Anthony M. Ludovici’s Egoism


1845-1945, 1946-Today, Max Stirner / Monday, December 18th, 2017

The Union of Egoists project tries to make a distinction between Egoism that is explicitly inspired or intellectually descended from Max Stirner, and things that are merely egoistic. There are many people who one could say were egoists, and wrote things that were perfectly egoistic, but we have to draw lines of delineation. One of those lines is trying to keep the majority of our work within the years 1845 to 1945.

British Nietzschean elitist Anthony M. Ludovici (1882 – 1971) is not a name many modern readers would associate with egoism and Max Stirner, though I believe that is largely due to the narrowing of Stirner’s audience to the anarchist milieu. It is clear he is familiar with him along with the earliest Americans being exposed to the German’s works.

Recently in doing research relating to the School of Living and Ralph Borsodi, I noticed — was shocked, in fact — to see Ludovici was listed as part of an “Advisory Council” in a 1967 issue of their Journal The Way Out. Bersodi himself was influenced by Benjamin Tucker, Friedrich Nietzsche, Henry George, Lysander Spooner, and Arthur Schopenhauer, among others. He rejected the “anarchist” label.

In Ludovici’s 1909 book Who is to be Master of This World? An Introduction to the Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, published just two years after the first English language edition of The Ego and His Own, he makes mention of Stirner in context of discussing Nietzsche:

From that time forward, Nietzsche began to regard our modern values “good” and “evil” with ever-increasing suspicion, and literally did not rest until he had formulated the theory expounded in his latter works.
Of course we had had moralists, or preferably immoralists, who, without offering a substitute, had attacked the Christian values. French books had been plentiful, and Stirner in modern times had presented us with a strikingly original and very deep work on the subject. * But the only favourable comment we find concerning any modern school of ethics, in Nietzsche’s works, relates to Herbert Spencer. The position Spencer assumes,, although not sanctioned by Nietzsche, is nevertheless declared to be “psychologically tenable.”

In the 1963 essay from The South African Observer titled The essentials of good government, Stirner is mentioned along-side other notable figures, though not in a flattering way:

This probably explains the frequency with which the advocates of Anarchism and newfangled policies like Socialism, Communism and other forms of State ownership of the means of production, together with all the grave errors in Psychology which these systems involve, emanate from middle-class minds; that is to say, the minds of men who have never experienced want and have in their family lines long enjoyed the safety of a well-regulated existence.
From the ancient Greek, Zeno (B.C. 342–267), who set his community, destitute of any government, against Plato’s ordered State, down to our William Godwin, the Frenchman, Proudhon, the German, Max Stirner, and men like Thoreau and Tolstoy, all these professed Anarchists have come from middle-class families, traditionally contented with their lot and belonging to a type which might be fancifully described as “Surfeited with Smugness”.

Certainly a great deal of time passed between the writing of those two items, over 50 years, in fact. It is wise to note that more time passed between these to mentions of Max Stirner than Max Stirner was even alive.

The following selection is from his book The Choice of a Mate (London: John Lane The Bodley Head, 1935). While one can discuss Ludovici’s other work and it’s compatibility or incompatibility with egoism, the following passage certainly cannot be disputed in its naked Stirnerite egoism. Not just vaguely egoistic, but explicit “enlightened egoism”.


The Choice of a Mate (excerpt)

From the very beginning it would be well for all young people to recognize that on this question of unselfishness and selfishness and the praise and blame commonly accorded to each, Christian teaching is psychologically false. Owing to its early appeal to the pariah and the outcast, this religion constantly reveals a psychology framed more on demagogic appeal than actual fact. The very command, “Love one another!” like the Mosaic command, “Honour thy father and thy mother”, is based on a misunderstanding of normal mental processes.
Love and honour are not voluntary; they are a natural, inevitable and quite involuntary reaction to the lovableness and honourableness of the object, whether neighbour or parent.
No command can make one love anyone who is not lovable. “Seek neighbours that are loveable so that you may inevitably love them”, would have been more sensible. “Love one another!” is shallow and reveals a poor, almost benighted grasp of human psychology.
You might just as well say, “Admire one another”, or “Esteem one another”. These reactions depend on certain qualities in the other, and cannot be auto-generated in response to a command even from a god.
The same remarks apply to the Mosaic “Honour thy father and thy mother!” The proper command would have been: “Parents, make yourselves honourable in the sight of your children!”
I take it that all intellectually honest persons know that in everything they do, they act either under compulsion, from inclination, or from self-interest. There is no such thing as a consistent course of so-called “unselfish” conduct that is not pursued for some kind of self-gratification. Charity is the most transparent of these.
Everybody, therefore, is consistently “selfish”. The wise, however, are “enlightened egoists”, i.e. they are “selfish” only up to the point when self ceases to be best served by “selfishness”, as, for instance, in their relationship to immediate dependents who can minister to their happiness, in their relationship to menials, retainers, and friends, all of whom may make life happy or the reverse, for a central figure. And the unwise are “unenlightened egoists”, i.e. they carry “selfishness” to a point which turns their environment against them, so that, in the end, “self” gets badly served and is made unhappy as the result of “selfishness”.
The mistake is to suppose that the “enlightened egoist” is “unselfish”, and that the “unenlightened egoist” is “selfish”. Both are “selfish” — if the word has any meaning at all, but whereas the former is so with intelligence, the latter is so as a dolt and dullard.

-Anthony M. Ludovici