Reply to John F. Kelly
From Libertarian Labyrinth
Reply to John F. Kelly.
Mr. Kelly asks what is there superstitious in respect for the rights of others? That depends on what is meant. Stirner uses the verb "to respect" in the sense of to stand In awe, and this not with reference to physical force. When desire and " sacred duty " coincide, there is no test presented.
I use the word egoism in only one general meaning, defined in No. 97. When the symbol is understood, accepted, and its meaning remembered, there is no difficulty in applying it, however many different manifestations there may be of the Ego. Vanity, which prompts men to say I—I—I, is popularly called egotism. It is a particular manifestation of the Ego. I recognize the fact that vanity is Egoistic and turned this to account to exhibit an "altruistic" benefit, but possibly cozening. One could raise trifling criticisms on the difference between an "altruistic" benefit intended for some others and such a benefit for all others. Eccentricity is individual, but the fact does not destroy the proper general meaning of individuality. Having already defined my principal term, what more is expected of me in that relation? To define popular variations indicating special developments? In such cases it surely suffices that the special meaning be made clear then and there, which was the case when alluding to vanity and introducing the popular term egotism so as not to falsify the popular spelling and at the same time not to convey the idea that vanity is the whole of Egoism. Men have different tastes and appetites. In gratifying any of them they exhibit Egoism. That is the reason why there are so many different kinds of the article.
Has it dawned upon Mr. Kelly that Egoism is perhaps not a bad word in itself, and that it might be stigmatizing personality to use it to designate merely repulsive traits of character? But will a " t" save the mark or drive philosophers to a hyphen1
I shall not object to a good thing for its name, even if I object to the name, and though evolutionary moralism puts out its head when it hears the hind part of its name. When unenlightened people have done harm, we will inquire what caused them to do harm. We need not disturb the "chestnut" style of religious controversy. The greatest reason why a particular Ego will not rob his neighbor may be that he does not want to do so. Why might not Mr. Kelly tell the readers of Liberty what Stirner said in reproach to the thief?
Bismarck must go with the Pope. Emperor Wilhelm and Vaterland are to him indispensable superstitions.
There is just this about all motives being Egoistic (it is like chemical substances being physical), —that for it to be a true statement the word "motive" must be restricted to a meaning which renders the proposition tautological. If a motive is a calculation with personal desire at the end, then only in the degree in which one is a real Ego can one entertain a motive. The hypnotized subject is otherwise moved, and not as a self-governing person; though we speak of him as a person, as we speak of a dead duck as a duck.
If promises disappeared, Mr. Kelly thinks that contracts and concerted action would become impossible except under duress, but I think that contracts will have to become mutually beneficial with appreciable continuity, and by beneficial I mean as well gratifying to the sentiments as to what are popularly appreciated as the material interests of the contracting parties. Every reasonable man knows that, when an arrangement is satisfactory to him, he will not break it up merely because the contract has expired. Even those who believe in the sacredness of promises and contract will admit as much.
I have yet to find the moralist who treats a promise as a law of nature, admitting of no exception, and so with always telling the truth, as when one is in the power of an enemy. The moralist has his superior reason. I have mine. To me a promise contains two elements, —namely, (1) the announcement of a purpose, and (2) respect for the "sacredness" of the engagement. The Egoist will either construe promise as an announcement, or will substitute the less misleading simple announcement. One who withdraws from his announced purpose, to our injury, must furnish reasons satisfactory to us or expect us to mark his conduct and deal with him as wavering or hostile.
It is really curious to read that, if pledges are valueless, "his colleagues would sell him out on the first opportunity." Does a natural man refrain from selling out his friends only because he has given a pledge not to do so? If so, it is much to be feared that he will sell them out in any event at the first good chance. The greatest traitor gives the most solemn assurances and invents the longest and strongest oaths Better than all such vanities, follies, and credulities is this: Those who are against us must expect us to be against them, and those who do not love our way we do not want.
The Einzige is Stirner's term for the genuine Ego. Napoleon was not altogether such, but how much he lacked is immaterial to my reply. He had a number of propensities which certainly could not be argued away. Whatever he was, he was taken as an idol, deified and served by the unegoistic devotion of others who did the slaughtering and pillaging. To accomplish all this mischief it was necessary that there be national spirit and a variety of other bate-breeding superstitions, not only in France, but in the antagonistic countries.
Men have interests in each other prior to contract. Neither is the moralism which makes a promise sacred nor coercion in an Archistic sense necessary to contract. They can boycott the recalcitrant. The Ego is not a spook, but an animal. I have not attempted to prove Mr. Kelly superstitious because he retains the terms "ought" and "should." If the reader will refer to No. 97, where I alluded to Mr. Kelly's "particular use" of those terms, — not to the fact of his using them,—he will see the nature of Mr. Kelly's error on this point, which is surprising. And really Mr. Kelly, having formerly written on moral obligation, now takes a singular course in confining his gratuitous instances of the word "ought" to indications of probabilities, as How much ought this to measure, etc. If these illustrations illustrate adequately, one might infer that, when the moralist asks, How ought a man to act in certain circumstances? he only means how will he act? I use the same words myself not only to indicate probabilities, but also to indicate conduct which I will approve or disapprove for various reasons. A whist player ought not to trump his partner's ace. I ought not to write on both sides of this paper. An Anarchist ought not to vote. I ought to answer candidly, if at all. In each instance it is implied that the Ego has given himself a certain task, or has a certain purpose, and that something conditions its fulfillment. My liking will determine whether I play whist or not, whether I write or not. My dislike of tyranny will determine me, with information, to be a plumb-liner.
Curious reasoning is this: "It seems as if Tak Kak had so recently succeeded in getting rid of some of his incubi that," etc. "Of course he can scarcely be expected to grasp the idea, then, that," etc. I draw attention to the connective "then." The premise which is conditioned by "it seems," leads to a conclusion which is obviously Mr. Kelly's basis for asserting that "it seems." Because I "fail to grasp," I "seem " green, and because I am green, inasmuch as I seem to be green, I " fail to grasp." Perhaps I have given enough thought to the question to hold up my end. Is Mr. Kelly confident that I am very green? What length of time appears to him sufficient for self-examination? I am glad that the organ of the plumb-liners is liberal enough to let this discussion in even for amusement. Readers need a little entertainment.
Bradlaugh's perjury could have no interest for me except as illustrating the principle upon which tyranny, relative or absolute, may be combatted, just as I spoke of passive resistance by gamblers.
The sense of honor which "gratifies" Mr. Kelly is by that word indicated to be Egoistic. If Mr. K. were one of those men who bend in pain and agony to gratify a tyrannous sentiment of honor, the aspect would be different. Adulterated sugar is called sugar, and adulterated, warped Egos are called persons "obedient to a sense of honor and duty."
If Mr. Kelly is not a "good citizen" or not a "cooperator," but simply a good resident and an advocate of equity in individual relations as resulting in something better than cooperative organizations, he will be denounced by those to whom not to be a "good citizen" is to be a bad man, and to whom not to vote is not to be a good citizen. Words in their primary and even secondary meanings tempt to acceptance, but often betray us in their further connotations or technical meanings. The secondary meaning of the word morals may be approved conduct, but under the head of secondary Mr. Kelly has introduced a distinction which may be referred to a third stage. When Belford Bax and B. R. Tucker speak of the inexpedient, they plainly mean that which they deem a mistake in judgment. When they speak of the immoral, they appear to mean that which they will condemn as to its temper or purpose. If the word morality might stand for the words good conduct, and immorality for the words bad conduct, then it would be equally open to all to use them judiciously with reference to any conceived good or bad, for an individual or group. But moralism as distinguishing itself from Egoism demands more. It will have morality to be the "truly" good conduct, and, if an individual is so organized that what is for his good is not for the good of the supreme spook of morality, he is not allowed in thought to be a standard of good for himself. Thus the moralists are impelled by the specific character of their idea to become dogmatic. Compare what I suggest as the real secondary meaning of the word "morals" with the common use of the word murder; for what is true of moralism is true of particular words indicating moral acts. The Egoist may talk of temperance, duty, obligation, right, or anything else relating to conduct, but be will always intend to convey his individual judgment, and with reference to his own line of conduct, never to make himself the mouthpiece of a dogma. When the Czar kills a Nihilist, he calls it an execution, but the Nihilists call it a murder. When the Nihilists kill a Czar, they call it an execution, but the Czarites call it murder. Still, though every one puts his own judgment into words which express the several parts of morals, the distinctive moralists are not content to leave the word morality in the same elective state.
For further illustration, there is Mr. Tucker's use of the word right in the article alluded to. As we give each other rights and give ourselves duties, when one says that a man has a right to do such and such a thing, I know that, whatever else he may mean-, he means that it will be right so far as he is concerned. He is willing to let the man do that. Note the contrast with the course of certain men who have urged others to do unwise acts because the theoretical right appeared:
To restrain some men by preaching devotion to the spook of moralism may be quite possible. The moralist makes an easy case thus, like the other religionists; nevertheless I distrust moralism. It draws comparisons between the actual and its ideal without well considering what can be realized and how. Drunkenness is immoral. Preach the welfare of the social life. Magnetize the drunkard. Still there is something in his stomach which moralism does not reach. What other evil will appear I do not know. Perhaps moralism preserves him to beget a race of drunkards or fanatics.
The perpetuation of the social life is a phrase in which the spook nests. After preaching, each person will translate it for himself and have his separate spook. Is society all living persons, or also all persons who are to live? The moralist may think of his children as contributing to form the ideal "society" which he carries in his head. If they die before maturity, "society" never is what he thought of. It does not include those persons whom he imagined as his grandchildren.
Are animals excluded from "the social life " simply in the degree of their inability to enter? If the answer is Yes, then moralism is a fiction. If the answer is No, then "moral" society is an arbitrary selection,—a characterization of and for themselves by a set of bipeds who have seized all advantages over less intelligent animals. The horse has feelings, but not such capacities as to render him the equal of the man. Now, if moralism fully respects life and feeling and happiness as such, the moral society will let the wild horse alone; but if the bipeds capture the quadruped, castrate him, make him a beast of burden and keep him in slavery, — ab, the unconscious hypocrisy! If, however, the moralist is determined to maintain moralism as his superior principle, he must respect the animals whose Inability alone debars them from society. Let him kill the wolf in self-defence, but let him not kill the wolf because it kills the lamb, and then himself kill the lamb and eat it. It is not necessary that he take a horse to ride, or to draw a carriage. He can walk and carry burdens. Let the moralist set this example, or cease to preach moralism as a principle of disinterested respect for life and feeling as such. But what is there in a man that distinguishes him, except in degree, from other animals? The older moralists had a ready reply. They respected the immortal soul. If moralism is to be commended because Mr. Kelly can influence somebody, will he not bethink himself that the doctrine of an immortal soul in the negro had something to do with setting negroes free? It is the Egoist's turn to laugh if the moralist finds that other ideas which are not true may have served to promote some good at times.
It is Egoistic to select for aid those who can and will aid us. Proudhon did not contemplate that we must give ourselves duties to all men without regard to their ability or willingness to be of us, with us, and for us. He was not one inch removed from Stirner in his view when he spoke of giving a youth a chance to show himself, and then, if he did not defend himself against oppression: "Frappez, ce n'est pas un homme." (Strike, he is no man !)
I might further object to the term morality because it conveys the ideas of people who would interfere to repress vice, as well as the different ideas of Mr. Kelly's school. If Egoism is reproached for an appearance of like confusion in popular estimation, there are these differences,—that the various phases of Egoism are Egoism, but the so-called popular morality is to Mr. Kelly's school immoral; and also that Egoism does not pretend to make any rule at all analogous to morality. What the social welfare is must always be an individual opinion. What the pleasure of the individual is is a fact ascertainable by the individual, if anything is.
The hero-worshipper preaches duty. What would strong men and governments be without dutiful worshippers in the mass of mankind?