What is Max Stirner's philosophy?

Okay...people write entire dissertations on topics like this…so trying to shoehorn Stirner’s version of egoism into a brief post is…well, it’s pretty daunting, and likely pretty irresponsible as well. Be that as it may, I’ll offer some avenues of further study to explore a bigger picture of Stirner’s thought field after attempting a brief scatterplot.

With that caveat here’s a ridiculous oversimplification of Stirner: Human beings will maximize their autonomy by not subjugating their thoughts or will to anything or anyone. That’s pretty much the core assumption behind most of Stirner’s work as I interpret it. But this isn’t nihilistic bravado, moral relativism, “doing whatever you want,” or even pursuing rational self-interest — it is, more accurately, self-mastery via unfettered individualism.

There is an important contrast here to consider, and that is what Stirner saw as cultural forces and individual habits that he believed to be historically destructive to individual autonomy. Things like unquestioning conformance and groupthink, institutional or cultural conditioning, obsessive individual appetites, rigid rules and codes uniformly imposed upon members of a family, workplace, religion or society…and so on. Stirner saw these forces — and I think rightly so — as oppressive and coercive. And in response, he asserted that real “freedom” could only be achieved by rejecting such external and internal impositions.

Now here’s the thing about this message: it has validity, up to a point. In behavioral terms we could say such a reaction is even a necessary stage of development. Adolescent rebellion against familial and societal expectations can lead to a healthy and productive process of individuation. And before that, during early childhood, the emergence of the distinct individual ego seems an important process that differentiates I/Me/Mine from one’s parents and siblings. So as points of departure — as iterations of personal will in new contexts — these are helpful “egoic” events. But to be forever “stuck” in such a state…well, that becomes problematic. In the context of any civil society beyond a ruggedly individualist Wild West, for example, it actually becomes completely unworkable. Unfortunately, because certain cultures (the U.S. in particular) celebrate this type of individualism (or “atomism”), and mistakenly conflate it with personal sovereignty and liberty, it has been perpetuated as such. Further, Stirner’s projection of personal ego into property seems to reinforce a very individualistic flavor of economic materialism (again, seemingly quite prevalent in the U.S.).

The rather disastrous result of such memes is that right-leaning Libertarians, devotees of Ayn Rand, neoliberal market fundamentalists, and individualist anarchists (again, mainly in the U.S.) often get “stuck” in this terrible-twos/adolescent twilight. They do not realize that there are many, many more stages of ego development beyond these initial assertions of personal will. And that, in fact, ego must eventually attenuate to facilitate prosocial cohesion, and ultimately be relinquished altogether to evolve the greater good. (To appreciate why either of these is the case, I can provide additional resources or answer questions upon request). In a way, Stirner’s egoism is a sort of Peter Pan Syndrome where adherents reject even the most temporary, voluntary or conditional personal subjugation in order to defend their “right” to a particular flavor of individualistic freedom. At a certain point, this tendency becomes more than just willful immaturity…it devolves into a sort of irrational psychosis. (In fact, I think we are witnessing exactly this in Donald Trump’s antics as POTUS.)

That said, to really appreciate the specifics of Stirner’s arguments, we would need to study Hegel, Fichte, Feuerbach, Spinoza and Bauer — and all of these within an envelope of the Kantian lexicon. Only then will we grok what Stirner is aiming for with his “ownness” and his navigation of subject, substance, particularity, universality, and so on. So that is where I would begin for further study. This will help us understand the “why” of Stirner’s quest — but, unfortunately, it may not fully justify his conclusions.

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-is-Max-Stirners-philosophy/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Was Karl Marx actually a socialist?

There is a lot of confusion around this topic, in no small degree because pro-capitalist, neoliberal market fundamentalists in the U.S. and elsewhere have worked very hard to promote propaganda that keeps anything to do with Marx rather confused (for some elaboration on this, check out the post WWI and WWI “Red Scares”).

Here’s how I would lay things out:

The two main threads of socialism that were championed during the 1800s where social democracy and communism. Marx stepped into this debate with a theory of “historical materialism” that asserted that a specific order of evolution and revolution would occur in human society — one relating to the inherent conflict between the classes that form around different modes of production. It’s an interesting theory with quite a few salient observations about observable dynamics in history (such as the influence of modes of production on sociopolitical systems and consciousness), but it is also very simplistic…which has made if fairly easy to criticize. However, a moneyless, wageless, classless society was always the endgame of historical materialism as Marx envisioned it. And of course this would be facilitated through social ownership of the means of production…which is, of course, socialism.

But then came Vladimir Lenin, who asserted that “socialism” was actually an interim stage in the evolution from capitalism to stateless communism. And because of this interjection of differentiation, the waters became a lot muddier. Before Lenin, a more consistent differentiator between communism and socialism was that communism promoted atheism, whereas socialism did not. But after Lenin, communism was promoted as the endgame superior to socialism, and so perpetuating “socialism” per se would be — in this context at least — antagonistic to an evolution into communism. And for these and other reasons, Marx became forever disassociated with threads of social democracy that evolved in Europe and elsewhere, and which have resulted in the many mixed economies that attempt to balance the worst distortions of capitalism with socialist institutions.

Now something to note…and this is kind of important IMO…is that Marx was pretty permissive regarding violent expropriation, and pretty noncommittal about promoting specific forms of democracy. Marx did praise the democratic process he observed of the Paris Commune — which was itself aiming for social democracy — but apart from that, much of his language leans toward rhetoric like “the dictatorship of the proletariat.” In Capital, Marx does indicate that capitalism’s transformation of “scattered private property” into “capitalist private property” is inherently more violent and oppressive than the transformation of capitalist private property into socialized property: “In the former case, we had the expropriation of the mass of the people by a few usurpers; in the latter, we have the expropriation of a few usurpers by the mass of the people.” But apart from that comparison, he gives every indication that a revolutionary transition away from capitalism is going to be messy — and not just in terms of counterrevolution. Instead Marx fetishizes the proletariat as an idealized champion of moral rectitude in an unjust class division, and the bourgeoisie as the villains who must be overthrown. And of course this could only embolden the Bolsheviks in their murderous consolidation of power, Pol Pot’s brutal methods, and so on. In any case, I think these two issues — a lackluster and unspecific promotion of democracy, and a permissive attitude (or presumption of inevitability) towards violent revolutions — were Marx’s greatest errors.

With all of this said, the one point the OP is definitely getting wrong is asserting that Marx “never says that the proletariat is justified in revolting or that society will be better off afterwards.” The whole point of Marx’s theory of history and (and advocacy of proletariat self-governance) is liberation — emancipation really — and an end to oppression and exploitation. That’s a really difficult point to miss if Marx’s writings are taken as a whole: he is completely oriented to remedying the problems of capitalism, and insists that such remedies will, in fact, arise of their own dialectic, evolutionary imperative.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with this excerpt of Marx…because it is so wonderfully concise, and so insightfully accurate, in elaborating the very problems of capitalism we see manifesting in full force today:

From Marx’s Capital, Vol.1, Part VIII:

“As soon as this process of transformation has sufficiently decomposed the old society from top to bottom, as soon as the labourers are turned into proletarians, their means of labour into capital, as soon as the capitalist mode of production stands on its own feet, then the further socialisation of labour and further transformation of the land and other means of production into socially exploited and, therefore, common means of production, as well as the further expropriation of private proprietors, takes a new form. That which is now to be expropriated is no longer the labourer working for himself, but the capitalist exploiting many labourers. This expropriation is accomplished by the action of the immanent laws of capitalistic production itself, by the centralisation of capital. One capitalist always kills many. Hand in hand with this centralisation, or this expropriation of many capitalists by few, develop, on an ever extending scale, the co-operative form of the labour-process, the conscious technical application of science, the methodical cultivation of the soil, the transformation of the instruments of labour into instruments of labour only usable in common, the economising of all means of production by their use as the means of production of combined, socialised labour, the entanglement of all peoples in the net of the world-market, and this, the international character of the capitalistic régime. Along with the constantly diminishing number of the magnates of capital, who usurp and monopolise all advantages of this process of transformation, grows the mass of misery, oppression, slavery, degradation, exploitation; but with this too grows the revolt of the working-class, a class always increasing in numbers, and disciplined, united, organised by the very mechanism of the process of capitalist production itself. The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production, which has sprung up and flourished along with, and under it. Centralisation of the means of production and socialisation of labour at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.”

My 2 cents.

How can property rights be justified without appealing to capitalist culture?

This is a pretty squirrelly topic, because so many assumptions have been made over time that have no “universal” basis or ground; in other words, they don’t have empirical validity that is replicable across all cultures around the globe, or throughout all of history…and sometimes they don’t have a clear logical basis either. For example:

Theory of labor appropriation: Based on the faulty assumption that primitive peoples throughout history claimed “ownership” when they applied their labor to land, objects they created, etc. This is actually a pretty modern idea (in terms of the total span of human culture and civilization). Locke actually used the Native Americans for his example - and he was just wrong. In actuality most Native American tribes either had no conception of “ownership” at all, or a collective (tribal) view of ownership or use — especially regarding land, hunting rights, etc. Locke was, well, just mistaken — as countless others have been who haven’t actually studied cultural anthropology when making assertions about primitive cultures.

The tragedy of the commons: A thought experiment that was repeated and amplified over decades to justify ownership and private control of resources. The irony, however, is that Elinor Ostrom documented dozens of instances of “common pool resource management” in cultures all around the globe that shared a non-depleting egalitarian access to the commons without mishap…and without either government ownership or private ownership.

Property rights as “natural rights” extending from sovereignty over one’s own person for one’s survival via mixing with labor: As the Austrian School (Rothbard, Hoppe) philosophically argued variation of Locke’s labor appropriation, this really just becomes an absurd extension of individualistic economic materialism, assuming (completely without rational or empirical basis) that social agreements, cultural preconditions, cooperative prosociality and all the other hallmarks of human civilization aren’t necessary or required for human survival; that instead they can be replaced with 100% self-sufficiency. In essence, it is an article of faith grounded in individualistic (atomistic) beliefs that are not supported by empirical research on how homo sapiens has actually survived and thrived as a species. This thesis becomes even more absurd when it extends beyond “personal” possessions (a knife, a jacket, a blanket, wild-harvested food or anything used for survival in a given moment) to things that will be utilized by everyone (i.e common resources) just because the “rightful owner” was “the first to show up and claim it.” Here there is an even greater leap of faith. It’s all very silly, and Hoppe and Rothbard can never really justify their positions other than to say, well…it makes sense to them (i.e. using statements like “how could it be otherwise?”).

So we can conclude fairly easily that conceptions of private property are a faith-based enterprise that contradicts both sound reasoning and empirical facts. What we do know, however, is that private property (as either a universally accepted principle or as a feature of law) is most certainly necessary for capitalism to function, so much so that anarcho-capitalists, laissez-faire neoliberals, Randian objectivists and other market fundamentalists will scrabble tooth-and-nail to justify the concept. The irony, however, is that liberty is greatly impeded by the concept of private property; in fact we could say that private property is itself one of the most profound sources of interference to freedom that humanity has every invented. To appreciate why this is the case, I recommend this essay: The Goldilocks Zone of Integral Liberty (scroll down linked page to read it - no need to sign into Academia)

Ultimately, then, the answer to the OP’s question is: No, property rights can’t be justified in a rational or empirical way that promotes either liberty or personal sovereignty, and are actually intrinsically antagonistic to both. Private property is a very handy concept for the haves to exploit the have-nots, however…and so it evokes religious conviction among the pro-capitalist crowd.

My 2 cents.

Comment from Steeve Chaboussie: "And yet, I’m pretty sure you lock your door. I am genuinely interested with how you reconcile that with “So we can conclude fairly easily that conceptions of private property are a faith-based enterprise that contradicts both sound reasoning and empirical facts.”

There was a time when everyone in a given culture would “cross themselves” whenever someone looked at them in a strange way, o perhaps pointed at them with an index finger. There was a time when various cultures felt compelled to sacrifice animals on altars to appease their gods. There was a time when it was “common sense” that the Earth was flat and the Sun and Moon revolved around it. Today we have equally irrational beliefs that guide our daily lives. Beliefs about the importance of “knocking on wood,” or that certain numbers are “lucky” for us, or that people of a certain skin color — or accent, country of origin, etc. — should be feared, or that synchronistic events must inherently “mean” something. Our species is, essentially, predisposed to superstition, irrationality and rationalization. Which is where the fear-based reasoning that enshrines private property in law (and fences off yards, and locks doors) comes from. It isn’t rational, it isn’t necessary, and in terms of the evolution of civil society, it isn’t “natural” in the sense it has been argued to be for the last few hundred years. It is instead an invention of our superstitious, fearful, systematizing minds. That was my point.

Now, if your are asking if I participate in this delusion along with everyone else…well of course I do. Because that is currently how we have restricted freedoms in civil society to an immense degree: by cordoning off 99% of the world around us as “privately owned” and inaccessible to non-owners. People who do not respect these artificial, fear-based boundaries are considered to be “breaking the law,” and because those who willfully and knowingly “break the law” in this way generally have nefarious agendas in mind, it would be unwise not to conform to the societal standards as they have evolved — despite the ridiculousness of their underlying premise. In the same way, a nudist who believes wearing clothes is…well…just a silly convention that hides or attempts to shame the natural beauty of all human bodies will also wear clothes in public. We conform — to whatever degree we must — in order to survive.

This is how I reconcile the hypocrisy of many of my own behaviors that I fundamentally despise. I also allow people to pay me for the services I provide — I would prefer they didn’t, as I find it distasteful and undermining of relationship and trust — but there is currently no other means for me to reliably obtain food and shelter for my family. And yes, I have tried some alternatives, and admire planned communities that attempt to do the same, but we are so embedded in a commercialistic, capitalistic society that “stepping outside” of it fully is extremely difficult. In fact, the only folks I know who have done so with ongoing success have had to leave the U.S. altogether…and many of them are still struggling to live according to their principles without external support.

However, these de facto conditions of “private property oppression” are not immutable, and my hope is that more and more inquisitive and thoughtful folks will gradually wake up to the fact that these conditions need to change in order to maximize the promises of democracy and liberty. It’s why I have been working to promote Level 7 proposals. But we shall see….

Why is MLK so admired?

1. Because he led an entire nation out of an ingrained habit of brutal racial oppression.

2. Because he accumulated tremendous political and interpersonal influence over time.

3. Because he inspired people to act on principle, instead of accepting the status quo.

4. Because he was willing to take tremendous personal risks to advance the freedoms of others.

5. Because he arose as the figurehead of an era for a national movement - he was at the right place at the right time - and he bore that burden with grace.

6. Because he was an eloquent and inspirational speaker.

7. Because, like Gandhi, he was able to do all of this without violence; he was a man of peace, but he moved mountains where others could not.

8. Because he did not give up. Ever.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/Why-is-MLK-so-admired/answer/T-Collins-Logan

How did Aristotle influence the development of the West?

What a great question.

I might be overstating this…since I am a big fan of Aristotle…but I would say that Aristotle’s impact on Western civilization is probably only equalled by one other historical figure: Jesus of Nazareth. Although others - such as Aristotle’s teacher Plato - laid much of the groundwork for what became the philosophical tradition in the West, it was Aristotle who, more than any single influence, framed the trajectory of empirical observation, civic obligation and ethics, metaphysics, and analytic/reflective analysis that would lead to formal Christian theology, the scientific revolution, and the Enlightenment. Now I realize this may seem like an outrageous statement on the surface, but we can actually follow Aristotle’s profound influence on nearly all subsequent developments over the centuries - across innumerable hard and soft disciplines and specialities, including:

Civics and Democracy

Virtue Ethics


Christian Theology






Keep in mind, however, that I am not saying Aristotle’s conclusions were always correct or upheld by later thinkers and research. In fact you could say that Aristotle became important precisely because so many historically influential writers and researchers attempted to refute his assertions (sometimes succeeding, and sometimes not). In other words, Aristotle’s positions show up in nearly all of the later dialectics within areas of study to which he contributed (or invented)…all the way up into modern times. It’s incredible, really. As just one less-well-known example, most people in the West are familiar with Freud’s assertions about the pleasure principle, libido, id and ego in human motivation and ideation, and consider him to be the father of modern psychology. Except…well…it was Aristotle who first elaborated on those very same observations, though he named them differently. We could say with some confidence that Aristotle is the patron saint of the intellectual academic tradition itself. Aristotle has been so influential, in fact, that some less scrupulous authors have used his name to bolster their own positions. One of the more notable figures who did this was Ayn Rand, who very clearly misunderstood Aristotle on a fundamental level, but nevertheless claimed to derive many of her ideas from his writing.

So a modern citizen of the West can effectively thank Aristotle for living in democracies with institutions of higher learning, technologies and medicine that resulted from empirical science, a strong cultural tradition of analytical analysis and problem-solving, a much greater awareness of the human condition and the workings of the psyche, and the lingering (albeit waning and/or commodified) legacy of neoplatonic mysticism. What we can’t thank Aristotle for is capitalism, which we know from his writings he would have found repulsive, unethical and debasing.

Lastly, we should also not forget that Aristotle was also revered in Eastern cultures that came in contact with his teachings.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/How-did-Aristotle-influence-the-development-of-the-West/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Why do liberal democracy and capitalism go hand in hand?

Because they arose in their quasi-modern forms around the same time, and were both promoted (to varying degrees) by the same group of European intellectuals (Hobbes, Locke, Smith, Rousseau, etc.) during the Age of Enlightenment. Both the American and French revolutions were an outgrowth of these ideas, aiming to free the average person from oppression by monarchies, the Church, class distinctions, lack of knowledge and education, feudalistic labor relations and so forth. It was really an incredible time and an understandable outgrowth of the preceding scientific revolution. The prevailing assumption was that a society empowered with individual autonomy and agency, acting collectively in both capitalistic markets and self-governance, would result in the greatest freedoms for all. The flaws in this reasoning were that representative democracy could and would be usurped by a de facto elite class and/or concentrations of wealth - anticipation of this outcome was actually debated a fair amount. In other words, that social privilege and plutocratic/monopolistic influence would mimic the feudalistic/monarchistic relations of the systems being rejected. And this did eventually happen - to differing extents in different systems - with ever-increasing efforts by both the electorate-working poor and the wealthy-elite to wrench power away from the other side; we’re still struggling with these same issues today. But the point is that before the Enlightenment, democracy and market capitalism had not come to full fruition - they effectively did not exist on a large scale.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/Why-do-liberal-democracy-and-capitalism-go-hand-in-hand/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Can a society progress too quickly (for its own good)? And if so, what are some historical or theoretical examples of this?

With very few exceptions - mostly very small tribes in resource-abundant regions of the world - wherever human beings have settled aspects of their society have progressed too quickly. And by “too quickly” I mean that the progress has resulted in some sort of enduring damage. They might exhaust local natural resources, for example. Or they might build dense, weakly constructed towns where one earthquake or major fire kills a majority of inhabitants because they were living packed together in unsafe conditions. Or they might pollute the rivers and soil in a given area so badly that nothing grows there anymore and the water in undrinkable. Or they might hunt local wildlife to extinction. The examples of this kind of self-destructive behavior are endless, but mostly apply to other areas of “progress,” and not to what would be considered ethically or civically progressive.

Regarding other forms of social progress that might be considered ethics-related - such as civil liberties, or social safety nets, or reductions in violent crime, or women’s rights, etc. - I think most of the advances of the last two centuries or so simply haven’t been in play long enough for anyone to know. In other words, we haven’t seen the long-term fruit yet. And since much of this progress is being rolled back by right-leaning populist movements around the globe, it may be that we won’t be able to see them bear fruit at all. That said, two things come to mind with respect to your question. The first is the idea of multiculturalism, which seems to have failed to account for self-isolating or tribalistic groups that refuse to integrate with mainstream society. So multiculturalism must, I think, be replaced with practices like interculturalism, where more engagement, dialog and expectation of integration are priorities. The second is the level of depression and antidepressant use in Nordic countries, cultures that have mastered a very peaceful, calm, compassionate, productive and mutually supportive existence. I don’t know if this high level of depression and antidepressant use has any correlation with all the progressive factors that should instead (theoretically) contribute to happiness, but it does beg the question: does a lack of conflict induce ennui? Perhaps it takes cultures time - multiple generations - to adapt to a peaceful, thriving existence? Just a thought.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/Can-a-society-progress-too-quickly-for-its-own-good-And-if-so-what-are-some-historical-or-theoretical-examples-of-this/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What is the origin of New Age beliefs?

Thanks for the A2A Pete.

Here is my somewhat formulaic take on this phenomenon…not scholarly, just subjective….

1. Take a fairly well-educated white person from a middle class background who is dissatisfied with just about every aspect of the status quo - politics, religion, medicine, cultural institutions, industrialization, technology, etc. - and who furthermore either lacks any strong sense of cultural identity and tradition, or who fundamentally questions the identity and traditions within which they were raised. Let’s call this person “the maleable rebel.”

2. Now introduce a populist-energized movement of social unrest, revolutionary spirit, counterculture and “anti-establishmentarianism” that seeks not only to reject the status quo, but replace its social mores, institutions, traditions and values with radically revised, socially liberal, egalitarian and much more “personally liberated” ones. This movement appeals directly to “the maleable rebel” and provides a unifying - albeit temporary - sense of purpose and shared community within an essentially individualistic frame. The movement has reactive cohesion - enough for artistic expression, political rallies, a shared narrative, etc. - but lacks a unified vision to manifest as sustained outcomes.

3. Then, as an outgrowth of conditions 1 and 2, offer “the maleable rebel” a spiritual-philosophical-transformational basis for a more enduring post-revolutionary vision. Begin with a foundation of anti-traditionalism, add some superficial elements of Eastern mysticism and a pinch of Western esotericism, sprinkle in alternative medicine and some psychoactive plants, add some spiritualism, then mix these with a liberal handful of Earth-friendly habits…and you’ve got most of the essential ingredients. However - and this is what leaves a bitter taste in the minds of Neopagans, Traditionalists or Perrenialists observing the New Age movement - retain as the final ingredient a large portion of the very same individualistic materialism against which “the maleable rebel” initially revolted (in its classist forms).

4. Now begin to systematize this new vision by establishing authorities, celebrities, orthodox practices, value hierarchies, communities, literature, geographic locations, language, semantics, lifestyles and so on that create both a map of what the New Age community is supposed to look like, and a recipe book for adherence and identity.

In this way the New Age helped well-educated, middle-class white folks in the U.S. and U.K. reform their identity, spiritual practices and sense of purpose. It reframed what it meant to be “enlightened,” with an emphasis on personal freedom, growth and potential. And, in truth, many of the practices and ideals that grew out of the New Age movement do have value IMHO. The challenge, as with so many “institutionalized” belief systems that came before it, is that the New Age firmly held on to the very destructive cultural meme that inspired its birth: individualistic materialism. Although quite often drawing upon an authentic spirit, the New Age all too soon became a commercialized imitation of itself, an elaborate and jingoistic “demand and supply” distortion of its original intent. Such is the corrosive power of capitalist culture that it subsumes all nuance and truth in a frenzy of consumerism, oversimplifying anything subtle or complex into a sales-pitch commodity.

My 2 cents.

After further discussion on Facebook, here are some additional resources on the details of how the New Age movement migrated from Germany, as perhaps inspired by a much older movement:





(Thanks Eric Pierce, Mark Niblack & Jennifer Grove!)