Algo de historia filosófica sobre los dos egoistas hostiles a la modernidad y el apestoso humanismo.
MAX STIRNER AND FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE
Stirner remains a marginal figure in contemporary philosophy and social thought, despite his significant influence on theorists such as Benjamin Tucker, James L. Walker, Dora Marsden, and the writers and activists associated with Liberty and The Egoist. As far as contemporary scholarship is concerned, the work of Saul Newman and Bernd Laska are scholarly efforts to establish Stirner’s relevance to contemporary thought and the critique of modernity. Newman appreciates Stirner as a precursor of the development of “poststructuralist anarchism” and the “politics of postanarchism.” Newman believes that Stirner is a forerunner to postmodernist and postructuralist thinkers such as Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, and Jacques Lacan. Laska is most concerned about the lack of appreciation for Stirner’s work. He is also interested in the strands of Stirner’s thought that he believes appear in the writings of Dora Marsden and Friedrich Nietzsche. Much of Laska’s work is oriented toward the discovery of “evidence” that Stirner influenced Nietzsche.
Contemporary perspectives on the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche are considerably different from those of Stirner. Like Stirner, Nietzsche made individualism a central notion in his philosophy, creating a different form of rebellion against the collectivizing and homogenizing forces of modernity. Unlike Stirner, Nietzsche is a very well known thinker who attracts considerable interest within the academy and popular culture. Along with the Russian American novelist and political philosopher Ayn Rand, Nietzsche is the best known proponent of an individualist critique of modernity. Nietzsche is one of the most preeminent philosophers in the scholarship on philosophy in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The research literature on him is vast. There are several scholarly journals and professional associations in Europe and America that are devoted to the analysis of his thought. Many contemporary academics in Europe and America value Nietzsche’s individualism as an important source of the critiques of modernity.
Nietzsche was born in 1844, the same year The Ego and Its Own was first published. His father and grandfather were Lutheran clergymen. In 1864 he entered Bonn University to study theology and classical philology. He dropped theology a year later, as he transferred to Leipzig University. Soon thereafter Nietzsche discovered the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer and was greatly influenced by his atheism and subjectivism. In 1868 Nietzsche met the other great influence on his early intellectual development, the composer Richard Wagner. The next year he was appointed professor of classical philology at Basel University in Switzerland and began a series of visits to the home of Richard Wagner on Lake Lucerne. He volunteered as a medical officer during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, but was quickly discharged after contracting dysentery and diphtheria. He published his first book, The Birth of Tragedy Out of the Spirit of Music, in 1872. This was followed in 1873 with the publication of the first in a series of Untimely Meditations on David Strauss, Schopenhauer, and Wagner. He broke off his friendship with Wagner in 1876 and published his initial criticism of the composer in Richard Wagner in Bayreuth in 1877. In 1883 he published his masterpiece, Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for Everyone and Nobody, which develops the notion of the overhuman. This was followed in 1886 by Beyond Good and Evil, in 1887 by On the Genealogy of Morals, and in 1888 by a frenzy of publishing that included Twilight of the Idols, The Antichrist, and Ecce Homo. In 1889 he suffered a mental breakdown that effectively ended his career as a scholar and writer. He died in 1900. Some of his unpublished writings and notes were published posthumously as The Will to Power.
Beginning with the publication of The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music, which appeared twenty-eight years after The Ego and Its Own, critics saw some striking similarities between Stirner and Nietzsche. Both were critical of collectivism, the state, morality, Christianity, humanism, and socialism. In the foreword to The Antichrist, Nietzsche introduces his assault on Christianity with a battle cry that could have been written by Stirner: “Reverence for oneself; love for oneself; unconditional freedom with respect to oneself.” Nietzsche was a very wellread scholar, an observation that has prompted egoists and anarchists to suggest that he would have known about The Ego and Its Own and possibly influenced by it.
Did Stirner’s writings have any influence on Nietzsche? Is there any evidence that Nietzsche owes an intellectual debt to Stirner? Are there significant similarities in the thought of the two individualist thinkers? This chapter explores the intellectual relationship, including the similarities and differences, between Stirner and Nietzsche. The chapter argues that, while it seems curious, it highly unlikely that Stirner had a significant influence on Nietzsche. Despite surface similarities that include a critique of modernity based on individualism, the differences in the philosophies of the two individualists are too great to comprise any sort of significant relationship.
The question of whether Nietzsche was influenced by Stirner has a long and interesting history. Part of the reason why there is interest in an intellectual “relationship,” is the suspicion that Stirner and Nietzsche argue for a similar type of egoism. Some anarchists and egoists were adamant about the similarity during the “Stirner revival” at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. From the 1890s to the first couple of decades in the twentieth century, interest in Nietzsche’s work expanded in Europe, Great Britain, and America. The attention Nietzsche received in the 1880s and 1890s sparked a renewed interest in Stirner among radical individualists, part of which included the search for points of convergence in the two philosophies. Tucker’s Liberty, for example, not only introduced English-speaking individualists to the work of Stirner, it also provided the first English translations and discussions of Nietzsche in America. Tucker himself argued that his readers should appropriate ideas from Nietzsche that help make the case for anarchism and egoism, such as Nietzsche’s critique of Christianity and the state. Journals such as Egoism, The Egoist, and The Eagle and the Serpent included enthusiastic commentary about both Nietzsche and Stirner. The title of the last of these journals is a clear reference to the hero’s two animal companions in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Stirner’s writings had been neglected, and were largely unknown, until James L. Walker and George Schumm began discussing them in the 1880s in Egoism and Liberty. Stirner’s primary work was not broadly available to English-speaking audiences until 1907. At the end of the nineteenth century, neither Stirner nor Nietzsche were well-understood in the United States nor in Great Britain, except by a few scholars, as well as anarchist, atheist, and egoist intellectuals. What mattered to the individualist anarchists and egoists in fin de siècle Europe and America was the excitement that accompanied the discovery that both philosophers articulated an individualist opposition to modernity, the state, and the emergent form of monopoly capitalism. Nietzsche and Stirner espoused atheism and egoism. Both attacked capitalism and socialism. Both philosophers resisted the dispossession and downward leveling of persons that egoists and anarchists thought inherent in modernity.
James L. Walker and Georg Simmel were among the few voices in this period who acknowledged the important differences between Stirner and Nietzsche. They cast doubt on the notion that Nietzsche’s thought supported anarchism or the type of egoism that Stirner espoused. Walker said that Stirner articulated the notion of a self-liberated individual, free from law, morality, and ideological control. Stirner worked within the dialectical tradition to complete Hegel’s assault on alienation. Stirner adopted a type of Hegelian view of history in which Christianity and the French Revolution are cited as critical events in the rise of modernity. Both events generated new forms of direct and ideological control. Simmel argued that Stirner eschewed the reverence for nobility that Nietzsche promoted. Stirner was a tough-minded realist, an antihumanist, and a critical thinker who outlined a philosophic and historical foundation for individual opposition to all forms of external control and measurement of the unique individual. His notion of the unique one is open to any and all who are willing to “own” their thoughts and behavior, to appropriate and consume their life for their own self-enjoyment. He despised hierarchy and objected to the treatment of laborers, children, and women. He cultivated an attitude of opposition to the rich and powerful. In contrast, Nietzsche was a humanist, poet, novelist, musician, and artist. He looked to the past for inspiration for the future; he despised Christianity as decadent and urged a renaissance of ancient Greek ideals. Nietzsche argued that systematizers and dialecticians like Hegel lack integrity. Unlike Stirner, Nietzsche approved of Feuerbach’s critique of Christianity because of its humanism. Nietzsche espoused not freedom and self-ownership, but duty, harshness, creativity, and sincerity. Unlike Stirner, he was a philosopher of elitism and nobility who sought the evolution of a spiritual ideal that would transcend human weakness and mediocrity.
THE CONTROVERSY OVER STIRNER’S INFLUENCE
The broad interest in egoism and the notion of the “superman” in modernist literature and criticism in the early 1900s encouraged interest in, and conflated the thought of, otherwise divergent “individualist” writers and philosophers. Perhaps the most noteworthy of the efforts to equate “egoists” and “supermen” was James Huneker’s study of Stendhal, Baudelaire, Flaubert, Ibsen, Nietzsche, and Stirner, entitled Egoists, A Book of Supermen. Huneker was an American music critic who was best known for his study of Chopin. He was also proficient in the study of literature and the arts. He was one of the first to analyze and comment on Ibsen, Wagner, Nietzsche, and Stirner in English. He published a lengthy analysis of Stirner in the New York Times in April 1907, soon after Byington’s translation of The Ego and Its Own appeared. This early essay eventually stirred a discussion on the paper’s editorial page in 1909 and became Huneker’s chapter on Stirner in Egoists. The 1907 article clearly states Huneker’s surprise at learning that Nietzsche, the poet and rhapsodist, had a forerunner in Stirner. Noting the stylistic differences, and Walker’s early admonition against any equation of Stirner and Nietzsche, Huneker nevertheless makes the first case in English, in the New York Times no less, for a relationship between the “prophet of egoism” and the “poet of egoism.” Huneker’s article on Stirner and his book on egoists cemented the idea in public discourse in America and Great Britain that Nietzsche was influenced by Stirner. Huneker reports that in the 1890s he began to understand “that Nietzsche used Stirner as a springboard, a point of departure.” It is in the chapter on Nietzsche in Egoists where Huneker is most direct about Nietzsche’s debt to Stirner. According to Huneker, Nietzsche was a philosopher who lacked “originality” and “was not one of the world’s great men.” His work has “the familiar ring of Max Stirner and his doctrine of the ego.” Moreover, Stirner must have “imitated Nietzsche in advance” and the “dyed-in-the-wool Nietzscheans” never acknowledge that their “master had read and digested Max Stirner’s anarchistic work, The Ego and Its Own.”
Although it had little effect on the reception of either Nietzsche or Stirner in Great Britain and America, the question about the relationship appeared initially two decades earlier in Germany just as Nietzsche’s writings were gaining renown. The arguments in favor of Stirner’s influence on Nietzsche were typically based on hearsay and circumstantial evidence. In 1889, Eduard von Hartmann, the author of The Philosophy of the Unconscious (1869), which discusses Stirner’s ideas, publicly accused Nietzsche of plagiarizing Stirner. Hartmann’s accusation was taken as significant evidence of Stirner’s influence because Nietzsche had written a hostile review of Hartmann’s book in the second of his Untimely Meditations. Hartmann argues that Nietzsche must have known about Stirner since Nietzsche knew The Philosophy of the Unconscious intimately and focused his critique on the chapter that discusses Stirner. A similar accusation arose earlier in Nietzsche’s career that he must have known about The Ego and Its Own because it is discussed in Friedrich A. Lange’s 1866 book, The History of Materialism, another intellectual history that Nietzsche devoured in his youth. Lange’s survey of materialist thought is the same book that inspired John Henry Mackay to learn the facts of Stirner’s life and thought.
Some of Nietzsche’s friends also claimed that he knew about Stirner and, at a minimum, felt some affinity with the dialectical egoist. Nietzsche spent some time living with Franz and Ida Overbeck at different points during 1880–1883. After Nietzsche’s death, Franz Overbeck confirmed the claim of Adolf Baumgartner, reportedly Nietzsche’s favorite student, that he borrowed The Ego and Its Own from the Basel University library on July 14, 1874, “on Nietzsche’s warmest recommendations.” Ida Overbeck also reported that Nietzsche once mentioned his appreciation of Stirner, but then retracted his statement fearing another accusation of plagiarism. “Forget it,” he told her. “I did not want to mention it at all.” Further, there is circumstantial evidence that Nietzsche may have discussed Stirner with his early mentor, Richard Wagner, who was certainly familiar with Stirner and knew the anarchist Michael Bakunin very well. Nietzsche was also friends with the conductor Hans von Bulow, Cosima Wagner’s first husband. Bulow was a great admirer of Stirner, probably knew him personally, and even worked with John Henry Mackay to place a memorial plaque at Stirner’s last residence in Berlin. Nietzsche and von Bulow held long conversations in Basel in 1872, exchanged gifts, and were friendly at least until 1889. The suggestion is that Nietzsche learned about Stirner from one of his strongest supporters in the arts. There is also some newer research on the “relationship” between Stirner and Nietzsche that argues that Eduard Mushacke, the father of one of Nietzsche’s school friends, had been a close friend of Stirner. Nietzsche apparently developed a friendship with the “old Mushacke.” The conversations between the two reportedly generated Nietzsche’s “initial crisis” that led to his study of Arthur Schopenhauer and, presumably, an individualist turn informed by, or inspired by, Stirner. Continue reading (en) Two Who Made an Insurrection: Stirner, Nietzsche, and the Revolt against Modernity