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Minus One: Controversy

From the archives of The Memory Hole

Philosophical Egoism: Tempest Approaches Gale Force

Another salvo from LeFevre as the showdown with S.E. Parker continues in Part the Second.

Robert LeFevre

I was pleased to see my letter reproduced in MINUS ONE and was equally pleased to read your answer. When persons talk about different things or even about the same things at different levels, it is certain they will never agree. It is equally certain that agreement is not an essential, although it would be helpful if each disputant knew what the other was talking about so that disagreement would be meaningful rather than demonstrative of non-comprehension.
First, let me say that I am concerned with those actions or decisions which individuals take (including Stirnerites), which actions or decisions may further their ends, but which may constitute molestation of me or other persons. Now, this is a particular class of actions and not "any action," as you erroneously contend.
I have no objection whatever to the Stirnerite or anyone else who does as he pleases with himself and his own property. Indeed, I support this concept and will defend this right. Here, as I see it, there is only right action, although there could be unwise action. If a Stirnerite decides to commit suicide or to burn down his house, this is his business and I could not rightfully interfere. It may be unwise, but the wisdom of the Stirnerite is not my concern. He may do as he pleases with himself and his property irrespective of anything else.
But when the Stirnerite decides that it is to his advantage to kill me or to burn down my house, he has moved into the area of inter-human relationships. At this point, you have suggested that Lan Freed has provided the definition of morality. I don't subscribe to his definition. For the quotation you have used makes it appear that I must act self-sacrificingly at this point, or that if the Stirnerite refrains from burning my house or killing me he is sacrificing himself. And this is, it seems to me, limiting our behaviour by a definition of morality that is surely as savage as the barbaric notions it sought to eliminate.
If I follow this, what is being claimed is this: The Stirnerite (or any other) is compelled to sacrifice something. Either he will sacrifice me, whose property or life he covets, or he must sacrifice himself, since he may elect not to sacrifice me. And this is to say that all life and survival itself is a predatory matter and someone or something must be ravished. Either we will sacrifice others or we will sacrifice ourselves. And with this type of definition the Stirnerite says, I'll sacrifice others, but never myself. No Hitler or Genghis Khan could have stated it better. My own concept of morality does not adhere to barbarism nor arise from it.
But, indeed, it is at this point that the Stirnerites does reject any ambivalence in his own behaviour, for here the Stirnerite can't be wrong. Obviously, he cannot be wrong when it comes to the disposal of his own resources and assets. We would agree there. But when he proposes to dispose of his resources or assets (or proposes to dispose of mine) through processes of molestation, the Stirnerite cannot view this act as wrong either, for as he sees it there is no wrong for him. Whatever his ego tells him, is right by definition.
And now two Stirnerites confront each other, each coveting something the other has. Each is absolutely right and neither can suffer any qualms of indecision, remorse, or guilt. Following the Stirnerite code, which arises from a rejection of morality as defined by Freed, each Stirnerite must sacrifice the other or admit that he has sacrificed himself--unthinkable to an egoist.
Come to think of it, this might be a solution. If only we could arrange to pair off Stirnerites in some type of "life boat" situation, there probably would be few Stirnerites left around.

And In Reply

S.E. Parker

I agree entirely with Robert LeFevre about "non-comprehension." His reply to me is excellent example of what he is talking about. He completely ignores what I wrote about the egoist's non-moral use of the terms "right" and "wrong" and insists on treating egoism as if it were a moral philosophy. Just as his first attack rested on the fallacious identification of "guilt" with "recognition of error," so his second rests on the equally fallacious assumption that, because I accept Lan Freed's definition of morality, therefore my behaviour as an egoist must be judged according to morality as so defined! For this reason all his contortions regarding who sacrifices whom for what are wasted. Egoists are amoralists so the question of what is morally "right" or "wrong" for them is completely irrelevant. To repeat: The egoist standpoint is that a "right" action is simply one appropriate to the end desired, and a "wrong" action is one inappropriate to the end desired. In other words, there are expedient or inexpedient actions for the egoist--nothing more.

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