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Life and Spirit in Max Scheler’s Philosophy

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Abstract

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.

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