Max Stirner's "The Ego and His Own,"—The book is a splendidly reasoned negative of Majority Rules—a superb and immortal PROTEST against the world-wide and ever growing Terrorism of Religion and Government. —*Gavin Gowrie.
“Nothing is more to me than myself!” —Max Stirner.
From The Agitator, 2 no. 13, May 15, 1912.
To all who have been fortunate enough to read Max Stirner’s “Ego and His Own,” there comes a strong desire to impart his doctrine to others, especially to the members of the working-class. It is with this end in view that I have undertaken to outline his doctrine in a few words. His book is very hard to obtain and does not appear to have been understood by some of those who have tried to give an estimate of it.
Eltzbacher’s account is not a very accurate one. It must be said that Stirner took no special pains to be clear and that he used a peculiar philosophic dialect. Stirner’s egoistic—or better—nihilistic philosophy is too often confused with the individualistic philosophy of, say, Emerson.
Stirner proclaimed—and this seems to be the most fundamental point in his theory—the doctrine of Ownness. It was a daring conception which will someday help effect a great revolution in philosophy. In essence it is this: “You are your own; work for your own interests. Respect no ideal! Do not make your actions conform to this or that standard! Disregard custom, duty, morality, justice, the Law! ‘I am God, and King, and Law!’ Hold nothing sacred but your own cravings and desires!” This is what he means by that nihilistic expression: “All things are nothing to me!” You are not bound if you will refuse to believe yourself bound. You are to yourself the Most High. Respect no “Thou shalt!” Be your own God! Obey no covenant! In short, “Nothing is more to me than myself!”
Now, between the nihilist and individualistic philosophy there is a rather subtle distinction which should be clearly perceived. Individualistic philosophy says: “Be a strong individual! Be above the common crowd! Develop your personality!” Egoistic or nihilistic philosophy says: “You have no duty whatsoever. If you desire to be a strong man, a man of influence, a real Individual above—as far as you can be—the influence of the common herd,—well, in that case, be strong! But not as a duty, but as a privilege! The former theory says: Thou shalt be a Superman! The latter says: Be what YOU wish to be!
Between the ethics of Kropotkin and Stirner, there is no essential difference. What Kropotkin expresses in simple scientific language, Stirner states in exact but somewhat confusing metaphysical terms. When Kropotkin points out that in every individual there is a passion for the good of the race, he gives a strong support to Stirner’s doctrine. We hesitate to proclaim that ethics is a delusion, and duty a fraud, unless we have Kropotkin’s reassurance that the feeling of solidarity is wrought into the very nature of man. With this known we may send morality to the rubbish-heap without fear from the race.
According to Stirner’s view, the good is what suits him and the bad what he detests. That which offends your sympathy is to you wrong. Thus, while entirely denying validity to externally imposed ethics, we find it impossible to deny the existence of good and evil. But I—the Ego—am to be the test. A tyrant, a brutal murderer by that blood-spattered Monster, the Law—such as at San Diego—a cruel deed—these offend my sense of solidarity and are therefore wrong.
Thus we may add to our war-cry a new one.
As before we have said:
Hail to the death of the omnipotent Friend, God! Hail to the downfall of the Law! Hail to the destruction of property rights!—we may add another:
Down with morality! W. CURTIS SWABEY.
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[*Gavin Gowrie - another pseudonym used by Arthur Desmond, Ed.]
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