following how closely hypnotic phenomena are related to the most ordinary events. i have already described, in discussing female sympathy, how easy it is for laughter or tears to be induced in females. how impressed she is by everything in the newspapers! what a martyr she is to the silliest superstitions! how eagerly she tries every remedy recommended by her friends!

whoever is lacking in character is lacking in convictions. the female, therefore, is credulous, uncritical, and quite unable to understand protestantism. christians are catholics or protestants before they are baptized, but, none the less, it would be unfair to describe catholicism as feminine simply because it suits women better. the distinction between the catholic and protestant dispositions is a side of characterology that would require separate treatment.

it has been exhaustively proved that the female is soulless and possesses neither ego nor individuality, personality nor freedom, character nor will. this conclusion is of the highest significance in psychology. it implies that the psychology of the male and of the female must be treated separately. a purely empirical representation of the psychic life of the female is possible; in the case of the male, all the psychic life must be considered with reference to the ego.

the view of hume (and mach), which only admits that there are “impressions” and “thoughts”, and has almost driven the psyche out of present day psychology, declares that the whole world is to be considered exclusively as a picture in a reflector, a sort of kaleidoscope; it merely reduces everything to a dance of the “elements,” without thought or order; it denies the possibility of obtaining a secure standpoint for thought; it not only destroys the idea of truth, and accordingly of reality, the only claims on which philosophy rests, but it also is to blame for the wretched plight of modern psychology.

this modern psychology proudly styles itself the “psychology without the soul,” in imitation of its much overrated founder, friedrich albert lange. i think i have proved in this work that without the acknowledgment of a soul there would be no way of dealing with psychic phenomena; just as much in the case of the male who has a soul as in the case of the female who is soulless.

modern psychology is eminently womanish, and that is why this comparative investigation of the sexes is so specially instructive, and it is not without reason that i have delayed pointing out this radical difference; it is only now that it can be seen what the acceptation of the ego implies, and how the confusing of masculine and feminine spiritual life (in the broadest and deepest sense) has been at the root of all the difficulties and errors into which those who have sought to establish a universal psychology have fallen.

i must now raise the question – is a psychology of the male possible as a science? the answer must be that it is not possible. i must be understood to reject all the investigations of the experimenters, and those who are still sick with the experimental fever may ask in wonder if all these have no value? experimental psychology has not given a single explanation as to the deeper laws of masculine life; it can be regarded only as a series of sporadic empirical efforts, and its method is wrong inasmuch as it seeks to reach the kernel of things by surface examination, and as it cannot possibly give an explanation of the deep-seated source of all psychical phenomena. when it has attempted to discover the real nature of psychical phenomena by measurements of the physical phenomena that accompany them, it has succeeded in showing that even in the most favourable cases there is an inconstancy and variation. the fundamental possibility of reaching the mathematical idea of knowledge is that the data should be constant. as the mind itself is the creator of time and space, it is impossible to expect that geometry and arithmetic should explain the mind. . . .

the wild and repeated efforts to derive the will from psychological factors, from perception and feeling, are in themselves evidence that it cannot be taken as an empirical factor. the will, like the power of judgment, is associated inevitably with the existence of an ego, or soul. it is not a matter of experience, it transcends experience, and until psychology recognises this extraneous factor, it will remain no more than a methodical annex of physiology and biology. if the soul is only a complex of experiences it cannot be the factor that makes experiences possible. modern psychology in reality denies the existence of the soul, but the soul rejects modern psychology. . . .

it is extraordinary how inquirers who have made no attempt to analyse such phenomena as shame and the sense of guilt, faith and hope, fear and repentance, love and hate, yearning and solitude, vanity and sensitiveness, ambition and the desire for immortality, have yet the courage simply to deny the ego because it does not flaunt itself like the colour of an orange or the taste of a peach. how can mach and hume account for such a thing as style, if individuality does not exist? or again, consider this: no animal is made afraid by seeing its reflection in a glass, whilst there is no man who could spend his life in a room surrounded with mirrors. can this fear, the fear of the doppelganger (it is notable that women are devoid of this fear; female doppelgangers are not heard of), be explained on darwinian principles. the word doppelganger has only to be mentioned to raise a deep dread in the mind of any man. empirical psychology cannot explain this; it reaches the depths. it cannot be explained, as mach would explain the fear of little children, as an inheritance from some primitive, less secure stage of society. i have taken this example only to remind the empirical psychologists that there are many things inexplicable on their hypotheses.

why is any man annoyed when he is described as a wagnerite, a nietzchite, a herbartian, or so forth? he objects to be thought a mere echo. even ernst mach is angry in anticipation at the thought that some friend will describe him as a positivist, idealist, or any other non-individual term. this feeling must not be confused with the results of the fact that a man may describe himself as a wagnerite, and so forth. the latter is simply a deep approval of wagnerism, because the approver is himself a wagnerite. the man is conscious that his agreement is in reality a raising of the value of wagnerism. and so also a man will say much about himself that he would not permit another to say of him. . . .

it cannot be right to consider such men as pascal and newton, on the one hand, as men of the highest genius, on the other, as limited by a mass of prejudices which we of the present generation have long overcome. is the present generation with its electrical railways and empirical psychology so much higher than these earlier times? is culture, if culture has any real value, to be compared with science, which is always social and never individual, and to be measured by the number of public libraries and laboratories? is culture outside human beings and not always in human beings?

it is in striking harmony with the ascription to men alone of an ineffable, inexplicable personality, that in all the authenticated cases of double or multiple personality the subjects have been women. the absolute female is capable of sub-division; the male, even to the most complete characterology and the most acute experiment, is always an indivisible unit. the male has a central nucleus of his being which has no parts, and cannot be divided; the female is composite, and so can be dissociated and cleft.

and so it is most amusing to hear writers talking of the soul of the woman, of her heart and its mysteries, of the psyche of the modern woman. it seems almost as if even an accoucheur would have to prove his capacity by the strength of his belief in the soul of women. most women, at least, delight to hear discussions on their souls, although they know, so far as they can be said to know anything, that the whole thing is a swindle. the woman as the sphinx! never was a more ridiculous, a more audacious fraud perpetrated. man is infinitely more mysterious, incomparably more complicated.

it is only necessary to look at the faces of women one passes in the streets. there is scarcely one whose expression could not at once be summed up. the register of woman’s feelings and disposition is so terribly poor, whereas men’s countenances can scarcely be read after long and earnest scrutiny.

finally, i come to the question as to whether there exists a complete parallelism or a condition of reciprocal interaction between mind and body. in the case of the female, psycho- physical parallelism exists in the form of a complete coordination between the mental and the physical; in women the capacity for mental exertion ceases with senile involution, just as it developed in connection with and in subservience to the sexual instincts. the intelligence of man never grows as old as that of the woman, and it is only in isolated cases that degeneration of the mind is linked with degeneration of the body. least of all does mental degeneration accompany the bodily weakness of old age in those who have genius, the highest development of mental masculinity. . . .

in the earlier pages of my volume i contrasted the clarity of male thinking processes with their vagueness in woman, and later on showed that the power of orderly speech, in which logical judgments are expressed, acts on woman as a male sexual character. whatever is sexually attractive to the female must be characteristic of the male. firmness in a man’s character makes a sexual impression on a woman, whilst she is repelled by the pliant man. people often speak of the moral influence exerted on men by women, when no more is meant than that women are striving to attain their sexual complements. women demand manliness from men, and feel deeply disappointed and full of contempt if men fail them in this respect. however untruthful or great a flirt a woman may be, she is bitterly indignant if she discovers traces of coquetry or untruthfulness in a man. she may be as cowardly as she likes, but the man must be brave. it has been almost completely overlooked that this is only a sexual egotism seeking to secure the most satisfactory sexual complement. from the side of empirical observation, no stronger proof of the soullessness of woman could be drawn than that she demands a soul in man, that she who is not good in herself demands goodness from him. the soul is a masculine character, pleasing to women in the same way and for the same purpose as a masculine body or a well-trimmed moustache. i may be accused of stating the case coarsely, but it is none the less true. it is the man’s will that in the last resort influences a woman most powerfully, and she has a strong faculty for perceiving whether a man’s “i will” means mere bombast or actual decision. in the latter case the effect on her is prodigious.

how is it that woman, who is soulless herself, can discern the soul in man? how can she judge about his morality who is herself non-moral? how can she grasp his character when she has no character herself? how appreciate his will when she is herself without will?

these difficult problems lie before us, and their solutions must be placed on strong foundations, for there will be many attempts to destroy them.

excerpt from sex and character
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