Larry Schiereck, Svein Olav Nyberg, and Daniel T. Davis
This transcription is a copy intended for electronic reading. Page numbering etc are not consistent to that of the original text. This electronic edition was created by Linus Walleij the year 2001, for supporting electronic books, PDF file generation and the like, to serve the casual reader. For this reason, and others, there is no index available in this version. The scientifically intresested are recommended to consult the HTML version originally created by Schiereck, Nyberg and Davis.
Copyright, 1907, by
BENJAMIN R. TUCKER
TO MY SWEETHEART
For more than twenty years I have entertained the design of publishing an English translation of "Der Einzige und Sein Eigentum." When I formed this design, the number of English-speaking persons who had ever heard of the book was very limited. The memory of Max Stirner had been virtually extinct for an entire generation. But in the last two decades there has been a remarkable revival of interest both in the book and in its author. It began in this country with a discussion in the pages of the Anarchist periodical, "Liberty," in which Stirner's thought was clearly expounded and vigorously championed by Dr. James L. Walker, who adopted for this discussion the pseudonym "Tak Kak." At that time Dr. Walker was the chief editorial writer for the Galveston "News." Some years later he became a practicing physician in Mexico, where he died in 1904. A series of essays which he began in an Anarchist periodical, "Egoism," and which he lived to complete, was published after his death in a small volume, "The Philosophy of Egoism." It is a very able and convincing exposition of Stirner's teachings, and almost the only one that exists in the English language. But the chief instrument in the revival of Stirnerism was and is the German poet, John Henry Mackay. Very early in his career he met Stirner's name in Lange's "History of Materialism," and was moved thereby to read his book. The work made such an impression on him that he resolved to devote a portion of his life to the rediscovery and rehabilitation of the lost and forgotten genius. Through years of toil and correspondence and travel, and triumphing over tremendous obstacles, he carried his task to completion, and his biography of Stirner appeared in Berlin in 1898. It is a tribute to the thoroughness of Mackay's work that since its publication not one important fact about Stirner has been discovered by anybody. During his years of investigation Mackay's advertising for information had created a new interest in Stirner, which was enhanced by the sudden fame of the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche, an author whose intellectual kinship with Stirner has been a subject of much controversy. "Der Einzige," previously obtainable only in an expensive form, was included in Philipp Reclam's Universal-Bibliothek, and this cheap edition has enjoyed a wide and ever-increasing circulation. During the last dozen years the book has been translated twice into French, once into Italian, once into Russian, and possibly into other languages. The Scandinavian critic, Brandes, has written on Stirner. A large and appreciative volume, entitled "L'Individualisme Anarchiste: Max Stirner," from the pen of Prof Victor Basch, of the University of Rennes, has appeared in Paris. Another large and sympathetic volume, "Max Stirner," written by Dr. Anselm Ruest, has been published very recently in Berlin. Dr. Paul Eltzbacher, in his work, "Der Anarchismus," gives a chapter to Stirner, making him one of the seven typical Anarchists, beginning with William Godwin and ending with Tolstoi, of whom his book treats. There is hardly a notable magazine or a review on the Continent that has not given at least one leading article to the subject of Stirner. Upon the initiative of Mackay and with the aid of other admirers a suitable stone has been placed above the philosopher's previously neglected grave, and a memorial tablet upon the house in Berlin where he died in 1856; and this spring another is to be placed upon the house in Bayreuth where he was born in 1806. As a result of these various efforts, and though but little has been written about Stirner in the English language, his name is now known at least to thousands in America and England where formerly it was known only to hundreds.
Therefore conditions are now more favorable for the reception of this volume than they were when I formed the design of publishing it, more than twenty years ago.
The problem of securing a reasonably good translation (for in the case of a work presenting difficulties so enormous it was idle to hope for an adequate translation) was finally solved by entrusting the task to Steven T. Byington, a scholar of remarkable attainments, whose specialty is philology, and who is also one of the ablest workers in the propaganda of Anarchism. But, for further security from error, it was agreed with Mr. Byington that his translation should have the benefit of revision by Dr. Walker, the most thorough American student of Stirner, and by Emma Heller Schumm and George Schumm, who are not only sympathetic with Stirner, but familiar with the history of his time, and who enjoy a knowledge of English and German that makes it difficult to decide which is their native tongue. It was also agreed that, upon any point of difference between the translator and his revisers which consultation might fail to solve, the publisher should decide. This method has been followed, and in a considerable number of instances it has fallen to me to make a decision. It is only fair to say, therefore, that the responsibility for special errors and imperfections properly rests on my shoulders, whereas, on the other hand, the credit for whatever general excellence the translation may possess belongs with the same propriety to Mr. Byington and his coadjutors. One thing is certain: its defects are due to no lack of loving care and pains. And I think I may add with confidence, while realizing fully how far short of perfection it necessarily falls, that it may safely challenge comparison with the translations that have been made into other languages.
In particular, I am responsible for the admittedly erroneous rendering of the title. "The Ego and His Own" is not an exact English equivalent of "Der Einzige und Sein Eigentum." But then, there is no exact English equivalent. Perhaps the nearest is "The Unique One and His Property." But the unique one is not strictly the Einzige, for uniqueness connotes not only singleness but an admirable singleness, while Stirner's Einzigkeit is admirable in his eyes only as such, it being no part of the purpose of his book to distinguish a particular Einzigkeit as more excellent than another. Moreover, "The Unique One and His Property " has no graces to compel our forgiveness of its slight inaccuracy. It is clumsy and unattractive. And the same objections may be urged with still greater force against all the other renderings that have been suggested, -- "The Single One and His Property," "The Only One and His Property," "The Lone One and His Property," "The Unit and His Property," and, last and least and worst, "The Individual and His Prerogative." " The Ego and His Own," on the other hand, if not a precise rendering, is at least an excellent title in itself; excellent by its euphony, its monosyllabic incisiveness, and its telling -- Einzigkeit. Another strong argument in its favor is the emphatic correspondence of the phrase "his own" with Mr. Byington's renderings of the kindred words, Eigenheit and Eigner. Moreover, no reader will be led astray who bears in mind Stirner's distinction: "I am not an ego along with other egos, but the sole ego; I am unique." And, to help the reader to bear this in mind, the various renderings of the word Einzige that occur through the volume are often accompanied by foot-notes showing that, in the German, one and the same word does duty for all.
If the reader finds the first quarter of this book somewhat forbidding and obscure, he is advised nevertheless not to falter. Close attention will master almost every difficulty, and, if he will but give it, he will find abundant reward in what follows. For his guidance I may specify one defect in the author's style. When controverting a view opposite to his own, he seldom distinguishes with sufficient clearness his statement of his own view from his re-statement of the antagonistic view. As a result, the reader is plunged into deeper and deeper mystification, until something suddenly reveals the cause of his misunderstanding, after which he must go back and read again. I therefore put him on his guard. The other difficulties lie, as a rule, in the structure of the work. As to these I can hardly do better than translate the following passage from Prof. Basch's book, alluded to above: "There is nothing more disconcerting than the first approach to this strange work. Stirner does not condescend to inform us as to the architecture of his edifice, or furnish us the slightest guiding thread. The apparent divisions of the book are few and misleading. From the first page to the last a unique thought circulates, but it divides itself among an infinity of vessels and arteries in each of which runs a blood so rich in ferments that one is tempted to describe them all. There is no progress in the development, and the repetitions are innumerable... The reader who is not deterred by this oddity, or rather absence, of composition gives proof of genuine intellectual courage. At first one seems to be confronted with a collection of essays strung together, with a throng of aphorisms... But, if you read this book several times; if, after having penetrated the intimacy of each of its parts, you then traverse it as a whole, -- gradually the fragments weld themselves together, and Stirner's thought is revealed in all its unity, in all its force, and in all its depth."
A word about the dedication. Mackay's investigations have brought to light that Marie Dähnhardt had nothing whatever in common with Stirner, and so was unworthy of the honor conferred upon her. She was no Eigene. I therefore reproduce the dedication merely in the interest of historical accuracy.
Happy as I am in the appearance of this book, my joy is not unmixed with sorrow. The cherished project was as dear to the heart of Dr. Walker as to mine, and I deeply grieve that he is no longer with us to share our delight in the fruition. Nothing, however, can rob us of the masterly introduction that he wrote for this volume (in 1903, or perhaps earlier), from which I will not longer keep the reader. This introduction, no more than the book itself, shall that Einzige, Death, make his Eigentum.
B. R. T.
Fifty years sooner or later can make little difference in the; case of a book so revolutionary as this. It saw the light when a so-called revolutionary movement was preparing in men's minds which agitation was, however, only a disturbance due to desires to participate in government, and to govern and to be governed, in a manner different to that which prevails. The "revolutionists" of 1848 were bewitched with an idea. They were not at all the masters of ideas. Most of those who since that time have prided themselves upon being revolutionists have been and are likewise but the bondmen of an idea, -- that of the different lodgment of authority.
The temptation is, of course, present to attempt an explanation of the central thought of this work; but such an effort appears to be unnecessary to one who has the volume in his hand. The author's care in illustrating his meaning shows that he realized how prone the possessed man is to misunderstand whatever is not moulded according to the fashions in thinking. The author's learning was considerable, his command of words and ideas may never be excelled by another, and he judged it needful to develop his argument in manifold ways. So those who enter into the spirit of it will scarcely hope to impress others with the same conclusion in a more summary manner. Or, if one might deem that possible after reading Stirner, still one cannot think that it could be done so surely. The author has made certain work of it, even though he has to wait for his public; but still, the reception of the book by its critics amply proves the truth of the saying that one can give another arguments, but not understanding. The system-makers and system-believers thus far cannot get it out of their heads that any discourse about the nature of an ego must turn upon the common characteristics of egos, to make a systematic scheme of what they share as a generality. The critics inquire what kind of man the author is talking about. They repeat the question: What does he believe in? They fail to grasp the purport of the recorded answer: "I believe in myself"; which is attributed to a common soldier long before the time of Stirner. They ask, what is the principle of the self-conscious egoist, the Einzige? To this perplexity Stirner says: Change the question; put "who?" instead of "what?" and an answer can then be given by naming him!
This, of course, is too simple for persons governed by ideas, and for persons in quest of new governing ideas. They wish to classify the man. Now, that in me which you can classify is not my distinguishing self. "Man" is the horizon or zero of my existence as an individual. Over that I rise as I can. At least I am something more than "man in general." Pre-existing worship of ideals and disrespect for self had made of the ego at the very most a Somebody, oftener an empty vessel to be filled with the grace or the leavings of a tyrannous doctrine; thus a Nobody. Stirner dispels the morbid subjection, and recognizes each one who knows and feels himself as his own property to be neither humble Nobody nor befogged Somebody, but henceforth flat-footed and level-headed Mr. Thisbody, who has a character and good pleasure of his own, just as he has a name of his own. The critics who attacked this work and were answered in the author's minor writings, rescued from oblivion by John Henry Mackay, nearly all display the most astonishing triviality and impotent malice.
We owe to Dr. Eduard von Hartmann the unquestionable service which he rendered by directing attention to this book in his "Philosophie des Unbewußten," the first edition of which was published in 1869, and in other writings. I do not begrudge Dr. von Hartmann the liberty of criticism which he used; and I think the admirers of Stirner's teaching must quite appreciate one thing which Von Hartmann did at a much later date. In "Der Eigene" of August 10, 1896, there appeared a letter written by him and giving, among other things, certain data from which to judge that, when Friedrich Nietzsche wrote his later essays, Nietzsche was not ignorant of Stirner's book.
Von Hartmann wishes that Stirner had gone on and developed his principle. Von Hartmann suggests that you and I are really the same spirit, looking out through two pairs of eyes. Then, one may reply, I need not concern myself about you, for in myself I have -- us; and at that rate Von Hartmann is merely accusing himself of inconsistency: for, when Stirner wrote this book, Von Hartmann's spirit was writing it; and it is just the pity that Von Hartmann in his present form does not indorse what he said in the form of Stirner, -- that Stirner was different from any other man; that his ego was not Fichte's transcendental generality, but "this transitory ego of flesh and blood." It is not as a generality that you and I differ, but as a couple of facts which are not to be reasoned into one. "I" is somewise Hartmann, and thus Hartmann is "I"; but I am not Hartmann, and Hartmann is not -- I. Neither am I the "I" of Stirner; only Stirner himself was Stirner's "I." Note how comparatively indifferent a matter it is with Stirner that one is an ego, but how all-important it is that one be a self-conscious ego, -- a self-conscious, self-willed person.
Those not self-conscious and self-willed are constantly acting from self-interested motives, but clothing these in various garbs. Watch those people closely in the light of Stirner's teaching, and they seem to be hypocrites, they have so many good moral and religious plans of which self-interest is at the end and bottom; but they, we may believe, do not know that this is more than a coincidence.
In Stirner we have the philosophical foundation for political liberty. His interest in the practical development of egoism to the dissolution of the State and the union of free men is clear and pronounced, and harmonizes perfectly with the economic philosophy of Josiah Warren. Allowing for difference of temperament and language, there is a substantial agreement between Stirner and Proudhon. Each would be free, and sees in every increase of the number of free people and their intelligence an auxiliary force against the oppressor. But, on the other hand, will any one for a moment seriously contend that Nietzsche and Proudhon march together in general aim and tendency, -- that they have anything in common except the daring to profane the shrine and sepulchre of superstition?
Nietzsche has been much spoken of as a disciple of Stirner, and, owing to favorable cullings from Nietzsche's writings, it has occurred that one of his books has been supposed to contain more sense than it really does -- so long as one had read only the extracts.
Nietzsche cites scores or hundreds of authors. Had he read everything, and not read Stirner?
But Nietzsche is as unlike Stirner as a tight-rope performance is unlike an algebraic equation.
Stirner loved liberty for himself, and loved to see any and all men and women taking liberty, and he had no lust of power. Democracy to him was sham liberty, egoism the genuine liberty.
Nietzsche, on the contrary, pours out his contempt upon democracy because it is not aristocratic. He is predatory to the point of demanding that those who must succumb to feline rapacity shall be taught to submit with resignation. When he speaks of "Anarchistic dogs" scouring the streets of great civilized cities; it is true, the context shows that he means the Communists; but his worship of Napoleon, his bathos of anxiety for the rise of an aristocracy that shall rule Europe for thousands of years, his idea of treating women in the oriental fashion, show that Nietzsche has struck out in a very old path -- doing the apotheosis of tyranny. We individual egoistic Anarchists, however, may say to the Nietzsche school, so as not to be misunderstood: We do not ask of the Napoleons to have pity, nor of the predatory barons to do justice. They will find it convenient for their own welfare to make terms with men who have learned of Stirner what a man can be who worships nothing, bears allegiance to nothing. To Nietzsche's rhodomontade of eagles in baronial form, born to prey on industrial lambs, we rather tauntingly oppose the ironical question: Where are your claws? What if the "eagles" are found to be plain barn-yard fowls on which more silly fowls have fastened steel spurs to hack the victims, who, however, have the power to disarm the sham "eagles" between two suns? Stirner shows that men make their tyrants as they make their gods, and his purpose is to unmake tyrants.
Nietzsche dearly loves a tyrant.
In style Stirner's work offers the greatest possible contrast to the puerile, padded phraseology of Nietzsche's "Zarathustra" and its false imagery. Who ever imagined such an unnatural conjuncture as an eagle "toting" a serpent in friendship? which performance is told of in bare words, but nothing comes of it. In Stirner we are treated to an enlivening and earnest discussion addressed to serious minds, and every reader feels that the word is to him, for his instruction and benefit, so far as he has mental independence and courage to take it and use it. The startling intrepidity of this book is infused with a whole-hearted love for all mankind, as evidenced by the fact that the author shows not one iota of prejudice or any idea of division of men into ranks. He would lay aside government, but would establish any regulation deemed convenient, and for this only our convenience in consulted. Thus there will be general liberty only when the disposition toward tyranny is met by intelligent opposition that will no longer submit to such a rule. Beyond this the manly sympathy and philosophical bent of Stirner are such that rulership appears by contrast a vanity, an infatuation of perverted pride. We know not whether we more admire our author or more love him.
Stirner's attitude toward woman is not special. She is an individual if she can be, not handicapped by anything he says, feels, thinks, or plans. This was more fully exemplified in his life than even in this book; but there is not a line in the book to put or keep woman in an inferior position to man, neither is there anything of caste or aristocracy in the book. Likewise there is nothing of obscurantism or affected mysticism about it. Everything in it is made as plain as the author could make it. He who does not so is not Stirner's disciple nor successor nor co-worker. Some one may ask: How does plumb-line Anarchism train with the unbridled egoism proclaimed by Stirner? The plumb-line is not a fetish, but an intellectual conviction, and egoism is a universal fact of animal life. Nothing could seem clearer to my mind than that the reality of egoism must first come into the consciousness of men, before we can have the unbiased Einzige in place of the prejudiced biped who lends himself to the support of tyrannies a million times stronger over me than the natural self-interest of any individual. When plumb-line doctrine is misconceived as duty between unequal-minded men, -- as a religion of humanity, -- it is indeed the confusion of trying to read without knowing the alphabet and of putting philanthropy in place of contract. But, if the plumb-line be scientific, it is or can be my possession, my property, and I choose it for its use -- when circumstances admit of its use. I do not feel bound to use it because it is scientific, in building my house; but, as my will, to be intelligent, is not to be merely wilful, the adoption of the plumb-line follows the discarding of incantations. There is no plumb-line without the unvarying lead at the end of the line; not a fluttering bird or a clawing cat.
On the practical side of the question of egoism versus self-surrender and for a trial of egoism in politics, this may be said: the belief that men not moved by a sense of duty will be unkind or unjust to others is but an indirect confession that those who hold that belief are greatly interested in having others live for them rather than for themselves. But I do not ask or expect so much.
I am content if others individually live for themselves, and thus cease in so many ways to act in opposition to my living for myself, -- to our living for ourselves.
If Christianity has failed to turn the world from evil, it is not to be dreamed that rationalism of a pious moral stamp will succeed in the same task. Christianity, or all philanthropic love, is tested in non-resistance. It is a dream that example will change the hearts of rulers, tyrants, mobs. If the extremest self-surrender fails, how can a mixture of Christian love and worldly caution succeed? This at least must be given up. The policy of Christ and Tolstoi can soon be tested, but Tolstoi's belief is not satisfied with a present test and failure. He has the infatuation of one who persists because this ought to be. The egoist who thinks "I should like this to be" still has the sense to perceive that it is not accomplished by the fact of some believing and submitting, inasmuch as others are alert to prey upon the unresisting. The Pharaohs we have ever with us.
Several passages in this most remarkable book show the author as a man full of sympathy. When we reflect upon his deliberately expressed opinions and sentiments, -- his spurning of the sense of moral obligation as the last form of superstition, -- may we not be warranted in thinking that the total disappearance of the sentimental supposition of duty liberates a quantity of nervous energy for the purest generosity and clarifies the intellect for the more discriminating choice of objects of merit?