No. 4: A Critical Approach to Gender
January 10, 2014
Objectification is the essence of all thought. Every thought we have is Nature rendered to ourselves as object. I will honestly never understand this contempt for “objectification” that constantly appears in Feminist and Social Justice discourse. In the passage below you see Nature referred to using Female pronouns. The mind, transcendentally, is composed of two antagonistic and mutually exclusive impulses, which each depends upon the other while at the same time seeking to determine it as its own product. The first of the these is the sensuous impulse, which strives for matter, the second, the rational impulse, which strives for form. The one is apprehending, the other comprehending. The former is receptive, passive, and feminine, the latter, active and masculine.
These two impulses battle one another within all our minds, and their eternal conflict, as they are purely transcendental and not positive or constitutive, can be observed waging within everything humanity touches. In the mass of peoples that comprise our species, the whole human race differentiates itself in accordance with this inner process, into two genders, female and male, the first of which corresponds to the sensuous and worldly material impulse, while the other corresponds to the rational and comprehending formal impulse.
“Contemplation (reflection) is Man’s first free relation to the universe which surrounds him. If desire directly apprehends its object, contemplation thrusts its object into the distance, thereby turning it into its true and inalienable possession and thus securing it from passion. The necessity of Nature which governed him with undivided power in the condition of mere sensation, abandons him when reflection begins; an instantaneous calm ensues in the senses; time itself, the eternally moving, stands still while the dispersed rays of consciousness are gathered together, and form, an image of the infinite, is reflected upon the transient foundation. As soon as it becomes light inside Man, there is also no longer any night outside him; as soon as it is calm within him, the storm in the universe is also lulled, and the contending forces of Nature find rest between abiding boundaries. No wonder, therefore, that ancient poetry tells of this great occurrence in the inner Man as of a revolution in the world outside him, and embodies the thought which triumphs over the laws of time in the figure of Zeus who brings the rein of Saturn to an end.
From being a slave of Nature, so long as he merely perceives her, Man becomes her lawgiver as soon as she becomes his thought. She who had formerly ruled him only as force, now stands as object before the judgement of his glance. What is object to him has no longer power over him; for in order to be object it must experience his own power. Insofar as he gives form to matter, and so long as he gives it, he is invulnerable to her influences; for nothing can injure a spirit except what deprives it of freedom, and Man proves his freedom by his very forming of the formless. Only where substance holds its ponderous and shapeless sway, and the dim outlines fluctuate between uncertain boundaries, does fear have its abode; Man is superior to every terror of Nature so long as he knows how to give form to it, and to turn it into his object. Just as he begins to assert his self-dependence in the face of Nature as phenomenon, so he also asserts his dignity in the face of Nature as power, and with noble freedom he rises up against his deities. They throw off the ghastly masks with which they had frightened his infancy, and in becoming his own conception they surprise him with his own image. The divine monster of the Oriental, that governs the world with the blind strength of a beast of prey, dwindles in the Grecian fantasy into the friendly outlines of humanity; the empire of the Titans falls, and infinite force is mastered by infinite form.” — Friedrich Schiller, “On The Aesthetic Education Of Man”, Twenty-Fifth Letter
In individual man, he attains his highest state of intellectual and moral development only by reconciling the antagonism of his mind’s central powers, and he does not do this by allowing one to predominate or be master of the other. He only achieves his perfection as a human being when he willfully determines the limits of each impulse and restricts the activity of each entirely within their respective spheres. When he excludes from each all that belongs to the other, and completely mitigates their conflict, then he can be said to be truly moral.
This is why there are two, and only two gender ideas in a purely abstract sense. Male and female are each two ideals of humanity which arise entirely from the twofold nature of the human mind, logically speaking they are absolutely necessary.
In the realm of material actuality, the individuals we encounter are always limited, no man is purely masculine and no woman is purely feminine, members of either sex will never be able to fully embody the ideal of gender. The gender ideal to which we aspire is not, as so many would have you believe, something originating in the world outside of us, that is imposed upon us completely arbitrarily, no, it’s rather something that originates from within us out of the innermost nature of our mind.
Transcendentally speaking, within the body of humanity, women generally play the “role” of the sensuous impulse and men play the “role” of the formal one. Only together do they form a complete humanity, and theoretically speaking, if humanity were to achieve its ideal, just like the human mind, the respective “roles” of men and women in our society would each completely exclude everything that belongs to the other. That can never be realized in physical actuality however.
In the context of everyday life, in the different spheres of activity and interest that make up society, and in our interpersonal relationships with one another, the masculine and the feminine each manifest themselves in certain objective behaviors, and responsibilities and expectations. This is why the man is the “provider”, the businessman and the politician, and the woman is the “homemaker”, the mother, and the teacher. This is why the man pursues the woman and initiates the romance, and the woman resists and “plays hard to get”. This is why the man is admired for his accomplishments and success, and the woman for her beauty and tenderness. These things are not “imposed”, but are the result of natural differentiation of the masculine and feminine from one another over time within a particular context or setting. The world is always changing though, a context or setting in which human beings have participated for centuries may fall by the wayside as economic and technological changes occur and be replaced by new spheres of activity. Always though, humanity will differentiate itself into a masculine and a feminine part within every given context.
“A lovelier necessity now links the sexes together, and the sympathy of hearts helps to maintain the bond which was knitted only capriciously and inconstantly by desire. Released from its sullen chains, the quieter eye apprehends form, soul gazes into soul, and out of a selfish over-exchange of lust there grows a generous interplay of affection. Desire extends and exalts itself into love as mankind arises in its object, and base advantage over sense is disdained for the sake of a nobler victory over the will. The need to please subjects the man of force to the gentle tribunal of taste; lust can be robbery, but love must be a gift. For this loftier prize he can contend through form alone, not through matter. He must cease to approach feeling as force, and to confront the intellect as phenomenon; in order to please liberty, he must concede it. And just as Beauty resolves the conflict of natures in its simplest and purest example, in the eternal opposition of the sexes, so does she resolve it – or at least aims at resolving it – in the intricate totality of society, and reconciles everything gentle and violent in the moral world after the pattern of the free union which she there contrives between the masculine strength and feminine gentleness. Weakness now becomes sacred, and unbridled strength disgraceful; the injustice of Nature is rectified by the generosity of the chivalric code. The man whom no force may confound is disarmed by the tender blush of modesty, and tears stifle a revenge which no blood could slake. Even hatred pays heed to the gentle voice of honor, the victor’s sword spares the disarmed foe, and a hospitable hearth smokes for the fugitive on the dreaded shore where of old only murder awaited him.
In the midst of the awful realm of powers, and of the sacred realm of laws, the aesthetic creative impulse is building unawares a third joyous realm of play and of appearance, in which it releases mankind from all the shackles of circumstance and frees him from everything that may be called constraint, whether physical or moral.” — Schiller, “On The Aesthetic Education Of Man”, Twenty-Seventh Letter