The Ego and Its Own

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The Ego and Its Own
Cover of the German language first edition, published in Leipzig in "1844".
Author Max Stirner
Original title Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum
Translator Steven T. Byington
Cover artist Clifford Harper
Country Germany
Language German
Genre Philosophy
  • 1844 (first ed.)
  • 1907 (English first ed.)
Media type Hardcover, Paperback
Pages 370 (Rebel Press ed.)
ISBN ISBN 0946061009 (Rebel Press ed.)
OCLC 23288029
Dewey Decimal 302.5/4 20
LC Class HM136 .S7413 1982
Preceded by Art and Religion (1842)
Followed by Stirner's Critics (1845)

The Ego and Its Own (German: Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum; also translated as The Individual and His Property; a literal translation would read The Sole One and His Property) is a philosophical work by German philosopher Max Stirner (1806–1856). This work was first published in 1845, although with a stated publication date of "1844" to confuse the Prussian censors.


The work states the individual is dominated by illusory concepts ('fixed ideas' or 'spooks'), which can be shaken and undermined by each individual in order for that person to act fully. These concepts include primarily religion and ideology, and the institutions claiming authority over the individual. According to him, not only is God an alienating ideal, as Feuerbach had argued in The Essence of Christianity (1841), but so too are humanity itself, nationalism and all ideologies. According to Stirner, individuals should only entertain temporary associations between themselves, agreeing in mutual aid and cooperation for a period of time, but only when in each individual's interest.


Stirner asserted his own "doctrine" of self-interest to be a universal truth or established viewpoint, and likens his book to a ladder you throw away after climbing, a sort of self-therapy.[1]

Do I write out of love to men? No, I write because I want to procure for my thoughts an existence in the world; and, even if I foresaw that these thoughts would deprive you of your rest and your peace, even if I saw the bloodiest wars and the fall of many generations springing up from this seed of thought — I would nevertheless scatter it. Do with it what you will and can, that is your affair and does not trouble me. You will perhaps have only trouble, combat, and death from it, very few will draw joy from it.

Max Stirner, The Ego and his Own, p.394.


Stirner repeatedly quotes Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller and Bruno Bauer assuming that readers will be familiar with their works. He also paraphrases and makes word-plays and in-jokes on formulations found in Hegel's works as well as in the works of his contemporaries such as Ludwig Feuerbach. This can make the book more demanding for contemporary readers.

Confusion of the censors[edit]

He who destroyes a good Booke, kills reason it selfe, a 1955 exhibition by University of Kansas Library noted the following regarding the book's initial publication:

Its frank espousal of anarchistic egoism led to the not unexpected announcement in the newspapers of Saxony that the book had been immediately confiscated in Leipzig. Anxious not to be outdone, where usually they were so far ahead, Prussia banned the book. Then, Berlin received more accurate news: the book had not been banned in Saxony at all. In fact, the book's farfetched overstatement was regarded at Dresden as its own best antidote. The small states of Germany fell into line, on one side or the other, often with considerable difficulty owing to the scarcity of copies to examine first.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The same mental image of a ladder to be thrown away after climbing is used by Ludwig Wittgenstein in section 6.54 of Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. This turn of phrase was originally coined by Arthur Schopenhauer in 1844:

    However, for the man who studies to gain insight, books and studies are merely rungs of the ladder on which he climbs to the summit of knowledge. As soon as a rung has raised him up one step, he leaves it behind. On the other hand, the many who study in order to fill their memory do not use the rungs of the ladder for climbing, but take them off and load themselves with them to take away, rejoicing at the increasing weight of the burden. They remain below forever, because they bear what should have bourne them.

    Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, Vol. II, Chapter VII

  2. ^ "He who destroyes a good Booke, kills reason it selfe, an exhibition of books which have survived Fire, the Sword and the Censors". University of Kansas Library. 1955. Retrieved March 2, 2009. 


  • Paterson, R. W. K. (1993) [1971], The Nihilistic Egoist Max Stirner (Reprint ed.), London: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-7512-0258-4 .
  • Thomson, Ernie (2004), The Discovery of the Materialist Conception of History in the Writings of the Young Karl Marx, Lewiston, NY: E. Mellen Press, ISBN 0-7734-6426-3 .
  • Laska, Bernd A. (2002), "Nietzsches initiale Krise", Germanic Notes and Reviews 33 (2): 109–133 ; engl. trans. Nietzsche's initial crisis.

External links[edit]