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Scheler, Max Ferdinand (1874–1928)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DC067-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved September 22, 2023, from

Article Summary

Max Scheler, usually called a phenomenologist, was probably the best known German philosopher of the 1920s. Always an eclectic thinker, he was a pupil of the neo-idealist Rudolph Eucken, but was also strongly influenced by the life-philosophies of Dilthey and Bergson. While teaching at Jena he regularly met Husserl, the founder of the phenomenological movement, and his mature writings have a strongly phenomenological, as well as a Catholic, stamp. Later he turned towards metaphysics and the philosophical problems raised by modern science.

Scheler’s interests were very wide. He tried to do justice to all aspects of experience – ethical, religious, personal, social, scientific, historical – without doing away with the specific nature of each. Above all, he took the emotional foundations of thought seriously. Many of his insights are striking and profound, and sometimes his arguments are very telling, but his power to organize his material consistently and to attend conscientiously to the business of justification is poorly developed.

Scheler is best known for his anti-Kantian ethics, based on an a priori emotional grasp of a hierarchy of objective values, which precedes all choice of goods and purposes. He himself describes his ethics as ‘personalist’, and makes personal values supreme, sharply distinguishing the ‘person’ from the ‘ego’, and linking this with his analysis of different types of social interaction. In epistemology he defends a pragmatist approach to science and perception; thus philosophy, as the intuition of essences, requires a preparatory ascetic discipline. His philosophy of religion is an attempt to marry the Augustinian approach through love with the Thomist approach through reason. In his later work, to which his important work on sympathy provides the transition, he defends a dualist philosophical anthropology and metaphysics, interpreting the latter in activist terms as a resolution of the tensions between spiritual love and vital impulse.

Citing this article:
Dunlop, Francis. Scheler, Max Ferdinand (1874–1928), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DC067-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2023 Routledge.

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