Stirner on Justice
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Stirner on Justice.
On page 79 of his book, entitled "Der Einzige und Sein Eigenthum," Stirner speaks of the insidious revival of sacred ideas and their domination, as that men are taught to regard themselves as called to devote themselves, to renounce their own wishes in favor, for example, of family, country, science, etc., and to be faithful servants of the same. "Here," he says, "we strike the immemorial craze of the world, which has not yet learned to dismiss priestcraft. To live and to labor for an idea is proposed as the high calling of man, and according to the fidelity of its fulfillment his human worth is measured. This is the domination of the idea, or priestcraft. Robespierre, for example, and St. Just, etc., were thorough priests. Thus St. Just exclaims in a speech: 'There is something terrible in the sacred love of country. It is so exclusive that it sacrifices everything to the public interest without pity, without, fear, without human regard. It hurls Manlius over the precipice; it sacrifices private inclinations; it conducts Regulus to Carthage, casts a Roman into the chasm, and places Marat in the Pantheon as a sacrifice to his devotion.'
"A world of countless 'personal' profane interests stands opposed to these advocates of ideal or sacred interests. No idea, no system, no sacred cause is so great that it should never be outweighed and modified by these personal interests. Even if in times of rage and fanaticism they are momentarily silent, yet they soon come uppermost again by the 'sound sense of the people.' Those ideas do not completely gain the victory till, and unless, they are no longer hostile to personal interests, i. e., till, and unless, they satisfy egoism.
"The man who is crying chestnuts before my window has a personal interest in a brisk sale, and if his wife or anybody else wishes as much for him, this as well is a personal interest. If, on the other hand, a thief were to take away his basket, there would at once arise an interest of many, of the whole city, of the entire country, or, in one word, of all who abominate theft: an interest wherein the person of the chestnut-vender would be indifferent, and in its place the category of 'one who is robbed' would appear in the forefront. But here, too, it might still all be resolved into a personal interest, each participant reflecting that he must aid in the punishment of the thief because, otherwise, unpunished stealing would become general and he also would lose his possessions. There are many, however, from whom such a calculation is not to be presumed. Rather, the cry will be heard that the thief is a 'criminal.' Here we have a judgment before us, the act of the thief receiving its expression in the conception 'crime.' Now the matter presents itself in this way: If a crime should work not the slightest damage either to me or to any of those for whom I take concern, yet nevertheless I should be zealous against it. Why? Because I am enthused for morality, filled with the idea of morality. I run down what is hostile to it. . . . Here personal interest comes to an end. This particular person who has stolen the basket is quite indifferent to my person. I take an interest only in the thief, this idea, of which that person presents an example. Thief and man are in my mind irreconcilable terms, for one who is a thief is not truly man. He dishonors man, or humanity, in himself when he steals. Departing from personal concern, we glide into philanthropy, which is usually misunderstood as if it were a love toward men, to each individual, whereas it is nothing but a love of man, of the unreal conception, of the spook. The philanthropist bears in his heart, not tous anthropous, men, but ton anthropon, man. Of course he cares for each individual, but merely for the reason that he would like to see his darling ideal realized everywhere.
"Thus there is no idea here of care for me, for you, or for us. That would be personal interest and belong in the chapter of 'earthly love.' Philanthropy is a heavenly, a spiritual, a priestly love. Man must be established in us, though we poor devils be brought to destruction in the process. It is the same priestly principle as that famous fiat justitia, pereat mundus. Man and justice are ideas, phantoms, for love of which everything is sacrificed: therefore the priestly minds are the ones that do sacrifice. . . .
"The most multiform things can belong and be accounted to man. Is his chief requisite deemed to be piety, religious priestcraft arises. Is it conceived to lie in morality, the priestcraft of morals raises its head. Hence the priestly minds of our time want to make a religion of everything; a religion of freedom, religion of equality, etc., and they make of every idea a 'sacred cause,' for instance, even citizenship, politics, publicity, freedom of the press, the jury, etc.
"In this sense what is the meaning of unselfishness? To have only an ideal interest, in face of which no consideration for the person counts anything!
"The hard-headed worldly man resists this, but still, for thousands' of years, he has always so far succumbed that he must bend his stiff neck and 'revere the higher power.' Priestcraft repressed him. When the worldly egoist had shaken off one higher power, — for example, the Old Testament law, the Pope of Rome, etc., — a seven-fold higher one was presently over him, for example, belief in place of the law; the transformation of all laymen into clergy, instead of a special clerical order, etc. It has been with him as with the man possessed of a devil from whom he no sooner thought himself free than seven devils entered into him."
In the foregoing extract it will be seen that the author puts himself in the place of the average man at the point where the generalization "crime" becomes a snare for the multitude. I offer this fragment as an egoistic contribution to that justice which remains to be constituted.
James L. Walker, “Stirner on Justice,” Liberty 4, no. 18 (No. 96; March 26, 1887): 7.