Max Ferdinand Scheler
22 August 1874
|Died||19 May 1928 (aged 53)|
|History of ideas, value theory, ethics, philosophical anthropology, consciousness studies, sociology of knowledge, philosophy of religion|
|Value-ethics, stratification of emotional life, ressentiment, ethical personalism|
Max Ferdinand Scheler (German: ['?e:l?]; 22 August 1874 - 19 May 1928) 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 José Ortega y Gasset "Adam of the philosophical paradise." After his death in 1928, Martin Heidegger affirmed, with Ortega y Gasset, that all philosophers of the century were indebted to Scheler and praised him as "the strongest philosophical force in modern Germany, nay, in contemporary Europe and in contemporary philosophy as such." In 1954, Karol Wojty?a, 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."
Max Scheler was born in Munich, Germany on 22 August 1874 to a Lutheran father and an Orthodox Jewish mother. As an adolescent, he turned to Catholicism although he became increasingly non-committal around 1921. After 1921 he disassociated himself in public from Catholicism and the Judeo-Christian God, committing himself to philosophical anthropology.
Scheler studied medicine at the University of Munich. He also studied philosophy and sociology under Wilhelm Dilthey, Carl Stumpf and Georg Simmel at the University of Berlin. He received his doctorate in 1897 at Munich with a thesis entitled Beiträge zur Feststellung der Beziehungen zwischen den logischen und ethischen Prinzipien. He earned his habilitation in 1899 at the University of Jena with a thesis entitled Die transzendentale und die psychologische Methode and directed by Rudolf Eucken, and became Privatdozent there in 1901. Throughout his life, Scheler entertained a strong interest in the philosophy of American pragmatism (Eucken corresponded with William James).
He taught at Jena from 1900 to 1906. From 1907 to 1910, he taught at the University of Munich, where his study of Edmund Husserl's phenomenology deepened. Scheler had first met Husserl at Halle in 1902. At Munich, Husserl's own teacher Franz Brentano was still lecturing, and Scheler joined the Phenomenological Circle in Munich, centred around M. Beck, Th. Conrad, J. Daubert, M. Geiger, Dietrich von Hildebrand, Theodor Lipps, and Alexander Pfänder. Scheler was never a student of Husserl's and overall, their relationship remained strained. Scheler, in later years, was rather critical of the "master's" Logical Investigations (1900/01) and Ideas I (1913), and he also was to harbour reservations about Being and Time by Martin Heidegger. Due to personal matters he was caught up in the conflict between the predominantly Catholic university and the local socialist media, which led to the loss of his Munich teaching position in 1910. From 1910 to 1911, Scheler briefly lectured at the Philosophical Society of Göttingen, where he made and renewed acquaintances with Theodore Conrad, Hedwig Conrad-Martius (an ontologist and Conrad's wife), Moritz Geiger, Jean Hering, Roman Ingarden, Dietrich von Hildebrand, Husserl, Alexandre Koyré, and Adolf Reinach. Edith Stein was one of his students, impressed by him "way beyond philosophy". Thereafter, he moved to Berlin as an unattached writer and grew close to Walther Rathenau and Werner Sombart.
Scheler has exercised a notable influence on Catholic circles to this day, including his student Stein and Pope John Paul II who wrote his Habilitation and many articles on Scheler's philosophy. Along with other Munich phenomenologists such as Reinach, Pfänder and Geiger, he co-founded in 1912 the famous Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung, with Husserl as main editor.
When his first marriage, to Amalie von Dewitz, had ended in divorce, Scheler married Märit Furtwängler in 1912, who was the sister of the noted conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler. During World War I (1914-1918), Scheler was initially drafted but later discharged because of astigmia of the eyes. He was passionately devoted to the defence of both the war and Germany's cause during the conflict. His conversion to Catholicism dates to this period.
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. There he looked forward to conversing with Ernst Cassirer, Karl Mannheim, Rudolph Otto and Richard Wilhelm, all of whom are occasionally referred to in his writings. In 1927 at a conference in Darmstadt, near Frankfurt, arranged by Hermann 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 Position in the Cosmos']. His well-known oratorical style and delivery captivated his audience for about four hours.
Towards the end of his life many invitations were extended to him from China, India, Japan, and Russia. On the advice of his physician, he cancelled reservations on the Star Line to the United States.
At the time Scheler increasingly focused on political development. He met the Russian emigrant-philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev in Berlin in 1923. Scheler was the only scholar of rank of the then German intelligentsia who gave warning in public speeches delivered as early as 1927 of the dangers of the growing National Socialist movement and Marxism. 'Politics and Morals', 'The Idea of Eternal Peace and Pacifism' were subjects of talks he delivered in Berlin in 1927. In his analyses of capitalism Scheler argued that capitalism was a calculating, globally growing 'mind-set', rather than an economic system. While economic capitalism may have had some roots in ascetic Calvinism (cf. Max Weber), its very mind-set, however, is argued by Scheler to have had its origin in modern, subconscious angst as 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 individual person to this mind-set was sufficient reason 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 and was at that time supportive of programs such as 'continuing education' and of what he seems to have been the first to call a 'United States of Europe'. He deplored the gap existing in Germany between power and mind, a gap which he regarded as the very source of an impending dictatorship and the greatest obstacle to the establishment of German democracy. Five years after his death, the Nazi dictatorship (1933-1945) suppressed Scheler's work.
When the editors of Geisteswissenschaften invited Scheler (about 1913/14) to write on the then developing philosophical method of phenomenology, Scheler indicated a reservation concerning the task because he could only report his own viewpoint on phenomenology and there was no "phenomenological school" defined by universally accepted theses. There was only a circle of philosophers bound by a "common bearing and attitude toward philosophical problems." Scheler never agreed with Husserl that phenomenology is a method in the strict sense, but rather "an attitude of spiritual seeing...something which otherwise remains hidden...." Calling phenomenology a method fails to take seriously the phenomenological domain of original experience: the givenness of phenomenological facts (essences or values as a priori) "before they have been fixed by logic," and prior to assuming a set of criteria or symbols, as is the case in the empirical and human sciences as well as other (modern) philosophies which tailor their methods to those of the sciences.
Rather, that which is given in phenomenology "is given only in the seeing and experiencing act itself." The essences are never given to an 'outside' observer with no direct contact with the thing itself. Phenomenology is an engagement of phenomena, while simultaneously a waiting for its self-givenness; it is not a methodical procedure of observation as if its object is stationary. Thus, the particular attitude (Geisteshaltung, lit. "disposition of the spirit" or "spiritual posture") of the philosopher is crucial for the disclosure, or seeing, of phenomenological facts. This attitude is fundamentally a moral one, where the strength of philosophical inquiry rests upon the basis of love. Scheler describes the essence of philosophical thinking as "a love-determined movement of the inmost personal self of a finite being toward participation in the essential reality of all possibles."
The movement and act of love is important for philosophy for two reasons: (1) If philosophy, as Scheler describes it, hearkening back to the Platonic tradition, is a participation in a "primal essence of all essences" (Urwesen), it follows that for this participation to be achieved one must incorporate within oneself the content or essential characteristic of the primal essence. For Scheler, such a primal essence is most characterized according to love, thus the way to achieve the most direct and intimate participation is precisely to share in the movement of love. It is important to mention, however, that this primal essence is not an objectifiable entity whose possible correlate is knowledge; thus, even if philosophy is always concerned with knowing, as Scheler would concur, nevertheless, reason itself is not the proper participative faculty by which the greatest level of knowing is achieved. Only when reason and logic have behind them the movement of love and the proper moral preconditions can one achieve philosophical knowledge. (2) Love is likewise important insofar as its essence is the condition for the possibility of the givenness of value-objects and especially the givenness of an object in terms of its highest possible value. Love is the movement which "brings about the continuous emergence of ever-higher value in the object--just as if it was streaming out from the object of its own accord, without any sort of exertion...on the part of the lover. ...true love opens our spiritual eyes to ever-higher values in the object loved." Hatred, on the other hand, is the closing off of oneself or closing one's eyes to the world of values. It is in the latter context that value-inversions or devaluations become prevalent, and are sometimes solidified as proper in societies. Furthermore, by calling love a movement, Scheler hopes to dispel the interpretation that love and hate are only reactions to felt values rather than the very ground for the possibility of value-givenness (or value-concealment). Scheler writes, "Love and hate are acts in which the value-realm accessible to the feelings of a being...is either extended or narrowed." Love and hate are to be distinguished from sensible and even psychical feelings; they are, instead, characterized by an intentional function (one always loves or hates something) and therefore must belong to the same anthropological sphere as theoretical consciousness and the acts of willing and thinking. Scheler, therefore calls love and hate, "spiritual feelings," and are the basis for an "emotive a priori" insofar as values, through love, are given in the same manner as are essences, through cognition. In short, love is a value-cognition, and insofar as it is determinative of the way in which a philosopher approaches the world, it is also indicative of a phenomenological attitude.
A fundamental aspect of Scheler's phenomenology is the extension of the realm of the a priori to include not only formal propositions, but material ones as well. Kant's identification of the a priori with the formal was a "fundamental error" which is the basis of his ethical formalism. Furthermore, Kant erroneously identified the realm of the non-formal (material) with sensible or empirical content. The heart of Scheler's criticism of Kant is within his theory of values. Values are given a priori, and are "feelable" phenomena. The intentional feeling of love discloses values insofar as love opens a person evermore to beings-of-value (Wertsein).
Additionally, values are not formal realities; they do not exist somewhere apart from the world and their bearers, and they only exist with a value-bearer, as a value-being. They are, therefore, part of the realm of a material a priori. Nevertheless, values can vary with respect to their bearers without there ever occurring an alteration in the object as bearer. E.g., the value of a specific work of art or specific religious articles may vary according to differences of culture and religion. However, this variation of values with respect to their bearers by no means amounts to the relativity of values as such, but only with respect to the particular value-bearer. As such, the values of culture are always spiritual irrespective of the objects that may bear this value, and values of the holy still remain the highest values regardless of their bearers. According to Scheler, the disclosure of the value-being of an object precedes representation. The axiological reality of values is given prior to knowing, but, upon being felt through value-feeling, can be known (as to their essential interconnections). Values and their corresponding disvalues are ranked according to their essential interconnections as follows:
Further essential interconnections apply with respect to a value's (disvalue's) existence or non-existence:
And with respect to values of good and evil:
Goodness, however, is not simply "attached" to an act of willing, but originates ultimately within the disposition (Gesinnung) or "basic moral tenor" of the acting person. Accordingly:
Scheler argued that most of the older ethical systems (Kantian formalism, theonomic ethics, nietzscheanism, hedonism, consequentialism, and platonism, for example) fall into axiological error by emphasizing one value-rank to the exclusion of the others. A novel aspect of Scheler's ethics is the importance of the "kairos" or call of the hour. Moral rules cannot guide the person to make ethical choices in difficult, existential life-choices. For Scheler, the very capacity to obey rules is rooted in the basic moral tenor of the person.
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.
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 emotive 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 breaking down 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[original research?]).
Scheler planned to publish his major work in Anthropology in 1929, but the completion of such a project was curtailed by his premature death in 1928. Some fragments of such work have been published in Nachlass. In 1924, Man and History (Mensch und Geschichte), Scheler gave some preliminary statements on the range and goal of philosophical anthropology.
In this book, Scheler argues for a tabula rasa of all the inherited prejudices from the three main traditions that have formulated an idea of man: religion, philosophy and science. Scheler argues that it is not enough just to reject such traditions, as did Nietzsche with the Judeo-Christian religion by saying that "God is dead"; these traditions have impregnated all parts of our culture, and therefore still determine a great deal of the way of thinking even of those that don't believe in the Christian God. To really get freedom from such traditions it is necessary to study and deconstruct them (Husserl's term Abbau).
Scheler says that philosophical anthropology must address the totality of man, while it must be informed by the specialized sciences like biology, psychology, sociology.