Stirner’s Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum,which appeared in November of 1844, had the central intention of presenting the atheistic humanism of such as Feuerbach and Bauer as being nothing more than a deceptive restoration of the very religious faith which they claimed to reject. For Stirner, their humanistic atheism, their “humane Liberalismus”, was in fact nothing more than a word-game in which the term “God” was concealed under the names of “Mensch” or “Menschlichkeit.
In short, that they had not transcended the religious consciousness. Stirner devoted an opening page of his work to setting out his intention: “Man is to man the supreme being”, says Feuerbach.
“Man has been discovered”, says Bruno Bauer.
Then let us take a more careful look at this supreme being and this new discovery [Sehen Wir Uns den dieses höchste Wesen und diesen neuen Fund genauer an].
As to Feuerbach, it was not long after his response to Stirner that he lost interest in his own campaign to promote a “Philosophie der Zukunft”. In 1845, shortly after the first appearance of Der Einzige, the usually prolific Feuerbach only wrote one short item– his reply to Stirner.3 I have earlier argued, that this change in Feuerbach’s thought followed shortly after he became aware that he was unable to refute Stirner’s critique.
Certainly more than one scholar, such as Eugene Kamenka, has agreed with the judgment of Simon Rawidowitz, that “Max Stirner’s critique… appears to have impelled him [Feuerbach] to take a further step, to advance from anthropology to naturalism”.
In short, he turned from his humanistic program to ultimately agree with the crude naturalism of Jacob Moleschett. At the same time, the young Marx, then known as a follower of Feuerbach, suddenly reversed course and became his critic. He set forth his reasons in his 1845 sketch, the “Theses on Feuerbach”. It has been argued, by Nicholas Lobkowitz, that Marx radically revised his humanistic programs after he had read Stirner. In that same summer of 1845, Marx and his new-found friend, Engels, set about writing The German Ideology — an unexpected and exhaustive refutation of Stirner, whom they had barely mentioned in their first joint work, The Holy Family.
However, in contrast, The German Ideology, which remained unpublished until Soviet sponsorship, devoted more pages to criticizing Der Einzige und sein Eigentum than are to be found in that work itself.
Even Franz Mehring, the usually admiring biographer of Marx, had difficulty in finding any merit in this “super polemic”. He was forced to conclude that The German Ideology was characterized by “hair-splitting and quibbling, some of it of a rather puerile character”.Stirner seems to have hit a nerve.
Unlike Feuerbach, who had immediately and publicly responded to Stirner’s criticism, Bauer remained silent. Only one follower of Bauer, writing under the pseudonym “Szeliga”, responded publicly to Stirner,but Stirner refused to take this response as even coming from Bauer himself, and dismissed it as merely coming from “out of the masses [aus der Masse]”.10 However, later in 1845, an anonymous article, “Characteristiks Ludwig Feuerbachs” appeared in the young Hegelian quarterly journal, Wiegands Vierteljahrschrift. It was published in thesame issue that Stirner had responded to his critics.
The Characteristik has been taken as written by Bauer. As its title indicates, it is directed against Feuerbach, with only two of its sixty pages dealing with Stirner. The criticism of Stirner is similar to what others had directed against Stirner, criticisms based upon how they decided to define Stirner’s “Ego”. In the article attributed to Bauer, Stirner’s “Ego” is “substance at its hardest, ‘the spook of all spooks [ist die Substanz in ihrer härtesten Härte, das Gespenst aller Gespenster]’.”
This “spook of all spooks” phrase had also appeared earlier in Szeliga’s response to Stirner. The polemics of Szeliga,Mas well as in the bitter criticism of Moses Hess, also found echo in the pages attributed to Bauer. Here, Stirner’s “Ego” is but an “I that needs hypocrisy, deceit, external force, and petty persuasion to support its egoism.” This rather insulting response, if indeed coming from Bauer, does not easily accord itself to the fact of their deep and continuing friendship.
Be this as it may, Stirner did not reply to Bauer’s [anonymous] brief criticism found in the Characteristik.
For Stirner, all of his critics seemed unable or unwilling to accept that the “Einziger”, the “Unique One” was simply beyond definition – being neither a “substance” nor an “idea”. The unique concrete individual simply eludes generic definition.
In continuing his response to Szeliga, Stirner then turns to a clarification of a term that is commonly taken to signify sociopathic tendencies: “egoism”. In his rebuttal, Stirner proposes, and supports through some examples, the thesis that selfinterest, which suffers under the pejorative label of “egoism”, actually generates more actual love and communality than the selfdenying performances of the weak and unassertive ego which has fallen under the dominating ideals of another.
In looking over the extensive bibliography of Bauer’s works as compiled by Professor Hans Martin Sass, I could not help noticing that the last work that Bauer dedicated to the project of the “reinen Kritik” was published in early 184514 It will be recalled that Stirner’s work appeared in November of 1844. Bauer’s sudden cessation of activity was noted by Professor Sass, who wrote:
“Bruno Bauer’s campaign of pure criticism, which had begun in 1838, reached its highpoint in 1844, and its strategy of increasing the intensity of its criticism had broken through on all fronts. The campaign endedshortly thereafter. It ended, not because one side had defeated the other, but because Bauer’s criticism had left the field peacefully [die Kritik kampflos das Feld räumt]. It had simply faded away. As Ernest Barnikol writes, ‘All of its intellectualstrength faded into an empty and impotent criticism.’ ”
Even Bauer, in 1853, admitted that insofar as his criticism was absolute it had “negated itself in its critical process”.
Now, a question: Might it be possible that Bauer, just as Feuerbach and the Young Marx, also found reason to conclude the “Campaign of Pure Criticism” [“Feldzüge der reinen Kritik”],17 after reading DerEinzige und sein Eigentum ?
Certainly something had made Bauer, and not only himself, but his brother Edgar and his follower, Szeliga, to suddenly take leave of their “Campaign” and then, unexpectedly, join forces with their opponents. Bruno, turning to historical studies, would later serve as the Editor of a conservative Prussian journal, the Wagener’schen Staatsund Gesellschafts-lexikon. He then went on to edit the even more conservative Kreuzzeitung.
His loudly atheistic broche Edgar, whom Engels had earlier described as “blood-thirsty”, converted to Catholicism, and became the editor of a Catholic journal, Kirchlichen Blätter. Szeliga abandoned his pseudonym, and went by his full name “Franz Szeliga Zychlin von Zychlinsky” when he went on to become a Prussian General. He ended up writing military studies, among them being the two volume history of the Prussian 24th Infantry Regiment.