Ladies please help me here

I read a passage in one of the essays of Arthur Schopenhauer that I would like all of you my friends to give me your opinions on.

He is writing on honour and identifies three types;

  1. civic honour
  2. official honour and
  3. sexual honour.

It would only be fair to define what he means by honour so that later on we don’t get into the issue of definitions. He writes honour is

on its objective side other people’s opinion of what we are worth; on its subjective side it is the respect we pay to this opinion.

He adds that honour really rests upon a utilitarian basis. In looking at sexual honour he divides male and female honour and says female honour is more important than the two because, he writes,  the most essential feature in woman’s life is her relation to man.

He continues to write

Female honor is the general opinion in regard to a girl that she is pure, and in regard to a wife that she is faithful.

And this is based on the following considerations

Women depend upon men in all the relations of life; men upon women, it might be said, in one only. So an arrangement is made for mutual interdependence–man undertaking responsibility for all woman’s needs and also for the children that spring from their union–an arrangement on which is based the welfare of the whole female race. 

He says to do this women have

to band together with a show of _esprit de corps_, and present one undivided front to their common enemy, man,–who possesses all the good things of the earth, in virtue of his superior physical and intellectual power,–in order to lay siege to and conquer him, and so get possession of him and a share of those good things. 

How does he propose women do this?

To this end the honor of all women depends upon the enforcement of the rule that no woman should give herself to a man except in marriage, in order that every man may be forced, as it were, to surrender and ally himself with a woman; by this arrangement provision is made for the whole of the female race. 

He continues on this path by saying

Any girl who commits a breach of the rule betrays the whole female race, because its welfare would be destroyed if every woman were to do likewise; so she is cast out with shame as one who has lost her honor. 

He says it is the same doom that befalls a married woman. He writes thus

The same doom is awarded to a woman who breaks the marriage tie; for in so doing she is false to the terms upon which the man capitulated; and as her conduct is such as to frighten other men from making a similar surrender, it imperils the welfare of all her sisters. 

He says such a breach is punishable and can lead as well to loss of civic honour. And continues to write on this loss

This is why we minimize the shame of a girl, but not of a wife; because, in the former case, marriage can restore honor, while in the latter, no atonement can be made for the breach of contract.

In the interest of brevity let us briefly consider what he says concerning male honour.

He writes

It is their _esprit de corps_, which demands that, once a man has made that surrender of himself in marriage which is so advantageous to his conqueror, he shall take care that the terms of the treaty are maintained; both in order that the agreement itself may lose none of its force by the permission of any laxity in its observance, and that men, having given up everything, may, at least, be assured of their bargain, namely, exclusive possession. 

He writes that if a woman breaches the marriage tie, the man can punish her by separation. But he says if he condones her

his fellowmen cry shame upon him; but the shame in this case is not nearly so foul as that of the woman who has lost her honor; the stain is by no means of so deep a dye, because a man’s relation to woman is subordinate to many other and more important affairs in his life.

He writes at the end of the chapter on sexual honour,

…. men’s honour originates in esprit de corps.

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

44 thoughts on “Ladies please help me here

  1. archaeopteryx1 says:

    My first impression is that N.O.W. would have hung Schopenhauer up by his juevos.


  2. I second the comment of archaeopteryx1!


    • archaeopteryx1 says:

      Actually Busy, it’s just archaeopteryx – I first opened a WordPress account under my name, but WordPress clearly misplaced my password (I couldn’t POSSIBLY have forgotten it), so I had to go back in as archaeopteryx1 because archaeopteryx was already taken – BY ME!

      There ought to be a statute of limitations, whereby unused Usernames revert back to the public domain!

      But you can call me, arch —


  3. violetwisp says:

    Lovely. A prime example of why the words of dead people, and especially men, shouldn’t be taken seriously. Information void, lack of informative hormones, and fear of evolutionarily inferior role. 🙂


  4. fabryhistory says:

    Schopenhauer was no friend of the ladies, as this excerpt from the wikipedia page shows:
    While in Berlin, Schopenhauer was named as a defendant in a lawsuit initiated by a woman named Caroline Marquet. She asked for damages, alleging that Schopenhauer had pushed her. According to Schopenhauer’s court testimony, she deliberately annoyed him by raising her voice while standing right outside his door. Marquet alleged that the philosopher had assaulted and battered her after she refused to leave his doorway. Her companion testified that she saw Marquet prostrate outside his apartment. Because Marquet won the lawsuit, Schopenhauer made payments to her for the next twenty years. When she died, he wrote on a copy of her death certificate, Obit anus, abit onus (“The old woman dies, the burden is lifted”).
    In 1821, he fell in love with nineteen-year old opera singer, Caroline Richter (called Medon), and had a relationship with her for several years. He discarded marriage plans, however, writing, “Marrying means to halve one’s rights and double one’s duties,” and “Marrying means to grasp blindfolded into a sack hoping to find an eel amongst an assembly of snakes.” When he was forty-three years old, seventeen-year old Flora Weiss recorded rejecting him in her diary.


  5. I hope you don’t mind me leaving this one in the capable hands of my sisters, Mak… 😉


    • makagutu says:

      I must say I was appalled when I read those statements. I started to write this post yesterday [in my head that is :-D] and only finished when I read yours on Nietzsche.


  6. emmylgant says:

    What should we expect from a writer of the 19th century? He is correct in saying that women depended on the men in their lives since they were deemed unfit to manage their own. They had no access to money, education or professions, never mind political clout… how could it be otherwise?


    • archaeopteryx1 says:

      Marie Skłodowska-Curie, often referred to as Marie Curie or Madame Curie (7 November 1867 – 4 July 1934), was a Polish physicist and chemist, working mainly in France, who is famous for her pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the only woman to win in two fields, and the only person to win in multiple sciences. She was also the first female professor at the University of Paris (La Sorbonne), and in 1995 became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in Paris’ Panthéon.


      • emmylgant says:

        Yes and she could never have done her research or get access to a lab without her husband Pierre with whom she worked. You will note that she came of age in the late 19th, when To be sure there have been exceptional women who have, by their achievement, paved the way for women to have access to education. In general they were lucky enough to have educated fathers who bucked the trend and had their daughter(s) tutored along with the boys. Emilie du Chatelet who translated and commented on Newton’s Principia Matematica comes to mind (died 1759).The funny thing is, to this day, in a French dictionary, the fact that she was Voltaire’s friend and mistress chas first mention. ..Just saying.


    • makagutu says:

      Do we then blame the society the man grew in or is it the man we hold responsible?


    • Persto says:

      I agree, in a way. The extent to which Schopenhauer’s disparaging view of women separated him from his contemporaries and predecessors is inconclusive. However, what we do know is that Shcopenhauer’s views on gender dissimilarities and the application of those views to a larger metaphysical system were visionary for his time. Also, making human sexuality a cornerstone of his philosophy was incredibly pioneering and forward thinking. And, many fairly think that Schopenhauer’s beliefs were pretty common fare for the 19th century, as you assert–although one cannot argue with the ardor of the rhetoric.

      Schopenhauer even allots women a few redeeming virtues. Women are more loving, kind, and humane, which for Schopenhauer is a supreme moral worth. He also believes women are more practical and commonsensical than men(the intellect at work). But, for all that, he is convinced that women are incapable of proper reasoning and that they have a superficial temperament–for Schopenhauer, women were concerned with ‘winning a man,’clothes, and dancing. Women have talents, but artistic geniuses they are not, for that is a guy thing. Occasionally, one glimpses a portrait of the novelist, socialite, and mother Johanna Schopenhauer: (…) there should then appear one based on habit and reasoning; but often it fails to appear, especially when the mother has not loved the father…Property acquired by the long and constant hard work of men subsequently passes into the hands of women who in their folly get through it or otherwise squander it in a short time…The vanity of women…is centered entirely on material things…and hence society is so very much their element.”

      In my mind, this is nothing but typical male sentiment combined with personal resentment–the result of which is hardly enlightening. Even so, Schopenhauer’s view of women should not be removed or subdued when evaluating his philosophy because these ideas were important to him.



      • makagutu says:

        I agree with you mate. We can’t throw the baby with the birth water, as the adage goes. I don’t think he would have held a different view than he had on women given his source of inspiration, that is, the Vedas and the classical Greeks where women were seen and not heard.


      • emmylgant says:

        Thanks for fleshing out Schopenhauer the man for this discussion. As you confirmed, his ideas on women were hardly new or isolated for his time.


  7. My, how Old Testament. it’s the old “the only good woman is a controlled woman” nonsense. What does “pure” mean here? Well, I think “virgin” aka tribal unity and purity.

    and this woman doesn’t depend on a man. She’s a partner to a man. And mrn are’t her enemy unless they make themselves that.

    All of this strikes me as the “concerned man” ploy, when there is no real concern at all.


    • makagutu says:

      I think he drew his conclusions from the wrong source and did apply philosophical vigour. He drew this from the Vidas and the classical Greeks where women I think had no say. I don’t know if that is enough to absolve him from the charge?


      • I would say that if no other man knew better at that time period, it might absolve him, but since i know that other men did know better, it seems he’s chosen conclusions that he likes.


  8. Jackie says:

    UGH. Typical 19th century thinking. I don’t have a lot to say about this other than that. Not worth the brain space to contemplate outmoded misogynistic philosophies.


    • makagutu says:

      Do you think this was the general thinking then or was this specific to him? Knowing he drew his opinions from the clssical Greeks and from the east, cultures which were misogynistic in nature, do you think it is fair to lay the charge on him or his education?


  9. themodernidiot says:

    what a f*cking idiot


  10. Arkenaten says:

    A true Silly Person.


  11. Hi Mak! Having read the comments again, what strikes me is that they seem to be completely unrealistic. I can’t imagine how he could have thought that society might follow his advice.


    • makagutu says:

      I think there are people who agreed with him then and there still are a great majority who if they read his essays on women would agree with him.


  12. Daniela says:

    Well, like on all such subjects one cannot make any meaningful comment without taking both: time and care to carefully consider social, political and cultural milieu in which the piece has been written … and that truly exceeds space of a humble blog comment.

    On the other matter, I have just nominated you for ‘The Word Press Family Award’. If you choose to participate all the ‘rules and regulations’ are to be find here:

    Best Regards,


    • makagutu says:

      Thank you Daniela for the nomination.

      Yes, we would have to know the circumstances, cultural social, political and to to an extent personal that motivated such thought.


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