You will sweeten every word of freedom with a look of the most loyal confidence, and he will clothe his servilism in the most flattering phrases of freedom. The good see in him an arch-villain, and relegate him to hell. Why did nothing hinder him in his arbitrary course? Why did people put up with so much? Do you suppose the tame Romans, who let all their will be bound by such a tyrant, were a hair the better? In old Rome they would have put him to death instantly, would never have been his slaves.
Nero was no viler than his time, in which one could only be one of the two, good or bad. The judgment of his time on him had to be that he was bad, and this in the highest degree: not a milksop, but an arch-scoundrel. All moral people can pronounce only this judgment on him. Rascals e. It is not convenient to live among them certainly, as one is not sure of his life for a moment; but can you say that it is more convenient to live among the moral? The hard fist of morality treats the noble nature of egoism altogether without compassion. So in praxi you have nothing to reproach me with.
Nero became very inconvenient by his possessedness. They have a presentiment that, if only the majority is once won for that liberty, it will also will the liberty, and will then take what it will have. The sacredness of the liberty, and all possible proofs of this sacredness, will never procure it; lamenting and petitioning only shows beggars. Therefore the moral man can never comprehend the egoist. Is not unwedded cohabitation an immorality?
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The moral man may turn as he pleases, he will have to stand by this verdict; Emilia Galotti gave up her life for this moral truth. And it is true, it is an immorality. A virtuous girl may become an old maid; a virtuous man may pass the time in fighting his natural impulses till he has perhaps dulled them, he may castrate himself for the sake of virtue as St.
Origen did for the sake of heaven: he thereby honors sacred wedlock, sacred chastity, as inviolable; he is — moral.
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Unchastity can never become a moral act. However indulgently the moral man may judge and excuse him who committed it, it remains a transgression, a sin against a moral commandment; there clings to it an indelible stain. As chastity once belonged to the monastic vow, so it does to moral conduct. Chastity is a — good.
What now follows from this for the judgment of the moral man? This: that he throws the egoist into the only class of men that he knows besides moral men, into that of the — immoral. He cannot do otherwise; he must find the egoist immoral in everything in which the egoist disregards morality. If he did not find him so, then he would already have become an apostate from morality without confessing it to himself, he would already no longer be a truly moral man. But it was solely because Socrates was — a moral man. Because this morality completed into humanity has fully settled its accounts with the religion out of which it historically came forth, nothing hinders it from becoming a religion on its own account.
For then the higher being who had hitherto been subordinated to the highest, Man, has ascended to absolute height, and we are related to him as one is related to the highest being, i. If morality has conquered, then a complete — change of masters has taken place. After the annihilation of faith Feuerbach thinks to put in to the supposedly safe harbor of love. Therefore man is to me — sacred.
And so it is with all moral relations. Friendship is and must be sacred for you, and property, and marriage, and the good of every man, but sacred in and of itself. Who is his God? Man with a great M! What is the divine? The human! It is nothing more or less than a new — religion. Altogether Feuerbach accomplishes only a transposition of subject and predicate, a giving of preference to the latter. How could he hope to turn men away from God when he left them the divine? And if, as Feuerbach says, God himself has never been the main thing to them, but only his predicates, then he might have gone on leaving them the tinsel longer yet, since the doll, the real kernel, was left at any rate.
The wheels in the head have a number of other formal aspects, some of which it may be useful to indicate here. Thus self-renunciation is common to the holy with the unholy, to the pure and the impure. Driven by the thirst for money, the avaricious man renounces all admonitions of conscience, all feeling of honor, all gentleness and all compassion; he puts all considerations out of sight; the appetite drags him along.
The holy man behaves similarly. As the unholy man renounces himself before Mammon, so the holy man renounces himself before God and the divine laws.
We are now living in a time when the shamelessness of the holy is every day more and more felt and uncovered, whereby it is at the same time compelled to unveil itself, and lay itself bare, more and more every day. But it must be so. The self-renouncers must, as holy men, take the same course that they do so as unholy men; as the latter little by little sink to the fullest measure of self-renouncing vulgarity and lowness , so the former must ascend to the most dishonorable exaltation.
The mammon of the earth and the God of heaven both demand exactly the same degree of — self-renunciation. What do they understand by it? It seems that you yourself are supposed to be it. And for whose benefit is unselfish self-renunciation recommended to you? But, whether he may aim at making money or at liberating the people, it still remains certain, in one case as in the other, that he is striving for an end, and that his end; selfishness here as there, only that his national self-interest would be beneficial to others too , and so would be for the common interest.
Now, do you suppose unselfishness is unreal and nowhere extant? On the contrary, nothing is more ordinary! One may even call it an article of fashion in the civilized world, which is considered so indispensable that, if it costs too much in solid material, people at least adorn themselves with its tinsel counterfeit and feign it. Where does unselfishness begin? Right where an end ceases to be our end and our property , which we, as owners, can dispose of at pleasure; where it becomes a fixed end or a — fixed idea; where it begins to inspire, enthuse, fantasize us; in short, where it passes into our stubbornness and becomes our — master.
I am not unselfish so long as the end remains my own, and I, instead of giving myself up to be the blind means of its fulfillment, leave it always an open question. My zeal need not on that account be slacker than the most fanatical, but at the same time I remain toward it frostily cold, unbelieving, and its most irreconcilable enemy; I remain its judge , because I am its owner. Unselfishness grows rank as far as possessedness reaches, as much on possessions of the devil as on those of a good spirit; there vice, folly, etc.
Where could one look without meeting victims of self-renunciation? There sits a girl opposite me, who perhaps has been making bloody sacrifices to her soul for ten years already. Over the buxom form droops a deathly-tired head, and pale cheeks betray the slow bleeding away of her youth. Poor child, how often the passions may have beaten at your heart, and the rich powers of youth have demanded their right! When your head rolled in the soft pillow, how awakening nature quivered through your limbs, the blood swelled your veins, and fiery fancies poured the gleam of voluptuousness into your eyes!
Then appeared the ghost of the soul and its eternal bliss. You were terrified, your hands folded themselves, your tormented eyes turned their look upward, you — prayed. The storms of nature were hushed, a calm glided over the ocean of your appetites. You fell asleep, to awake in the morning to a new combat and a new — prayer.
Now the habit of renunciation cools the heat of your desire, and the roses of your youth are growing pale in the — chlorosis of your heavenliness. The soul is saved, the body may perish! O Lais, O Ninon, how well you did to scorn this pale virtue! One free grisette against a thousand virgins grown gray in virtue! Archimedes, to move the earth, asked for a standpoint outside it. Men sought continually for this standpoint, and every one seized upon it as well as he was able. This foreign standpoint is the world of mind , of ideas, thoughts, concepts, essences; it is heaven.
To assure to themselves heaven, to occupy the heavenly standpoint firmly and for ever — how painfully and tirelessly humanity struggled for this! Christianity has aimed to deliver us from a life determined by nature, from the appetites as actuating us, and so has meant that man should not let himself be determined by his appetites. This does not involve the idea that he was not to have appetites, but that the appetites were not to have him, that they were not to become fixed , uncontrollable, indissoluble.
Then it would end in the dissolution of mind , the dissolution of all thoughts, of all conceptions. The doctrines of the catechism become our principles before we find it out, and no longer brook rejection. He could not be a Christian if he were willing to endure them. He listens only to morality, and slaps unmorality in the mouth; he listens only to legality, and gags the lawless word. The spirit of morality and legality holds him a prisoner; a rigid, unbending master. And now whom do the ordinary liberal gentlemen mean to make free? Whose freedom is it that they cry out and thirst for?
That of the spirit of morality, legality, piety, the fear of God. We shall come back later to many another wheel in the head — e. God, immortality, freedom, humanity, etc. That an Absolute existed, and that it must be taken in, felt, and thought by us, was settled as a faith in the minds of those who spent all the strength of their mind on recognizing it and setting it forth.
The feeling for the Absolute exists there as an imparted one, and thenceforth results only in the most manifold revelations of its own self. So in Klopstock the religious feeling was an imparted one, which in the Messiad simply found artistic expression. If, on the other hand, the religion with which he was confronted had been for him only an incitation to feeling and thought, and if he had known how to take an attitude completely his own toward it, then there would have resulted, instead of religious inspiration, a dissolution and consumption of the religion itself.
Instead of that, he only continued in mature years his childish feelings received in childhood, and squandered the powers of his manhood in decking out his childish trifles. The difference is, then, whether feelings are imparted to me or only aroused. Those which are aroused are my own, egoistic, because they are not as feelings drilled into me, dictated to me, and pressed upon me; but those which are imparted to me I receive, with open arms — I cherish them in me as a heritage, cultivate them, and am possessed by them.
Who is there that has never, more or less consciously, noticed that our whole education is calculated to produce feelings in us, i. The intention is directed to these feelings , and he who e. The young are of age when they twitter like the old; they are driven through school to learn the old song, and, when they have this by heart, they are declared of age. We must not feel at every thing and every name that comes before us what we could and would like to feel thereat; e. That is the meaning of the care of souls — that my soul or my mind be tuned as others think right, not as I myself would like it.
This sort of seriousness proclaims clearly how old and grave lunacy and possession have already become. For there is nothing more serious than a lunatic when he comes to the central point of his lunacy; then his great earnestness incapacitates him for taking a joke. See madhouses. The historical reflections on our Mongolism which I propose to insert episodically at this place are not given with the claim of thoroughness, or even of approved soundness, but solely because it seems to me that they may contribute toward making the rest clear.
The history of the world, whose shaping properly belongs altogether to the Caucasian race, seems till now to have run through two Caucasian ages, in the first of which we had to work out and work off our innate negroidity ; this was followed in the second by Mongoloidity Chineseness , which must likewise be terribly made an end of.
In the negroid age fall the campaigns of Sesostris and the importance of Egypt and of northern Africa in general. To the Mongoloid age belong the invasions of the Huns and Mongols, up to the Russians.
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The value of me cannot possibly be rated high so long as the hard diamond of the not-me bears so enormous a price as was the case both with God and with the world. The not-me is still too stony and indomitable to be consumed and absorbed by me; rather, men only creep about with extraordinary bustle on this immovable entity, on this substance , like parasitic animals on a body from whose juices they draw nourishment, yet without consuming it. It is the bustle of vermin, the assiduity of Mongolians. Accordingly, in our Mongolian age all change has been only reformatory or ameliorative, not destructive or consuming and annihilating.
The substance, the object, remains. In its first and most unintelligible form morality shows itself as habit. Therefore pure moral action, clear, unadulterated morality, is most straightforwardly practiced in China; they keep to the old habit and usage, and hate each innovation as a crime worthy of death.
For innovation is the deadly enemy of habit , of the old , of permanence. In fact, too, it admits of no doubt that through habit man secures himself against the obtrusiveness of things, of the world, and founds a world of his own in which alone he is and feels at home, builds himself a heaven. Heaven is the end of abnegation , it is free enjoyment.
There man no longer denies himself anything, because nothing is any longer alien and hostile to him. The morally habituated and inured Chinaman is not surprised and taken off his guard; he behaves with equanimity i. Hence, on the ladder of culture or civilization humanity mounts the first round through habit; and, as it conceives that, in climbing to culture, it is at the same time climbing to heaven, the realm of culture or second nature, it really mounts the first round of the — ladder to heaven.
If Mongoldom has settled the existence of spiritual beings — if it has created a world of spirits, a heaven — the Caucasians have wrestled for thousands of years with these spiritual beings, to get to the bottom of them. What were they doing, then, but building on Mongolian ground? They have not built on sand, but in the air; they have wrestled with Mongolism, stormed the Mongolian heaven, Tien. When will they at last annihilate this heaven? When will they at last become really Caucasians , and find themselves?
It was when, in the industrious struggle of the Mongolian race, men had built a heaven , that those of the Caucasian race, since in their Mongolian complexion they have to do with heaven, took upon themselves the opposite task, the task of storming that heaven of custom, heaven-storming [A German idiom for destructive radicalism] activity.
To dig under all human ordinance, in order to set up a new and — better one on the cleared site, to wreck all customs in order to put new and — better customs in their place — their act is limited to this. But is it thus already purely and really what it aspires to be, and does it reach its final aim? It storms heaven only to make a heaven again, it overthrows an old power only to legitimate a new power, it only — improves. Nevertheless the point aimed at, often as it may vanish from the eyes at every new attempt, is the real, complete downfall of heaven, customs, etc. Through the heaven of culture man seeks to isolate himself from the world, to break its hostile power.
But this isolation of heaven must likewise be broken, and the true end of heaven-storming is the — downfall of heaven, the annihilation of heaven. Improving and reforming is the Mongolism of the Caucasian, because thereby he is always getting up again what already existed — to wit, a precept , a generality, a heaven. And heaven is the realm of spirits , the realm of freedom of the spirit. The realm of heaven, the realm of spirits and ghosts, has found its right standing in the speculative philosophy.
To want to win freedom for the spirit is Mongolism; freedom of the spirit is Mongolian freedom, freedom of feeling, moral freedom, etc. But that is not involved in it; rather has the Caucasian shown himself spontaneous only in spite of his Mongolian morality. That his spontaneity is still a moral spontaneity, therefore, is just the Mongoloidity of it — is a sign that in it he has not arrived at himself. Man has not really vanquished Shamanism and its spooks till he possesses the strength to lay aside not only the belief in ghosts or in spirits, but also the belief in the spirit.
Hence it is manifest that Mongolism represents utter absence of any rights of the sensuous, represents non-sensuousness and unnature, and that sin and the consciousness of sin was our Mongolian torment that lasted thousands of years. But who, then, will dissolve the spirit into its nothing? He who by means of the spirit set forth nature as the null , finite, transitory, he alone can bring down the spirit too to like nullity.
I can; each one among you can, who does his will as an absolute I; in a word, the egoist can. Before the sacred, people lose all sense of power and all confidence; they occupy a powerless and humble attitude toward it. And yet no thing is sacred of itself, but by my declaring it sacred , by my declaration, my judgment, my bending the knee; in short, by my — conscience.
Sacred is everything which for the egoist is to be unapproachable, not to be touched, outside his power — i. To this sacred dread belongs holding something outside oneself for mightier, greater, better warranted, better, etc. And you give this tinge even to the unholy gallows, crime, etc. You have a horror of touching it. There lies in it something uncanny, that is, unfamiliar or not your own. But in fear there always remains the attempt to liberate oneself from what is feared, by guile, deception, tricks, etc. In reverence,[ Ehrfurcht ] on the contrary, it is quite otherwise. Now I am attached to it with all the strength of faith; I believe.
The man is now no longer employed in creating, but in learning knowing, investigating, etc. The relation to this object is that of knowing, fathoming, basing, not that of dissolution abrogation, etc. Quite otherwise when one makes the axiom itself doubtful and calls it in question, even though it should go to smash.
One dares not go at morality itself with the question whether it is not itself an illusion; it remains exalted above all doubt, unchangeable. Men are sometimes divided into two classes: cultured and uncultured. The former, so far as they were worthy of their name, occupied themselves with thoughts, with mind, and because in the time since Christ, of which the very principle is thought, they were the ruling ones demanded a servile respect for the thoughts recognized by them. State, emperor, church, God, morality, order, are such thoughts or spirits, that exist only for the mind.
A merely living being, an animal, cares as little for them as a child. But the uncultured are really nothing but children, and he who attends only to the necessities of his life is indifferent to those spirits; but, because he is also weak before them, he succumbs to their power, and is ruled by — thoughts.
This is the meaning of hierarchy. We are hierarchic to this day, kept down by those who are supported by thoughts. Thoughts are the sacred. But the two are always clashing, now one and now the other giving the offence; and this clash occurs, not only in the collision of two men, but in one and the same man. For no cultured man is so cultured as not to find enjoyment in things too, and so be uncultured; and no uncultured man is totally without thoughts. With him reality, the world of things, is altogether to correspond to the thought, and no concept is to be without reality.
But this was simply the extremest case of violence on the part of thought, its highest pitch of despotism and sole dominion, the triumph of mind, and with it the triumph of philosophy. Philosophy cannot hereafter achieve anything higher, for its highest is the omnipotence of mind , the almightiness of mind. Spiritual men have taken into their head something that is to be realized. They have concepts of love, goodness, etc. What they have taken into their head, what shall we call it but — fixed idea? Is not the lover self-sacrificing who forsakes father and mother, endures all dangers and privations, to reach his goal?
Or the ambitious man, who offers up all his desires, wishes, and satisfactions to the single passion, or the avaricious man who denies himself everything to gather treasures, or the pleasure-seeker, etc.? He is ruled by a passion to which he brings the rest as sacrifices. And are these self-sacrificing people perchance not selfish, not egoist? As they have only one ruling passion, so they provide for only one satisfaction, but for this the more strenuously, they are wholly absorbed in it. Their entire activity is egoistic, but it is a one-sided, unopened, narrow egoism; it is possessedness.
Man must make sacrifices for a great idea, a great cause! He who lives for a great idea, a good cause, a doctrine, a system, a lofty calling, may not let any worldly lusts, any self-seeking interest, spring up in him. Here we have the concept of clericalism , or, as it may also be called in its pedagogic activity, school-masterliness; for the idealists play the schoolmaster over us.
The clergyman is especially called to live to the idea and to work for the idea, the truly good cause.
The Ego and Its Own by Max Stirner
Even a directory of the sacred ideas, one or more of which man is to look upon as his calling, is not lacking. Family, fatherland, science, etc. This is the dominion of the idea; in other words, it is clericalism. Thus Robespierre and St. Just were priests through and through, inspired by the idea, enthusiasts, consistent instruments of this idea, idealistic men. So St. It hurls Manlius down the precipice; it sacrifices its private inclinations; it leads Regulus to Carthage, throws a Roman into the chasm, and sets Marat, as a victim of his devotion, in the Pantheon.
No idea, no system, no sacred cause is so great as never to be outrivaled and modified by these personal interests. The man who is just now crying herrings in front of my window has a personal interest in good sales, and, if his wife or anybody else wishes him the like, this remains a personal interest all the same. But even here all might yet resolve itself into a personal interest, each of the partakers reflecting that he must concur in the punishment of the thief because unpunished stealing might otherwise become general and cause him too to lose his own.
Because I am enthusiastic for morality , filled with the idea of morality; what is hostile to it I everywhere assail. Because in his mind theft ranks as abominable without any question, Proudhon, e. In the sense of the priestly, theft is always a crime , or at least a misdeed. Here the personal interest is at an end. This particular person who has stolen the basket is perfectly indifferent to my person; it is only the thief, this concept of which that person presents a specimen, that I take an interest in.
Dropping out of personal concern, one gets into philanthropy , friendliness to man, which is usually misunderstood as if it was a love to men, to each individual, while it is nothing but a love of Man , the unreal concept, the spook. It is not tous anthropous, men, but ton anthropon , Man, that the philanthropist carries in his heart. To be sure, he cares for each individual, but only because he wants to see his beloved ideal realized everywhere.
Man must be restored in us, even if thereby we poor devils should come to grief. He who is infatuated with Man leaves persons out of account so far as that infatuation extends, and floats in an ideal, sacred interest. Man , you see, is not a person, but an ideal, a spook. Now, things as different as possible can belong to Man and be so regarded. Having only an ideal interest, before which no respect of persons avails! When the worldly egoist had shaken off a higher power e.
His experience was like that of the possessed man into whom seven devils passed when he thought he had freed himself from one. In the passage quoted above, all ideality is denied to the middle class. It certainly schemed against the ideal consistency with which Robespierre wanted to carry out the principle. The instinct of its interest told it that this consistency harmonized too little with what its mind was set on, and that it would be acting against itself if it were willing to further the enthusiasm for principle.
Was it to behave so unselfishly as to abandon all its aims in order to bring a harsh theory to its triumph? I do not blame the middle class for not wanting to let its aims be frustrated by Robespierre, i. But one might blame if blame were in place here anyhow those who let their own interests be frustrated by the interests of the middle class. However, will not they likewise sooner or later learn to understand what is to their advantage? Folks unfortunately care little for the theoretical victory of the idea. One must demonstrate to them ad oculos how this victory can be practically utilized in life.
Because the revolutionary priests or schoolmasters served Man , they cut off the heads of men. The revolutionary laymen, those outside the sacred circle, did not feel any greater horror of cutting off heads, but were less anxious about the rights of Man than about their own. How comes it, though, that the egoism of those who affirm personal interest, and always inquire of it, is nevertheless forever succumbing to a priestly or schoolmasterly i. Their person seems to them too small, too insignificant — and is so in fact — to lay claim to everything and be able to put itself completely in force.
There is a sure sign of this in their dividing themselves into two persons, an eternal and a temporal, and always caring either only for the one or only for the other, on Sunday for the eternal, on the work-day for the temporal, in prayer for the former, in work for the latter. They have the priest in themselves, therefore they do not get rid of him, but hear themselves lectured inwardly every Sunday.
How men have struggled and calculated to get at a solution regarding these dualistic essences! They were and remained hostile to me, even if the hostility lay concealed for a considerable time. Will it be the same with self-ownership? Is it too only an attempt at mediation? Whatever principle I turned to, it might be to that of reason , I always had to turn away from it again.
Or can I always be rational, arrange my life according to reason in everything? I can, no doubt, strive after rationality, I can love it, just as I can also love God and every other idea. I can be a philosopher, a lover of wisdom, as I love God. But what I love, what I strive for, is only in my idea, my conception, my thoughts; it is in my heart, my head, it is in me like the heart, but it is not I, I am not it.
Moral influence takes its start where humiliation begins; yes, it is nothing else than this humiliation itself, the breaking and bending of the temper [ Muth ] down to humility. Good-for-nothing in your sense they certainly will become; but your sense happens to be a very good-for-nothing sense.
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The impudent lads will no longer let anything be whined and chattered into them by you, and will have no sympathy for all the follies for which you have been raving and driveling since the memory of man began; they will abolish the law of inheritance; they will not be willing to inherit your stupidities as you inherited them from your fathers; they destroy inherited sin.
And is it not precisely the liberals again that press for good education and improvement of the educational system? A long time passed away, in which people were satisfied with the fancy that they had the truth , without thinking seriously whether perhaps they themselves must be true to possess the truth. This time was the Middle Ages. With the common consciousness — i. As one does indeed also exert his eye to see the remote, or laboriously exercise his hand till its fingers have become dexterous enough to press the keys correctly, so they chastened themselves in the most manifold ways, in order to become capable of receiving the supersensual wholly into themselves.
But what they chastened was, after all, only the sensual man, the common consciousness, so-called finite or objective thought. Yet as this thought, this understanding, which Luther decries under the name of reason, is incapable of comprehending the divine, its chastening contributed just as much to the understanding of the truth as if one exercised the feet year in and year out in dancing, and hoped that in this way they would finally learn to play the flute. Luther, with whom the so-called Middle Ages end, was the first who understood that the man himself must become other than he was if he wanted to comprehend truth — must become as true as truth itself.
Only he who already has truth in his belief, only he who believes in it, can become a partaker of it; i. Only that organ of man which is able to blow can attain the further capacity of flute-playing, and only that man can become a partaker of truth who has the right organ for it. He who is capable of thinking only what is sensuous, objective, pertaining to things, figures to himself in truth only what pertains to things.
With Luther, accordingly, dawns the perception that truth, because it is a thought , is only for the thinking man. And this is to say that man must henceforth take an utterly different standpoint, to wit, the heavenly, believing, scientific standpoint, or that of thought in relation to its object, the — thought — that of mind in relation to mind. Consequently: only the like apprehend the like. That medieval hierarchy had been only a weakly one, as it had to let all possible barbarism of unsanctified things run on uncoerced beside it, and it was the Reformation that first steeled the power of hierarchy.
Everything can be wrested from him, except thought, except faith. Particular faith, like faith of Zeus, Astarte, Jehovah, Allah, may be destroyed, but faith itself is indestructible. In thought is freedom. What I need and what I hunger for is no longer granted to me by any grace , by the Virgin Mary. In short, my being the sum is a living in the heaven of thought, of mind, a cogitare. But I myself am nothing else than mind, thinking mind according to Descartes , believing mind according to Luther.
My body I am not; my flesh may suffer from appetites or pains. I am not my flesh, but I am mind , only mind. Only the rational is, only mind is! This is the principle of modern philosophy, the genuine Christian principle. What it wants is that the divine should become visible in everything, and all consciousness become a knowing of the divine, and man behold God everywhere; but God never is, without the devil. For this very reason the name of philosopher is not to be given to him who has indeed open eyes for the things of the world, a clear and undazzled gaze, a correct judgment about the world, but who sees in the world just the world, in objects only objects, and, in short, everything prosaically as it is; but he alone is a philosopher who sees, and points out or demonstrates, heaven in the world, the supernal in the earthly, the — divine in the mundane.
The former may be ever so wise, there is no getting away from this:. Is practiced simply by a childlike heart. It takes this childlike heart, this eye for the divine, to make a philosopher. On this ground Bacon was turned out of the realm of philosophers. Bacon and Hume. The English did not know how to exalt the simplicity of the childlike heart to philosophic significance, did not know how to make — philosophers out of childlike hearts.
This is as much as to say, their philosophy was not able to become theological or theology , and yet it is only as theology that it can really live itself out, complete itself. Our vocabulary plays such tricks with our intellects as cause the realistic angels to weep. Stirner was mainly concerned with the two words, Liberty and Man. In essence they may be said to constitute the Alpha and Omega of liberalism in the broadest and narrowest senses. Both words are, strictly speaking, meaningless; or, at least, their meaning is so vague that their use in genuine discussion is extremely perilous.
Yet we proceed in all our reformatory schemes on the assumption that somewhere or other there exists, or ought to exist. Man who is not any particular man, but a Being from whom all particularities have vanished by sublimation. The result is that all our legislation is made to apply itself to two impossible and non-existent entities, to Man with a capital M, and to Humanity as it ought to be in a perfect state, etc.
But this sacrifice of real individuals to the non-existent and impossible Perfect Man is exactly similar to sacrifices made to any other abstract Mumbo-Jumbo. The more atheistic, in fact, revolutionaries pride themselves on being, the more firmly have they made the secret substitution of a wholly imaginary ideal Man or Humanity for God. Against this ingrained habit of men to sacrifice themselves to dragon-like ideals, Stirner inveighs with splendid zeal. He is a rare realist, and an iconoclast of the first order. He will have nothing to do with abstractions, even when they simulate the concrete form of generalisations.
His single claim is that he is unique and incomparable. I am not, he says, Man, but a man. I ought not to become essential Man or to fade away into a colourless abstraction. On the contrary, my sole business is to become more and more myself. Legislation that assumes that I am like anybody else in all the world is misfit legislation; when it assumes that I am like everybody else it is simply ludicrous. This principle of uniqueness is really incompatible with a good deal of the modern talk of reform.
If it comes to a choice it might even be easier to serve a theological than a humanitarian ideal. The service of the older gods at any rate, did not require individual deification; but the service of the new god, Humanity, apparently demands the humanisation of man. Stirner again points out that a man can no more become Man than man can become God; he can only become himself. Two examples of this response may suffice. On Stirner's account, there is a necessary antipathy between the egoistic individual and the state.
This inevitable hostility is based on the conflict between Stirner's conception of autonomy and any obligation to obey the law. Since self-mastery is incompatible with, and valued more highly than, any obligation to obey the law, Stirner rejects the legitimacy of political obligation. Note that this rejection stands irrespective of the foundation of that political obligation, and whatever the form of the state. Promise-keeping is another early victim of this commitment to, and understanding of, self-mastery. Stirner associates the institution of promising with illegitimate constraint, since the requirement that duly made promises be kept is incompatible with his understanding of individual autonomy.
Stirner rejects any general obligation to keep promises as just another attempt to bind the individual. Note that Stirner's enthusiasm is reserved not for those who break their word in the service of some larger spiritual goal as Luther, for example, became unfaithful to his monastic vows for God's sake , but rather for those individuals who are willing to break their word for their own sake. As well as a negative account of the institutions and practices that egoists must reject as incompatible with autonomy, The Ego and Its Own also contains some positive suggestions about the possible shape of egoistic relationships which do not conflict with individual self-mastery.
The central feature of the resulting union of egoists is that it does not involve the subordination of the individual. This union of egoists constitutes a purely instrumental association whose good is solely the advantage that the individuals concerned may derive for the pursuit of their individual goals; there are no shared final ends and the association is not valued in itself.
Stirner occasionally appears uncertain as to how best to elaborate this basic account of egoistic social relations. In The Ego and Its Own , he seems to be pulled in two divergent directions. In the first, and least typical, of these moods, Stirner shies away somewhat from the suggestion that his views might have radical consequences. This suggestion is presumably aimed at making that future appear more attractive not least to those attached to these familiar and worthwhile relationships.
However, it is far from certain that all of the relationships he mentions would emerge intact from their reincarnation in egoistic form. Egoistic love allows the individual to deny himself something in order to enhance the pleasure of another, but only because his own pleasure is enhanced as a result. The object of egoistic love, in other words, remains the individual himself. The description is a revealing one, since enjoying another person and loving them would appear to be rather different matters.
Loving another person in the conventional and non-egoistic sense might be thought to include the desire to promote the welfare of that person, even when it is not in our interests, or when it conflicts with our own wants and happiness. In this respect, it stands at some distance from Stirner's account of egoistic love. Stirner appears to have failed to establish that this particular familiar and worthwhile relationship would survive this reestablishment on egoistic premises. In the second, and more representative, of these moods, Stirner acknowledges the radical and unfamiliar consequences of adopting an egoistic order.
Indeed, in places, he might be said to revel in the acknowledgement that his views have startling consequences from which few will take any solace. This is one of the sources of the melodramatic and provocative tone of parts of The Ego and Its Own. Stirner describes the relation between the egoist and his objects which include, of course, other persons as a property relation. These more familiar forms of property rest on notions of right, and involve claims to exclusivity or constraints on use, which Stirner rejects. At one point, Stirner acknowledges that few readers of The Ego and Its Own will draw any comfort from his vision of an egoistic future, but insists that the welfare of this audience is not of any interest to him.
Indeed, Stirner suggests that, if he had been motivated by a concern for others, then he would have had to conceal rather than propagate his ideas. At the time of his death, Stirner's brief period of notoriety was long over, his book had been out of print for several years, and there was little sign that his work might have any longer term impact.
Since then, however, The Ego and Its Own has been translated into at least eight languages, and appeared in over one hundred editions. Subsequent interpretations of Stirner have often followed contemporary intellectual fashion. For example, at the beginning of the twentieth century, Stirner was frequently portrayed as a precursor of Friedrich Nietzsche — , as having anticipated, if not influenced it is far from certain that Nietzsche had read Stirner's work , both the style and substance of Nietzsche's work.
More recently, Stirner has been identified as a nascent poststructuralist linked not least with Gilles Deleuze , rejecting the idea of a universal human nature, employing a genealogical critique of humanist discourses of power and identity, and opposing various forms of state-centric thought. It would be a mistake to deny that these parallels can be plausible and interesting. However, they might well seem to reflect changing historical enthusiasms as much as they accurately capture aspects of Stirner's philosophical and political thought.
The historical influence of Stirner's work is perhaps more plausibly located in two rather different contexts. As far as its longer term historical influence is concerned, Stirner's work has become a founding text in the tradition of individualist anarchism. Stirner's insistence that his radical contemporaries had failed to break with religious modes of thought prompted most of the leading left-Hegelians to defend their own work in public against this attack.
In perhaps the most important of these replies, a defensive and clearly irritated Feuerbach who suspected Stirner of trying to make a name for himself at his own expense was widely seen as struggling to maintain a besieged and outdated position. In this confident rejoinder, Stirner reiterated some of the central themes of The Ego and Its Own and clarified the character of his own commitment to egoism. Stirner's work also had a significant impact on a little known contemporary associate of these left-Hegelians, one Karl Marx.
Between and , Marx collaborated with Friedrich Engels — on a group of manuscripts now usually called The German Ideology , which included a fierce and sustained attack on their erstwhile philosophical contemporaries. Most of these texts were not published at the time, and it was before this critical engagement with the work of Bauer, Feuerbach, and Stirner, appeared in print. The account of Stirner contained in the so-called The German Ideology takes up over three hundred pages of the published text unfortunately abridged editions occasionally omit much of this dense but fascinating part of the text , and, although Marx is remorselessly critical of Stirner's position, it scarcely follows that The Ego and Its Own was without influence on the former's own work.
Not least, Stirner's book appears to have been decisive: in motivating Marx's break with the work of Feuerbach whose influence on many of Marx's earlier writings is readily apparent ; in making Marx reconsider the role that concepts of human nature should play in social criticism; and in forcing him to think more clearly about how far communism should be, in some sense, individualistic. Finally, and over a longer period of time, the author of The Ego and Its Own has become best-known as a member of, and influence upon, the anarchist tradition. In particular, Stirner's name regularly appears in historically-orientated surveys of anarchist thought as one of the earliest and best-known exponents of individualist anarchism.
The affinity between Stirner and the anarchist tradition lies in his endorsement of the claim that the state is an illegitimate institution. However, his elaboration of this claim is a distinctive and interesting one. For Stirner, a state can never be legitimate, since there is a necessary conflict between individual self mastery and the obligation to obey the law with which the legitimacy of the state is identified.
Given that individual self-mastery trumps any competing consideration, Stirner concludes that the demands of the state are not binding on the individual. However, he does not think that individuals have, as a result, any general obligation to oppose and attempt to eliminate the state insofar as this is within their power. Rather the individual should decide in each particular case whether or not to go along with the state's demands.
Only in cases where there is a conflict between the autonomy of the egoist and the demands of the state, does he recommend evading the requirements of law. That said, whilst individuals have no duty to overthrow the state, Stirner does think that the state will eventually collapse as a result of the spread of egoism.
In America, James L Walker , author of The Philosophy of Egoism was interested in, and influenced by, Stirner's thought, although his best-known anarchist admirers in America were in the circle which formed around Benjamin R. Tucker — and the remarkable journal Liberty founded in Stirner is unlikely to have regretted these disputes about the nature and influence of The Ego and Its Own.
In considering various interpretative accounts of the Bible, he himself declined to chose between the judgement of the child who played with the book, the Inca emperor Atahualpa c. The plurality of interpretations of his own work might well have amused Stirner and encouraged him in his view that there could be no legitimate constraints on the meaning of a text. Stirner's Life and Work 2. The Ego and Its Own 2. Stirner's Influence At the time of his death, Stirner's brief period of notoriety was long over, his book had been out of print for several years, and there was little sign that his work might have any longer term impact.
A modern edition of Stirner's best-known work. Aus den Jahren — , edited by J. Mackay, second revised edition, Berlin: Bernhard Zack, An extensive collection of Stirner's lesser writings. Parerga Kritiken Repliken , edited by Bernd A. A modern selection of Stirner's lesser writings. Martin, Colorado Springs: Ralph Myles,
Related THE EGO AND HIS OWN (1907)
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