Can Max Stirner be considered a defender of “metaphysical solipsism” and “immaterialism”? Is there some relation between Stirner’s philosophy and George Berkeley’s philosophy? Is there some philosopher in history who defended “metaphysical solipsism”?
Answer By Martin Jenkins
To the first and second question — I don’t think so. To my knowledge, Stirner never writes that the world is immaterial or, advocates a variant of solipsism. He is understood as advocating a form of Egoism although this orthodox conclusion could be due to the translation of Eigen to ‘Ego’ when Stirner wanted to convey a wholly new philosophy.
His text might give the impression of solipsism as he does emphasise and write in ‘the first person’ — citing ‘I’, the Ego, me. The impression is misleading.
When Stirner writes about ‘Spooks’, he not saying the world is a ‘Spook’ and therefore immaterial, this is his description of Philosophies such as Christianity, Humanism, Communism which haunt the minds of people, which are wrongly posited as primary from which predicates or definitions of what is is to be human are derived. In this respect, he is following his contemporary Ludwig Feuerbach.
In criticising German Idealism and Hegel in particular, Ludwig Feuerbach observed that it practices the inversion of Subject and Object. Namely, instead of Thought being the predicate or object of the Human subject, the human becomes a predicate or object of Thought, where Thought is taken to be God, Reason, the Concept, Geist and so on.
Stirner continues this approach to Christianity etc, only what follows the inversion is not any universal human nature but only the ‘creative nothing’, a ‘Unique’. The ‘Unique’ is not a solipsist as s/he can associate with others for common aims in a ‘Union of Egos’. So ipso facto, solipsism is ruled out.
Any relation between George Berkeley and immaterialism? Berkeley’s philosophy can be described as a variant of Idealism. Stirner’s philosophy is regarded by some as the furthest development of Hegel’s Absolute Idealism. Indeed, in the early 1840’s Stirner frequented meetings of Young/Left Hegelians held at the Tippels Hostelry in Berlin, along with, amongst others, Frederick Engels.
Hegel’s held that historically and politically, Reason would dialectically supersede (Aufgehoben) its previous instantiations which had become unreason. Instrumental in achieving this was the Geist or collective consciousness of a people. That is, the Geist of a people would achieve self–consciousness of the unreason in society and act so as to reform it as instructed by Reason.
Not only does Stirner provide an account of History in the first part of The Ego and Its Ownness echoing Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, but arguably, the collective Geist is transformed in the Ego of individuals; any vestige of Idealism is replaced by materialism and right becomes essentially, material might. So even here, Idealism has been negated by materialism.
So Aleksander, I don’t think there is any relation between Stirner and Solipsism, Berkeley and Immaterialism.