THE FICTION OF ALTRUISM

FICTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since Stirner rejects ‘altruism,’ as non-existent except as a high-order abstraction, all individuals are by his formulation self-motivated or ‘egoistical.’ And he recognises two kinds of egoists:14 the ‘transitory’ and the ‘involuntary.’

 

The transitory egoist is our unique, ‘extensional’1844 individual, again, but with the further property of being in process, flux, and conscious of that fact. While the involuntary egoist is a fanatical, ‘possessed’ man, whose ‘intensional’ 1844 thinking has filled his head with high-order abstractions as absolutes: ‘He who cannot get rid of a thought is so far only man, is a thrall of language, this human institution, this treasury of human thoughts.

 

Language or “the word” tyrannizes hardest over us, because it brings up against us a whole army of fixed ideas.’ (462) Besides ‘fixed ideas,’ Stirner calls these abstractions ‘spooks’ and ‘ghostly ideas,’ the unconditional belief in which makes the involuntary egoist a ‘lunatic’:

 

Man, your head is haunted; you have wheels in your head! . . .

Do not think that I am jesting or speaking figuratively when I regard those

persons who cling to the Higher, and (because the vast majority belongs

under this head) almost the whole world of men, as veritable fools, fools in

a madhouse. What is it, then, that is called a ‘fixed idea’? An idea that has

subjected the man to itself.

 

A fixed idea is also a ‘standpoint’ outside reality, like the one from which Archimedes said he could move the earth. ‘This foreign standpoint is the world of mind, of ideas, thoughts, concepts, essences, etc.; it is heaven.’

 

This ‘spiritual’ life, ‘this life turned away from things,’ is not ‘life’ at all; it is thinking, by which Stirner meant intensional1844 thinking. ‘Now nothing but mind rules in the world.

 

An innumerable multitude of concepts buzz about in peoples heads . . . ’  Fixed ideas are represented by the ‘dignified’ words of our culture, behind which lurk ‘prolific misunderstandings.’ As sacred ideas, as absolutes before which the individual is ‘powerless and humble,’ God, Man, State, Nation, Family, Reason, Truth, etc., must be sought out and exposed for what they are — high-order abstractions for which there are no self-evident operational tests. ‘As long as there still exists even one institution which the individual may not dissolve, the ownness and self-appurtenance of Me is still remote.’

 

For, continues Stirner, ‘no thing is sacred of itself, but by my declaring it sacred, by my declaration, my judgment, my bending the knee; in short, by my — conscience’ Not that we have no use for thoughts, formulations, ‘mind,’ etc.: ‘We are indeed to have mind, but mind is not to have us.’  Because possessed men are dangerous men:

 

‘Touch the fixed idea of such a fool, and you will at once have to guard your back against the lunatic’s stealthy malice.’

 

 

 

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