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The ego and his own

Table of Contents

The Ego and His Own by Max Stirner

Review notes

Only the rudeness of human sacrifice has been lost with time; human sacrifice itself has remained unabated, and criminals hourly fall sacrifices to justice, and we "poor sinners" slay our own selves as sacrifices for "the human essence," the "idea of mankind," "humanity," and whatever the idols or gods are called besides.

The book, or the translation at least, is not an easy read. There is rather a lot of repetition. There is no structure. It seems from the footnotes that the German version was full of world-play and alliteration, but it obviously didn't translate very well. Despite this, the fierceness, consistency and clarity of the ideas hold the thing together (precariously).

The central idea of the book is that you ('I', the individual) are unique, that you are not an imperfect 'Man' or 'Christian' or 'Citizen' striving toward some shared ideal. You are a perfect 'I' that must create itself. That nothing is sacred that you do not make it so yourself.

To be a man is not to realise the ideal of Man, but to present oneself, the individual. It is not how I realise the generally human that needs to be my task, but how I satisfy myself. I am my species, am without norm, without law, without model, and the like. It is possible that I can make very little out of myself; but this little is everything, and is better than what I allow to be made out of me by the might of others, by the training of custom, religion, the laws, the State, etc.

He rejects the 'law of love', that all men should sacrifice to some greater power (God, Nation, Mankind, Morality, Family, Democracy, Law). Instead, the egoist acts in their own self interest. These 'higher powers' are spooks, sacred ideas. People sacrifice to those spooks, die for them, they defend them against those who attack them. While the dominant power changes (God/Monarchy/Christianity toward Mankind/Democracy/Morality) the relationship remains the same – the individual subjecting themself to the sacred.

For Stirner, right stems from might. Property stems from might. If you can take the thing, then you have the right to do so (per his definition).

He does not claim that you must. He does not try and justify egoism by attempting to show that it is a moral obligation, like Rand. Clearly the idea that you must act for your own self interest is itself a "spook". His egoist can also engage in behaviours that benefit others. The behaviour would not be a sacrifice however, not something they do out of duty.

But, because I cannot bear the troubled crease on the beloved forehead, for that reason, and therefore for my sake, I kiss it away. If I did not love this person, he might go right on making creases, they would not trouble me; I am only driving away my trouble.

(Of all the sacred ideas, surely utilitarianism is the strictest master.)

I had just fallen back into the clutches of moral nihilism when I started reading this book. Stirner's egoism seemed the natural conclusion of that train of thought. My thinking was already in the right place for this book. The ideas made sense. I can imagine my earlier (possibly also later?) self fighting with the book more.

(It seems that there is a new translation into English of this book, I will probably give that a go in a few months and see if it reads better)


location 98-101 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.

This was mostly fine

location 103-106 "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.

This was an issue. There is a lot of repetition, or what seems like repetition but is not, in some cases. There is little structure.

location 133-136 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!


location 157-160 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.

The 'unthinking' type of person described in Ethics - nihilism

location 170-172 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.

location 217-220 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?

All Things are Nothing to Me

location 274-277 Just observe the nation that is defended by devoted patriots. The patriots fall in bloody battle or in the fight with hunger and want; what does the nation care for that? Joy the manure of their corpses the nation comes to "its bloom!" The individuals have died "for the great cause of the nation," and the nation sends some words of thanks after them and—has the profit of it. I call that a paying kind of egoism.

location 281-282 And will you not learn by these brilliant examples that the egoist gets on best? I for my part take a lesson from them, and propose, instead of further unselfishly serving those great egoists, rather to be the egoist myself.

location 289-290 Away, then, with every concern that is not altogether my concern! You think at least the "good cause" must be my concern? What's good, what's bad? Why, I myself am my concern, and I am neither good nor bad. Neither has meaning for me.

The moral nihilist's natural conclusion

location 289-294 The divine is God's concern; the human, man's. My concern is neither the divine nor the human, not the true, good, just, free, etc., but solely what is mine, and it is not a general one, but is—unique,[5] as I am unique. Nothing is more to me than myself!

Part First - Man


location 310-314 In childhood liberation takes the direction of trying to get to the bottom of things, to get at what is "back of" things; therefore we spy out the weak points of everybody, for which, it is well known, children have a sure instinct; therefore we like to smash things, like to rummage through hidden corners, pry after what is covered up or out of the way, and try what we can do with everything. When we once get at what is back of the things, we know we are safe; when, e. g., we have got at the fact that the rod is too weak against our obduracy, then we no longer fear it, "have outgrown it."

location 341-347 As in childhood one had to overcome the resistance of the laws of the world, so now in everything that he proposes he is met by an objection of the mind, of reason, of his own conscience. "That is unreasonable, unchristian, unpatriotic," and the like, cries conscience to us, and—frightens us away from it. Not the might of the avenging Eumenides, not Poseidon's wrath, not God, far as he sees the hidden, not the father's rod of punishment, do we fear, but—conscience. We "run after our thoughts" now, and follow their commands just as before we followed parental, human ones. Our course of action is determined by our thoughts (ideas, conceptions, faith) as it is in childhood by the commands of our parents.


location 373-377 —but it is in mature years, in the man, that we find it so,—not till then has one a personal or egoistic interest, i. e. an interest not only of our spirit, for instance, but of total satisfaction, satisfaction of the whole chap, a selfish interest. Just compare a man with a youth, and see if he will not appear to you harder, less magnanimous, more selfish. Is he therefore worse? No, you say; he has only become more definite, or, as you also call it, more "practical." But the main point is this, that he makes himself more the centre than does the youth, who is infatuated about other things, e. g. God, fatherland, and so on.



location 531-535 Even the Stoic attitude and manly virtue amounts only to this,—that one must maintain and assert himself against the world; and the ethics of the Stoics (their only science, since they could tell nothing about the spirit but how it should behave toward the world, and of nature [physics] only this, that the wise man must assert himself against it) is not a doctrine of the spirit, but only a doctrine of the repelling of the world and of self-assertion against the world. And this consists in "imperturbability and equanimity of life," and so in the most explicit Roman virtue.


location 603-605 If the ancients have nothing to show but wisdom of the world, the moderns never did nor do make their way further than to theology. We shall see later that even the newest revolts against God are nothing but the extremest efforts of "theology," i. e. theological insurrections.

location 639-643 "What should it profit a man if he gained the whole world and yet suffered damage in his soul?" But, even granted that doubts, raised in the course of time against the tenets of the Christian faith, have long since robbed you of faith in the immortality of your spirit, you have nevertheless left one tenet undisturbed, and still ingenuously adhere to the one truth, that the spirit is your better part, and that the spiritual has greater claims on you than anything else. Despite all your atheism, in zeal against egoism you concur with the believers in immortality.

Here, spirt is mind. Thought not connected to reality.

location 650-654 You despise the egoist because he puts the spiritual in the background as compared with the personal, and has his eyes on himself where you would like to see him act to favor an idea. The distinction between you is that he makes himself the central point, but you the spirit; or that you cut your identity in two and exalt your "proper self," the spirit, to be ruler of the paltrier remainder, while he will hear nothing of this cutting in two, and pursues spiritual and material interests just as he pleases.

location 669-671 Against all that is not spirit you are a zealot, and therefore you play the zealot against yourself who cannot get rid of a remainder of the non-spiritual. Instead of saying, "I am more than spirit," you say with contrition, "I am less than spirit; and spirit, pure spirit, or the spirit that is nothing but spirit, I can only think of, but am not; and, since I am not it, it is another, exists as another, whom I call 'God'."

location 753-760 Sacred things exist only for the egoist who does not acknowledge himself, the involuntary egoist, for him who is always looking after his own and yet does not count himself as the highest being, who serves only himself and at the same time always thinks he is serving a higher being, who knows nothing higher than himself and yet is infatuated about something higher; in short, for the egoist who would like not to be an egoist, and abases himself (i. e. combats his egoism), but at the same time abases himself only for the sake of "being exalted," and therefore of gratifying his egoism. Because he would like to cease to be an egoist, he looks about in heaven and earth for higher beings to serve and sacrifice himself to; but, however much he shakes and disciplines himself, in the end he does all for his own sake, and the disreputable egoism will not come off him. On this account I call him the involuntary egoist.

location 776-780 Atheists keep up their scoffing at the higher being, which was also honored under the name of the "highest" or être suprême, and trample in the dust one "proof of his existence" after another without noticing that they themselves, out of need for a higher being, only annihilate the old to make room for a new. Is "Man" perchance not a higher essence than an individual man, and must not the truths, rights, and ideas which result from the concept of him be honored and—counted sacred, as revelations of this very concept?

location 795-801 It is easily understood that the conflict over what is revered as the highest essence can be significant only so long as even the most embittered opponents concede to each other the main point,—that there is a highest essence to which worship or service is due. If one should smile compassionately at the whole struggle over a highest essence, as a Christian might at the war of words between a Shiite and a Sunnite or between a Brahman and a Buddhist, then the hypothesis of a highest essence would be null in his eyes, and the conflict on this basis an idle play. Whether then the one God or the three in one, whether the Lutheran God or the être suprême or not God at all, but "Man," may represent the highest essence, that makes no difference at all for him who denies the highest essence itself, for in his eyes those servants of a highest essence are one and all—pious people, the most raging atheist not less than the most faith-filled Christian.

ie. denying morality instead of fighting over the correct moral system. Rejecting the state rather than fighting over the best system of government.

location 787-792 Only the new essence betrays, in fact, a more spiritual style of conception than the old God, because the latter was still represented in a sort of embodiedness or form, while the undimmed spirituality of the new is retained, and no special material body is fancied for it. And withal it does not lack corporeity, which even takes on a yet more seductive appearance because it looks more natural and mundane and consists in nothing less than in every bodily man,—yes, or outright in "humanity" or "all men." Thereby the spectralness of the spirit in a seeming-body has once again become really solid and popular.

location 847-853 As you are hallowed to us by "Man" who haunts you, so at every time men have been hallowed by some higher essence or other, like People, Family, and such. Only for the sake of a higher essence has any one been honored from of old, only as a ghost has he been regarded in the light of a hallowed, i. e., protected and recognized person. If I cherish you because I hold you dear, because in you my heart finds nourishment, my need satisfaction, then it is not done for the sake of a higher essence whose hallowed body you are, not on account of my beholding in you a ghost, i. e. an appearing spirit, but from egoistic pleasure; you yourself with your essence are valuable to me, for your essence is not a higher one, is not higher and more general than you, is unique[28] like you yourself, because it is you.

location 857-859 Sacred above all, e. g., is the "holy Spirit," sacred the truth, sacred are right, law, a good cause, majesty, marriage, the common good, order, the fatherland, etc.

location 862-863 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.

location 862-865 What is it, then, that is called a "fixed idea"? An idea that has subjected the man to itself.

And is the truth of the faith, say, which we are not to doubt; the majesty of (e. g.) the people, which we are not to strike at (he who does is guilty of—lese-majesty); virtue, against which the censor is not to let a word pass, that morality may be kept pure; etc.,—are these not "fixed ideas"? Is not all the stupid chatter of (e. g.) most of our newspapers the babble of fools who suffer from the fixed idea of morality, legality, Christianity, etc., and only seem to go about free because the madhouse in which they walk takes in so broad a space? Touch the fixed idea of such a fool, and you will at once have to guard your back against the lunatic's stealthy malice.

location 870-872 they assail by stealth him who touches their fixed idea. They first steal his weapon, steal free speech from him, and then they fall upon him with their nails. Every day now lays bare the cowardice and vindictiveness of these maniacs, and the stupid populace hurrahs for their crazy measures

A lot of this seems like it would read better in German. Many alliterations, word play, etc.

location 897-904 Take notice how a "moral man" behaves, who to-day often thinks he is through with God and throws off Christianity as a bygone thing. If you ask him whether he has ever doubted that the copulation of brother and sister is incest, that monogamy is the truth of marriage, that filial piety is a sacred duty, etc., then a moral shudder will come over him at the conception of one's being allowed to touch his sister as wife also, etc. And whence this shudder? Because he believes in those moral commandments. This moral faith is deeply rooted in his breast. Much as he rages against the pious Christians, he himself has nevertheless as thoroughly remained a Christian,—to wit, a moral Christian. In the form of morality Christianity holds him a prisoner, and a prisoner under faith. Monogamy is to be something sacred, and he who may live in bigamy is punished as a criminal; he who commits incest suffers as a criminal.

location 919-920 To be sure, the heretic against pure faith no longer exposes himself to the earlier fury of persecution, but so much the more does it now fall upon the heretic against pure morals.

location 1140-1145 Now, do you suppose unselfishness is unreal and nowhere extant? On the contrary, nothing is more ordinary! One may even call it an article of fashion in the civilized world, which is considered so indispensable that, if it costs too much in solid material, people at least adorn themselves with its tinsel counterfeit and feign it. Where does unselfishness begin? Right where an end ceases to be our end and our property, which we, as owners, can dispose of at pleasure; where it becomes a fixed end or a—fixed idea; where it begins to inspire, enthuse, fanaticize us; in short, where it passes into our stubbornness and becomes our—master.

location 1208-1216 The difference is, then, whether feelings are imparted to me or only aroused. Those which are aroused are my own, egoistic, because they are not as feelings drilled into me, dictated to me, and pressed upon me; but those which are imparted to me I receive, with open arms,—I cherish them in me as a heritage, cultivate them, and am possessed by them. Who is there that has never, more or less consciously, noticed that our whole education is calculated to produce feelings in us, i. e. impart them to us, instead of leaving their production to ourselves however they may turn out? If we hear thee name of God, we are to feel veneration; if we hear that of the prince's majesty, it is to be received with reverence, deference, submission; if we hear that of morality, we are to think that we hear something inviolable; if we hear of the Evil One or evil ones, we are to shudder; etc. The intention is directed to these feelings, and he who e. g. should hear with pleasure the deeds of the "bad" would have to be "taught what's what" with the rod of discipline. Thus stuffed with imparted feelings, we appear before the bar of majority and are "pronounced of age."

location 1249-1253 In its first and most unintelligible form morality shows itself as habit. To act according to the habit and usage (morem) of one's country—is to be moral there. Therefore pure moral action, clear, unadulterated morality, is most straightforwardly practised in China; they keep to the old habit and usage, and hate each innovation as a crime worthy of death. For innovation is the deadly enemy of habit, of the old, of permanence.

Things have changed in China (although this rings true in some cases still)

location 1299-1304 He who believes in a spook no more assumes the "introduction of a higher world" than he who believes in the spirit, and both seek behind the sensual world a supersensual one; in short, they produce and believe another world, and this other world, the product of their mind, is a spiritual world; for their senses grasp and know nothing of another, a non-sensual world, only their spirit lives in it. Going on from this Mongolian belief in the existence of spiritual beings to the point that the proper being of man too is his spirit, and that all care must be directed to this alone, to the "welfare of his soul," is not hard. Influence on the spirit, so-called "moral influence," is hereby assured.

location 1306-1308 But who, then, will dissolve the spirit into its nothing? He who by means of the spirit set forth nature as the null, finite, transitory, he alone can bring down the spirit too to like nullity. I can; each one among you can, who does his will as an absolute I; in a word, the egoist can.

location 1309-1311 Before the sacred, people lose all sense of power and all confidence; they occupy a powerless and humble attitude toward it. And yet 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.

location 1314-1317 For little children, just as for animals, nothing sacred exists, because, in order to make room for this conception, one must already have progressed so far in understanding that he can make distinctions like "good and bad," "warranted and unwarranted," etc.; only at such a level of reflection or intelligence—the proper standpoint of religion—can unnatural (i. e. brought into existence by thinking) reverence, "sacred dread," step into the place of natural fear.

location 1314-1320 To this sacred dread belongs holding something outside oneself for mightier, greater, better warranted, better, etc.; i. e. the attitude in which one acknowledges the might of something alien—not merely feels it, then, but expressly acknowledges it, i. e. admits it, yields, surrenders, lets himself be tied (devotion, humility, servility, submission, etc.) Here walks the whole ghostly troop of the "Christian virtues."

location 1338-1340 Morality too is such sacred conception; one must be moral, and must look only for the right "how," the right way to be so. One dares not go at morality itself with the question whether it is not itself an illusion;

location 1475-1485 If one shrugs his shoulders at this, at once the good wring their hands despairingly, and cry: "But, for heaven's sake, if one is to give children no good instruction, why, then they will run straight into the jaws of sin, and become good-for-nothing hoodlums!" Gently, you prophets of evil. Good-for-nothing in your sense they certainly will become; but your sense happens to be a very good-for-nothing sense. The impudent lads will no longer let anything be whined and chattered into them by you, and will have no sympathy for all the follies for which you have been raving and driveling since the memory of man began; they will abolish the law of inheritance, i. e. they will not be willing to inherit your stupidities as you inherited them from your fathers; they destroy inherited sin.[53] If you command them, "Bend before the Most High," they will answer: "If he wants to bend us, let him come himself and do it; we, at least, will not bend of our own accord." And, if you threaten them with his wrath and his punishment, they will take it like being threatened with the bogie-man. If you are no longer successful in making them afraid of ghosts, then the dominion of ghosts is at an end, and nurses' tales find no—faith.

location 1603-1607 The Catholic finds himself satisfied when he fulfils the command; the Protestant acts according to his "best judgment and conscience." For the Catholic is only a layman; the Protestant is himself a clergyman.[62] Just this is the progress of the Reformation period beyond the Middle Ages, and at the same time its curse,—that the spiritual became complete.

location 1609-1614 The sale of indulgences had made all sins and transgressions permissible, and silenced every movement of conscience. All sensuality might hold sway, if it was only purchased from the church. This favoring of sensuality was continued by the Jesuits, while the strictly moral, dark, fanatical, repentant, contrite, praying Protestants (as the true completers of Christianity, to be sure) acknowledged only the intellectual and spiritual man. Catholicism, especially the Jesuits, gave aid to egoism in this way, found involuntary and unconscious adherents within Protestantism itself, and saved us from the subversion and extinction of sensuality.

location 1663-1665 Now, what did pre-Christian humanity work toward? Toward getting rid of the irruptions of the destinies, not letting oneself be vexed by them. The Stoics attained this in apathy, declaring the attacks of nature indifferent, and not letting themselves be affected by them.

location 1709-1711 The case with regard to the spirit corresponds. When I have degraded it to a spook and its control over me to a cranky notion, then it is to be looked upon as having lost its sacredness, its holiness, its divinity, and then I use it, as one uses nature at pleasure without scruple.

location 1706-1711 But can I call the idea my property if it is the idea of humanity, and can I consider the Spirit as vanquished if I am to serve it, "sacrifice myself" to it? Antiquity, at its close, had gained its ownership of the world only when it had broken the world's overpoweringness and "divinity," recognized the world's powerlessness and "vanity." The case with regard to the spirit corresponds. When I have degraded it to a spook and its control over me to a cranky notion, then it is to be looked upon as having lost its sacredness, its holiness, its divinity, and then I use it, as one uses nature at pleasure without scruple.


location 1735-1744 Happy unconstraint of the desirous man, how mercilessly people have tried to slay you on the altar of constraint! But around the altar rise the arches of a church, and its walls keep moving further and further out. What they enclose is—sacred. You can no longer get to it, no longer touch it. Shrieking with the hunger that devours you, you wander round about these walls in search of the little that is profane, and the circles of your course keep growing more and more extended. Soon that church will embrace the whole world, and you be driven out to the extreme edge; another step, and the world of the sacred has conquered: you sink into the abyss. Therefore take courage while it is yet time, wander about no longer in the profane where now it is dry feeding, dare the leap, and rush in through the gates into the sanctuary itself. If you devour the sacred, you have made it your own! Digest the sacramental wafer, and you are rid of it!


location 1774-1777 The thought of the State passed into all hearts and awakened enthusiasm; to serve it, this mundane god, became the new divine service and worship. The properly political epoch had dawned. To serve the State or the nation became the highest ideal, the State's interest the highest interest, State service (for which one does not by any means need to be an official) the highest honor.

location 1805-1809 The monarch in the person of the "royal master" had been a paltry monarch compared with this new monarch, the "sovereign nation." This monarchy was a thousand times severer, stricter, and more consistent. Against the new monarch there was no longer any right, any privilege at all; how limited the "absolute king" of the ancien régime looks in comparison! The Revolution effected the transformation of limited monarchy into absolute monarchy.

Better we lived in little states with little kings, than powerful state ruled by 'the people'?

location 1892-1896 It does not mean my liberty, but the liberty of a power that rules and subjugates me; it means that one of my despots, like State, religion, conscience, is free. State, religion, conscience, these despots, make me a slave, and their liberty is my slavery. That in this they necessarily follow the principle, "the end hallows the means," is self-evident. If the welfare of the State is the end, war is a hallowed means; if justice is the State's end, homicide is a hallowed means, and is called by its sacred name, "execution," etc.; the sacred State hallows everything that is serviceable to it.

location 1935-1937 Henceforth only one lordship, the lordship of the State, is admitted; personally no one is any longer lord of another. Even at birth the children belong to the State, and to the parents only in the name of the State, which, e. g., does not allow infanticide, demands their baptism, etc.

location 1995-2000 All who appear to the commoner suspicious, hostile, and dangerous might be comprised under the name "vagabonds"; every vagabondish way of living displeases him. For there are intellectual vagabonds too, to whom the hereditary dwelling-place of their fathers seems too cramped and oppressive for them to be willing to satisfy themselves with the limited space any more: instead of keeping within the limits of a temperate style of thinking, and taking as inviolable truth what furnishes comfort and tranquillity to thousands, they overleap all bounds of the traditional and run wild with their impudent criticism and untamed mania for doubt, these extravagating vagabonds.

location 2504-2506 Do I now reject what liberalism has won in its various exertions? Far be the day that anything won should be lost! Only, after "Man" has become free through liberalism, I turn my gaze back upon myself and confess to myself openly: What Man seems to have gained, I alone have gained.

location 2521-2523 The foregoing review of "free human criticism" was written by bits immediately after the appearance of the books in question, as was also that which elsewhere refers to writings of this tendency, and I did little more than bring together the fragments.

Explains a lot. Much of the book feels like it has been put together out of sometimes redundant pieces.

Part Second - I


location 2784-2788 If your efforts are ever to make "freedom" the issue, then exhaust freedom's demands. Who is it that is to become free? You, I, we. Free from what? From everything that is not you, not I, not we. I, therefore, am the kernel that is to be delivered from all wrappings and—freed from all cramping shells. What is left when I have been freed from everything that is not I? Only I; nothing but I. But freedom has nothing to offer to this I himself. As to what is now to happen further after I have become free, freedom is silent,—as our governments, when the prisoner's time is up, merely let him go, thrusting him out into abandonment.

location 2792-2796 decide whether you will place on your banner the dream of "freedom" or the resolution of "egoism," of "ownness." "Freedom" awakens your rage against everything that is not you; "egoism" calls you to joy over yourselves, to self-enjoyment; "freedom" is and remains a longing, a romantic plaint, a Christian hope for unearthliness and futurity; "ownness" is a reality, which of itself removes just so much unfreedom as by barring your own way hinders you. What does not disturb you, you will not want to renounce; and, if it begins to disturb you, why, you know that "you must obey yourselves rather than men!"

location 2808-2810 Shake that off! Do not seek for freedom, which does precisely deprive you of yourselves, in "self-denial"; but seek for yourselves, become egoists, become each of you an almighty ego. Or, more clearly: Just recognize yourselves again, just recognize what you really are, and let go your hypocritical endeavors, your foolish mania to be something else than you are.

location 2813-2820 man is mercenary and does nothing "gratis." But how about that "doing the good for the good's sake without prospect of reward? As if here too the pay was not contained in the satisfaction that it is to afford. Even religion, therefore, is founded on our egoism and—exploits it; calculated for our desires, it stifles many others for the sake of one. This then gives the phenomenon of cheated egoism, where I satisfy, not myself, but one of my desires, e. g. the impulse toward blessedness. Religion promises me the—"supreme good"; to gain this I no longer regard any other of my desires, and do not slake them.—All your doings are unconfessed, secret, covert, and concealed egoism. But because they are egoism that you are unwilling to confess to yourselves, that you keep secret from yourselves, hence not manifest and public egoism, consequently unconscious egoism,—therefore they are not egoism, but thraldom, service, self-renunciation; you are egoists, and you are not, since you renounce egoism. Where you seem most to be such, you have drawn upon the word "egoist"—loathing and contempt.

location 2845-2846 You long for freedom? You fools! If you took might, freedom would come of itself. See, he who has might "stands above the law." How does this prospect taste to you, you "law-abiding" people? But you have no taste!


that we are men is the slightest thing about us, and has significance only in so far as it is one of our qualities,[117] i. e. our property.[118] I am indeed among other things a man, as I am, e. g., a living being, therefore an animal, or a European, a Berliner, and the like; but he who chose to have regard for me only as a man, or as a Berliner, would pay me a regard that would be very unimportant to me. And wherefore? Because he would have regard only for one of my qualities, not for me.

location 3025-3029 But, if the State is a society of men, not a union of egos each of whom has only himself before his eyes, then it cannot last without morality, and must insist on morality. Therefore we two, the State and I, are enemies. I, the egoist, have not at heart the welfare of this "human society," I sacrifice nothing to it, I only utilize it; but to be able to utilize it completely I transform it rather into my property and my creature,—i. e. I annihilate it, and form in its place the Union of Egoists.

In a union of egoists, the members are together for their own means, but would leave the union if it were no longer in their interest.

location 3046-3047 Man, the end and outcome of Christianity, is, as I, the beginning and raw material of the new history, a history of enjoyment after the history of sacrifices, a history not of man or humanity, but of—me.

location 3072-3074 When Fichte says, "The ego is all," this seems to harmonize perfectly with my theses. But it is not that the ego is all, but the ego destroys all, and only the self-dissolving ego, the never-being ego, the—finite ego is really I. Fichte speaks of the "absolute" ego, but I speak of me, the transitory ego.

Transitory and finite because it dies, unlike 'Man', 'State' which are ideas and do not change or end.

[…] How natural is the supposition that man and ego mean the same! and yet one sees, e. g., by Feuerbach, that the expression "man" is to designate the absolute ego, the species, not the transitory, individual ego.

location 3081-3089 To be a man is not to realize the ideal of Man, but to present oneself, the individual. It is not how I realize the generally human that needs to be my task, but how I satisfy myself. I am my species, am without norm, without law, without model, and the like. It is possible that I can make very little out of myself; but this little is everything, and is better than what I allow to be made out of me by the might of others, by the training of custom, religion, the laws, the State, etc. Better—if the talk is to be of better at all—better an unmannerly child than an old head on young shoulders, better a mulish man than a man compliant in everything. The unmannerly and mulish fellow is still on the way to form himself according to his own will; the prematurely knowing and compliant one is determined by the "species," the general demands, etc.,—the species is law to him. He is determined[126] by it; for what else is the species to him but his "destiny,"[127] his "calling"?

location 3112-3116 The egoist, turning against the demands and concepts of the present, executes pitilessly the most measureless—desecration. Nothing is holy to him! It would be foolish to assert that there is no power above mine. Only the attitude that I take toward it will be quite another than that of the religious age: I shall be the enemy of every higher power, while religion teaches us to make it our friend and be humble toward it.

Egoism = opposes itself to any higher power, The possessed = worship and sanctify any higher power


location 3172-3174 In considerations of right the question is always asked, "What or who gives me the right to it?" Answer: God, love, reason, nature, humanity, etc. No, only your might, your power gives you the right (your reason, e. g., may give it to you).

location 3193-3197 Children have no right to the condition of majority because they are not of age, i. e. because they are children. Peoples that let themselves be kept in nonage have no right to the condition of majority; if they ceased to be in nonage, then only would they have the right to be of age. This means nothing else than "What you have the power to be you have the right to." I derive all right and all warrant from me; I am entitled to everything that I have in my power. I am entitled to overthrow Zeus, Jehovah, God, etc., if I can; if I cannot, then these gods will always remain in the right and in power as against me,

location 3203-3207 I decide whether it is the right thing in me; there is no right outside me. If it is right for me,[132] it is right. Possibly this may not suffice to make it right for the rest; that is their care, not mine: let them defend themselves. And if for the whole world something were not right, but it were right for me, i. e. I wanted it, then I would ask nothing about the whole world.

Rejection of morality

location 3223-3227 The Communists affirm[133] that "the earth belongs rightfully to him who tills it, and its products to those who bring them out." I think it belongs to him who knows how to take it, or who does not let it be taken from him, does not let himself be deprived of it. If he appropriates it, then not only the earth, but the right to it too, belongs to him. This is egoistic right: i. e., it is right for me, therefore it is right.

location 3308-3315 If one were even to conceive the case that every individual in the people had expressed the same will, and hereby a complete "collective will" had come into being, the matter would still remain the same. Would I not be bound to-day and henceforth to my will of yesterday? My will would in this case be frozen. Wretched stability! My creature—to wit, a particular expression of will—would have become my commander. But I in my will, I the creator, should be hindered in my flow and my dissolution. Because I was a fool yesterday I must remain such my life long. So in the State-life I am at best—I might just as well say, at worst—a bondman of myself. Because I was a willer yesterday, I am to-day without will: yesterday voluntary, to-day involuntary. How change it? Only by recognizing no duty, i. e. not binding myself nor letting myself be bound. If I have no duty, then I know no law either.

ie, rejection of self-interest (Parfit's S), acceptance of present-aim theory! My desires now are what I should follow, I should not be bound by my past or future self. In the example of the young-communist-russian-prince, trying to bind his future self to give his fortune to the poor, he would say 'forget your earlier desire to help the poor, do what you wish now'.

location 3443-3444 Only against a sacred thing are there criminals; you against me can never be a criminal, but only an opponent.


location 3536-3542 have still to take back the half-way form of expression of which I was willing to make use only so long as I was still rooting among the entrails of right, and letting the word at least stand. But, in fact, with the concept the word too loses its meaning. What I called "my right" is no longer "right" at all, because right can be bestowed only by a spirit, be it the spirit of nature or that of the species, of mankind, the Spirit of God or that of His Holiness or His Highness, etc. What I have without an entitling spirit I have without right; I have it solely and alone through my power. I do not demand any right, therefore I need not recognize any either. What I can get by force I get by force, and what I do not get by force I have no right to, nor do I give myself airs, or consolation, with my imprescriptible right.


location 3580-3587 Well, I may not do as I will. But shall I find in any society such an unmeasured freedom of maying? Certainly no! Accordingly we might be content? Not a bit! It is a different thing whether I rebound from an ego or from a people, a generalization. There I am my opponent's opponent, born his equal; here I am a despised opponent, bound and under a guardian: there I stand man to man; here I am a schoolboy who can accomplish nothing against his comrade because the latter has called father and mother to aid and has crept under the apron, while I am well scolded as an ill-bred brat, and I must not "argue": there I fight against a bodily enemy; here against mankind, against a generalization, against a "majesty," against a spook. But to me no majesty, nothing sacred, is a limit; nothing that I know how to overpower. Only that which I cannot overpower still limits my might; and I of limited might am temporarily a limited I, not limited by the might outside me, but limited by my own still deficient might, by my own impotence.

location 3615-3621 He is a fool that he concedes to the Athenians a right to condemn him. Therefore it certainly serves him right; why then does he remain standing on an equal footing with the Athenians? Why does he not break with them? Had he known, and been able to know, what he was, he would have conceded to such judges no claim, no right. That he did not escape was just his weakness, his delusion of still having something in common with the Athenians, or the opinion that he was a member, a mere member of this people. But he was rather this people itself in person, and could only be his own judge. There was no judge over him, as he himself had really pronounced a public sentence on himself and rated himself worthy of the Prytaneum. He should have stuck to that, and, as he had uttered no sentence of death against himself, should have despised that of the Athenians too and escaped.

Trial of Socrates

location 3634-3638 Greek law, on which the Greek States rested, had to be perverted and undermined by the egoists within these States, and the States went down that the individuals might become free, the Greek people fell because the individuals cared less for this people than for themselves. In general, all States, constitutions, churches, etc., have sunk by the secession of individuals; for the individual is the irreconcilable enemy of every generality, every tie, i. e. every fetter.

Thus the republic fell. Marius, Sulla, Augustus..

location 3716-3721 Which of the two lies nearer my heart, the good of the family or my good? In innumerable cases both go peacefully together; the advantage of the family is at the same time mine, and vice versa. Then it is hard to decide whether I am thinking selfishly or for the common benefit, and perhaps I complacently flatter myself with my unselfishness. But there comes the day when a necessity of choice makes me tremble, when I have it in mind to dishonor my family tree, to affront parents, brothers, and kindred. What then? Now it will appear how I am disposed at the bottom of my heart; now it will be revealed whether piety ever stood above egoism for me, now the selfish one can no longer skulk behind the semblance of unselfishness.

Also with morality, often 'common sense morality' coincides with our desires, therefore we are happy to obey. It is when the desires diverge that we must decide to bend the knee, or throw off morality. Most do what they want while still believing in morality, which is an uneasy way to live.

location 3772-3779 A State exists even without my co-operation: I am born in it, brought up in it, under obligations to it, and must "do it homage."[162] It takes me up into its "favor,"[163] and I live by its "grace." Thus the independent establishment of the State founds my lack of independence; its condition as a "natural growth," its organism, demands that my nature do not grow freely, but be cut to fit it. That it may be able to unfold in natural growth, it applies to me the shears of "civilization"; it gives me an education and culture adapted to it, not to me, and teaches me e. g. to respect the laws, to refrain from injury to State property (i. e. private property), to reverence divine and earthly highness, etc.; in short, it teaches me to be—unpunishable, "sacrificing" my ownness to "sacredness"

location 3938-3941 the egoist is to himself the warder of the human, and has nothing to say to the State except "Get out of my sunshine." Only when the State comes in contact with his ownness does the egoist take an active interest in it. If the condition of the State does not bear hard on the closet-philosopher, is he to occupy himself with it because it is his "most sacred duty"? So long as the State does according to his wish, what need has he to look up from his studies

location 3959-3960 "The State is the most necessary means for the complete development of mankind." It assuredly has been so as long as we wanted to develop mankind; but, if we want to develop ourselves, it can be to us only a means of hindrance.

location 3999-4004 Or is one to hold with no party? In the very act of joining them and entering their circle one forms a union with them that lasts as long as party and I pursue one and the same goal. But to-day I still share the party's tendency, and by to-morrow I can do so no longer and I become "untrue" to it. The party has nothing binding (obligatory) for me, and I do not have respect for it; if it no longer pleases me, I become its foe. In every party that cares for itself and its persistence, the members are unfree (or better, unown) in that degree, they lack egoism in that degree, in which they serve this desire of the party. The independence of the party conditions the lack of independence in the party-members.

Political party

location 4037-4040 in short, there sins, here crimes, there sinners, here criminals, there inquisition and here—inquisition. Will the sanctity of the State not fall like the Church's? The awe of its laws, the reverence for its highness, the humility of its "subjects," will this remain? Will the "saint's" face not be stripped of its adornment?

location 4084-4087 People is the name of the body, State of the spirit, of that ruling person that has hitherto suppressed me. Some have wanted to transfigure peoples and States by broadening them out to "mankind" and "general reason"; but servitude would only become still more intense with this widening, and philanthropists and humanitarians are as absolute masters as politicians and diplomats.

Utilitarianism the most demanding master of all

location 4223-4225 On the contrary, what man can obtain belongs to him: the world belongs to me. Do you say anything else by your opposite proposition, "The world belongs to all"? All are I and again I, etc. But you make out of the "all" a spook, and make it sacred, so that then the "all" become the individual's fearful master. Then the ghost of "right" places itself on their side.

location 4236-4240 Proudhon (Weitling too) thinks he is telling the worst about property when he calls it theft (vol). Passing quite over the embarrassing question, what well-founded objection could be made against theft, we only ask: Is the concept "theft" at all possible unless one allows validity to the concept "property"? How can one steal if property is not already extant? What belongs to no one cannot be stolen; the water that one draws out of the sea he does not steal. Accordingly property is not theft, but a theft becomes possible only through property.

location 4413-4418 There is a rich manufacturer doing a brilliant business, and I should like to compete with him. "Go ahead," says the State, "I have no objection to make to your person as competitor." Yes, I reply, but for that I need a space for buildings, I need money! "That's bad; but, if you have no money, you cannot compete. You must not take anything from anybody, for I protect property and grant it privileges." Free competition is not "free," because I lack the THINGS for competition. Against my person no objection can be made, but because I have not the things my person too must step to the rear. And who has the necessary things? Perhaps that manufacturer? Why, from him I could take them away! No, the State has them as property, the manufacturer only as fief, as possession.

Ok. But even if no state the manufacturer would protect their property, this is fine and good I presume.

location 4499-4501 This being admitted, they are nevertheless right on hand again with the motto, "To each according to his competence!" Who is to give to me according to my competence? Society? Then I should have to put up with its estimation. Rather, I shall take according to my competence.

location 4744-4748 Certainly, the absolute liberty of the press is like every absolute liberty, a nonentity. The press can become free from full many a thing, but always only from what I too am free from. If we make ourselves free from the sacred, if we have become graceless and lawless, our words too will become so. As little as we can be declared clear of every coercion in the world, so little can our writing be withdrawn from it. But as free as we are, so free we can make it too.

location 4796-4801 "If the press is my own, I as little need a permission of the State for employing it as I seek that permission in order to blow my nose. The press is my property from the moment when nothing is more to me than myself; for from this moment State, Church, people, society, and the like, cease, because they have to thank for their existence only the disrespect that I have for myself, and with the vanishing of this undervaluation they themselves are extinguished: they exist only when they exist above me, exist only as powers and power-holders. Or can you imagine a State whose citizens one and all think nothing of it? it would be as certainly a dream,

location 4811-4812 "The press is mine when I recognize outside myself no judge whatever over its utilization, i. e. when my writing is no longer determined by morality or religion or respect for the State laws or the like, but by me and my egoism!"—

location 4827-4832 But he has not the "right": that liberty is assuredly not his "sacred right." He has only the might; but the might alone makes him owner. I need no concession for the liberty of the press, do not need the people's consent to it, do not need the "right" to it, nor any "justification." The liberty of the press too, like every liberty, I must "take"; the people, "as being the sole judge," cannot give it to me. It can put up with the liberty that I take, or defend itself against it; give, bestow, grant it it cannot. I exercise it despite the people, purely as an individual; i. e. I get it by fighting the people, my—enemy, and obtain it only when I really get it by such fighting, i. e. take it. But I take it because it is my property.

An egoist may still prefer that the concept of rights be accepted by others however? This may benefit them in most cases.

location 4848-4851 If we formulate the sense of this law, it will be about as follows: Every man must have a something that is more to him than himself. You are to put your "private interest" in the background when it is a question of the welfare of others, the weal of the fatherland, of society, the common weal, the weal of mankind, the good cause, and the like! Fatherland, society, mankind, etc., must be more to you than yourself, and as against their interest your "private interest" must stand back; for you must not be an—egoist.

"Law of love"

location 4913-4916 Christianity too teaches us to sacrifice all other passions to this. But, if to one passion I sacrifice others, I do not on that account go so far as to sacrifice myself, nor sacrifice anything of that whereby I truly am myself; I do not sacrifice my peculiar value, my ownness. Where this bad case occurs, love cuts no better figure than any other passion that I obey blindly.

location 4919-4921 I love men too,—not merely individuals, but every one. But I love them with the consciousness of egoism; I love them because love makes me happy, I love because loving is natural to me, because it pleases me. I know no "commandment of love." I have a fellow-feeling with every feeling being, and their torment torments, their refreshment refreshes me too;

location 4931-4933 But, because I cannot bear the troubled crease on the beloved forehead, for that reason, and therefore for my sake, I kiss it away. If I did not love this person, he might go right on making creases, they would not trouble me; I am only driving away my trouble.

location 4970-4973 The possessedness of love lies in the alienation of the object, or in my powerlessness as against its alienness and superior power. To the egoist nothing is high enough for him to humble himself before it, nothing so independent that he would live for love of it, nothing so sacred that he would sacrifice himself to it. The egoist's love rises in selfishness, flows in the bed of selfishness, and empties into selfishness again.

location 5009-5012 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.

location 5020-5024 For me you are nothing but—my food, even as I too am fed upon and turned to use by you. We have only one relation to each other, that of usableness, of utility, of use. We owe each other nothing, for what I seem to owe you I owe at most to myself. If I show you a cheery air in order to cheer you likewise, then your cheeriness is of consequence to me, and my air serves my wish; to a thousand others, whom I do not aim to cheer, I do not show it.

location 5090-5095 Charles had given the king credit for a piece of stupidity, a narrow conscience, and, without confidence in Francis, counted only on Francis's stupidity, i. e. conscientiousness: he let him go from the Madrid prison only to hold him the more securely in the prison of conscientiousness, the great jail built about the mind of man by religion: he sent him back to France locked fast in invisible chains, what wonder if Francis sought to escape and sawed the chains apart? No man would have taken it amiss of him if he had secretly fled from Madrid, for he was in an enemy's power; but every good Christian cries out upon him, that he wanted to loose himself from God's bonds too. (It was only later that the pope absolved him from his oath.)

location 5098-5106 If the pursuer of my friend asks me where he has fled to, I shall surely put him on a false trail. Why does he ask precisely me, the pursued man's friend? In order not to be a false, traitorous friend, I prefer to be false to the enemy. I might certainly, in courageous conscientiousness, answer "I will not tell" (so Fichte decides the case); by that I should salve my love of truth and do for my friend as much as—nothing, for, if I do not mislead the enemy, he may accidentally take the right street, and my love of truth would have given up my friend as a prey, because it hindered me from the—courage for a lie. He who has in the truth an idol, a sacred thing, must humble himself before it, must not defy its demands, not resist courageously; in short, he must renounce the heroism of the lie. For to the lie belongs not less courage than to the truth: a courage that young men are most apt to be defective in, who would rather confess the truth and mount the scaffold for it than confound the enemy's power by the impudence of a lie.

location 5197-5200 Limitation of liberty is inevitable everywhere, for one cannot get rid of everything; one cannot fly like a bird merely because one would like to fly so, for one does not get free from his own weight; one cannot live under water as long as he likes, like a fish, because one cannot do without air and cannot get free from this indispensable necessity; and the like.

Free from what? Not from gravity, being offended, discomfort.

location 5325-5330 Universally, no one grows indignant at his, but at alien property. They do not in truth attack property, but the alienation of property. They want to be able to call more, not less, theirs; they want to call everything theirs. They are fighting, therefore, against alienness, or, to form a word similar to property, against alienty. And how do they help themselves therein? Instead of transforming the alien into own, they play impartial and ask only that all property be left to a third party (e. g. human society). They revendicate the alien not in their own name but in a third party's. Now the "egoistic" coloring is wiped off, and everything is so clean and—human!

"Tax amazon!"

location 5357-5362 But why was he not a revolutionist, not a demagogue, as the Jews would gladly have seen him? why was he not a liberal? Because he expected no salvation from a change of conditions, and this whole business was indifferent to him. He was not a revolutionist like e. g. Cæsar, but an insurgent; not a State-overturner, but one who straightened himself up. That was why it was for him only a matter of "Be ye wise as serpents," which expresses the same sense as, in the special case, that "Give to the emperor that which is the emperor's"; for he was not carrying on any liberal or political fight against the established authorities, but wanted to walk his own way, untroubled about, and undisturbed by, these authorities.



location 5441-5445 In short, one has a calling in life, a task in life; one has something to realize and produce by his life, a something for which our life is only means and implement, a something that is worth more than this life, a something to which one owes his life. One has a God who asks a living sacrifice. Only the rudeness of human sacrifice has been lost with time; human sacrifice itself has remained unabated, and criminals hourly fall sacrifices to justice, and we "poor sinners" slay our own selves as sacrifices for "the human essence," the "idea of mankind," "humanity," and whatever the idols or gods are called besides.

location 5520-5522 Forces may assuredly be sharpened and redoubled, especially by hostile resistance or friendly assistance; but where one misses their application one may be sure of their absence too. One can strike fire out of a stone, but without the blow none comes out; in like manner a man too needs "impact."

location 5528-5530 The true man does not lie in the future, an object of longing, but lies, existent and real, in the present. Whatever and whoever I may be, joyous and suffering, a child or a graybeard, in confidence or doubt, in sleep or in waking, I am it, I am the true man.

location 5531-5535 What was ascribed to the idea of humanity belongs to me. That freedom of trade, e. g., which humanity has yet to attain,—and which, like an enchanting dream, people remove to humanity's golden future,—I take by anticipation as my property, and carry it on for the time in the form of smuggling. There may indeed be but few smugglers who have sufficient understanding to thus account to themselves for their doings, but the instinct of egoism replaces their consciousness. Above I have shown the same thing about freedom of the press.

location 5602-5604 No sheep, no dog, exerts itself to become a "proper sheep, a proper dog"; no beast has its essence appear to it as a task, i. e. as a concept that it has to realize. It realizes itself in living itself out, i. e. dissolving itself, passing away. It does not ask to be or to become anything other than it is.

Contrast Stoic role ethics (to be a good father, husband, etc.)


location 6110-6112 Pre-Christian and Christian times pursue opposite goals; the former wants to idealize the real, the latter to realize the ideal; the former seeks the "holy spirit," the latter the "glorified body." Hence the former closes with insensitiveness to the real, with "contempt for the world"; the latter will end with the casting off of the ideal, with "contempt for the spirit."

location 6184-6188 am owner of my might, and I am so when I know myself as unique. In the unique one the owner himself returns into his creative nothing, out of which he is born. Every higher essence above me, be it God, be it man, weakens the feeling of my uniqueness, and pales only before the sun of this consciousness. If I concern myself for myself,[242] the unique one, then my concern rests on its transitory, mortal creator, who consumes himself, and I may say: All things are nothing to me.

Creator is self

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