The relationship between Max Stirner's thought and nihilism

Dowdall, Timothy (2021). The relationship between Max Stirner's thought and nihilism. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This study deals with an enfant terrible of nineteenth-century German philosophy, Max Stirner, and seeks for the first time to chronicle and appraise the frequent assertions, and less frequent denials, of his being a nihilist. The thesis is that the stark polarisation of opinion on this subject is indicative of an ideological and critical divide, which inhibits any attempt to answer the question of whether Stirner was a nihilist in a balanced and objective manner. Although Stirner is not known ever to have used the word ‘nihilism’, or any of its derivatives, in his published writings or elsewhere, he was first accused of nihilism within a few weeks of the publication of his magnum opus, 'Der Einzige und sein Eigentum', in 1844. Since then, the allegation has been repeated by well over a hundred writers and critics, resulting in its almost becoming a truism. My research aims, firstly, to establish a clear understanding of the multifarious meanings of the term ‘nihilism’, secondly, to examine the accusations of nihilism levelled at Stirner in the light of this analysis, and, thirdly, to assess not only the fairness and accuracy of the imputation of nihilism but also its usefulness in understanding Stirner as a thinker. The significance of this thesis is that it provides new insights into the nature of Stirner’s thought, challenges the orthodox view of Stirner as a philosophical pariah, and proposes a re-evaluation of his ideas and their place in the history of philosophy.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of Languages, Cultures, Art History and Music, Department of Modern Languages
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)


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