Max Scheler

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Scheler, Max


Born Aug. 22,1874, in Munich; died May 19, 1928, in Frankfurt am Main. German idealist philosopher; one of the founders of axiology, the sociology of knowledge, and philosophical anthropology.

Scheler was a professor in Cologne from 1919 to 1928. He was influenced significantly by the philosophy of life and E. Husserl’s phenomenology; in the mid-1910’s he turned to Catholic religious philosophy (On the Eternal in Man, 1921), but later he evolved a pantheistic and personalist metaphysics.

Scheler’s philosophy was influenced by a keen sense of the crisis in European culture, the source of which he saw in the triumph of the bourgeois spirit with its cult of profit and gain. Rejecting socialism, which he regarded as a “condensed form” of the same utilitarianism of the bourgeois spirit, he set his hopes in his system of ethics on a “third path”—the awakening of a feeling of value in the individual consciousness. Seeking to overcome the abstractness and formalism of Kantian ethics through the use of the phenomenological method, Scheler attempted to construct a hierarchy of objective values (Formalism in Ethics and Material Value Ethics, vols. 1–2,1913–16) and introduced a distinction between abstract values and empirical variables: according to Scheler, it is not values as such but the historical forms of their existence that are relative. Influenced by St. Augustine and Pascal, Scheler contrasted the logic of intellect with the logic of feeling, which he interpreted as an intentional act whereby the knowledge of value is realized. Love, according to Scheler, is an act of ascent, accompanied by instantaneous insight into the highest value of an object; the specific character of love is that it can be directed only toward an individual as the bearer of value, but not toward value as such (The Nature of Sympathy, 1923). In his works on the sociology of knowledge, which include Forms of Knowledge and Society (1926), he viewed the diversity of social norms and values as a consequence of the diversity of historical conditions that hinder or help the realization of various “life,” “spiritual,” and religious values.

Scheler’s characteristic dualism—the world of values as ideal tasks and the real existence of the present—achieved particular acuity in his unfinished work on philosophical anthropology, The Place of Man in the Universe (1928). In this work the powerful but blind “gust” of life and the all-comprehending but powerless spirit are put forth as the fundamental principles of human existence. Scheler greatly influenced the subsequent development of idealist philosophy, becoming a link between the philosophy of life and existentialism.


Gesammelte Werke, 5th ed., vols. 1–13. Bern, 1954–66.
Gesammelte Werke, vol. 1: Fruhe Schriften. Edited by M. Scheler and M. S. Frings. Bern-Munich, 1971.


Istoriia filosofii, vol. 5. Moscow, 1961. Pages 499–500.
Dupuy, M. La Philosophic de M. Scheler, vols. 1–2. Paris, 1959.
Max Scheler: Bibliographic Edited by W. Hartmann. Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt, 1963.
Frings, M. S. Max Scheler. Pittsburgh, 1965.


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