13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 29 January 2001
Max Stirner is an almost forgotten great thinker who seems to be experiencing a renaissance in the age of Internet.
The author of a single book, he stands as the most solid individualist thinker and moral critic I have ever come across. The Hegelian scholar Lawrence Stepelevich of Villanova University characterizes Stirner as both the ultimate Hegelian and as the anti-Hegel; the end of the Hegelian chain. Given Hegelianism's pretenses to being a conclusive philosophy, it might be tempting to say Stirner is thereby the end of philosophy. That, however, would be wrong.
But to say that Stirner is the end of *moral* philosophy would be to the point; the Stirnerian critique of morality has a strength that I have yet to see a moral philosophy withstand. His is not a nihilistic "Can you prove morality" type of critique, but rather a critique of the necessary inherent assumptions of any moral philosophy. These are strong words to say about any book. In Stirner's case, they are deserved.
Have an enjoyable reading!
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 27 May 2006
Stirner is a poststructuralist or post-psychoanalyst before his time. His approach is a philosophical debunking of moral order (though not of a kind of ethical commitment grounded in active desire) on the basis of its alienating effects. For Stirner, submission to externalities - nations, causes, the law, morality, God, humanity, even the "individual" as an abstraction - is an alienation of one's basic autonomy, which consists of a uniqueness which is undefinable and unrepresentable. Against alienation in subordination to "spooks" (Stirner's name for representational formations and abstractions), Stirner urges a direct, committed activity in the world. In this he prefigures the best of post-left anarchism and of radical poststructuralists such as Deleuze.
This ia a very rich text from which a sympathetic reader can gain a lot. On the downside however, large sections are devoted to material of dubious interest except to Hegel scholars - an entire derivation of Stirner's philosophy from the overcoming of childhood in maturity and of Oriental despotism in western reason for instance, which is both Eurocentric and philosophically naive. A reader prepared to turn a blind eye to these passages will still find plenty in Stirner's positive case for his own philosophy, though there is little to convince a comprehending sceptic - the main appeal is by revealing new ways of viewing, so you're more likely to think, "wow, I'd never thought about it that way" rather than "yes, that's a convincing argument". These are minor points with what remains an outstanding piece of critical theory however.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A hammer that shatters the shallowness of complacency.
Stirner goes at it tooth, claw and nail in the philosophical rooms of pretension stripping the layers of wallpaper one by one. Christianity, Socialism, Liberalism, Morality, Belief, Virtue, Ideology, Nationalism, Patriotism are all shredded and cast into the dustbin of history.
Marx hated him for his iconoclasm and disassembling Marxism. Belief in forces laying outside of the self were the anathema, god is as laughable as the proletariat, both exist as wheels in the head.
Therefore what remains is the cry? Existential nothingness, the dread of being. The feeling of being trapped or released from your own thoughts, the zest of being alive. The world is composed through the individual who is thrashed, psychologically derided and nullified until he/she accepts their place in the hierarchy. This is all an illusion and exists as a form of mass hysteria in peoples heads. They back it up with weaponry and zeal but there belief system means nothing in the sum totality of the universe. The first stage in recognition of the multiplicity of freedom.
Stirner is the man who went through the wallpaper through the pain and found the coated layers of plaster unsullied and virgin.
This book leads the way to new conceptualisation beyond the growth of the crowd. It is aimed at the solitary thinker who can go onward and upward to join the pantheon of young gods, the egoist and his own.
Stirner shares many of the same qualities as Nietzsche except Stirner planted the first flag on an ice cold Antarctic first.
It is an essential reader of psychologists, sociologists, religious zealots, Marxists, cultural studies, philosophy
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Max Stirner's philosophical tour de force is amongst the most fascinating books I have ever encountered. In it Stirner outlines his Egoism, which is so intellectually superior than the contemporary Egoistic philosophy of Objectivism that it barely warrants comparison. In The Ego and Its Own you will certainly not find anything on the same level as Ayn Rand's weak axiomatic foundation for Objectivist Epistemology or circular arguments against Hume's is-ought problem. Stirner had no desire to create a cause, a new spook called Ethical Egoism.
What you will find is a conception of self that could be called proto-existentialist, that is, self as a `creative nothing'; `For me there is no truth, for nothing is more than I! Not even my essence, not even the essence of man, is more than I...' (p.313). Furthermore, you will find a critique of dogma, from Christianity to Liberalism to Communism. You will find a conception of property that discards the spook of natural rights. Foremost, you will find a thinker of stunning honesty and intelligence.
Whilst a critic of Hegel, Stirner was a Hegelian thinker in the sense that he employed dialectics. Stirner begins with antiquated Materialism, going through to the Modern age of Idealism and synthesising the two with the unique ego, the creative nothing, Egoism. Stirner's critique of the Modern is thorough and incorporates the multifaceted spooks that characterize this epoch. It is here that Stirner's strength is most observable; when critiquing the Humanists alongside the Christians, the Communists alongside the Liberals.
Stirner is not faultless; his complex understanding of self needs, in my opinion, further elucidation. Furthermore, the racist analogy he uses to explain his dialectical process jars with me. It seem a shame that such a brilliant thinker succumbed to the weak logic that is necessary to back such bigotry. Nonetheless, Stirner stands out as the single intellectual giant of Egoism.