No doubt there were practical grounds for these unexpected antithetical turns, but there might well be theoretical grounds as well – such as Bauer’s own realization that he had witnessed “the end of philosophy”.
Stirner would agree that with Hegelianism philosophy has come to an end: it is “the Triumph of Philosophy. Philosophy cannot hereafter achieve anything higher” [“und mit ihm der Triumph der Philosophie. Höheres kann die Philosophie nicht mehr leisten”].
Most Political Scientists and historians are, expectedly, not too interested in speculative philosophy, particularly Hegelianism, and much of what is known of the “Young Hegelians” has been drawn from a Marxian viewpoint, such as the recollections of Frederick Engels, written in 1888, Ludwig Feuerbach and the Outcome of Classical German Philosophy. It would not be unexpected that most political scientists, fixed upon “Scientific Socialism”, would simply view the contemporaries of the young Marx, such as Moses Hess, Feuerbach, Bauer, or Stirner, as being of interest mainly for having once and briefly impinged upon the development of Marxist theory. It is then not surprising, as pointed out in recent work on Bauer, that most of his works “remain inaccessible”,with almost all remaining untranslated.
However, if this not surprising, then it is surprising that Stirner’s Der Einzige has been published in over 100 editions, and translated into over 10 languages,24 with the latest, last year, being a new Dutch translation.
The first English translation was published in 1907, and has never been out of print. However, although hundreds of articles have been written concerning Stirner, he has received little attention from academic philosophers.One possible reason for this neglect is the evident difficulty his commentators have in coming to a general agreement upon defining Stirner’s philosophy.More than a few of the labels are conflicting: other than being a “Bourgeois”, “Petit Bourgeois”, or “Fascist”, favorite titles pasted upon him by various Marxist commentators, he has also been labeled a nihilist, an anarchist,an existentialist, a solipsist, an anti-Benthamite or Benthamite, and either a Capitalist or an anti-Capitalist.
A recent title was affixed upon Stirner by the political scientist, Saul Newman, who understands him as a “protopoststructuralist”.
But despite the difficulties of identifying Stirner’s thought, there is a consistent agreement that Stirner be taken as the last of the “Young Hegelians”. In this regard, most commentators have agreed with Frederick Engels, who had Stirner concluding the “decomposition process” of the Hegelian School.In the words of a later commentator, David McLellan, Stirner was “the last of the Hegelians”.Franz Mehring, Marx’s biographer, also held the same view: Stirner was “the last offshoot of Hegelian philosophy”. Kurt Mautz, who, in 1936, wrote a comprehensive study of the relationship between Hegel and Stirner, described Stirner as “the last metamorphosis Mauthener, Stirner had drawn “The ultimate consequence of the Hegelians” [“die allerletzen Folgerungen aus der Hegeliei”].
But perhaps the French scholar Henri Arvon stated the matter most elegantly, for him Stirner was “le dernier maillon de lachaîne hégélienne”.More recently, in proposing that Stirner influenced Nietzsche, Gilles Deleuze observed that:
“It is clear that Stirner plays the revelatory role in all this [i.e., the revelation of the nihilism inherent inGerman philosophy against which Nietzsche struggles]. It is he [Stirner] who pushes the dialectic to its final consequences, showing what its motor and end results are.”
Indeed, even before he met Bauer, Stirner had already elected himself to that final position – since, as he wrote: “the true tendency of the Hegelian system” [“die wahre Tendenz des Hegelschen Systems”] was to obtain “the autonomy of free men” [“die Autarkie des freien Menschen”].
All this would suggest that Stirner’s philosophy might well be logical consequence of Hegelianism. The historian and Hegelian, Johann Erdmann, thought this to be the case, and noted that “Max Stirner is the one who really represents the culminating point of the tendency begun by Hegel”.His view was also that of Karl Löwith, who wrote that:
“Stirner’s book, Der Einzige und sein Eigentum has usually been considered the anarchic product of an eccentric, but it is in reality an ultimate logical consequence of Hegel’s historical system, which – allegorically displaced – it reproduces exactly. Stirner himself admits this derivation from Hegel in his discussion of Bauer’s Posaune”.
I believe that Erdman and Löwith are correct, and I have earlier argued this point – – that Stirner is not simply, in a historical sense, “the last of the Hegelians”, but that his philosophy is the realization of what is entailed in “being a Hegelian”.In short, he is more than merely a reader or commentator upon Hegel’s philosophy as was the case with the academic “Old” Hegelians. Nor was he, as Bauer, dedicated to the “Good Cause” of atheism. Indeed, he rejected Bauer’s invitation to contribute to Christianity Revealed [das entdeckte Christentum]”,one of the most polemical of attacks upon religious faith that has ever been composed. Stirner did not “use” Hegel as either an object of scholarly exercise (the “Old” Hegelians) nor as a theoretical support for a practical end (the “praxis” of the “Young” Hegelians). He merely followed out the personal consequences of what was entailed in “being a Hegelian”.
The fact that Stirner was very well versed in Hegel’s thought is seldom discussed in regard to what effect it might have had upon his philosophy. During his boyhood, it seems likely that Stirner might have first encountered Hegelianism during his school years at the prestigious Imhof Gymnasium in Bayreuth. George Andreas Gabler was then its Rector, the same Gabler who finally assumed the chair of philosophy at the University of Berlin that was vacated upon Hegel’s death. Upon graduation from the gymnasium, Stirner entered directly into the University of Berlin as a student of Philosophy, and not Theology, as was the case with Bauer and Feuerbach. He remained at the university for the next four semesters until September of 1828. In this period he, unlike Strauss, Marx, or Engels, had the opportunity to hear Hegel lecture upon his system. He attended Hegel’s lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, the History of Philosophy, and, in the winter of 1827, the lectures on the Philosophy of Subjective Spirit.
During his stay at the university he also attended the lectures of the Hegelian theologian P. K. Marheineke on the subjects of Dogmatics, Theology, and Christian Symbolism. In the fall of 1828, Stirner (who was, as Feuerbach, without money) was forced to leave the University of Berlin to study at University of Erlangen, where he could live with relatives. In that fall semester Stirner attended the lectures then being presented by the Hegelian philosopher Christian Kapp. In 1832 Stirner returned once again to Berlin, where he would spend the rest of his life. There, continuing his philosophical studies, he attended a two semester course on Aristotle conducted by the Hegelian philosopher Karl L. Michelet (1801-93).
This formal acquaintance with Hegelian philosophy was much more extensive than that obtained by any of the Young Hegelians. Informally, among the radical non-academic circles which gathered in Berlin during the 1840s, Engels, Engels, then Stirner’s “düzbruder”,noted that “[Stirner] had obviously, among the ‘FreemOnes’ the most talent, independence, and diligence.”