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+2 votes

Would the view that there is some sort of individual ego within us be considered a spook to Stirner? It seems to me that when people talk about an individual's ego that they're kind of saying the individual's ego is like a spirit type thing within them. I believe Stirner would have viewed that as being similar to religious type of thinking and just a concept, which in turn are spooks. Thus, would an individual's ego be a spook?

Bear in mind, I've read The Ego and Its Own once and I don't think fully understood what he was talking about, so I'd thought I'd ask here. :)

by (4.7k points)
as i understand it from some hard-core stirnerites, stirner never even used the term "ego" in his opus. the term he used was "the unique" - or that is how it is best translated, according to some. so i guess it depends on how you define "ego". i suspect that stirner was a million miles away from the jungian "ego" as a concept.

2 Answers

+2 votes
"But ownness has not any alien standard either, as it is not in any sense an idea like freedom, morality, humanity, etc.: it is only a description of the — owner."

I suppose this quotation gives that answer you need. Owness or ego can be spook if it takes the shape of an ideal which is abstract. Stirner's concept the Owness is an empty phrase, if you fill it, you turn it to something else.
by (910 points)
"The Tao that can be named is not the Eternal Tao"; the Einzige that can be abstracted into "mine (that is, not yours, not ours)" is not Stirner's Enzige...
+4 votes

The word 'ego' can most definitely be used as spuk. As funkyanarchy stated in their comment, it depends on how the word is used. And again, as funky@ alluded, Stirner's term, der Einzige, is not best translatable as 'the ego' (although he did use the term 'ego' throughout his text) but as 'the unique.'

How can 'ego' be used as spuk and why is der einzige not such? First, let's look at der einzige.

That der einzige=spook is an old criticism used against Stirner. The ink had barely dried after _Der Einzige und sein Eigentum_ was penned when this charge was leveled against him. However, in _Stirner's Critics_ (which I think is better read prior to reading Der Einzige) Stirner makes it very clear that language may only point toward, indicate, where he's attempting to take us (the reader) and that this where is ineffable, inconceivable unspeakable:

"Stirner names the unique and says at the same time that 'names don't name it.'"


"What Stirner says is a word, a thought, a concept; what Stirner means is neither a word, nor thought, nor concept. What he says is not the meaning, what he means cannot be said."

Notice that Stirner self-refers in the third-person. Der einzige may (perhaps) be best referred to as no-thing. Der einzige isn't an object, nor can 'it' be an instance of what Whitehead called 'misplaced concreteness,' a long-winded, but illustrative, way of saying 'reification' or 'spook.'

I try to place einzige as a where, rather than attempt to visualize or define a what (an 'object') when speaking and writing about der einzige. Places are always qualified; undefinable although describable; relational; living/'organic'; moving; and messy. (Perhaps this last descriptor points toward a major motivation of Western thought turning toward a unified, three dimensional conceptualization of the world we regularly refer to as 'space.' It renders the world dead and silent in order for the scientic autopsy to begin, as Hillman put it. Another story for another time.)

A couple of remarks about how 'ego' may become spooky.

At its most simple, it's just another case of 'thingifying' that which is no-thing, not-an-object. Various illustrations may help:

Continuing the place-language from above it's a case of taking the proverbial map to be the territory.

It's confusing a grunt we monkeys make for that which that grunt indicates, figuratively points toward, which we believe to be equal, equatable; a perpetual/perpetuating belief in what Nietzsche called 'the soul-concept.' A belief in 'essences' extricable by 'the mind' through 'reason' from the 'mere appearance' before us (scare quotes are most definitely intended here).

Another: 'Narcissism' is the conceptualization/abstraction/thingification of 'self' whereas where Stirner was pointing us through the language of der einzige cannot be imagined at all.


by (7.5k points)

Thanks, your answer is thorough. :) So, it would be a good idea to read Stirner's Critics to help figure out what he's talking about? I have read that that the term ego is a translation error or something like f@ and you state. 

So, it would be a good idea to read Stirner's Critics to help figure out what he's talking about?

I tend to think so, yes.

Human: i could not read "the ego and his own" until i read stirner's critics, it made little sense to me. As you will find when you read the book, and as people here have pointed out, "ego" is a bad translation of the word he actually used. And ironically, talking about the "ego" is the central thing that stirner was ranting against! "Ego" is not something that exists even though people use it to describe things that they notice about other people and reality (it's symbolic), but has over time been solidified into a real thing that only exists in peoples minds...generally referred to as reification....and i will never cease to be amazed at stirners work that he was able to cut so deeply into human thought that the mis-translation proves his point over again. It's reality checking that goes far beyond any of the "objectivity" that you see in mainstream culture.