Max Stirner on the Path of Doubt examines Stirner's incisive criticism of his contemporaries during the period from the death of Hegel, in 1831, to the 1848 German Revolution. Stirner's work, mainly the Ego and His Own, considered each of the major figures within that German school known as “The Young Hegelians.” Lawrence S. Stepelevich argues that for Stirner, they were but “pious atheists,” and their common revolutionary ideology concealed an ancient religious ground – which Stirner set about to reveal. The central doctrine of this school, that Mankind was its own Savior, was initiated in 1835 by the theologian, David F. Strauss's in his Life of Jesus , and it progressed with August von Cieszkowski's mystical recasting of history, followed by Bruno Bauer's absolute atheism and Ludwig Feuerbach's statement that “Man is God.” This soon found reflection in the “Sacred History of Mankind” declared by Moses Hess. Within a decade, the result was the secular reformulation of this theological ideology into the “Scientific Socialism” of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. Although linked to it, Max Stirner was the most relentless and feared critic of this school. His work, never out of print, but largely ignored by academics, has inspired countless “individualists” set upon rejecting any form of religious or political “causes,” and finding Stirner's assertion that he had “set his cause upon nothing” took this as their own cause.
Lawrence S. Stepelevich is professor emeritus of philosophy at Villanova University.
Chapter 1: The Hostile Brothers
Chapter 2: Stirner as Hegelian
Chapter 3: The Path Ahead: August von Cieszkowski
Chapter 4: The First Step: David F. Strauss
Chapter 5: An Atheistic Turn: Bruno Bauer
Chapter 6: From the God-Man to the Man-God: Ludwig Feuerbach
Chapter 7: The New World as The New Jerusalem: Moses Hess
Chapter 8: A Sudden Turn to Scientific Socialism: Marx and Engels
Chapter 9: The End of the Path
I: Author’s Review of The History of Reaction
II: Introductions and first translations of Minor Essays
A. The Free Ones
B. The Mysteries of Paris
C. Stirner's Review of Bauer's The Trumpet of the Last Judgment
About the Author
“This is an important and needed book which brings a lifetime of first rate scholarship to bear on Max Stirner’s thought, as well as the significant thinkers, critics and commentators who were active in his generation, just after the death of Hegel. While offering a well-painted picture of Stirner himself, it also astutely suggests the contemporary relevance of many of Stirner's preoccupations. The style is intelligent, very informed and informative. It evidences much impressive erudition, but it wears its scholarly learning lightly. The result is a very readable text, engaging, and illuminating, as well as being full of significant touches of wit and irony. Very warmly recommended.”
In this highly engaging study, Lawrence Stepelevich makes the counterintuitive but highly compelling argument that Max Stirner is the legitimate heir and standard-bearer of Hegel’s dialectical logic. Stirner’s signature work from 1844, The Ego and His Own, has been dismissed by establishment Hegelians, satirized by Marx and Engels, and called "absurd" by the likes of Lukács, Derrida, and Habermas. And yet, as Stepelevich shows, there is good reason to hold that it is Stirner, and not the usual crew of Hegel-epigones, who represents the genuine fulfillment of Hegel’s philosophy and the true maturation of spirit in history (beyond the various forms of unhappy, adolescent consciousness). Even if it is accurate to characterize Stirner’s thinking as “nihilistic,” Stepelevich shows that Stirner’s “nihilism” is a surprisingly productive or creative kind which anticipates various strands of postmodern thought while at the same time avoiding the self-undermining strategies of contemporary postmodernism as commonly deployed. This book, a model of historically-sensitive philosophy and philosophically-astute history, will inform, provoke, and invigorate the thinking of experts and beginners alike.
"A lively, witty, and erudite defense of Max Stirner from one of the most respected authorities on his thought. Stepelevich sets Stirner’s work in the context of Hegel and the Young Hegelians and makes a bold and intelligent case for its enduring significance. All readers interested in the aftermath of Hegel and the development of nineteenth-century thought will learn much from this informative and thought-provoking book."