Saturday, December 18, 2004

Some Aphorisms of Otto Weininger

Grundzug alles Menschlichen: Suchen nach Realitaet. Wo die Realitaet gesucht and gefunden wird, das begruendet alle Unterschiede zwischen den Menschen.

The quest for reality is a fundamental characteristic of human beings. Where reality is sought and found, however, explains all differences among them.

Der gute Aphoristiker muss hassen koennen.

The good aphorist must be able to hate.

Der Transzendentalismus ist identich mit dem Gedanken, dass es nur eine Seele gibt, und dass die Individuation Schein ist. Hier widerspricht der Monadologische Charakter der kanstischen Ethik schnurgerade der "Kritik der reinen Vernunft."

Transcendentalism is identical with the thought that there is only one soul, and that a plurality of souls is an illusion. Here the monadological character of Kant's ethics straightaway contradicts the Critique of Pure Reason.

A fruitful thought, though roughly expressed. But what do you want for an aphorism? The idea is that there is a tension between the Critique 0f Practical Reason, which presupposes the thinkability, if not the knowability, of a plurality of metaphysically (and thus transcendently) real noumenal selves capable of acting freely, and the Critique of Pure Reason in which the subject of experience and phenomenal knowledge is a mere transcendental (not transcendent) subject, a consciousness in general (Bewusstsein ueberhaupt to use a phrase later made famous by neo-Kantians) that is neither mine nor yours but common to us all. It is a crude approximation, however, to refer to this transcendental subject as a soul, as Weininger does.
This aphorism would have made a good motto for my doctoral dissertation, which deals with similar problems.

Quotations from Otto Weininger, Ueber die Letzten Dinge (Wien und Leipzig: Wilhelm Braumueller Verlag, Neunte Auflage, 1930), pp. 65-72. Translations by BV.