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What is the Ego?

+1 vote
There seems to be some similarities between Stirnerian Individualism and the spiritual teachings of Toaism and Zen Buddhism in regard to dispelling delusions and not being controlled by external ideas (i.e., Lao Tzu's writings very strongly oppose the fixed ideas of religion). However, there seems to be a contradiction between these two ways of thinking  as regard to the Ego. Stirnerian individualists very clearly want us to embrace our Egos and eschew philosophical altruism while Zen Buddhism and Toaism speak strongly against selfishness and how the ultimate spiritual goal is to "dissolve the Ego". However, it may be the case that they don't mean the same thing when they talk about "The Ego", because it seems to me that Zen and Toaism along with most people in society define the ego it as that childish, attention-whoring greedy part of ourselves displayed most furiously by religious zealots and dictators while many individualists seem to talk about the ego and clearly oppose the manipulative pricks in religion and politics, that this kind of greed isn't actually in our bests interests.

So what exactly is the Ego, and is there really a contradiction in this regard between eastern spirituality and individualism in this regard? I hope this question is clear enough.

Thanks
asked Sep 13, 2013 by anonymous
edited Sep 14, 2013 by anonymous
are you questing for synthesis in stirner's "ego" and buddhist and taoist conceptions of the "ego"? this reminds of the dialectical farce of politics, namely that if we can just take the plurality of ideas in the world and see their similarities, then we will be the enlightened fools of the world.
im not necessarily questing for synthesis, im just asking what the ego is. The two ways of thinking contradict eachother but they seem to be talking about different things when they talk about the ego. Ive honestly found comfort in both schools of thought, and if I cant have a honest conversation about this with people who claim to be such extraordinary free thinkers then fuck them both.
Let me ask you this....if i like egoism, do I have to be opposed buddhism/taoism, and vice versa? To me that's very anti-egoist, because I'm trying to use intellectual ideas as my tools and you telling me I'm not allowed. I never said anything about using pluralities of the worlds ideas, I just pointed out similarities and differences. Your not actually making any real arguments here which I was looking for, just a bunch of gibberish about how I'm a fake anarchist or whatever, sorry to dirty your ideology

1 Answer

+4 votes
In English ego is associated with Freud's name for the area of consciousness we usually inhabit in the world, navigating the space between raw impulses and moral abstraction. This kind of schism between different kinds of consciousness is not exclusive to Freud, and moreover I think it's at the heart of the question you raise. (On a side note, it seems it would be Freud's Id, not Ego, that would be the childish, greedy part of oneself.)

Another portrayal of split consciousness is Stirner's. He is interested in illuminating a split between the self-aware one who sees themself as the creative/destructive center of their world, and the one who is duped by abstractions. As you mentioned, there are similarities between Stirner and Laozi in terms of awareness and delusion. Going out on that limb, I'd say there are actual significant (if not substantial) similarities between Stirner's "ego" (though I seem to remember that the term he used means something more like "uniqueness" or "ownness", not that "ownness" is a real word or anything) and Laozi's Tao (which admittedly I know nothing about). Namely, it seems both are described as nameless, which is no small matter to my mind.

Now if we accept the namelessness of the namelessness which Stirner's ego and Laozi's Tao are meant (?) to name, then perhaps we should call into question your line of questioning. How can I tell you "what exactly" something ineffable is? If it is your uniqueness, or way, or whatever, I very much doubt anyone can tell you what it is. If one wants to go "into the unknown," it seems a mistake to get caught up on concepts like the Ego, the One, or the Way which were meant to be signposts.

I'm not the one to expand on this topic, but I'm almost sure I read somewhere that Stirner was inspired by Taoism. So there may be hope yet.
answered Dec 10, 2013 by anok (19,530 points)
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