“The Ego and Its Own” (German: “Der Einzige und sein Eigentum”) is a philosophical work written by Max Stirner and published in 1844. It is considered one of the most radical and controversial works of 19th-century German philosophy.
Stirner’s central argument in “The Ego and Its Own” is that the individual should reject all external authorities, whether they be social, political, or moral, and pursue their own self-interest without regard for any other value or principle. Stirner argues that all institutions, ideologies, and belief systems ultimately serve to oppress the individual and restrict their freedom. He famously declares, “I am not a man, but egoistic life.”
Stirner’s philosophy of egoism is often seen as a precursor to anarchism and existentialism. He rejects the idea of any transcendent principle or morality and instead asserts the primacy of the individual will. For Stirner, the only true authority is that which the individual asserts over themselves, and any attempt to impose authority on others is inherently oppressive.
Critics of Stirner’s work have accused him of promoting nihilism and individualism at the expense of social responsibility and solidarity. They argue that his rejection of all external authorities leads to a kind of solipsism that is incapable of recognizing the interconnectedness of human society.
However, Stirner’s work has also been praised for its radical critique of the status quo and its call for greater individual freedom and autonomy. Many have seen in Stirner’s philosophy a precursor to the anarchist movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as a challenge to traditional political and moral systems.
Overall, “The Ego and Its Own” remains a highly influential work in the history of philosophy and political theory. Its critique of authority and call for individual autonomy continues to inspire debates and discussions on the nature of freedom, morality, and society.