A Response to Paul Rowland's 'Hobbes, Stirner, and Authority'
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A Response to Paul Rowland's "Hobbes, Stirner, & Authority"
In "Hobbes, Stirner, & Authority," Paul Rowland (1998) argues that while Thomas Hobbes and Max Stirner are diametrically opposed in their views of how society should be run, each philosopher sees man as a "conscious egoist" driven by his own desires (p. 25). Yet, where Hobbes argues that a governing person is needed to regulate the masses, Stirner contends that people should be endowed with the right to form their own "union of egoists," comprised of like-minded individuals (Rowlandson, 1998, p. 26). Rowland's chief argument is that Hobbes's model is more appropriate in theory and practice, since Rowland's model offers no protection against chaos. Certainly, Rowland is correct that Stirner's model runs the risk of succumbing to anarchy. However, Stirner's theory is in fact more appropriate because it is more psychologically astute and understands that people's intellectual liberty is stifled when they are regulated by an authority figure that is not necessarily of their choosing.
Stirner's model for a "union of egoists" rests in the fact that people perform better when they exist within a supportive cohort. The "union of egoists" can be highly heterogeneous, yet the members must be united toward a common goal and share fundamental beliefs. To this end, it is worth unpacking Stirner's term; on the surface, a "union of egoists" would appear paradoxical, since if people are egoistical, they must necessarily be