At the time of his death, Max Ferdinand Scheler was one of the most prominent German intellectuals and most sought after philosophers of his time. A pioneer in the development of phenomenology in the early part of the 20 th century, Scheler broke new ground in many areas of philosophy and established himself as perhaps the most creative of the early phenomenologists.
Nevertheless, his work has survived and continues to be read and translated throughout the world, serving as evidence of the creative depth and richness of his thought. Max Scheler was born on August 22, He was raised in a well-respected orthodox Jewish family in Munich. Although he was not a particularly strong student, Scheler did show early promise and interest in philosophy, particularly in the works of Friedrich Nietzsche.
As a youth, he identified himself as a social democrat and enthusiastic Marxist. In the fall of , Scheler started his university studies in Munich, but by the fall of had enrolled in Berlin. Although he had applied to study medicine in Berlin, he studied primarily philosophy and sociology, attending most notably the lectures of Wilhelm Dilthey and Georg Simmel.
From Berlin, Scheler moved to Jena in to finish his studies under the guidance of Rudolf Eucken. It was in Jena that Scheler completed both his dissertation and habilitation, and where he began his career in philosophy. It was also during his time in Jena that he took a trip to Heidelberg in and met Max Weber, who also had a significant impact on his thought. The remainder of his life would be dedicated to the development and the progress of phenomenology. In , Scheler moved his family to Munich and started his position there as Privatdozent.
Due to controversies surrounding the separation from his first wife and reported affairs with students, Scheler lost his teaching privileges. From to , he would have to earn a living as a private scholar, lecturer and freelance writer. Because Scheler was forbidden to teach at a German university his lectures would often have to be held in hotel rooms rented by his close friend Dietrich von Hildebrand.
After years of struggling to make ends meet as a private lecturer and freelance writer, Scheler received an invitation in from Konrad Adenaur to join the faculty of the newly founded research institute for the social sciences in Cologne. The intent was to have Scheler serve as the Catholic thinker for the institute.
Scheler, officially joining the faculty in , was once again allowed to teach at a German university. During his time in Cologne, he wrote his major work on religion, On the Eternal in Man The circle of influence continued to grow for Scheler.
His circle of collaboration and discussion was not limited to philosophy. As was common for Scheler, he wrote many different manuscripts at once. While writing on the sociology of knowledge, he was working on his philosophical anthropology Die Sonderstellung des Menschen and the manuscripts compiled in Gesammelte Werke 12 , metaphysics Idealismus und Realismus and manuscripts compiled in Gesammelte Werke 11 , politics Politik und Moral , Die Idee des Ewigen Friedens and history Der Mensch im Weltalter des Ausgleichs.
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During this time, Scheler lectured extensively throughout Germany, focusing much of his effort to confront the rise of fascism in Germany and Europe. The restrictions Scheler felt were not merely personal, but also intellectual. He made considerable effort to distance himself from the Catholic Church and characterize his work as philosophical, not religious, in nature. With the growing tensions at Cologne, Scheler welcomed the offer of a professorial position in Frankfurt in and was eager to work with the Critical Theorists in Frankfurt such as Max Horkeimer and the young Theodor Adorno.
His deteriorating health forced him to cancel his extensive travel plans abroad, and on May 19, Scheler died in a hospital in Frankfurt from complications of a severe heart attack. At the end of his life, Scheler wrote that the central issue in his thought and writing was the question regarding the meaning of the human being GW IX, 9. This question not only guided his ever expanding philosophical endeavors, but also defined his approach and understanding of philosophy.
SCHELER: "THE HUMAN PLACE IN THE COSMOS", 1928
Like many of the Lebensphilosophen philosophers of life who had influenced him, Scheler strove to save philosophy and thought from the reductive mindset of the positive sciences and to a degree, American pragmatism, a mindset that defined the human being as mere homo faber tool-maker.
The human being is without a doubt a practical being, seeking to master and manipulate his or her environment to achieve desired results and avoid future suffering. For Scheler, practical knowledge and practical consciousness are genetically the first form of knowledge for the individual. Yet, human beings are not necessarily tied to practical affairs and have the ability to comprehend and regard the world in terms of its essence or being.
Practical knowledge is only the first of three types of knowledge.
In addition to practical or mastery knowledge, Scheler describes two other types, erudition Bildungswissen and knowledge of revelation. All three types have their own integrity and are irreducible to one another.
Man's Place in Nature
Each knowledge types thus has its own origin and is motivated by a different feeling. While practical knowledge is motivated by physical pain or fear of error, erudition is motivated by wonder and knowledge of revelation by awe. Philosophical knowledge belongs to the type, erudition.
Wonder is a loving concern for the world as it is in itself and marks the transition from the practical to the philosophical GW VIII, Love is understood by Scheler here in terms of the Christian sense of agape , loving as giving. The human being as a loving, philosophical being is not motivated to know by a sense of a lack, as is the case with eros, but is rather motivated by the abundance and surfeit of the meaning of the world GW VI, As a means to reawaken a sense of wonder, Scheler called for a rehabilitation of virtue, in particular the virtues of humility and reverence GW III, Scheler rejects the idea that knowledge is a an act of construction, as was the case for the neo-Kantians such as Ernst Cassirer.
Rather knowledge is a form of discovery, a discovery that requires a humble divesting of oneself that opens one up to the other GW VIII, and presupposes the loving willingness to be open to that which is other.
The Human Place in the Cosmos
Following Augustine, Scheler takes the emotional and affective life as foundational for any form of knowledge GW VI, Before the world is known, it is first given.
Love is that which opens the human being up to the world, to that which is other.
This openness demonstrates that there is a moral precondition for knowledge. Knowledge is possible only for a loving being GW V, This love is the movement of transcendence, a going beyond oneself, an opening to ever richer meaning.
Love is always already directed to the infinite, to absolute value and being GW V, For Scheler, phenomenology is unequivocally not a method, but an attitude GW X, The intent of this disengagement is not to abstract from an object of cognition as it exists, but rather to look at the object as it is itself. The natural worldview or attitude presupposes the practical and habitual context in which the object is given and thus uncritically assumes the meaning of the object in this context.
The scientific worldview assumes a particular understanding of the natural world in its investigations and determination of meaning, an atomistic or mechanistic conception of a living being. In both cases, there is no reflection regarding the meaning presupposed in the intention.
The phenomenological attitude does not negate the practical or scientific world and way of being. It merely holds them in abeyance, suspending judgment. Such a suspension is motivated not by a disdain or a devaluation of the practical life, but by a love of the world.
It is in this respect that Scheler describes phenomenological attitude as a psychic technique comparable to Buddhist techniques of suffering GW VIII, Scheler shares the conviction with realist phenomenologists such as Adolf Reinach that the essential insight, an intuitive and immediate grasping of the essence of the being of the object. This grasping of the object is never complete and assumes merely a partial insight into the thing itself GW V, Modernity, for Scheler, suffers from a fundamental mistrust of the world, a mistrust that the world given in experience is not the world itself, but rather some construct produced by the human mind.
Phenomenology assumes a trust in the world and in experience. It is the world that gives itself to intuition, beckoning us to participate ever more fully in its significance. By virtue of this loving trust, the world itself is given. The phenomenological attitude is an expression on this trust and seeks to describe the object as it gives itself, as it is brought to self-givenness. This work was motivated in part by a critique of the highly scientific or formalistic approaches to ethics introduced by Immanuel Kant and then later developed by the Neo-Kantians during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
With Kant, Scheler rejects both utilitarianism and eudaimonism, and holds that ethics rests upon an a priori, an obligation non-relative to future consequences or happiness.
Max scheler mans place in nature pdf
For Kant, the a priori is expressed in the form of a categorical imperative, an imperative that is universalizable. For Scheler, such a formulation of the a priori is abstract and as a consequence, fails to account for both the unique obligation one has to another person and the unique call to responsibility given in the ethical imperative GW II, Scheler argues that a material or a non-formal a priori arises in experience, specifically in the experience of value.
All experience is already value latent GW II, An object of perception such as an oak tree is not only green or large, but also pleasurable, beautiful and magnificent. Objects of experience are bearers of values. Just as the color red does not inhere in the tricycle, but is only given in the act of perception, the beauty of the painting is only given in the act of valuing.
The value an object bears is given intuitively through a type of value-ception. The grasping of value is our most original and primordial relation to the world. An object has value for us before it is perceived or known GW II, Following Franz Brentano, Scheler conceived of positive and negative values as given in a relation to being.
Positive values are not only given as that which entices us, but also as that which ought to be. Similarly, negative values are given as that which ought not to be GW II, In the relation values bear to existence, an ideal ought is given.
What ought to be is not logically derived or categorical, but is felt, i. Valuing is an act of meaning giving or creation and is therefore an intentional act. For Scheler, there are two basic emotional acts, the act of love and the act of hate. In the act of love, the value of an object or a person is deepened, revealing its highest or most profound significance. Hate, by contrast, is a movement of destruction, a movement wherein the value of an object or a person is demeaned or degraded.
The feelings of love and hate are the acts in which the world first comes to have meaning for us and a preferencing is inherent in this process. We tend toward or are attracted to that which is of greater or positive value, and tend to move away from or are repelled by that which is of lesser or negative value.
2. The Human Place in the Cosmos
Present in every experience is a ranking of values, a preference of certain values to others GW II, That there is an order of preferencing in experience is perhaps best demonstrated by the act of sacrifice.
For the sake of a particular life value such as health, we may sacrifice pleasurable experiences such as an overindulgence of ice-cream. It is in the experience of value preferencing that Scheler further clarifies the ethical a priori.
The ranking of value types from lowest to highest is as follows: pleasure, utility, vitality, culture, and holiness.