Wittgenstein Reads Weininger
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Otto Weininger was one of the most controversial and widely read authors of fin-de-siècle Vienna. He was both condemned for his misogyny, self-hatred, anti-semitism and homophobia, as well as praised for his uncompromising and outspoken approach to gender and morality. For Wittgenstein Weininger was a 'remarkable genius'. He repeatedly recommended Weininger's Sex and Character to friends and students and included the author on a short list of figures who had influenced him. The purpose of this new collection of essays is to explore the various ways in which Wittgenstein absorbed and responded to Weininger's ideas. Written by an international team of experts on Wittgenstein and Weininger, the volume is especially timely in the light of recent translations of Weininger's work and will appeal to anyone interested in the history of 20th century philosophy, and the literary and cultural history of fin-de-siècle Vienna.
of another, of an alien ego, quite different from his own, and if ever he has allowed himself to be influenced, the thought will always be painful to him” (S&C, 174). The juxtaposition of such parallel reflections from Wittgenstein and Weininger enables us to see Weininger as an important source and conversation partner for Wittgenstein during his transition period from the early to the later philosophy. But how does Wittgenstein’s resistance to influence square with his giving us, in 1931, only
try to alter the past rather than to acknowledge the truth. Thus the greatest of moral questions, whether to be honest or deceitful, whether to be honest with yourself or self-deceitful, whether to live by the truth or the lie, is closely related to the nature of time. This moral theme is echoed in the fifth chapter, the most bizarre of the essays. It is called “Metaphysics,” but contains a section on animal psychology that Wittgenstein gave G. E. Moore to read. On the surface, this seems to be
0521825539 March 11, 2004 Wittgenstein and Weininger 21:30 113 Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Arthur Schnitzler, and Stefan Zweig; there is Karl Kraus, who read and defended Weininger; and there is Freud, who felt compelled to distance himself from Weininger and his ideas. These are just a few of those names that are generally connected with Weininger’s time and place, and for many of us they are household names. The people and works referred to by these names seem to belong to a kind of pantheon of
[die Sachlage] the way that we see it. (And in that case, a great – that is, an important – error would have been lost to the world.) But in truth it is impossible to think about it in this way, because this concept was rooted in the culture as a whole. (DB, p. 45; between 6.5.–12.10.1931) “A great . . . error would have been lost to the world” echoes the enormous mistake that is great from the letter to Moore (written around the same time; 23 August 1931), and the term ‘a priori’ in this
to say that the face is itself an aspect of cowardice, goodness, etc. (Compare, e.g. Weininger.)69 This is not only a rejection of Weiningerian psycho-physical parallelism, but also an expression of Wittgenstein’s attraction to the diametrically opposed view, that the friendliness or goodness is present in the face itself, although Wittgenstein expresses unease about the best way of putting this point. A passage written shortly afterward, that makes strikingly un-Weiningerian use of Weininger’s