The Ego and Its Own

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The Ego and Its Own (German: Der Einzige und sein Eigentum; also translated as The Individual and His Property; a literal translation would read The Sole One and His Property) is a philosophical work by German philosopher Max Stirner (1806-1856). This work was first published in 1845, although with a stated publication date of "1844" to confuse the Prussian censors.



The work states the individual is dominated by illusory concepts ('fixed ideas' or 'spooks'), which can be shaken and undermined by each individual in order for that person to act fully. These concepts include primarily religion and ideology, and the institutions claiming authority over the individual. According to him, not only is God an alienating ideal, as Feuerbach had argued in The Essence of Christianity (1841), but so too are humanity itself, nationalism and all such ideologies. According to Stirner, individuals should only entertain temporary associations between themselves, agreeing in mutual aid and cooperation for a period of time, but only when in each individual's interest (perhaps anticipating cooperative games):

In the time of spirits thoughts grew till they overtopped my head, whose offspring they yet were; they hovered about me and convulsed me like fever-phantasies -- an awful power. The thoughts had become corporeal on their own account, were ghosts, e. g. God, Emperor, Pope, Fatherland, etc. If I destroy their corporeity, then I take them back into mine, and say: "I alone am corporeal." And now I take the world as what it is to me, as mine, as my property; I refer all to myself.

—Stirner, Max, The Ego and Its Own, p. 15


Stirner asserted his own "doctrine" of self-interest to be a universal truth or established viewpoint, and likens his book to a ladder you throw away after climbing, a sort of self-therapy.[1]

Do I write out of love to men? No, I write because I want to procure for my thoughts an existence in the world; and, even if I foresaw that these thoughts would deprive you of your rest and your peace, even if I saw the bloodiest wars and the fall of many generations springing up from this seed of thought — I would nevertheless scatter it. Do with it what you will and can, that is your affair and does not trouble me. You will perhaps have only trouble, combat, and death from it, very few will draw joy from it.

If your weal lay at my heart, I should act as the church did in withholding the Bible from the laity, or Christian governments, which make it a sacred duty for themselves to 'protect the common people from bad books'. But not only not for your sake, not even for truth's sake either do I speak out what I think. No —

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