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Max Scheler (August 22, 1874, Munich - May 19, 1928, Frankfurt am Main) was a German philosopher known for his work in phenomenology, ethics, and philosophical anthropology. Scheler developed further the philosophical method of the founder of phenomenology, Edmund Husserl, and was called by Jose Ortega y Gasset "the first man of the philosophical paradise." In 1954 Karol Wojtyla, later Pope John Paul II, defended his doctoral thesis on "An Evaluation of the Possibility of Constructing a Christian Ethics on the Basis of the System of Max Scheler."

Philosophical contributions[edit | edit source]

The heart of Scheler's thought was his theory of value. According to Scheler, the value-being of an object preceded perception. The axiological reality of values is prior to knowing. Values and their corresponding disvalues exist in an objective ordering of ranks:

  1. Values of the holy vs. disvalues of the unholy
  2. Values of the mind (truth, beauty, justice vs. disvalues of their opposites)
  3. Values of vitality and of the noble vs. disvalues of the ignoble
  4. Values of pleasure vs. disvalues of displeasure
  5. Values of utility vs. disvalues of the useless

A disorder "of the heart" occurs whenever a person prefers a value of a lower rank to a higher rank, or a disvalue to a value.

As Scheler explained in Formalism in Ethics and Non-Formal Ethics of Values, there are also moral values that relate directly to the person, and never to objects: values of good and evil.

The term Wertsein or value-being is used by Scheler in many contexts, but his untimely death prevented him from working out an axiological ontology. Another unique and controversial element of Scheler's axiology is the notion of the emotional a priori: values can only be felt, just as color can only be seen. Reason cannot think values; the mind can only order categories of value after lived experience has happened. For Scheler, the person is the locus of value-experience, a timeless act-being that acts into time. Scheler's appropriation of a value-based metaphysics renders his phenomenology quite different from the phenomenology of consciousness (Husserl, Sartre) or the existential analysis of the being-in-the-world of Dasein (Heidegger). Scheler's concept of the "lived body" was appropriated in the early work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty.

Max Scheler extended the phenomenological method to include a reduction of the scientific method too, thus questioning the idea of Husserl that phenomenological philosophy should be pursued as a rigorous science. Natural and scientific attitudes (Einstellung) are both phenomenologically counterpositive and hence must be sublated in the advancement of the real phenomenological reduction which, in the eyes of Scheler, has more the shapes of an allround ascesis (Askese) rather than a mere logical procedure of suspending the existential judgments. The Wesenschau, according to Scheler, is an act of blowing up the Sosein limits of Sein A into the essential-ontological domain of Sein B, in short, an ontological participation of Sosenheiten, seeing the things as such (cf. the Buddhist concept of tathata, and the Christian theological quidditas).

Biographical Data[edit | edit source]

Max Scheler was born in Munich, Germany, August 22, 1874. His father was Lutheran, his mother orthodox Jewish. As an adolescent, he turned to Catholicism, likely because of its conception of love. Around 1921 he became increasingly non-committal.

Scheler studied medicine in Munich and Berlin, philosophy and sociology under W. Dilthey and G. Simmel in 1895. He received his doctorate in 1897, and his associate professorship (habilitation-thesis) in 1899 at the University of Jena. His advisor was Rudolf Eucken, a 1908 Nobel Prize winner for Literature and a correspondent of William James. Throughout his life, Scheler entertained strong interest in the philosophy of American Pragmatism.

He taught at Jena University from 1900 to 1906. In 1902 he met the then renowned phenomenologist E. Husserl for the first time in Halle. Scheler was never a student of Husserl's. Overall, their relationship remained strained. Scheler was rather critical of the "master's" Logical Investigations (1900/01) and Ideas I (1913), and he also harbored reservations of Heidegger's Being and Time whom he also met various times. Nevertheless, after Scheler's demise in 1928, Heidegger noted, as Ortega y Gasset did, that all philosophers of the century were indebted to Scheler. Many others considered Scheler's sudden death to be an irreplaceable loss of European thought.

From 1907-1910 he taught at the University of Munich. He joined the Phenomenological Circle in Munich around M. Beck, Th. Conrad, J. Daubert, M. Geiger, D. v. Hildebrand, Th. Lipps, and A. Pfaender. Due to personal matters he was unfairly caught between the predominantly Catholic University and the local socialist media, leading to the loss of his Munich teaching position in 1910.

From 1910 to 1911 Scheler lectured at the Philosophical Society of Goettingen. He made other and renewed acquaintances here with Th. Conrad, H. Conrad-Martius, M. Geiger, J. Hering, R. Ingarden, D. von Hildebrand, E. Husserl, A. Koyre, and H. Reinach. Edith Stein was one of his students. She was impressed by him "way beyond philosophy." Scheler unwittingly influenced Catholic circles to this day, including his student Edith Stein and Pope John Paul II who wrote his Habilitation and many articles on Scheler's philosophy.

While his first marriage had ended in divorce, Scheler married Märit Furtwaengler in 1912, who was the sister of the noted conductor. During WW I (1914-1918) Scheler was drafted, but discharged because of astigmia of the eyes.

In 1919 he became professor of philosophy and sociology at the University of Cologne. He stayed there until 1928. Early that year, he accepted a new position at the University of Frankfurt, a.M. He looked forward to meeting here E. Cassirer, K. Mannheim, R. Otto and R. Wilhelm, sometimes referred to in his writings. In 1927 at a Conference in Darmstadt, near Frankfurt, arranged by Graf Keyserling, Scheler delivered a lengthy lecture, entitled "Man's Particular Place" (Die Sonderstellung des Menschen), published later in much abbreviated form as Die Stellung des Menschen im Kosmos [literally: "Man's Situation in the Cosmos"]. His well known oratory style and delivery had captivated his audience -- for about four hours!

Toward the end of his life, many invitations were extended to him, among them those from China, India, Japan, Russia, and the United States. However, on advice of his physician, he had to cancel reservations already made with Star Line.

At the time Scheler increasingly focused on political development. He met the Russian emigrant-philosopher N. Berdyaev in Berlin in 1923. Scheler was the only scholar of rank of the then German intelligentsia who warned as early as 1927 in public speeches of the dangers of the growing Nazi-movement and Marxism. "Politics and Morals," "The Idea of Eternal Peace and Pacifism" were subjects of talks he delivered in Berlin 1927. His analyses on Capitalism revealed it to be a calculating, globally growing "mind-set," rather than an economic system. While economic capitalism may have had some roots in ascetic Calvinism (M. Weber), its very mind-set, however, is shown to have its origin in modern, sub-conscious angst expressed in increasing needs for financial and other securities, for protection and personal safeguards as well as for rational manageability of all entities. However, the subordination of the value of the indiviual person to this mind-set was reason enough for Max Scheler to denounce it and to outline and predict a whole new era of culture and values, which he called "The World-Era of Adjustment."

Scheler also advocated an international university to be set up in Switzerland. Already at that time he was supportive of programs such as "continuing education," and of what he seems to have first called a "United States of Europe." He deplored the gap existing in Germany between power and mind, which gap he regarded to be the very source of an impending dictatorship and the greatest obstacle toward establishing a German democracy. Five years after his demise, the Nazi dictatorship (1933-1945) suppressed Scheler's work.

Primary references (English translations)[edit | edit source]

  • Scheler, Max (1958). Translated by Oscar Haac. Philosophical Perspectives, Boston: Beacon Press. 144 pages. (German title: Philosophische Weltanschauung)
  • Scheler, Max (1960). Translated by Bernard Noble. On the Eternal in Man, London: SCM Press. 480 pages.
  • Scheler, Max (1961). Translated by Hans Meyerhoff. Man's Place in Nature, New York: The Noonday Press. 105 pages. SBN 374-5-0252-8.
  • Scheler, Max (1970). Translated by Peter Heath. The Nature of Sympathy, New York: Archon Books. 274 pages. ISBN 0-208-01401-2.
  • Scheler, Max (1973). Translated by David R. Lachterman. Selected Philosophical Essays, Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press. 359 pages. ISBN 0-8101-0379-6.
  • Scheler, Max (1973). Translated by Manfred S. Frings and Roger L. Funk. Formalism in Ethics and Non-Formal Ethics of Values: A new attempt toward the foundation of an ethical personalism, Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press. 620 pages. ISBN 0-8101-0415-6. (Original German edition: Der Formalismus in der Ethik und die materiale Wertethik, 1913-16)
  • Scheler, Max (1980). Translated by Manfred S. Frings. Problems of a Sociology of Knowledge, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. 239 pages. ISBN 0-7100-0302-1.
  • Scheler, Max (1987). Edited and partially translated by Manfred S. Frings. Person and Self-value: three essays, Boston: Nijhoff. 201 pages. ISBN 9-0247-3380-4.
  • Scheler, Max (1992). Edited and partially translated by Harold J. Bershady. On Feeling, Knowing, and Valuing. Selected Writings, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 267 pages. ISBN 0-2267-3671-7.

Secondary references[edit | edit source]

  • Deeken, Alfons (1974). Process and Permanence in Ethics: Max Scheler's Moral Philosophy, New York: Paulist Press. 282 pages. ISBN 0-8091-1800-9.
  • Frings, Manfred S. (1965). Max Scheler: A concise introduction to the world of a great thinker, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Duquesne University Press. 223 pages.
  • Frings, Manfred S., editor (1974). Max Scheler (1874-1928) : centennial essays, The Hague: Nijhoff. 176 pages.
  • Frings, Manfred (1997). The Mind of Max Scheler: The first comprehensive guide based on the complete works, Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Marquette University Press. 324 pages. ISBN 0-8746-2613-7. 2nd ed., 2001.
  • Kelly, Eugene (1977). Max Scheler, Chicago: Twayne Publishers. 203 pages. ISBN 0-8057-7707-5.
  • Nota, John H., S.J. (1983). Translated by Theodore Plantinga and John H. Nota. Max Scheler: The Man and His Work, Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press. 213 pages. ISBN 0-8199-0852-5. (Original Dutch title: Max Scheler: De man en zijn werk)
  • Staude, John Raphael (1967). Max Scheler: An intellectural portrait, New York: The Free Press. 298 pages.

External links[edit | edit source]

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