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Stirner, Nietzsche, and the Critique of Truth* JEFFREY BERGNER To GAIN FREEDOM FROM INTELLECTUAL RESTRAINT has long been a theme of German thought. In his essay "What is Enlightenment7" Immanuel Kant defines enlightenment as "man's release from his self-incurred tutelage.''x As he states later in the same essay, Kant was primarily concerned with self-incurred tutelage with respect to religious matters, as the arts and sciences seemed to him relatively more free.2 Yet less than fifteen years later the romantic movement, as exemplified particularly in the work of Friedrieh Schlegel, revolted against what was felt to be a limiting standard in the arts. Classical canons of objectivity were no longer thought able to subsume the wealth of human experience and creativity; a Kunst des Unendlichen was to replace a Kunst der Begrenzung. s Romantic thought sought generally to complement the passive or analytic conception of being with the free play of the imagination as a creative factor. The motif of overcoming intellectual restriction continued throughout the early decades of the nineteenth century, manifesting itself in travels to broaden intellectual and artistic sensibilities, in frequent condemnation of narrow-minded and dogmatic German "philistinism," and perhaps most clearly in the apotheosis of Hegelian philosophy in Berlin. This paper takes up the theme with respect to a figure of the 1840's---the socalled philosopher of the ego, Max Stirner. Stirner, born in Bayreuth in 1806, was one of a group of "young Hegelians" known as "Die Freien" which frequented Hippel's restaurant in Berlin in the early 1840's. In this atmosphere germinated the ideas which formed the basis of his principal work, Der Einzige und sein Eigentum (1844). In Der Einzige Stirner offers a critique of intellectual confinement and fixity which reaches almost claustrophobic proportions. Stirner's critique is no doubt important in considering nihilism and some elements of existentialist thought, as R. W. K. Paterson has recently demonstrated;4 yet the importance of Der Einzige lies no less in the fact that it characterizes a major shift in the grounds of the consideration of intellectual confinement, a shift which later became fully * This paper is partially indebted to several suggestions of Walter Kaufmann. : Immanuel Kant, "What is EnlightenmentT" in Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, Lewis White Beck, trans. (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc, 1959), p. 85. Ibld., p. 91. s Arthur O. Lovejoy, "Schiller and the Genesis of German Romanticism" in Essays in the History of Ideas (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1948), calls this thesis the "generating and generic element in the Romantic doctrine" (p. 220). 4 R. W. K. Paterson, The Nihilistic Egoist: Max Stirner (Oxford, 1971). [523] 524 H/STORY OF PHILOSOPHY apparent in the work of Friedrich Nietzsche. For Stirner advances the idea that mind, endeavoring as it does to free itself from superstition, error, partiality, and limitation in Kant, Hegel, Feuerbach, and Bauer, may by this very process be chaining the self in a complete and thorough manner. Freedom of the mind, in short, is not freedom of the self. Hence, Stirner develops the theme so important to Nietzsche: that thinking and the goal of thought--truth--are to be judged as an enterprise, are to be put in the service of life, as it were. This paper has three concerns, the first of which is to present the core of Stirner's work from which the critique of truth emerges-----~e role of "fixed ideas" in human affairs. Secondly, in light of the doctrine of "fixed ideas," it will be argued that Stirner's most thoroughgoing application of "fixed ideas"--the critique of truth has been obscured by Stirner's interpreters. Three somewhat diverse interpretations will be considered briefly in documenting this systematic misinterpretation . FinaUy, Stirner's views on truth will be considered in some detail, particularly in so far as they relate his work to Nietzsche's. It is with the parallels to Nietzsehe's critique of truth, especially as expressed in On the Genealogy of Morals (HI, #24), that the last section deals. II Der Einzige und sein Eigentum offers in a sense a macrointellectual history of the West. Stirner sets the German intellectual of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 523-534
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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