Life and spirit in Max Scheler's philosophy

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Max Scheler was a philosopher of intuition who rarely worked out his ideas systematically. Consequently, his philosophical writings present something of a challenge for the reader. There is little unifying his disparate studies. In this paper, I suggest that a distinction between life and spirit which Scheler formulated early and held onto throughout his career can provide a heuristic principle by which to study his works. This paper is a clarification of this distinction. In the first part of the paper, I show that Scheler's dualistic metaphysics has its roots in Rudolf Eucken's idealistic philosophy. In the second and third parts of this essay, I clarify Scheler's concept of spirit as he develops it in confrontation with Edmund Husserl's phenomenological philosophy. Particularly, in the second part, I show that as he confronts Husserl's conception of philosophy as rigorous science he postulates a radically different idea of the nature of philosophy, an idea that is rooted in this distinction between life and spirit. I explicate in the next section the unique theory of the phenomenological reduction Scheler develops on the basis of this distinction. In the last part, I briefly present how this conception of life and spirit are worked out in Scheler's philosophical anthropology, particularly in his last work, The Human Place in the Cosmos.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-32
Number of pages10
JournalPhilosophy Compass
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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