SOLIPSIST

SOLIPSIST

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have argued above that the attempt by Paterson to saddle Der Einzige with a metaphysics of his own fancy is a buffoonish ploy to distract from more central issues. Egoism for Stirner is, however, grounded in a quite original analysis for his day of thinking, thoughts, and epistemology of everyday life.

     Egoism, nihilism, and liberation all have to do with mindsets, which far from existing only in thought take human shape and become human flesh. Since for most philosophers the question of what is thinking is fundamental, I do not wish to exclude Stirner from philosophy as being only a social critic and educator. It seems to me his focus is epistemological or metapsychological more than metaphysical.

     We can now tie up some loose ends from previous chapters. The final chapter of The Nihilistic Egoist, “Philosophy as Play”, addresses the issue of thinking. Certainly egoism is intimately tied in with how we think, as opposed to what we think in any instance, and while I have sworn not to impose universality on Stirner, nevertheless I believe his place is that of a modern thinker in tune with some of the most creative minds of the 19th century.

     Nor should one think we have separated from the religious world view to the point all these issues are irrelevant, because even if technology has advanced dramatically, the operating systems for the mind are still present interactively and incorporate the archaic as many centuries of programming and reprogramming persist embodied in our cultural experience.

    

Stirner jumps into the archaeology of thinking when he states that the wisdom and acumen of the Ancients already lay  as far from the spirit and spirituality of the Christian world as earth from Heaven….

         [The spiritual man’s] life is occupation with the spiritual, that is to say — with thinking. The rest does not bother him; he will busy himself with the spiritual anyhow he can and will, in devotion, in contemplation or in philosophic cognition. He is forever thinking and so Descartes, who had at last seen this, could propose his Cogito. My thinking is my being or life.

 

     Poor Peter Schlemihl, who had lost his shadow, is “the portrait of the man who has become Spirit — for the Spirit’s body is shadowless.” With the ancients, however, it was very different:

 

    It must not be supposed that the ancients were without thoughts…. Rather, they had their thoughts about everything concerning the world, man, the gods and such, and showed themselves keenly active in bringing all this to their consciousness. Yet they did not know ‘Thought’ as such (EO, pp. 20-21).

 

     However, long historical analysis is not Stirner’s point and he brings it immediately to the present, to the question of action because the ethical crisis of what we should then do now is always grounded in what and how we think and in what order.

     Christian thinking was the negation of the relatively unspiritual ancients’ thinking and so Stirner presents a negation of this negation. The Christian kingdom of thoughts [Gedankensreich] culminated in “that inwardness in which all the world’s lights are put out”, and the inner man, identifying himself as his head and heart, is exalted.

 

    This dominion of thoughts awaits its deliverance, awaits like the Sphinx the cryptogram of Œdipos, that it may at last enter unto its death. I am the annihilator [Vernichter] of its continued duration, for in the creator’s realm it no longer fashions a realm of its own…but rather is a creature of my creative thoughtlessness [Gedankenlšsigkeit]. Only simultaneously with the congealed thinking world can Christendom, Christianity, and religion itself perish….

 

     In the case of free thinking and free science, egoist control is again asserted, since these concepts are human and have no power over us, they should be seen as property, as means to an end, as institutions they should be our servants, not the inverse. The “deranging” [VerrŸckung] of the world is to be avoided through the restorative demolitions of egoism.

     And while much of this discussion is awkward outside of the debates of the Young Hegelians and what they considered vital, there may yet be some merit for education in rethinking thinking along these lines.

 

    Totally different from this free-thinking is own-thinking, my thinking which does not guide me but is guided by me, and continued and broken off at my pleasure. And so the distinction of this from free-thinking is similar to that of ownness, in regard to sensuality, which I satisfy in accord with my liking, versus free unruly sensuality, to which I succumb (EO, pp. 338-339)

 

     The difference with handed-down values and ideas, versus those we appropriate and recreate ourselves, is seen in anxiety levels between what has been “imparted” to us rather than “aroused” in us. Clearly this sensual or erotic approach is a critique of educational regimentation, parallel to later critics like Nietzsche or Hesse, and a refusal of authoritarianism.

 

    Who is there who has never noticed that our entire education has the object of producing feelings in us, imparting them to us, instead of leaving their production to us come what may….

         Our equipment consists of ‘elevated feelings, exalted thoughts, inspiring maxims, eternal principles’, and such. The young are rushed through school to learn the old song, and when they have learned it by heart they are pronounced of age — they are of age, that is, once they can twitter like the old (EO, pp. 65-66).

 

     Naturally all this makes more sense directed at a repressive, authoritarian structure while education in our time has gone the opposite way, toward remissiveness if not permissiveness. Without conscious egoism and ‘ownness’, one dogma is likely to be replaced by another:

 

    If I were a dogmatist I should place at the top a dogma, a thought, idea or principle, ‘systematize’ this into a system or structure of thought…. But I am the champion neither of a thought nor of thinking; for I, from whom I start, am not a thought nor do I consist in thinking. Against me, the unnameable, the realm of thoughts, thinking and mind is shattered.

 

The critic like Bruno Bauer, he continues, wishes to

 

    break up thoughts by thinking. But I say that only thoughtlessness really saves me from thoughts. It is this and not thinking, or I as the unthinkable, inconceivable [Unbegreifliche] that frees me from possessedness (EO, pp. 147-148).

 

     The humanism of Feuerbach, Bauer and Marx is seen as a riptide of stagnant idealism:

 

    All that I do, think, express and manifest, is conditioned by what I am. The Jew can will one thing and present himself that way, and the same for the Christian. If you could change over into a Jew or Christian, you would bring out what is Jewish or Christian; but it isn’t possible since in the most rigorous conduct you still remain an egoist, a sinner against that concept…

 

     The point being, of course Jew or Hindu or Eskimo, to identify someone is how often in the course of history a tactic of fanaticism, to enslave or annihilate people? Even if my flag is Jewish, Stirner insists with this key passage showing the democratic nature of egoism here:

 

    You are indeed more than a Jew, more than a Christian, but you are also more than a human being. Those are all ideas, but you are corporeal [Du aber bist leibhaftig]…. Let it be the case that Shmuel is ever so Jewish, a Jew and nothing but a Jew he can never be, just because he is this Jew (EO, pp. 126-127).

 

     How much more proof is required of Der Einzige as a ringing refusal of fascism and ethnic hatred? If this is a stripping away of human dignity, how so when it confers upon every man and woman an unsurrenderable ground of respect and refuses to negotiate the value of the singular human being? The answer is easy: it is the clerics objecting because Stirner is bestowing this dignity without permission, without authority, without casuistry, without the need for a priestly class and social hierarchy. He is making the declaration of the rights of mankind to act on their own and disobey god, whether as Church, State, the Party, the Press, the Clan, or the Cave Bear.

     When one defines human beings as such and such, one does not give unto them anything that is not theirs, one is rather closer to amputating their humanity by trying to warrant or justify their right to exist within the definitions provided. Such a warrant implies a permission, an ideological permit. Tyranny springs from the view that there are god’s children over here, sinners over there; obedient lambs here, disobedient brats there, responsible citizens here, unruly students or colonists there, us in our here, them in their there. In celebrating mortality and transitoriness, Stirner is of course proceeding against the entire Platonic, religious tradition. Life is explosive, egoistic, anarchic, and often breaks traditions and expectations, and breaks the rules, or we wouldn’t be here.

     Equality too, can be a rallying cry for freedom in a revolutionary tableau or an oppression depending on circumstances, and so Stirner urged the other Young Hegelians or left Hegelians to rethink their enthusiasms for ideas of the time, and question the authority of their radical and revolutionary ideas so these should not be invert clones of reactionary and repressive forms such as State, the Church, and bourgeois society.

 

    Let us renounce every hypocrisy of community [Gemeinschaft] and recognize that if we are equal as men, we are not equal because we are not Men. We are equal only in thought, …not as we actually and bodily are. I am I and you are I, but I am not this thought-of I…. I am man and you are man, but ‘Man’ is just a thought, a generality. Neither you nor I are speakable [sagbar], we are unutterable [unau§prechlich] since only thoughts are sayable and consist in speaking (EO, p. 311).

 

     The passage above clearly rejects anything to do with solipsism, which is a straw man and disguised accusation of witchcraft. So thoughtlessness, far from hooliganism, has another meaning entirely because freedom from thoughts and thinking is unusual coming from within Western philosophy. The theme of the above passage may resound more towards other cultures with nondiscursive descriptions of the boundless, like Buddhism, Taoism, or even the pagan preSocratics. As silence gives birth to music and music returns to silence, as space is inseparable from matter and vice versa, creativity requires liberation from the created, privacy from ‘the ‘parental’ texts:

 

    I want to be full of thoughts, yet at the same time be thoughtless and preserve this state for myself, instead of freedom of thought.

 

     If it is a question of making myself understood and communicating, then of course I can make use only of human means…. And really I have thoughts only as man. as I myself, I am at the same time thoughtless. Whoever cannot get rid of a thought…is a bondsman of language, this human institution, this treasury of human thoughts. Language or ‘the Word’ tyrannizes us the most, since it brings us up against an entire army of fixed ideas.

     Self-observation, says Stirner, demonstrates that in the activity of reflection we find ourselves thoughtless and speechless, and surprisingly here, not in the midst of Toastmasters, is freedom from language the same as freedom to think, and only here “do you succeed in putting language to use as your property.”

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