THE TRANSITORY EGOIST

STIRNIET

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While the involuntary egoist is thus preoccupied with ‘creating sanctuaries that must not be touched,’ the transitory egoist travels with much less metaphysical baggage. For this reason, Stirner starts and finishes his book with a quotation from Goethe: ‘All things are nothing to me’ (literally: ‘I have set my affair on nothing’).

 

This ability to dispense with all absolutes is Stirner’s ‘ownness,’ his ‘extensionality’, by which he is showing his acute awareness of his central position as a unique individual, whose life experiences consist of a constant process of abstracting from ‘reality’:

 

. . . every judgment which I pass upon an object is the creature of my will, and that discernment again leads me to not losing myself in the creature, the judgment, but remaining the creator, the judger, who is ever creating anew. All predicates of objects are my statements, my judgments, my — creatures. If they want to tear themselves loose from me and be something for themselves, or actually overawe me, then I have nothing more pressing to do than to take them back into their nothing, i.e. into me the creator . . .

As I once willed and decreed their existence, so I want to have license to willtheir non-existence too; I must not let them grow over my head, must not have the weakness to let them become something ‘absolute,’ whereby they would be eternalized and withdrawn from my power and decision.

 

 

Stirner, in showing that intensionality is acquired, again anticipates Korzybski:

 

‘We were already thinking when we were children, only our thoughts were not fleshless, abstract, absolute . . . On the contrary, they had been only thoughts that we had about a thing . . . Any thought bound to a thing is not yet nothing but a thought.’ (12–13) Soon, however, our parents and teachers begin ‘imparting’ thoughts, and our chances of remaining extensional are jeopardized.

 

The transitory egoist, while in constant transformation, is no ghostly, fugitive thing. In defending the ‘whole chap,’ Stirner again recalls Korzybski: ‘for it is only when a man hears his flesh along with the rest of him that he hears him self wholly, and it is only when he hears himself that he is a hearing or rational being.’

 ‘If it is said that even God proceeds according to eternal laws that too fits me, since I too cannot get out of my skin, but have my law in my whole nature, i.e. in myself.’

 

The transitory egoist must never forget, however, that he cannot subdue the world entirely; that he is not seeking absolute freedom, or, necessarily, even particular freedoms. He should remember that, for his own sake, even bondage— ‘e.g. the gently but irresistibly commanding look of your loved one’ — may be more desirable.

 

You gladly let freedom go when unfreedom, the ‘sweet service of love,’ suits you; and you take up your freedom again on occasion when it begins to suit you better . . . Therefore turn to yourselves rather than to your gods or idols. Bring out from yourselves what is in you, bring it to the light, bring yourselves to revelation.

 

For in contrast to the self-contempt bred into us by ‘parsons, parents, and good men,’ — those ‘true seducers and corrupters of youth’ — who saw to it that we are ‘terrified at ourselves in our nakedness and naturalness,’ and who have left us selfdegraded, ‘so that we deem ourselves depraved by nature, born devils,’ ownness calls us to self-enjoyment, to self-realization. ‘Over the portal of our time stands not that “Know thyself” of Apollo, but a “Get the value out of thyself.”’

 

This exhortation to action does not imply a feeling of omnipotence on Stirner’s part; repeatedly, he makes it clear that the transitory egoist is not necessarily able to realize himself, but that the emphasis is the important thing. Still, liberty is only relative, and each individual — egoist — has his limitations: That a society . . . diminishes my liberty offends me little. Why, I have to let my liberty be limited by all sorts of powers and by every one who is stronger; nay, by every fellow-man . . . But ownness I will not have taken from me. And ownness is precisely what every society has designs on, precisely what is to succumb to its power.

 

Consequently my relation to the world is this: I no longer do anything for it ‘for God’s sake,’ I do nothing ‘for man’s sake,’ but what I do I do ‘for my sake.’

 

 

 

 

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