TYRANNY OF ALTRUISM

OPERATIONAL ETHICSZ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In contradistinction to those fanatics who love ‘man,’ the abstraction, but who torture individual men in order to win converts to their several faiths, Stirner exposes the hidden hate in the tyranny of ‘altruism.’

‘Love’ and ‘egoism’ are to him many-valued terms, their degrees of intensity being implicit in the context in which they are used. To love ‘with the consciousness of egoism’ is to have a ‘fellow-feeling’ with all men. Thus Stirner’s individualism contains a strong social sense.

He presents a world viewpoint which, by eliminating fanatical identifications of the self with racial, national, religious and class groups, serves universally human ends. He advocates a Union of Egoists made up of individuals with the property of ‘ownness,’ and therefore an organization which is the ‘property’ of its members, rather than an Over-State before which all are to bow and scrape.

Utopian, like all ‘good societies,’ Stirner’s ‘Union’ is rather vaguely outlined, and was probably dwelt upon at all only to show the logical outcome of ‘ownness,’ if universally applied. Stirner himself obviously felt that Union Now was unobtainable, and unnecessary for him personally. But even while dismissing it as visionary, he pointed out that his Union, too, was entirely conditional, and subject to constant revision or eventual abandonment, if unsatisfactory. Even so, it was no more visionary than to imagine a society of ‘extensional’ individuals who automatically solve all their problems through the semantic application of their ‘genius.’

 

Despite the social and cultural limitations of his age, despite language difficulties, Stirner makes his position clear enough. That he sometimes uses elementalistic terms should not disenchant us so much as delight us that he used so few, and never at the serious expense of his ‘whole man’ formulations. If, as an enemy of abstractionism, he was overzealous in attacking institutions, his repeatedqualifications indicate that his excesses were usually deliberate. His emphasis on ‘egoism’ may be repugnant to many, and they in particular should remember that neither the English word nor its usual meanings conform to Stirner’s Einzige, a unique but not superior individual. Toward the end of his book, Stirner applies his own test to the word, ‘egoist,’ and declares it to be nothing ‘more than a piece of nonsense.’

 

The egoist, before whom the humane shudder, is a spook as much as the devil is: he exists only as a bogie and phantasm in their brain. If they were not unsophisticatedly drifting back and forth in the antediluvian opposition of good and evil, to which they have given the modern names ‘human’ and ‘egoistic,’ they would not have freshened up the hoary ‘sinner’ into ‘egoist’ either, and put a new patch on an old garment.

 

 

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