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Original sin

Notes on:
Allan Janik, “From Logic to Animality or How Wittgenstein Used Otto Weininger”.

To begin with we must grasp that Weininger is not concerned with making an empirical generalization about the mentality of actual people, rather, he is producing an ‘ideal type’ or model of what it is to be immoral in itself. The point of producing this proto-phenomenological description is to press his reader to reflect upon happiness and the good life by giving us the negative example of a life in which guilt and the idea of human limitation play no role whatsoever. For Weininger the criminal is the person who knowingly does evil and as such knowingly continues to commit original sin. Weininger in fact describes the polar opposite of Kant’s autonomous human being. However, his explicit reference to (Protestant) Christian values should not go unnoticed. The criminal’s sin, like original sin, is nothing other than egoism, the will to self-assertion, the pursuit of happiness at any cost, the refusal to acknowledge any authority outside of one’s self. Ultimately immorality or criminality for Weininger is successful egoism or what is vulgarly considered to be ‘happiness’, i.e., considering the goal of human life to be possession [in] of wonderful things.

[Janik is almost always correct in what he says about Weininger (something we cannot say for most of Weininger’s commentators), but “knowingly does evil,” as used here, may be misleading. In fact criminality, as predicate, attaches to nearly all but the constitutionally incapable of evil: only excused are adiaphorous beings such as animals, very small children, and women.* But it applies essentially to men, whether they actually act “knowingly” or not. If they are intellectually capable of knowing, they are implicated. This is because theirs is a moral imperative, not just to act, but to know. Optional innocence is no innocence at all. There are indeed some laws whose violation ignorance may excuse us from, but the moral law is not one. Original sin has no epistemological condition; it is an ontological state. This does not mean that original sin cannot be compounded by fully conscious evil action but malehood scarcely ever starts with a clean slate. Full consciousness of evil for him, in fact, is a necessary precondition for moral progress.

*What “original sin” may mean from within a native feminine spirituality, if anything, will have to be explored elsewhere. I don’t think the concept has any uncontrived reference for her.]

Posted by luno in Criminality, female criminality, male criminality, Weininger (Monday August 14, 2006 at 12:49 pm)

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