Protagoras, Nietzsche, Stirner: Expositors of Egoism
by Benedict Lachmann
translated by Edward Mornin
foreword by Kevin I. Slaughter
appendix by Trevor Blake
Stand Alone SA1090
Finally, the 1985 translation of Benedict Lachmann’s 1914 work on Egoism has been published, after being lost for 33 years.
Lachmann, a German individualist-anarchist, helped in the research of John Henry Mackay’s biography of Max Stirner, as well as publishing his own anarchist journal Der individualistische Anarchist (1919).
Benedict Lachmann was considered an intellectual threat to the Nazis. On October 18th, 1941, the 63-year-old was sent to to Łódź with the very first transport that left Berlin. He died there on December 4th, 1941.
Lachmann’s essay Protagoras. Nietzsche. Stirner. traces the development of relativist thinking as exemplified in the three philosophers of its title. Protagoras is the originator of relativism with his dictum “Man (the individual) is the measure of all things”. This in turn is taken up by Stirner and Nietzsche. Of the two, however, Stirner is by far the most consistent and for this reason Lachmann places him after Nietzsche in his account. For him Stirner surpasses Nietzsche by bringing Protagorean relativism to its logical conclusion in conscious egoism-the fulfilment of one’s own will.
In fact, he views Nietzsche as markedly inferior to Stirner both in respect to his style and the clarity of his thinking. “In contrast to Nietzsche’s work,” he writes, The Ego And Its Own “is written in a clear, precise form and language, though it avoids the pitfalls of a dry academic style. Its sharpness, clarity and passion make the book truly shattering and overwhelming.” Unlike Nietzsche’s, Stirner’s philosophy does not lead to the replacement of one religious “spook” by another, the substitution of the “Superman” for the Christian “God”. On the contrary, it makes “the individual’s interests the centre of the world.”
Intelligent, lucid and well-conceived, Lachmann’s essay throws new light on Stirner’s ideas.
—Sidney E. Parker, Ego, No 7, 1986
“Man is the measure of all things.”
These words are written over the portal to individualism and egoism.
Behind that entrance the ways divide.
One way leads to the state as the necessary prerequisite for the existence of the individual. With the intention of developing a higher form of state and society and of mankind in general, it leads to the cultivation of separate individuals who direct the masses as leaders. At all times, however, the idea of the “state,” “community” or “humanity” stands as a goal at the end of the way. This was the path taken by Protagoras and Friedrich Nietzsche.
The second way rises up more steeply and more boldly than the first. “As each thing appears to each man, so is it for him.”
Via the dissolution of the “state” and of “humanity,” it leads to the possibility of giving the individual the right to decide his own values, of making the individual’s interests the centre of his own world and making him master over the things in it. This was the path taken by Max Stirner.