Max Stirner

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A Sketch of Stirner by Friedrich Engels

Stirner, Max (25 October 1806 - 26 June 1856)

Johann Kaspar Schmidt changed his name to Stirner, a childhood nickname that referred to his high brow=„Stirn“).

M. J. Inwood] of Trinity College, Oxford, wrote of Stirner:

[He was a] German philosopher who heard Hegel lecture and became a Left Hegelian. In his major work, The Ego and His Own (1845), he attacks the 'new radicalism' of Bauer, Feuerbach, and Marx as much as the 'old orthodoxy'. The only reality, he argues, is the individual ego, and things have value only in so far as they serve the ego. The individual must become conscious of his power over his own ideas. Once ideas escape the ego's control, they become 'ideals' and dominate the ego that produced them. This is true not only of the old ideas of Church and State, but of the new ideas of humanism and socialism. This, like Bauer's, exaltation of individual self-consciousness is a reversion to pre-Hegelian romanticism. Marx and Engels attacked 'Saint Max' (Stirner) in The German Ideology.

For Stirner, morality is a belief, too. Religion continues through morality. Although they are believed in, ethical commandments cannot be proved. He loved man because love made him happy and seemed natural to him. The order of society, he felt, needs founding on the interdependence of its members. The individual in society remains dependent on society, nature, and its laws. But Stirner wondered how Feuerbach could hope to turn people away from God if he let them keep the idea of the divine, so he ridiculed Feuerbach’s humanism.

Stirner's line of thinking has been a source of 20th-century existentialism.

{EU, 223, 289, Dale Riepe, Karl Becker; OCP}