a philosophy blog

Note 37: Abortion, infanticide, and inner children

Weininger writes:

Nonetheless, every man evaluates somehow or other each of his traits, even each of his morally indifferent character traits…. The omen of this evaluation, I now believe, determines, even essentially decides, the tone of a person’s inner life. To be sure, it is only the man, not the woman, who has an inner life,37 and even the man has more the higher he stands.*

The split—when it occurs—in women between inner and outer life is artificially induced by some perturbation in her environment. It is not her natural state. To think of inner and outer parts of her life as though such discontinuity was not an external imposition but central to her essence would be foreign to her. This is not the case, Weininger is saying, with men where the split is a native moral project and, as such, a part of his essence.

Note 37 in the quotation above:

37The inner life of women always lasts at most nine months.*

For these nine months, before she apprehends this new being, she is conscious of an other to whom she is morally related. Upon birth, however, the other, no longer an imposition, now visibly separate, is ironically absorbed into her psyche, ceases to be a moral other, and becomes an extension of herself. Once again the inner/outer division is emptied of significance. Were it not for this brief period of consciousness of a literal inner life, abortion would have no moral weight. It is why maternal infanticide is a form of suicide, while abortion, whatever else it may be for her, is not yet quite that. It is the death of a stranger whose strangeness (coming before all other considerations) has only just been apprehended and with whom moral relations have yet to be fully descried. These relations cannot exist in eternal abstraction for her as they do for men. They must come into being. They had a beginning and they will have an end.

It is why her relationship to issues of life and death is so completely different from his. (Even Hobbes and Kant seemed to have gotten a whiff of this maternal amorality.)


*Otto Weininger, “Henrik Ibsen and his Dramatic Poem, Peer Gynt (for the author’s 75th birthday)” in A Translation of Weininger’s Über die letzten Dinge (1904/1907)/On Last Things, Steven Burns, trans., (The Edwin Mellen Press, 2001), p. 22.

Posted by luno in motherhood, female criminality, abortion, Weininger, General (Monday October 3, 2005 at 4:28 pm)

1 comment for Note 37: Abortion, infanticide, and inner children»

  1. Wow, I thought Weininger was just being sarcastic with that comment in note 37…

    Comment by vmunoz — 10/11/2005 @ 10:20 am

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