2. Synopsis of his Thought
3. The Max-Scheler-Archives
4. The Collected Works (Gesammelte Werke)
6. Secondary Literature
7. The International Max-Scheler-Society (Internationale Max-Scheler-Gesellschaft, e.V. [registered Society])
2. Synopsis of his Thought
It is custumary to divide Max Scheler's philosophy into two periods of development. The first period spans the time between his dissertation (1897) up to his work On the Eternal in Man (1920/22). Most of this period is covered in volumes 1 through 7 of the Collected Works.
The second period spans the years 1920/22 to 1928, and is covered in volumes 8 through 15 of the Collected Works.
During the first period, the predominant areas of investigation were value-ethics, feelings, religion, political theory, and related areas thereof, all treated under the aspect of Max Scheler's very own understanding of phenomenology.
(1) [1897-1920/22] In his first two major works, The Nature of Sympathy and Formalism in Ethics and Non-Formal Ethics of Values, Scheler focused on human feelings, love, and the nature of the person. He showed that the ego, reason and consciousness presuppose the sphere of the person and denied the possibility of a pure ego, pure reason or pure consciousness. In this, Scheler criticized the well known positions held by Husserl, Kant, and German Idealism. It is the human "heart" or the seat of love, rather than a transcendental ego, reason, a will or sensibility, that accounts for the essence of human existence. He distinguished many types of feelings, most of them are quite hidden and personal, and among which human love is shown to be the center. The human person is at bottom a loving being (ens amans). From this followed a major tenet that runs through the entire first period: feelings and love have a logic of their own, quite different from the logic of reason. In this Scheler followed the seventeenth century French mathematician and philosopher, Blaise Pascal.
In their initial inceptions, all feelings are conjoined to
experiences of values. There are five value ranks feelable by all
humans. They are felt in variable body-feelings, feelings of needs,
feelings of life, and feelings of the person and of the Divine.
Feeling values are comparable to seeing colors. Just
as colors are independent
of the things they are on (blue can be the sky or a cloth), so also values are independent of the things they are felt with. The value of holiness, for instance, can be experienced with God, but also with a fetish, or with mother earth as in American Indian cultures. Nevertheless, throughout the countless variegated feelings of values, there is a hidden order just as there is a hidden spectral order among the countless variegated colorations.
The spectral order of values is fivefold, situated deeply in man's order of love, or "ordo amoris," quite different from a rationally contrived order. Each rank of this order is felt in particular kinds of feelings. The order begins with the lowest rank of sensible values, the pragmatic values of usefulness and needs, values of life, the rank of mental values (having three kinds: aesthetic values, juridical values, and values of the cognition of truth) and, finally, the value of the holy (plus all their respective negative values).
Scheler’s ethics is based in large part on the initial "leaning" towards values, or what he calls pre-rational “preferring.” If a person freely leans toward something, say, toward a value higher than one given at the moment, the difference of the heights of those values is pre-rationally intuitive, although we might subsequently make judgments that contradict those initial leanings. Whenever an initially preferred value is being realized, however, a good automatically “rides" on the back of the realization of this higher value. If a child, for instance, spontaneously leans toward giving his or her mother a hug rather than keeping on playing with cookie cutters in a sand box, the child realizes a value higher (loving) than that of playing even without specifically “willing” to do so.
Since the emotive depths of all personal feelings can also be insincere and subject to deceptions, Scheler offered a number of studies into value deceptions. To such studies belong, among others, Ordo Amoris, The Idols of Self-Knowledge, Repentance and Re-Birth, and Ressentiment. These studies appear to be rare masterpieces on their respective subject, replete with inspiring insights into our emotional life, even in our era of technology when feelings are frequently minimized by rational explanation and calculation that often fail to show what is truely going on within us, or in others.
While both his earlier and later works cannot be separated from Scheler's pioneering work on Sociology of Knowledge (1924), his book On the Eternal in Man is the nearest bridge to his second period. In this book, Scheler's philosophy of religion suggests that the Absolute is given in a "sphere" or region of our mind that offers two alternatives: (1) it is either filled out with faith in God, or (2) with belief in idols. In either case, however, this "sphere" of the Absolute in us remains unaffected even if it is filled out with nothingness as may be the case with an agnostic or a nihilist. This sphere of our mind is a tether between human existence and the Ground of Being accessible only in religious acts such as of repentance, etc. -- acts, only Scheler has shown to be different in essence from all others acts of the mind.
Mention should be made also of some other current topics Scheler addressed, among others, during his first period of production, such as "Shame and Modesty," "The Meaning of Suffering," "Death and After-Life," "The Meaning of the Feminist Movement", "On the Tragic," and "Problems of Population."
The second period is characterized by almost daring elucidations of the Deity as unfinished and becoming along with the becoming of the cosmos and human history themselves.
(2) [1920/22-1928] Scheler defies the notion of a creator-God. Deity, Man, and World form one becoming process of unification taking place in absolute time. Absolute time is no measurable clock-time used in science and daily life. Absolute time resembles the time that passes when we are not thinking of time, e.g. while you had been reading on this site. Absolute time is inherent in all processes of self-regeneration, aging, self-modification; atomic processes, plants, and animals included. While a number of geniuses of modern science and philosophy (e.g., Einstein, Heidegger, Husserl, Kant, Newton) had their own understanding of time, Scheler’s concept is quite different. Simply put: without a self-generating life, no time. And absolute time, in turn, is the condition, Scheler shows, for the measurable time we are so used to identify as time per se. Insofar as he associated with it a four-dimensional expanse, however, his concept of absolute time does come close to Einstein’s general theory of relativity with which Scheler was quite familiar.
The process of a universal, cosmic becoming in absolute time has two increasingly mutually penetrating poles; (1) an uncreated vital energy, or “Impulsion,” and (2) “Spirit.” Without life, which is the form of impulsion, spirit is shown to be impotent to bring anything into existence. Spirit needs realizing factors such as life-conditions, history, economics, geo-politics, social and geographic conditions that make possible for spirit to realize ideas “with” them. Sometimes such realizing factors allow ideas to at least in part work in practice, sometimes, as we all know, they just don’t. Needless to emphasize that Scheler’s position on the functions of impulsion and spirit is akin to pragmatism, especially that of W. James whom he considered to be a “genius.”
One can get a glimpse of the unity of the becoming of the unfinished Deity, of World and Humanity, in Scheler’s last book, The Human Place in the Cosmos (1928). But the posthumous bulk of this is contained in Volumes 11 and 12 of the Collected Edition. References to Buddha can be found in these volumes, especially with regard to the notion of suffering and non-resistance. Max Scheler's non-Darwinian theory of evolution is more compatible with recent archeological findings in Chad (Toumaï) which point to a previously unknown genus-species being at the basis of humankind's famiily tree, rather than to the ape-hypothesis.
In his last book "The Human Place in the Cosmos" (1928) Scheler also propses several times that the human place in the cosmos is "outside" the cosmos. Already in 1925 Scheler had referred in The Forms of Knowledge and Culture to the human place as “opposite” (gegenüber) the cosmos. These latest insights are of significant import for both Scheler's latest philosophy and for contemporary thought. They remained largely unnoticed.
The meaning of this “outside” the cosmos appears to be the following. The human mind or “spirit” as Scheler preferred to say, has the ordinary capacity of experiencing all entities or things as objects. Even space and time, death and life, atomic particles - and even the cosmos itself - are objects of the mind, as they are, for instance, in the sciences. But the source of all objectifications of the center of the person’s mind can not itself be an object. This source must be “outside” all objects and, hence, the source is nowhere. In addition, Max Scheler says in his last book that humans are “world-open.” This would imply that human objectification does not make humans tantamount to “being-in-the-world” (Heidegger), but that they are, ontologically, being-outside-the-world.