What is your take on Max Stirner? - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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If someone could better explain my misunderstanding rather than an appeal to just read the entirety of Max Stirners major work and to dismiss criticisms made and just nor getting it, I’d better assume the possible value of Stirner. Otherwise I am skeptical of those who put praise to him.

I see that he is praised by a lot and Marx’s criticism of him in The German Ideology readily dismissed as somewhat of a misunderstanding. But I don’t see much to make explicit the appeal of Stirner.

My impression of him seems that he returns to Fichtes attempt to resolve the antinomies of Kant based on the ego as pure activity. A point criticized by Hegel as the individual is born from the whole and must be put in relation to it rather than be the starting block.
And the spooks people talk about in which abstractions are ideas used to control people seems no lore advanced than Feuerbach who is criticized in his criticism of religion as alienating man as the creation of God where as the divine qualities of God are the properties of man.
Stirner criticizes this as simply transplanting a religion of God to that of man and doesn’t solve alienation. A damning critique in fact but its not clear his position extends much further and I wonder if his individualism is just as abstract as Feuerbach.
That he proposes a nominalist that emphasizes the individual ego as the foundation to reality against all universal ideals which can be seen as dominating the individual towards collectivist ends, oppresses individuality and its freedom.

But it seems to go no further than Feuerbachs idea that the criticism of religion suffices to dispel the illusion and similarily Stirner simply characterizes abstractions as spooks and doesn’t understand their reality. Like the person who thinks its a mere matter of disbelief to show that money is worthless because its functional value can’t be explained.

I am also suspect of his Union of egoists which seems to extend no further than a necessary defense against those who would oppress the conditions of such an ideal individuality and find common cause in defending the conditions of such individuality. Which on the face of it sounds little different to the conditions of capital that destroys the basis of any common good except the conditions to pursue ones own individual desires unobstructed.
If any of this is close to the mark then this makes me suspect of anarchists of a clear individualist bent and worry that any asserted ideals of communism are perhaps only consistent in theory with Stirner but such a cause is theoretically just another spook oppressing the individual by calling them to sacrifice themselves for a cause. A characterization itself which can be challenged and sounds little more than a liberal whose sole focus is their private life and bot to be disrupted by the qualms of others, they feel oppressed when their negative liberty is undermined and restricted.
I've been reading a summary of the influence of Stirner upon the dissolution of the Left Hegelians and upon Marx. Though interesting it hasn't given me a persuasive view of Stirner against the limitations and criticisms made of him far as i can tell. Stirner is challenging to a watered down and crude Marx as best as i can tell.

Although I can accept the asserted strength of Stirner's influence and as a stand out thinker in the genesis of Marx's thought as plausible, I'm not sure how much I wholly accept their characterization of Marx as correct. This tends to make me a little bit skeptical to the strength of Stirner's influence, not wholly netting him but perhaps seen more significant than he perhaps was.

See here for the summary of Stirner's influence at the Union of Egoists: [url]https://www.unionofegoists.com/authors/stirner/max-stirner-criticism/stirner-and-marx/][/url]
Hegel had maintained that the ideal determined the material; Marx’ supposed modernism was finding the Hegelian dialectic «standing on its head» and turning it «right side up again».82 Quite what Marx means is not readily apparent. He inverted the primacy of the ideal found in German Idealist, Hegelian and post-Hegelian philosophy by replacing it with an older form of materialism. The materialist conception of consciousness can be summed up Marx’ famous axiom «Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life» (1846). Marx’ paradigmatic shift invoked eighteenth-century materialism, which took matter as primary and regarded consciousness, thought and sensation as secondary. The French materialists of the eighteenth century provided Marx with the simple mechanical categories that constituted the terms in which the origin and history of man were to be explained. The «newness» of Marxian materialism, the idea of conceiving of matter dialectically, highlights Marx’ innate debt to Hegelian thought. Yet historical materialism was also a backwards step. Marx wanted to reassert the fundamental principle of eighteenth-century historical naturalism; that historical events have natural causes. Hegel had broken away from naturalism but had not demanded an autonomous history, «Marx went back on this demand and swept Hegel away; he subjected history to dominion by natural science which Hegel had freed it from».83 Thus Marx took a «retrograde step», which was simultaneously also prelude to an advance in terms of political economy.84 Despite cryptic statements such as «standing Hegel on his feet instead of his head», Marx’ «conjuring trick» essentially took over the idea, inherited from both Kant and Hegel, in which history culminated in the complete unity of man, the identification of existence with essence and the abolition of contingency in human life. For Marx, humanity was not doomed to contingency, as Stirner maintained.85

As his response to Stirner suggests, Marx’ theory had no real scientific basis, and its genesis appears in a somewhat dubious light. Whilst it allowed Marx to condemn the present world order in terms of the immanent laws of history itself, as a solution it was both «ingenious and disingenuous».86 Stirner’s nihilism meant Marx had to defend the basic claim to seek meaning in an ideal, rather than giving up the whole conception of a salvation of man. Marx was of course keen to emphasise that he was not really pursuing an ideal at all; his presuppositions were «not arbitrary ones, not dogmas, but real presuppositions from which abstraction can only be made in the imagination».87 Marx saw them as empirical facts. Stirner, on the other hand claimed «I presuppose only myself – and since it is I who presuppose myself, I have no presuppositions».88 Marx painstakingly insists Stirner himself does have ideals and even his own morality. Yet, the materialistic reduction of ideals to historical necessities very closely resembles a Stirnerian abandoning of ideals; nihilism was inherent in both positions. How can Marx’ thought retain its revolutionary aspect if economic patterns and laws thoroughly determine man’s historical existence? Yet far from relinquishing his revolutionary ideals, Marx believed he had succeeded in preserving by integrating them into real history. This was the core of both Marx’ defence against Stirner and the essence of the materialistic conception of history: the ideals pursued by the Left Hegelians were declared to be the «immanent telos of history itself».89 The Left Hegelian revolutionary force became an immanent law of objective history. In other words, Marx turned an ought into an is.

It has not been properly acknowledged just how much The Ego is responsible for pushing Marx into this epistemological corner. By attempting to incorporate ideals into actual history, Marx went as far as it is possible to rationalise the Left Hegelian revolutionary drive without abandoning the «basic Left Hegelian insight».90 Marx had reached an impossible dilemma, one which has haunted his more intelligent disciples until today. As such, Marx could no longer encourage action as he now predicted change; history did not depend upon man’s conscious intentions; it depended on what humans do. This seems incompatible with Marx’ dismissal of ideals and represents the basic ambiguity of his thought, a blind spot which he left for Marxists to excuse or explain. The contradictory nature of Marx’ position reflected how «almost against his will» Marx was forced into dismissal by Stirner.91 On the one hand we have Marx the determinist, who will later refer to laws and tendencies that work «with iron necessity towards inevitable results»,92 on the other we have Marx the voluntarist, keen to incite the proletariat to rebellion. However, the materialist conception of history was, in itself, a change of consciousness, merely a new theory of reality and thus «recognition of the existing order by means of another interpretation».93 The real difference between Marx and the Left Hegelians was that instead of pretending to save the world by changing their ideas, Marx arrived at an idea that couldn’t be changed, a theory in which humanity saves itself, regardless of philosophical speculations.

Historical materialism was the result of an attempt to preserve the Left Hegelian humanist heritage in spite of Stirner’s challenge. Stirner’s exposure of quasi-religious basis of Man undermined the idiom developed by Marx in his pre-1845 writings. To escape the neo-Christian ethics of humanism it was not enough to simply discard the legitimacy of the humanist or socialist goal. In a totalitarian fashion, Marx divested all ideas of any «autonomous» role whatsoever. Many commentators have argued that the doctrine of historical materialism provided Marx with his most powerful weapon against idealist philosophy. It did not – despite how much Marx may have convinced himself – deal sufficiently with Stirnerian thought. Like Marx, Stirner’s project was destructive. The Ego sought to simply abolish philosophy in general by affirming that it was all nonsense, summed in Stirner’s famous aphorisms «I have set my cause upon nothing» and «Nothing is more to me than myself».94 Stirner’s modernity resides in this progressive leap beyond Marx, beyond a revolutionary mentality which required «moral postulates» or an ought. For Stirner, uniqueness and creativity begin only when a person goes beyond social identity and roles. He had shocked Marx into revising the ethical and humanistic assumptions of a socialist agenda. At the same time Stirner indirectly contributed to the creation and evolution of the distinctive and classical «Marxist» doctrines.

I disagree with the characterization of Marx as taking a step back into 18th century Materialism as his Thesus on Feuerbach clearly illustrates that he wasn't a crude mechanical materialist. He really did overcome the dualism of mechanical materialism and subjective idealism.
For the point of his first Thesis on Feuerbach is exactly that the truth lies in the middle: between idealism and materialism, between humanism and postmodernism. That elusive middle is captured by Marx’s claim that the external object, on which humanity depends, is in turn dependent on the formative power of human activity. In other words: nature determines (causes, affects) man, who in turn determines (works upon) nature. Thus man is indirectly self-determining, mediated by nature. This reciprocal determination of man and nature is what Marx means by “praxis".
The fact that this intermediate status of qualia is rarely observed, has everything to do with the traditional opposition between idealism and materialism – precisely the opposition Marx wants to overcome in the first Thesis on Feuerbach. Because traditional materialism stresses one-sidedly the passivity of man with respect to nature, it can understand qualia only as secondary, ie as mere effects in consciousness caused by external objects. And because idealism, in contrast, stresses one-sidedly the (mental) activity of the human subject, it cannot understand qualia as coming from external objects. The result is that materialism and idealism, precisely because of their opposing positions (passivity vs. activity), come to a surprisingly unanimous opinion about the ontological status of sensory qualities: they are merely subjective and not objective. Thus the traditional contrast in philosophy between materialism and idealism has led to a systematic disregard of the true in-between status of sensory qualities. Marx was in a sense the first to rehabilitate that true status of the sensory by taking up a position between materialism and idealism.

This is because continuing with Hegel, he emphasizes activity as the substance of human life and activity is both subjective and objective. In contrast to an emphasis on the purely introspective or only on mere observation of behaviour to the neglect of consciousness.
The point here being a dissolution of metaphysics to a point that man does not stand independent of reality and reality is not known independently of man (as a whole, not considered as an individual). And it's impossible to read Marx appropriately if he isn't conceived as a naturalist or as having a mature form of materialism.
Marx’s basic philosophic attitude differed from absolute and reductive materialism, the only form of materialism known at the time, and could best be described as naturalism, a classificatory name which he chose himself. In this respect Marx was a Feuerbachian, for it was Feuerbach who declared his indifference to all previous philosophical schools and claimed that his own philosophy, being concerned with man, was neither materialist nor idealist.[2] Nature is a more comprehensive concept than matter. It includes matter and life, body and mind, the motions of inanimate objects and the flights of passion and imagination. ‘Nature’, wrote Santayana, ‘is material but not materialistic’,[3] a comment that might have come from Feuerbach or from Marx.
For the understanding of Marx a different point is, however, important. The Marxian conception of nature, of man, and man’s relation to nature disposes of many traditional epistemological problems. Marx neither needs to prove existence of the external world, nor disprove its existence. From his point of view both these endeavours are prompted by false assumptions concerning the relation of man to nature, by considering man as a detached observer, setting him against the world or placing him, as it were, on a totally different level. For man, who is part of nature, to doubt the existence of the external world or to consider it as in need of proof is to doubt his own existence, and even Descartes and Berkeley refused to go to such a length.

This conclusion is of considerable significance for the interpretation of Marxian philosophy. As Marx refused to dissociate nature from man and man from nature and conceived man not only as part of nature but also nature in a certain sense as a product of man’s activity and, thus, part of man, Marx’s naturalism has no need of metaphysical foundation. Moreover, since man knows only socially mediated nature, ‘man’, and not natural reality, ‘is the immediate object of natural science’.

And Marx does continue Hegel's teleological view point but not as some sort of necessity but that there naturally exists a teleology in human activity. It, of course, doesn't exist if one tends to treat man in crude materialist terms as with a lot of natural science, but the intentional and planning character of human actions as part of activity gives teleological tendencies which aren't reducible to mechanical materialism's causal necessity.
Any given social arrangement has an inherent ‘logic’ which constrain the actions of all the particular actors; no-one ‘forces’ any actor to act in a certain way (indeed they would not be actors at all if they were forced), but the social arrangements constrain them in what can be called ‘logical necessity’: “You don’t have to do X, but look at your options. You’d be well advised to do X.” But it does not stop there; people endeavor to change arrangements which do not suit them. Responses to institutional arrangements are a kind of practical critique of the concept on which the institution was based. Institutional arrangements will be changed in response to such critique and the changes decided upon by rational deliberations, however imperfect, will respond to the practical critique explicitly in the form of thinking and argument. Institutional change in modern societies is not like crowd behavior, but takes place according to what is found to be necessary in the circumstances. Institutions try to do what they have to do according to their concept, rather than simply striving to maintain a status quo.

The only senses in which causal necessity can make sense in this context are (1) genuinely rare, unpredictable and unmanageable natural disasters, and (2) actions by individual and corporate actors which are senseless and delusional and which have extensive consequences. Such events could be deemed to be the cause of their results and do undermine the teleological character of history. But insofar as all corporate actors only do as they must, we can describe social history as the unfolding of ‘logical necessity’ inherent in the concepts of the various institutions and the relations between them. The question remains: how to theorize this ‘logical necessity’?

I strongly emphasize the position that any individual human action is only intelligible within the larger web of human activities and is senseless when abstracted from those relations.
Practical reason is inseparable from social practice. It is true that actions are carried out by individuals, but such actions are possible and only have meaning in so far as they participate in sociocultural practices. There are two important questions here, Westphal suggests: (1) are individuals the only bearers of psychological states, and (2) can psychological states be understood in individual terms? Individualists answer both questions in the armative, and most holists answer both questions in the negative. Hegel, however, answers the rst question armatively and the second negatively. In other words, it is only individuals who act, have 108 intentions, construct facts, and so forth. Nevertheless, such acts, intentions, and facts cannot be understood apart from sociocultural practices—their meaning can only be understood as interpreted in a sociocultural context.

A second crucial concept that serves as a backdrop to our understanding of the virtues is narrative. Macintyre explains narrative this way. Imagine that a woman approaches you at a bus stop and says, "The name of the common wild duck is histrionicus histrion.icus histrion.icus." Now, what would you make of this person? Truth is, you can't make anything of her, or of her action, without more information. Her act is completely unintelligible. But now suppose it becomes known that this woman is a libraria , and she has mistaken you for the person who earlier had asked for the Latin name of the common wild duck. We can now understand her action because it has been put into a context. The contexts that make sense out of human action are stories or narratives. To explain an action is simply to provide the story that gives the act its context. We can imagine any number of stories that might make sense out of the bus stop incident (for example, perhaps she is a Russian spy whose password is the sentence in question). But we will also say that the explanation of her action is rendered more fully if we can tell the story that takes her longer- and longest-term intentions into account and shows how her shorter-term intentions relate to the longer-term ones. So we might discover that she has rushed out of the library in search of a particular patron because she has been put on a standard of performance under threat of losing her job. Her longer-term intention is to save her job. Her longest-term intention might be uncovered in telling the story of how she is the sole provider for her paraplegic son. Macintyre reasons that if human actions are intelligible only with respect to stories that contextualize intentions, then that which unifies actions into sequences and sequences into a continuous whole is the story of one's life. My life as a whole makes sense when my story is told.

To help emphasize the distinction of human actions as guided by reason and not by strict causal necessity, I also like this succinet summary by MacIntyre in his early endeavor to explore ethics against a tendency to posit historical materialism in a crude mechanical fashion.
' Men make their own history, but ... " This phrase echoes through - the Marxist classics. The political aim of Marxists is to liquidate that ' but'. Their theoretical aim is to understand it. In order to understand it we must first be clear what it is for men to make their own history, for men to act and not just to suffer. So the concept of human action is central to our enquiry. What is it to understand any given piece of behaviour as a human action? Consider the following example. If my head nods, it may be a sign of assent to a question or it may be a nervous tick. To explain the nod as a way of saying ' Yes' to a question is to give it a role in the context of human action. To explain the nod as a nervous tick is to assert that the nod was not an action but something that happened to me. To understand the nod as a nervous tick we turn to the neurophysiologist for a causal explanation. To understand it as a sign of assent is to move in a different direction. It is to ask for a statement of the purpose that my saying ' Yes' served; it is to ask for reasons, not for causes and it is to ask for reasons which point | to a recognisable want or need served by my action. This reference to purpose is important. When social anthropologists come across some unintelligible mode of behaviour, obedience to a primitive taboo, for example, they look for some as yet unnoticed purpose, some want or need to which such obedience ministers; and if they find none they look for some past want or need which the practice once served, even though now it is nothing but a useless survival. That is to say, we make both individual deeds and social practices intelligible as human actions by showing how they connect with characteristically human desires, needs and the like. Where we cannot do this, we treat the unintelligible piece of behaviour as a symptom, a survival or superstition.

And also against the view that Marx was such a determinist of causal necessity and fatalism, I cite this also:
What Marx describes when he addresses the way in which economic laws play a role in determining the actions of human beings, are tendencies of members of various social groups to act in circumstances shaped through those laws, and not iron-clad predictions for particular individuals. Howard Sherman, in his 1981 paper, “Marx and Determinism,” puts this point very nicely when he writes:

Marx pointed out that one can find regularities of human behavior, that on the average we do behave in certain predictable ways. This behavior also changes in systematic ways, with predictable trends, in association with changes in our technological and social environments. At a simpler level, the regularities of human behavior are obvious in the fairly constant annual numbers of suicides and divorces (although these also show systematic trends). If humans did not, generally, behave in fairly predictable ways, not only social scientists but also insurance companies would have gone out of business long ago. Any particular individual may make any particular choice, but if we know the social composition of a group, we can predict, in general, what it will do. Thus, on the average, most large owners of stock will vote in favor of preferential tax rates for capital gains; most farmers will favor laws that they believe to be in the interest of farmers109.

So it follows the above passage on the logical necessity of human actions as opposed to causal necessity, that people will act a certain way because it is rational to do so although they could choose otherwise. The issue is more of to what degree people can develop agency against such institutionalized forces and change their conditions in order to, as Marx says, make their own history.
So the claim of Marx reducing ideals to material commits as silly an error as the old materialism/idealism which attempts to redefine things so as to exclude the other ie all things are matter or all things are ideal.
Marx didn't try to conflate the to but emphasized activity as the shared basis of both the ideal and material but rather than the ideal coming from nowhere, it was based in human activity and thus subject to the historical relations and changes of man and aren't to be reified independently of man although in practice they necessarily are.
And the claim of Marx turning an ought into an Is, is just as confused as many crude interpreters of Marx.
He opposed morality in the duty bound sense attempted in the abstract systems of conseuqntialist or deontological modes which Hegel had already criticized as being based on the individual's morality but not based in the already existing values of the community one grew up in.
Sittlichkeit is dierent from Moralität. Moralität begins with Socrates and reaches its high point in Kant. Moralität is individual, rational, and reective morality. It is based upon individual autonomy and personal conviction. One must rationally decide what is moral and do it because it is moral—because our rationality tells us that it is the right thing to do. This rational and reective component is relatively absent in traditional Sittlichkeit, which is best represented, for Hegel, in the Greek polis before the rise of Socratic Moralität. Sittlichkeit is ethical behavior grounded in custom and tradition and developed through habit and imitation in accordance with the laws and practices of the community. Personal reection and analysis have little to do with traditional Sittlichkeit. Sittlichkeit is ethical life built into one's character, attitudes, and feelings

To which Marx's ethics seems to be based in virtue ethics, which is quite antagonistic to simple and crude rules to govern the complexity of what the right thing to do is in any given situation.
However, there is another understanding of morality which should not be forgotten. This is the sense of morality in which morality is linked with certain virtues, excellences, or flourishing ways of living. In this sense, morality is not primarily concerned with rules and principles, but with the cultivation of certain dispositions or traits of character. This view has been expressed in this way: ‘The moral law ... has to be expressed in the form, “be this”, not in the form, “do this” ... the true moral law says “hate not”, instead of “kill not”...... the only mode of stating the moral law must be a rule of character.’ [28] This, I believe, is quite close to Marx’s views.

It is not enough for me, when this problem arises, to remind myself of the maxim ‘be generous’, which I then interpret to universally mean ‘give away the thing that I want’, because excellence of conduct vis-à-vis this problem in this situation may not call for ‘generosity’ to be interpreted in this way (for example, in the distribution of attention and time between multiple people). In fact, from this perspective, this style of rational deliberation is entirely back to front. ‘Generosity’ is not a form of conduct I consult to match with my action when I encounter a problem, the form of conduct to be called ‘generosity’ is engendered by my overcoming of this problem excellently (and only I and those involved here in this predicament ultimately know what this consists in exactly). I don’t need the name of the virtue, or what others or I believe it entails (though this may provide assistance), merely intuit, when greeted with a problem, that there is some maximally ideal solution (notice, not necessarily “perfect”), given the situation, and things and actors within it. And, such an intuition is cooked into the very idea of encountering a problem as problem in the first place.

This is why the principlist objection that virtue ethics does not give a clear indication of what to do in moral test cases misses the mark. Not only is it not offering simple principles of the kind “be virtuous, be generous”, but it rejects the feasibility of the moral test cases as ‘false problems’. These moral test cases, stripped of all particularity, and with their assumption there must be some, one, clear solution, seemingly conflates the kinds of problems worthy of moral consideration (the problems of life) with ‘problems’ in the sense of a ‘math problem’ set for homework. Furthermore, as Annas has pointed out (2013), ‘flattening out’ the problems of life to the simplicity of a math-like homework problem is in itself a kind of attitude or pattern of conduct that can be evaluated by a more holistic virtue ethical approach. Towards what problems and when and where is it an ‘excellent response’ to flatten out the issue itself in this way? And when is doing so a vice? What does a Utilitarian buy for their spouse on their birthday, for example?

And I wonder how Stirner's position goes further than abstract individualism which begins with one's self in a Cartesian fashion.
MacIntyre claims that the Cartesian challenge functions to undermine the claim of any philosophical current which cannot be justified in terms of the consciousness of an isolated, “citizen of nowhere” and his or her desires, and consequently smuggles in the beliefs and illusions liberal individualism as the only valid starting point.

Of which I have to take back my speculation of him being influenced by Ficthe because Ficthe criticized the presupposition of the sole self.
Fichte denied that the self-evidence of “I think” proved the existence of an I which thinks. He suggested that this concept leads to an infinite regression: if the activity of perception is conceived of as a subject interpreting incoming sensations, then the products of this activity create a “second order” stream of images or ideas or whatever, which still presuppose an activity of them being interpreted by another subject, and so on indefinitely in infinite regress. The idea of a thought presenting itself to a separately existing subject, accepted by all previous philosophers, is therefore a fallacy.

Fichte asked his students to think of themself; then he asked them to think of the wall opposite them; then he asked them what it was that was thinking of the wall. This was an impossible question to answer, because so long as they were absorbed in thinking of the wall, all that existed in their mind was consciousness of the wall, nothing else. On the other hand, when thinking about themselves all had the conviction that there was an object that they were thinking about, namely the subject.

That is, the I is the activity of thinking when it is directed back at itself, it is that activity, just as when we think of the wall, what we are actually conscious of is our own activity of thinking of the wall. It is absurd to posit the existence of an I prior to and independently of the act of thinking “about oneself.” It is equally inadmissible to posit the existence of a wall “in-itself” independently of and prior to the wall as a constraint and component of our activity in connection with the concept of the wall. That something exists outside our activity is self-evident, but of what things it is composed of, abstracted from the forms of our activity which are constrained by it, is a question which cannot even be asked, let alone answered.

The idea of the wall, and the Ego, as things having a continuing existence independently of the activity of an I, and the necessity for us to conceive of these things as having an existence independently of our activity, are things which need to be derived – and indeed they can be derived – but not things which can be taken as given, as first principles.

Regardless, it is unclear on what basis Stirner presumes himself. I have no doubt that he assumes the reality of the world in practice but how it ties into to his philosophy I'm not sure and only have the aphorisms at this point.

In fact Stirner's rejection of all ideals and appeals the universal oughts seems not in fact to condemn Marx's communism as it isn't that sort of moralizing position that Marx's view of communism was based in and they argued against such tendency. It is also the case that Stirner's idea of a union of egoists as summarized in my initial post seems only plausible in what I imagine are liberals coming together to defend the social order in which they can maintain negative freedoms to not be interfered with rather than to undo the alienation of man. http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/10867/1/VWills_ETD_2011.pdf
In The Ego and Its Own, Stirner rejects all morality on the basis that it demands the sacrifice of the individual for a good that is not his own. Of course, communism is included in this category of theories that posit a “good cause” for which the individual must sacrifice himself46. Stirner discovers that every “good cause,” which has been thought to be a good in itself, is actually an egoistic cause, seeking its own good. (Apparently, causes are quite capable of engaging in their own self-directed activity, not to mention, of duping human beings into servitude.) For Stirner, the human pursuit of a “good cause” is always little more than a new brand of sacrifice and self-denial. Therefore, since every cause is itself an “egoistic cause,” individuals should take the place of their own “good causes,” and pursue only the narrowest selfinterest.
Feuerbach's humanism was developed to solve the problem of alienation, but in fact it only seemed to reproduce the problem, this time with the abstraction “Man” raised to the level of a divinity. Stirner argued that Feuerbach's humanism simply replaced a religious fear of God, and a Christian ethic of self-renunciation, with a religious sacrifice of the individual for the good of abstract “Man.” Stirner rejected the problem of alienation, and also any quest for personal development or self-improvement, on the grounds that these cause individuals to adopt a religious, self-denying attitude to their possible, unalienated, better selves. Even to suggest that individuals should develop their own talents and capacities is to suggest that they sacrifice themselves in the interest of an alien “good cause.”

However, Stirner himself made the same mistakes he accused Feuerbach of, lapsing into idealism and attributing to “causes” powers over human beings which they simply could not have (as though it were really the “causes,” the “fixed ideas,” that had led human beings astray, and not the real relations between human beings that had given rise to these ideas in the first place). Accordingly, Stirner's proposed solution to the problem was one that could be carried out entirely in the realm of thought: individuals had simply to choose to pursue their own narrow self-interest as an egoistic cause. “In the final analysis,” Marx writes, Stirner:

arrives merely at an impotent moral injunction that everybody should himself obtain satisfaction and carry out punishment. He believes Don Quixote's assurance that by a mere moral injunction he can without more ado convert the material forces arising from the division of labour into personal forces. (The German Ideology, MECW 5:342-3)

Marx's critique of Stirner's ethical egoism displays a philosophical continuity with his explication of the distinction between abstract and concrete individuality in his doctoral dissertation, and the statement, “abstract individualism is freedom from being, not freedom in being” might be just as at home here as it is in that earlier work. For Stirner, the problem of alienation can simply be swept away through a further retreat of the private individual into herself as her only cause or concern, which she opposes to social concerns. Mutual dependencies and interrelations among human beings are regarded as illusory, at best, and dangerously deceptive, at worst. Not only does Stirner's brand of ethical egoism call on the individual to embrace asocial behavior and attitudes, but it argues that the individual should satisfy herself at her present level of development, whatever that may be, rather than strive to further that development. It posits the human person as a static, isolated atom, rather than as a concrete individual, developing and existing within society, and for whom the problem of alienation can only be resolved through a transformation of society, brought about through coordinated human action aimed at common goals.

The connection between individual and society in Marx's thought is further clarified in Marx's defense of communism against Stirner's charge that communism calls for the subordination of individuals to the “good cause” of society. Stirner argues that for communists, “Society, from which we have everything, is a new master, a new spook, a new 'supreme being'” (Stirner, The Ego and Its Own, p.111), for whom the individual must sacrifice himself. Marx answers that far from denigrating the individual, the development of a communist society, and the practical activity required to achieve that society, are the only methods by which the wellbeing of individuals can actually be pursued, a goal which Stirner's “mere moral injunctions” cannot achieve. Stirner is mistaken in believing

that the communists want to “make sacrifices” for “society”, when they want at most to sacrifice existing society; in this case he should describe their consciousness that their struggle is the common cause of all people who have outgrown the bourgeois system as a sacrifice that they make to themselves. (The German Ideology, MECW 5:213)

Stirner, on the other hand, offers no genuine solution to the real challenges that concrete individuals face. He argues against any organized political (much less, revolutionary) activity on the grounds that such coordinated, planned action would subordinate the individual to the needs of a collective. (Stirner does imagine that individuals might spontaneously form a “Union of Egoists” whose purpose is to restrict any social incursion into their egoistic pursuits, but provides no explanation as to how such a union might be achieved.) Marx points to the workers' movement, a real political movement developing at the time of his writing as a means by which the social conditions that limit the ability of individuals to flourish and pursue their own development as an end might be abolished.
Kriege posits a moral sacrifice of setting one's own interests aside for the good of “others” who will benefit from a transition to socialism. This notion of sacrifice, of setting one's own interests aside, is totally at odds with Marxism, which argues that all human beings have an objective interest in the realization of a communist society. Kriege argues for communism not as an answer to the problems that are facing human beings, but rather as a moral imperative to be realized out of a sense of one's duty to humanity. It does precisely what, as we saw in the previous chapter, critics such as Max Stirner accused communism of doing—it posits “the common good,” or “humanity” as an abstraction that demands sacrifices from real, concrete, human individuals, and thereby only replicates alienation in a different form, rather than abolishing it.
The argument becomes yet clearer when Marx and Engels strike their final blow against the “sacrificing” Kriege (“Circular Against Kriege”, MECW 6:49). Marx criticizes Kriege because he expects to be praised for sacrificing himself for the good of others, instead of seeing revolutionary activity as something that he carries out for his own benefit as well as that of others.
Marx and Engels accuse Kriege of misrepresenting communism as “a religion of love” (“Circular Against Kriege”, MECW 6:46), rather than presenting it as a science of human progress and development, because to follow Kriege's reasoning would be essentially to take up a religious attitude towards humanity as a new god rendered into pseudo-materialist terms. We do not “belong to mankind,” to which we must constantly sacrifice our individual self-interest. One should be “worried about oneself”--it is in fact this concern with oneself and one's own circumstances that can be linked together with an argument for rational social control over society's resources. There is no need for a moral leap across some perceived gap between one's self-interest and the general interest of society.

Marx and Engels are quite clear in separating their own theory from Kriege's moralistic grandstanding. The point of communism is not for people to stop “worrying about themselves.” Although Marx does not refer to “alienation” here, his comments here on sacrifice relate directly to the problem of alienation. To sacrifice oneself, after all, is to alienate oneself from oneself, to give oneself over to a being that is separate, for the satisfaction of aims that are considered more important than one's own. Marx does not think human progress can be aided by human beings denying themselves, but rather, by human beings seeking their satisfaction and fulfillment. So what Kriege presents is not communist practice, but rather, as Marx and Engels call it, “a religion of love,” an irrational and emotionalist call to self-alienation. Without a material link between self-interest and the general interest, Kriege retreats to an irrational appeal to emotion to make individuals do what is necessary for “society,” an entity whose interests are imagined to be opposed to their own.

I take it that the asserted amoralism of Stirner and its opposition to Marx's asserted values within an assertedly scientific work and purpose rather than indifferent is like the tension Alisdair MacIntyre makes of Aristotle Vs Neitzche (who some say drew from Stirner).
I can accept that Marx didn't explicate an ethical theory which has long confused Marxists and made silly those who simply appeal to pure objectivity in some sort of Althusserian fashion, but it's not as if there isn't evidence in Marx's works to counter this as much as it is the limitations of the interpreters of his work.
Regardless of the problems Marx left unresolved, the crisis of 1845 had helped him finally realise the aim of his thought: to prove future world revolution. However, yet again another Marxian impossibility emerged; the problem of reconciling historical inevitability with an ethical model.

This pretty much sums up the position of Marxists for much of the last century but isn't applicable today with as much scholarship to rectify the matter, especially with the life long work of Alisdair MacIntyre who acutely experienced this problem and discusses it in his Moral Wilderness. Where many who rejected Stalinism ended up professing impotent moral precepts of a liberal sort. So I don't entirely reject the basis for the authors assertions but I think it is able to be rectified as misguided and in need of a need position to argue the strength of Stirner.

There is perhaps a more complicated matter of the essence of human beings.
As Stirner can be seen as the precursor to all who criticize the essentialisms of our day.
But I think his critique only extends as far as any nominalism does in criticizing abstract universals, not the concrete universals that Hegel discovered and Marx reworked upon a materialist basis.
Also known in Vygotsky as the basic unit of analysis, here's the run down: https://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/chat/index.htm#unit
Nominalism is quite correct in emphasizing the unreality of such abstractions but it doesn't yet see where abstractions obtain their reality. They do not see the influence of Goethe's romantic science and resolution of the kanitan divide between abstractions and sensuous reality, where instead of the abstract universal of composing an abstract image of all attributes similar across objects, one identifies the archetypal unit which encompasses all the qualities of the larger whole.
I will give an example. Let us compare the direct image of a nine, for example, the figures on playing cards, and the number 9. The group of nine on playing cards is richer and more concrete than our concept “9,” but the concept “9” involves a number of judgments which are not in the nine on the playing card; “9” is not divisible by even numbers, is divisible by 3, is 32, and the square root of 81; we connect “9” with the series of whole numbers, etc. Hence it is clear that psychologically speaking the process of concept formation resides in the discovery of the connections of the given object with a number of others, in finding the real whole. That is why a mature concept involves the whole totality of its relations, its place in the world, so to speak. “9” is a specific point in the whole theory of numbers with the possibility of infinite development and infinite combination which are always subject to a general law. Two aspects draw our attention: first, the concept is not a collective photograph. It does not develop by rubbing out individual traits of the object. It is the knowledge of the object in its relations, in its connections. Second, the object in the concept is not a modified image but, as contemporary psychological investigations demonstrate, a predisposition for quite a number of judgments. “When a person says ‘mammal,’ asks one of the psychologists, what does it mean psychologically speaking?” It means that the person can develop an idea and in the final analysis that he has a world view, for to determine the place of a mammal in the animal world and the place of the animal world in nature means to have an integral world view. We see that the concept is a system of judgments brought into a certain lawful connection: the whole essence is that when we operate with each separate concept, we are operating with the system as a whole.

This is part of my knee jerk reaction to those who think Stirner's spooks is that enlightening other than having dispelled an illusion but not having developed anything from such a criticism, this is quite characteristic of our times with the post-structuralist/postmodernist critics eg Judith Butler - https://www.ethicalpolitics.org/ablunden/works/butler.htm

Although I don't imagine its without its difficulties, I don't see anything easily dismissed in Marx's emphasis of a human essence as being the essence of human relations. This is the nature of the concrete universal in identifying the essential aspects of a thing based on it's relations and determining that which is essential. And man does recreate himself in changing his material conditions and thus social relations.
In other words, the theoretical-logical definition of “the universal in man,” – a concrete generality of human existence, – may and does consist, in view of the above, solely in revealing the extent to which it is necessary for the many and varied forms of specifically human activity, for the social human capabilities and their associated needs to evolve from, and interact with, one another.

Hence in seeking the “most common” definition of the human element in man, the task still cannot be to abstract the formal sameness, or the “abstract” characteristic of each particular individual, but to establish that real and, therefore, special form of human vital activity which is historically and essentially the universal foundation and condition of the emergence of all the rest.

Fully consistent with the data of cultural and physical anthropology and archeology, the materialistic conception of “the essence of man” envisions this “universal” form of human existence in labor, in the direct remaking of nature (both external and one’s own) as accom­plished by social man with the tools of his own creation.

This in fact informs Marx's ideal of a rich individuality and flourishing of the ancient greek sort in that man should have the actual potential to realize himself in various activities and not confined to a single one.
The universal adaptability of human actions is essential, labor is the concrete universal which presupposes all of human existence and culture. Marx's thought, as continuing the need to identify the concrete universal establishes the continuity between all things in a subject but also emphasizes their qualitative differences, their discontinuity.
Stirner seems to appeal to the existentialist route which is the individualist side means it sees meaning as largely individual as opposed to seeing the social and collaborative character of human existence. It sees nothing in the human essence because it abstracts the individual from relations and presumes it as the first. This is the exact mistake of many ideological one sided abstractions of those under capitalism in the political economy and such. He lacks the ontological grounding of Marx in which man and nature form an inherent unity which can't be separated and are cyclical in that man changes nature in order to change himself.
So there isn't a static human essence and this creates the issue of to what end are humans meant to pursue then?
This is totally counter to the articles summary that
Stirner desired above all to break free of the conceptual quagmire of the 1840s where to postulate revolution was the trend. Stirner’s critique of morality and society had shook the young Marx, forcing him to abandon notions of «species», «man» and «estrangement» that had previously been assigned crucial roles in his earlier thought, but Stirner’s attack on the whole host ofisms went deeper still. If Marx’ repudiation of The Ego necessitated expunging the questions of ethical meaning from his thought, then the issues of individual fulfilment and emancipation – the very nucleus of Stirner’s thought – would also have to be negated.

It is in fact something contained in the entirety of Marx, the naturalist humanism in which man is the highest aim and the highest aim of man is his realization in his development and freedom. He continues Hegel's view of freedom as a historically developing thing. Of course one might doubt as much, but this suggests that Stirner hasn't found the avenue out of alienation and is still subject to the conditions that render such delusions of how to escape the very situation that makes him think the way he does.
I think Marx would argue that the question, Why promote human flourishing?, doesn't arise unless a person already has such an alienated and un-human perspective on her own species and on the world that for her, knowing that some path of action is most likely to preserve the continued existence of human beings and to further their full development in the natural world is not enough to answer the question, Ought this path to be taken? And of course, there are people like these. The religious-minded, for instance, may think that the this-worldly orientation of rich individuality is misguided, and that the existence of man as an essentially spiritual being is to be realized through the glorification of God and an eventual assumption into Heaven. Or, in a more mundane spin on skepticism about human flourishing in the natural world as a moral end, there is the tendency among members of the animal rights movement to regard human beings as just another type of animal among many animals, all of (at least) relatively equal moral worth. Marx, after all, is the consummate “speciesist,” insisting that value of any kind only comes onto the scene once human beings start producing in order to satisfy their needs. And this, I believe provides a significant part of Marx's answer to these types of criticisms. The mistake that these sorts of critics make is similar to the mistake made by the person who wants to know the answer to the theological question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” to whom Marx replies:

since for the socialist man the entire so-called history of the world is nothing but the creation of man through human labour, nothing but the emergence of nature for man, so he has the visible, irrefutable proof of his birth through himself, of his genesis. Since the real existence of man and nature has become evident in practice, through sense experience, because man has thus become evident for man as the being of nature, and nature for man as the being of man, the question about an alien being, about a being above nature and man--a question which implies the admission of the unreality of nature and of man--has become impossible in practice. (Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, MECW 3:305-306)

This line of thought can be applied to the question of whether or not “man is the highest being for man,” as Marx says, which expresses the same idea as the statement that the development of rich individuality is the highest moral aim. It is incoherent, and incommensurate with our scientific knowledge, to talk about value in a way that does not assume human beings and their productive activity as the source and ontological basis of all value in the world.

And human beings here are necessarily seen as social beings, not these negative freedom only pursue the narrowest self-interest, there is no common ground for shared morality type of thought which is simply the conditions of modernity.
Because look at this, does this sound significantly different in thought to any modern day libertarian?
Freedom for Stirner was always freedom from some thing or other. Human freedom was better interpreted as «freedom to action»; Stirner logically concluded «my freedom becomes complete only when my – might».125 Neither is freedom something to be given, it must be taken and defended: «If you took might, freedom would come of itself».126 Ideologues of political liberty were more dangerous, in Stirner’s mind, than even religious or philosophical thinkers.

This is the supposed radical on par with Marx?
Thus, the social bases of liberalism are two-fold: the raising of property to the status of the primary social relation, and the loss of community, the loss of the capacity to appeal to or rely upon shared meaning beyond the satisfaction of individual desire.
In each of the historical settings that MacIntyre investigates, he is able to show that the type of justice and the type of rationality which appears to the philosophical spokespeople of the community to be necessary and universal, turns out to be a description of the type of citizens of the community in question. Accordingly, the justice of liberalism and the rationality of liberalism is simply that justice and that rationality of the “citizens of nowhere” (p. 388), the “outsiders,” people lacking in any social obligation or any reason for acting other than to satisfy their desires and to defend the conditions under which they are able to continue satisfying their desires. Their rationality is therefore that of the objects of their desire.

I think those who like Stirner do not see the very basis of their own ideas and haven't heeded Marx's point about the conditions which give rise to the ideas of man, which is supported in part with only criticizing abstract universals as false and not truly finding the essence of humans.
This is seen to apply only to liberals but I stand by my initial intuition that Stirner despite any appearance to be radical simply acknowledges the destructive force of capitalism's rise and it's logical consequence for religion and ethical life but is unable to propose the path out of it. In part because he hasn't actually determined the origins of his own thinking and thus I speculate his solution is the simply existential sort of an individual's attempt at meaning in spite of the meaningless of modernity.
Stirner can be a modern day, don't tread on me.

Stirner’s opposition to the dogmatic ideologues clearly engaged the thought of the young Marx. However, their two antithetical worlds – the concrete direct experience of The Ego and the world of universal labour outlined in The German Ideology – would never be reconciled. Marx, as ever the disciple rather than the usurper of Hegelian thought, had still sought some kind of accord. In attempting reconciliation, Marx decided to put forward the doctrine of individual consciousness mediated by social consciousness. The real question was to what extent social ties necessarily determined individual consciousness. Marx could not give a definitive answer. Such ambiguity lends support for Stirner; for if consciousness was completely determined by society then nothing was to be done, and an upheaval in the minds of men was therefore not possible. Stirner allowed individual consciousness to retain some autonomy, epitomised in the individual ego.

Again we see an apt point but one that simply renders its weakest position for the difficulty of trying to answer it in a nuanced way. There are many who in emphasizing the social tend to posit the mind as some strict determination of a collective, but again in abstract way.
The psychology of an individual is no way some abstract general of all human beings but has its particularity in the activity in which one participates within the much-divided labor of a society. Whilst consciousness is necessarily social, a point clearly based in Herder's point that language could only emerged as a possibility between more than one person and is inherently social, it's not the case that we all think the same like the borg, clearly.
It is obvious that we are dealing here with differential psychology in the precise acceptance of that term. What, then, is the subject of collective psychology as such? There is a simple answer to this question: Everything within us is social, but this does not imply that all the properties of the psyche of an individual are inherent in all the other members of this group as well. Only a certain part of the individual psychology can be regarded as belonging to a given group, and this portion of individual psychology and its collective manifestations is studied by collective psychology when it looks into the psychology of the army, the church, and so on. Thus, instead of distinguishing between social and individual psychology, we must distinguish between social and collective psychology.

n Hegelian philosophy, however, the problem was stated in a fundamentally different way. The social organism (the “culture” of the given people) is by no means an abstraction expressing the “sameness” that may be discovered in the mentality of every individual, an “abstract” inherent in each individual, the “transcendentally psychological” pattern of individual life activity. The historically built up and developing forms of the “universal spirit” (“the spirit of the people”, the “objective spirit”), although still understood by Hegel as certain stable patterns within whose framework the mental activity of every individual proceeds, are none the less regarded by him not as formal abstractions, not as abstractly universal “attributes” inherent in every individual, taken separately. Hegel (following Rousseau with his distinction between the “general will” and the “universal will”) fully takes into account the obvious fact that in the diverse collisions of differently orientated “individual wills” certain results are born and crystallised which were never contained in any of them separately, and that because of this social consciousness as an “entity” is certainly not built up, as of bricks, from the “sameness” to be found in each of its “parts” (individual selves, individual consciousnesses). And this is where we are shown the path to an understanding of the fact that all the patterns which Kant defined as “transcendentally inborn” forms of operation of the individual mentality, as a priori “internal mechanisms” inherent in every mentality, are actually forms of the self-consciousness of social man assimilated from without by the individual (originally they opposed him as “external” patterns of the movement of culture independent of his will and consciousness), social man being understood as the historically developing “aggregate of all social relations”.

It is these forms of the organisation of social (collectively realised) human life activity that exist before, outside and completely independently of the individual mentality, in one way or another materially established in language, in ritually legitimised customs and rights and, further, as “the organisation of a state” with all its material attributes and organs for the protection of the traditional forms of life that stand in opposition to the individual (the physical body of the individual with his brain, liver, heart, hands and other organs) as an entity organised “in itself and for itself”, as something ideal within which all individual things acquire a different meaning and play a different role from that which they had played “as themselves”, that is, outside this entity.

And the most intelligent of individuals who stand out as geniuses are often those who have best become enveloped by culture. Einstein doesn't come from no where but at a point in which a science is at the cusp of changing into something new due to the problems it faces and in need of a solution.
The wealth and complexity of the individual's social content are conditioned by the diversity of his links with the social whole, the degree to which the various spheres of the life of society have been assimilated and refracted in his consciousness and activity. This is why the level of individual development is an indicator of the level of development of society, and vice versa. But the individual does not dissolve into society. He retains his unique and independent individuality and makes his contribution to the social whole: just as society itself shapes human beings, so human beings shape society.

The individual is a link in the chain of the generations. His affairs are regulated not only by himself, but also by the social standards, by the collective reason or mind. The true token of individuality is the degree to which a certain individual in certain specific historical conditions has absorbed the essence of the society in which he lives.

Consider, for instance, the following historical fact. Who or what would Napoleon Bonaparte have been if there had been no French Revolution? It is difficult or perhaps even impossible to reply to this question. But one thing is quite clear—he would never have become a great general and certainly not an emperor. He himself was well aware of his debt and in his declining years said, "My son cannot replace me. I could not replace myself. I am the creature of circumstances."[1] It has long been acknowledged that great epochs give birth to great men. What tribunes of the people were lifted by the tide of events of the French Revolution— Mirabeau, Marat, Robespierre, Danton. What young, some times even youthful talents that had remained dormant among the people were raised to the heights of revolutionary, military, and organisational activity by the Great October Socialist Revolution.

It is sometimes said that society carries the individual as a river carries a boat. This is a pleasant simile, but not exact. An individual does not float with the river; he is the turbulently flowing river itself. The events of social life do not come about by themselves; they are made. The great and small paths of the laws of history are blazed by human effort and often at the expense of human blood. The laws of history are not charted in advance by superhuman forces; they are made by people, who then submit to their authority as something that is above the individual.

Basically, Stirner is no dumbie, but it's not clear that his position is stronger than that of Marx in that it's not clear he poses better answers and solutions but like many of the more existentialist thinkers, considers the problem as one inherent to reality and the self and can only be sought to be overcome on the individual level (except for the exceptional union of egoists of course to defend their negative liberty).
Last edited by Wellsy on 31 Aug 2020 17:29, edited 1 time in total.
Another aspect that seems quite dubious about the assertedly abstract individualism of Stirner. It really reeks of what I associate with existentialism which assumes certain things as inherent in the self and the world rather than a condition of life under increasing alienation. There can be no solution to such an asserted structure of alienation which is based on the individuals own efforts and loses sight of the social.
Nicholas Churchich seems to concur with Stirner's critique of Marx's communism. Churchich writes, “While it is debatable whether Marx is an individualist or an anti-individualist, in The German Ideology he definitely argues for the primacy and supremacy of collectivism. Like Rousseau, he starts with individualism but ends with the sacrifice of the individual to the collective and of private interests to the interests of the whole” (Churchich, Marxism and Morality, p.165). Churchich does not provide a clear argument for this view, but it seems to me that his reason for holding it is that he rejects Marx's claim that “abstract egoism” is a historical phenomenon produced by particular social and economic conditions, and not a necessary and ineliminable feature of human nature. Churchich writes that “Marx has failed to trace egoism to its real source within the personality of the human individual himself. He has also failed to understand that it is only by man's own moral effort that the harmonisation of self-interest and common interests is possible. The centre of man's moral and social life must be found within the self rather than outside it” (Churchich, Marxism and Morality, p.164). If that all is true, then Marx's solution to the antagonism between individual and society would indeed be unsatisfactory. If Stirnerian egoism is an ineliminable part of human nature, then all the social transformations in the world could not resolve the conflict between such egoistic individuals, and the interests of the community taken as a whole, and so realizing social, communal goods would indeed mean violating the private interests of Stirnerian egoists. However, 1) it strikes me as somewhat disingenuous to attribute to Marx the view that he espouses the sacrifice of the individual, because Marx pointedly does not think that egoism is a necessary feature of human beings, and argues that the transition to the sort of socialist society he espouses would be a transition in which this egoism fades away as an aspect of human life, and 2) Churchich means to put the burden of proof onto Marx to show that human nature is plastic and adaptable, but it seems to me that it is Churchich who is operating with the much more robust and “thick” conception of human nature, and so what we need in order to agree with him that Marx's communism must necessarily involve the sacrifice of the individual's interests, is a very good argument to show that it can never be possible for human beings to exist without Stirnerian egoism. When Churchich does attempt to give such an argument, he refers to something that is much like a soul—the immutable “personality of the human individual himself.” Elsewhere, he writes that “Moral values, it must be recognised, are rooted in the endeavour of personal spirits and without this endeavour they could not be sustained” (Churchich, Marxism and Morality, p.99). Churchich is openly hostile to materialism, at one point even taking on a rather suspicious tone with regard to Marx and Engels' belief in evolution, “Assuming that men are the direct descendants of creatures which in the form of their bodies and brains were similar to apes, Engels indicates [...]” (Churchich, Marxism and Morality, p. 98). It seems to me that positing the existence of a “human personality” or of “personal spirits” which make Stirnerian egoism impossible to abolish involves much more controversial and tendentious assumptions than any that Marx can be accused of making

As an alternative view of the individual and how it might be theorized in a social manner, I suggest a brief glimpse at Andy Blunden's passage on the individual in his assessment of The Subject.
This might offer a clearer view of what individualism which is amicable to Marx might look like, but also explain the reason for the difficulty of articulating an individualism which isn't simply abstract and not wholly subservient to collective forces although it does seem human agency at this point relies on participation within a social subject.
Found something which affirms my own characterization of Stirner’s idea of spooks as being an extreme nominalism which simply doesn’t see the relationship between individuals and universals as mediated and thus makes individuals as the absolute.
Max Stirner was a radical nominalist, believing that nothing exists but the concrete. What he meant by this is that abstract categories and ideas don't properly exist, and shouldn't be considered when deciding on how we live our lives. So, for example, the idea of "religion" is an abstract idea, and can't have any impact on our real immediate lives. Similarly, ideas like socialism or communism were abstract and utopian for Stirner, and he thought an individual should never devote his life to abstractions (he would rather colorfully call them "spooks"). He thought we shouldn't be devoted to anything aside from our own individual concrete existences. Marx and Engels were strongly against Stirner's nominalism and anarchism, and wrote a large rebuttal of The Ego and Its Own. In fact the rebuttal was longer than the original work. They considered that kind of individualism and anarchism to be a threat to the goals of communism.

And to continue a point against nominalism: https://vereloqui.blogspot.com/2011/12/hegel-and-nominalism.html?m=1
In the Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel articulates a powerful argument against nominalism, the belief that universals do not exist. For Hegel, any claim that individual things really exist, while universals do not, undermines itself.

If the nominalist intends to explain his theory to another, he might point to a rose, and say that what really exists is "that thing" which we "call" a rose. We call other things roses as well. But the universal, the "roseness" by virtue of which we call a rose a rose, does not belong to that object (indicating the rose before him). There is no such thing as "rose" or "the red," there are only things in the world to which we apply these names. Put another way, universals are not real, only discrete things are real (e.g., things we call roses, rocks, atoms, etc., but which are actually pure singulars). When Aristotle talks about a human nature shared between individual human beings, the nominalist will say, he is wrongly imposing a mental idea he has upon individual things. The common nature of roses really exists only in the mind, in reality we have only singular objects.

But Hegel notices something strange about such a proof. If we deny the rose has a shared nature, we cannot say that it is really either red or green (only that we call it that) that it is of a certain length (for length too is a universal), and so on. All characteristics (green, long, etc.) are universals, for these can be predicated just as well of other things. If the universals (red, green, long, prickly) do not really exist but are only imposed by the mind upon the thing, what is indicated as really existing is an object that is "pure being." The nominalist cannot say "that rose is what really is", for in such a case he would be saying that an instantiation of a universal is what really exists. Nor can he say "that green thing is what really is, we just call it a rose." He can only say "that thing is what really is."

But in asserting that the thing is what really exists in itself, the nominalist asserts the most abstract universal of all: the Thing or the object. For all that is, is a thing or an object; thing or object is the broadest class of universal.

"What we say is: 'This', i.e., the universal This; or, 'it is', i.e., Being in general. Of course, we do not envisage the universal This or Being in general, but we utter the universal; in other words, we do not strictly say what ... we mean to say. But language, as we see, is the more truthful; in it, we directly refute what we mean to say, and since the universal is the true [content] of sense-certainty and language expresses this true [content] alone, it is just not possible for us ever to say, or express in words, a [particular thing] that we mean."

The more strenuously the nominalist tries to assert that what really exists are singular beings, the more strenuously the nominalist actually asserts that what really exists is the abstract universal Thing or pure being. Even when the nominalist says "this is", the nominalist asserts the existence of a universal, for this can be predicated of a rose, a rock, or a house. Language undermines the nominalist's claim; the nominalist asserts the opposite of what he means.

One might suppose this is no problem for the nominalist, for of course language deals in universals, and so of course language imposes these universals on what really is. But in this case, the nominalist cannot provide an argument, for whatever he intends to say, he in fact expresses the opposite.
@Wellsy ;

I imagine Stirner, or rather the Nominalism and extreme Individualism he typified, as being the ''foundation'' of Western thinking in general. That is, no real thinking at all and thus no real foundation. I can almost see a figure like Max Stirner as the intellectual father of the West from it's start around 1000 AD, a figure like Pope Sylvester II perhaps;


Corrosive Nominalism and atomizing rootless Individualism is a natural consequence of such a life that is thus exalted.

Marx was doing the Lord's work unwittingly in dealing as he did with Stirner. But again, I think ''Stirner'' and similar acolytes of the Promethean/ Luciferian type of existence lies at the very heart of the Modern age.
annatar1914 wrote:@Wellsy ;

I imagine Stirner, or rather the Nominalism and extreme Individualism he typified, as being the ''foundation'' of Western thinking in general. That is, no real thinking at all and thus no real foundation. I can almost see a figure like Max Stirner as the intellectual father of the West from it's start around 1000 AD, a figure like Pope Sylvester II perhaps;


Corrosive Nominalism and atomizing rootless Individualism is a natural consequence of such a life that is thus exalted.

Marx was doing the Lord's work unwittingly in dealing as he did with Stirner. But again, I think ''Stirner'' and similar acolytes of the Promethean/ Luciferian type of existence lies at the very heart of the Modern age.

I think his nominalism and absolutism towards the individual as the only 'real' thing is what I find so dissatisfying. He rightly reveals the limitation of Feuerbach which was influential upon Marx's own need to criticize Feuerbach's abstraction as the same attributes across a class of objects, but he doesn't resolve the issue in simply rejecting universals. I can understand how some might experience him as radical and eye opening in making them think about the immediately concrete things as opposed to abstract universals which really are in a sense unreal.
The same thinking is what has resulted in the rejection of the subject as existing at all today.
Foucault is credited with “deconstruction of the subject,” but in reality what Foucault has given us is a critique of the Cartesian subject, the intuitively-given individual subject deemed the original site of all cognitive representation and social action. Foucault’s critique is a continuation of the structuralist project of weakening the concept of agency, a critique which has contributed to the actual demolition of subjectivity since the 1980s.

I kind of harp on about it a lot on here but the more advanced conception is that of the concrete universal(basic unit of analysis in Vygotsky's context). I imagine the sort of euphoria people perhaps experience in reading Max Stirner and realizing a pure nominalism is how I felt reading Evald Ilyenkov's The Universal and The Concept of the Ideal. It showed me a richer sense of what a concept is and one that I believe thoroughly avoids this kind of nominalism because it has a better sense of what constitutes a concept.
But this isn't something that one perhaps finds being exposed to a lot of people who like to align themselves with Marxism simply because they like the emphasis on class politics and asserted exploitation and so on. I see the importance of theory in such cases as it makes one conscious of one's position and others and is a means of avoiding crude errors such as Stirners. Many who valorize Stirner as far as I can tell don't know enough about Marx to see his theoretical outlook as superior and Stirner's as not suitable to any kind of leftist politics.

And I agree that such an outlook is at the heart of modern thinking and is in decay with postmodernist thinking which only finds dead ends in it's critique.
Indigenous people know very well characteristics of the various plants and animals in their country. They know this intimately. But they don’t erect a taxonomy on this knowledge and do not see the various features of creatures as their essential reality. Taxonomy is foreign to the indigenous way of thinking. Like scientific biology, they understand the creatures populating their world in terms of the origins stories which lie behind their phenomenal forms. Every people have their own stories, and Science is no different. Science has its own stories. But what Science has in common with Indigenous knowledge is that they see the truth of the world lying behind appearances. The bureaucracy, with their Artificial Intelligence and their technology for managing human beings, do not see it this way. The truth is what appears, what is entered into the giant data stores which are used to control every aspect of human activity.
There are only two ways of organising the world: the first is taxonomy, and the second is dialectic: the view that behind appearances there is a principle which is not given in appearances, but which nonetheless is their truth. Indigenous knowledge and true Science follow Hegel; bureaucratic management of the world is governed by taxonomy. The reconciliation between the settler communities currently governed by bureaucracy and indigenous communities which reject bureaucracy in favour of a truly human understanding of the world, is possible only if bureaucratic taxonomy is rejected in favour of Hegelian dialectics. Dialectics does not have any rival story of the truth behind appearances, but is a logical view, a view which can make sense of stories insofar as they give meaning to human experience.

Modern day Hegelian revolutionaries can embrace their allies amongst indigenous peoples. They have a common enemy, an enemy which I have chosen not to characterise as “bourgeois” or “colonial” or “Western,” but as bureaucracy.

And regards to your reference to Pope Sylvester II, does this summarize how you think of his role in regards to nominalism?
At the turn of the eleventh century, Gerbert of Aurilac, who became Pope Sylvester II (r. 999-1003), stood out as the most learned man of his day. His probing mind delved into the portions of Aristotle that Boethius had translated and discovered in logic a systematic means of approaching the writings of the church fathers.
    By the end of the century, churchmen could debate whether it was proper to use human reason to consider a particular theological question and in efforts to explain away inconsistencies in the Bible and in the writings of the church fathers.

    Once the new method became available, the dogmatists of the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries employed it in a celebrated controversy over the philosophical problem of universals.
A universal encompasses a whole category of things; when we say “dog” or “table” or “person,” we mean not any specific dog or table or person, but the idea of all dogs, tables, or people. The question that concerned medieval thinkers was whether universal categories exist: Is there such a thing as dogdom, tabledom, or humanity apart from the aggregate of individuals?
@Wellsy , you said with regards to my comments on Stirner himself that;

I think his nominalism and absolutism towards the individual as the only 'real' thing is what I find so dissatisfying. He rightly reveals the limitation of Feuerbach which was influential upon Marx's own need to criticize Feuerbach's abstraction as the same attributes across a class of objects, but he doesn't resolve the issue in simply rejecting universals. I can understand how some might experience him as radical and eye opening in making them think about the immediately concrete things as opposed to abstract universals which really are in a sense unreal.
The same thinking is what has resulted in the rejection of the subject as existing at all today.

This is the reason why even Idealists like Berkeley were rightfully concerned about universals as absolute self-subsistent realities, but indeed one can take this concern too far into a solipsistic nonsense.

I kind of harp on about it a lot on here but the more advanced conception is that of the concrete universal(basic unit of analysis in Vygotsky's context). I imagine the sort of euphoria people perhaps experience in reading Max Stirner and realizing a pure nominalism is how I felt reading Evald Ilyenkov's The Universal and The Concept of the Ideal. It showed me a richer sense of what a concept is and one that I believe thoroughly avoids this kind of nominalism because it has a better sense of what constitutes a concept.

''Concrete Universalism'', yes, it is a useful direction in thought I believe.

But this isn't something that one perhaps finds being exposed to a lot of people who like to align themselves with Marxism simply because they like the emphasis on class politics and asserted exploitation and so on. I see the importance of theory in such cases as it makes one conscious of one's position and others and is a means of avoiding crude errors such as Stirners. Many who valorize Stirner as far as I can tell don't know enough about Marx to see his theoretical outlook as superior and Stirner's as not suitable to any kind of leftist politics.

Ultimately Stirner and all the other hyper-individualistic thinkers are the death of politics as we know it, because the clash between Egoism and Society makes real society impossible.

And I agree that such an outlook is at the heart of modern thinking and is in decay with postmodernist thinking which only finds dead ends in it's critique.

Creatures, yes, and a Linnean kind of Taxinomy and fetish for classification instead of understanding in a holistic sense.

And regards to your reference to Pope Sylvester II, does this summarize how you think of his role in regards to nominalism?

Pretty much the case with him and his role, yes, he was at the very forefront of that change in attitude

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