GERMAN PHILOSOPHER (1874-1928)
Ethics, Evolution, Capitalism, Knowledge, Metaphysics, Philosophical Anthropology,
Pragmatism, Religion, Phenomenology, Politics and Morals, Science, Sociology.
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])
Max Scheler was born in Munich, Germany, August 22, 1874. His father was Lutheran, his mother orthodox Jewish. As an adolescent, he turned to Catholicism, likely because of its conception of love. Around 1921 he became increasingly non-committal.
Scheler studied medicine in Munich and Berlin, philosophy and sociology under W. Dilthey and G. Simmel in 1895. He received his doctorate in 1897, and his associate professorship (Inaugural Disserttation) in 1899 at the University of Jena. His advisor was Rudolf Eucken, a 1908 Nobel Prize winner for Literature and a correspondent of William James. Throughout his life, Scheler entertained strong interest in American Pragmatism. He taught at Jena University from 1900 to1906. In 1902 he met the then renowned phenomenologist E. Husserl for the first time in Halle. But Scheler was never a student or disciple of Husserl's. Overall, their relationship remained strained. Scheler was rather critical of the "master's" "Logical Investigations" (1900/01) and "Ideas I" (1913), and he also harbored reservations of Heidegger's Being and Time whom he also met various times. Nevertheless, after Scheler's demise in 1928, Heidegger noted, as did Ortega y Gasset, that all philosophers of the twentieth century were indebted to Scheler. Many others considered Scheler's sudden death to be an irreplaceable loss of European thought.
From 1907-1910 he taught at the University of Munich. He joined the Phenomenological Circle in Munich around M. Beck, Th. Conrad, J. Daubert, M. Geiger, D. v. Hildebrand, Th. Lipps, and A. Pfaender. Due to personal matters he was unfairly caught between the predominantly Catholic University and the local socialist media, leading to the loss of his Munich teaching position in 1910.
"Gottingen Circle" ca 1911 (left to right): Reinach, Neumann, Lipps, Scheler, Koyre, Hering, Ms. Martius, Hamburger, Conrad, Huebener, v. Sybel, Clemens.
From 1910 to 1911 Scheler lectured at the Philosophical Society of Goettingen. He made other and renewed acquaintances there with Th. Conrad, H. Conrad-Martius, M. Geiger, J. Hering, R. Ingarden, E. Husserl, A. Koyre, and H. Reinach. Edith Stein was one of his students. She was impressed by him "way beyond philosophy." Scheler unwittingly influenced Catholic circles to this day, including his student Edith Stein and Pope John Paul II who wrote both his Inaugural Dissertation and many articles on Scheler's philosophy.
While his first marriage had ended in divorce, Scheler married Märit Furtwaengler in 1912, who was the sister of the noted conductor. During WW I (1914-1918) Scheler was drafted, but discharged because of astigmia of the eyes.
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, a.M. He looked forward to meeting here A. Cassirer, K. Mannheim, R.Otto and R.Wilhelm, sometimes referred to in his writings. In 1927 at a Conference in Darmstadt, near Frankfurt, arranged by Graf Keyserling, Scheler delivered a lengthy lecture, entitled "Man's Particular Place [in the Cosmos]" (Die Sonderstellung des Menschen), published later in much abbreviated form as Die Stellung des Menschen im Kosmos [“The Human Place in the Cosmos.” He was known for his oratory tyle and delivery which had captivated his audience -- for about four hours!
Toward the end of his life, many invitations were extended to him, among them those from China, India, Japan, Russia, and the United States. However, on advice of his physician, he had to cancel reservations already made with Star Line.
At the time Scheler increasingly focused on political development. He met the Russian emigrant-philosopher N. Berdyaev in Berlin in 1923. Scheler was the only scholar of rank of the then German intelligentsia who warned as early as 1927 in public speeches of the dangers of the growing Nazi-movement and Marxism. "Politics and Morals," "The Idea of Eternal Peace and Pacifism" were subjects of talks he delivered in Berlin 1927. His analyses on Capitalism revealed it to be a calculating, globally growing "mind-set," rather than an economic system. While economic capitalism may have had some roots in ascetic Calvinism (M. Weber), its very mind-set, however, is shown to have its origin in modern, sub-conscious angst 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 indiviual person to this mind-set was reason enough 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. Already at that time he was supportive of programs such as "continuing education," and of what he seems to have first called a "United States of Europe." He deplored the gap existing in Germany between power and mind, which gap he regarded to be the very source of an impending dictatorship and the greatest obstacle toward establishing a German democracy. Five years after his demise, the Nazi dictatorship (1933-1945) suppressed Scheler's work.
Tomb of Max and Maria Scheler in Suedfriedhof Cemetery, Cologne.
Scheler died in Frankfurt-am-Main., May 19, 1928. He is buried, with his third wife, Maria, in Cologne, Suedfriedhof Cemetery (lot: Fl.XVIII, 366).
There are two biographies: (1) Wilhelm Mader, Max Scheler. 2nd. Edition: 1995. It uses archival material and is available through Bouvier Verlag, 53114, Bonn, Germany. It is written in German. (2) John R. Staude, Max Scheler. New York: The Free Press, 1967.
Scheler's turbulent years at the
Cologne, are covered in Koelner Universitaetsgeschichte,
Das 19. und 20. Jahrhundert, Eds.:
Bernd Heimbuechel, Klaus Pabst. Koeln Wien: Boehlau Verlag, 1988.
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