Max Stirner's relevance to contemporary philosophy: a critical analysis

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Crownover, Seth
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University College Cork
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The aim of this dissertation is to revive the 19th-century thinker Max Stirner’s thought through a critical reexamination of his mistaken legacy as a ‘political’ thinker. The reading of Stirner that I present is one of an ontological thinker, spurred on as much—if not more—by the contents of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit as it is the radical roots that Hegel unintentionally planted. In the first chapter, the role of language in Stirner’s thought is examined, and the problems to which his conception of language seem to give rise are addressed. The second chapter looks at Stirner’s purportedly ‘anarchistic’ politics and finds the ‘anarchist’ reading of Stirner misguided. Rather than being a ‘political’ anarchist, it is argued that we ought to understand Stirner as advocating a sort of ‘ontological’ anarchism in which the very existence of authority is questioned. In the third chapter, I look at the political ramifications of Stirner’s ontology as well as the critique of liberalism contained within it, and argue that the politics implicit in his philosophy shares more in common with the tradition of political realism than it does anarchism. The fourth chapter is dedicated to an examination of Stirner’s anti-humanism, which is concluded to be much different than the ‘anti-humanisms’ associated with other, more famous thinkers, such as Foucault and Heidegger. In the fifth and final chapter, I provide an answer to the question(s) of how, if, and to what extent Friedrich Nietzsche was influenced by Stirner. It is concluded that the complete lack of evidence that Nietzsche ever read Stirner is proof enough to dismiss accusations of plagiarism on Nietzsche’s part, thus emphasizing the originality and singularity of both thinkers.
Max Stirner , German idealism , Humanism , Ontological anarchism , Ontology
Crownover, S. 2013. Max Stirner's relevance to contemporary philosophy: a critical analysis. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.