Max Stirner

Max Stirner Picture

Max Stirner, renowned German philosopher, was born on October 25, 1806, in Bayreuth, Bavaria. His birth name was Johann Kaspar Schmidt, however, during his stay at the Altsprachliche Gymnasium, due to his high forehead, his classmates gave him the nickname of Stirner. Max pursued his bachelor’s degree at the universities of Berlin, Erlangen and Konigsber. He was among the regular audience of Hegel’s lectures on religion, history of philosophy and the philosophy of subjective spirit. During his final academic years, Striner’s mother became seriously ill, and Max, now caught up with family obligations, had to overlook his education.

Thus, he was barely qualified as a teacher, and the employment opportunities he received were discontinuous and insecure. His professional career is marked with such disappointments. He worked as a Latin instructor for a year and a half, however he went unpaid. Eventually, he managed to secure a permanent employment a private girl’s institute, where he taught literature and history for five years, and his fame as a competent instructor began to spread. During this period, Max began frequenting the Hippel’s Weinstube which was located on Friedrichtrasse. Here, he had managed to find an intellectual haven in the shape of a free community of philosophers and thinkers lead by Bruno Bauer. This association of thinkers called themselves the Die Frien, their meetings were famous for being passionate and loud, even physically aggressive at times. Max, though famous for his polite manner of expression, soon began actively engaging in the ongoing debates, and his opposition of religion and moderation became a regular discussion for the Die Frien.

Stirner was offered to write for the magazines, Leipziger Allgemeine Zeitung and Rheinische Zeitung, however, his journalistic ventures met with little acclaim during its early years. This changed in 1843, when he published the article, “The False Principle of Our Education”, which dealt with pedagogy. In 1846, Stirner published his masterwork, “Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum” (The Ego and Its Own) which won immense critical acclaim and praise. The book dealt with individualistic anarchism, and was based on Stirner’s concept of rejection of religion, morality and authority. Following that, Max contributed various articles to several prominent journals, and in 1852, he published a section of History of Reaction.

The 1850s was a very hard time for Stirner, as he began encountering severe financial restrictions. His creditors began pursuing him and he was forced to change his residence to avoid them many times. He was imprisoned in 1853 and 1854, due to his inability to pay his debts. Two years later, he died from an infection caused by an insect sting.

Stirner is not only known for his literary contributions, but also for translating the works of leading economists such as Jean-Baptiste Say and Adam Smith. His works include “Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum”, “Geschichte der Reaction: Die Vorlaufer der Reaction”, and “Die moderne Reaction”. Max Stirner’s philosophies have played a significant role in the evolution of the Russian and German schools of anarchism. It is also said that Karl Marx derived the influence for his philosophies from the works of Max Stirner.

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