Max Stirner on spooks, truth and sanity

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Max Stirner argues that most commonly accepted social institutions - including the notion of the state, property as a right, natural rights in general, and the notion of society itself - are mere illusions, "spooks," or ghosts (depending on the translation) in one's mind. Just about any idea can be turned into a "spook," an idea that haunts or possesses one and supposedly motivates one's actions above all else.

Hauntology is a set of ideas that refer to the return or persistence of elements from the social or cultural past, as in the manner of a ghost. The term is a neologism first used by French philosopher Jacques Derrida in his 1993 book "Specters of Marx."

God, property, man, reason, community, money, the people, love, the worker, the race, the state, morality, etc., can all act as ghosts when they are absolutely placed - sanctified - above everything else. When they are sanctified and serve as justification (but more often excuse) for one's actions, they haunt man.

This doesn't mean these ideas are useless, but that a consciously interested person would aim to use them for more concrete goals and purposes, and would be cognizant that ideas (and language) can't fully describe unique concrete persons and properties. People and things aren't instantiations of sacred categories or ideas.

Nevertheless, the function of ideas that can occur as spooks is remarkable when we measure by their effect on societal or individual mental health. If God talks to you (or haunts you), you are either a medium, an oracle, or a paranoid. If you talk to God, you are either a pious person pursuing his religious duties or a dreamer looking for random paternal figures.

It remains doubtful - as indicated in the meme - that it is above all the philosophers who are always merely committed to the truth and thus sometimes take away their "healthy" spooks from their fellow men. After all, they also constantly invent new ideas, which in turn can function as spooks.

At the same time, we all still carry a primal fear within us, which Emil Cioran describes well in this quote: “The fear of being deceived is the vulgar version of the quest for Truth.“

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