Max Stirner by Engels.
Individuals who think that their ideas and thoughts arise in their minds as original inspiration from the gods, the Creator, remain the slaves the ‘speaking tools’ of alienated universally human forces personified as money and capital, and further as the state, law, religion, and so on.
Max Stirner, who thought he was the most free human being on Earth was, in fact, the most enslaved individual. The same judgement applies to all anarchist, fascist and religious thinking in as much as they root originality of thought in one divine mysterious source or another. But it was Stirner’s individualist anarchism that best exemplified a blindness to the origins of thought in social practice and this was why Marx and Engels chose him (‘Saint Max’) as the best counter-exemplar to their own materialist theories in the German Ideology.
Stirner’s ultra-idealism exempified the topsy-turvy world of philosophical idealism.
As an idealist, Hegel was no less a slave to alienated universally human forces than Stirner.
Idealism started with the power of thought and looked upon the phenomena of human culture as acts which disclose the power of thought.
In considering all the manifold forms of human culture as a result of the faculty to think that functions in man, Hegel lost any chance of understanding from whence this unique faculty appeared in man.
By raising thought to the rank of a divine power and force impelling man to historical creation from within, Hegel simply passed off the absence of a reply to this reasonable question as the only possible answer to it.
The sensuously objective activity of the millions of people who by their labour created the body of culture, the self-consciousness of which is scientific thought, remained outside Hegel’s field of view, seemed to him the ‘prehistory’ of thought.
Thought for Hegel was the only active and creative force and the external world was its field of application.
Thought was, and to ask about its origin from something else was to ask a futile question. It was, it operated in man and gradually arrived at awareness of its own activities, schemas and laws. Logic was self-consciousness of this creative principle, of this infinite creative power, which had never arisen from anywhere. In man this creative force was revealed, objectified and estranged, to be cognised eventually in logic as the universal creative force.
“Saint Max who, like all saints, loves miracles, but can only perform a logical miracle, is annoyed because he cannot make the sun dance the cancan.” (Marx and Engels, The German Ideology.)
(Selection from notes taken from E. V. Ilyenkov's Dialectical Logic.)
© John Dunn.