Scheler's Ethical Personalism: Its Logic, Development, and Promise

Scheler's Ethical Personalism: Its Logic, Development, and Promise

Scheler's Ethical Personalism: Its Logic, Development, and Promise

Scheler's Ethical Personalism: Its Logic, Development, and Promise

Synopsis

Peter Spader has written a magisterial study on Max Scheler, one of phenomenology's earliest and greatest figures, whose theory of ethical personalism has become a major voice in the formulation of phenomenological ethics today. Spader follows Scheler's use of the classic phenomenological approach, by means of which he presented a fresh view of values, feelings, and the person, and thereby staked out a new approach in ethics. Spader recreates the logic of Scheler's quest, revealing the basis of his thought and the reasons for his dramatic changes of direction. This remarkable study provides a framework that allows us to understand Scheler's insights in the context of their dynamic evolution of his thought. It corrects imbalances in the presentation of his ideas and defends Scheler against key misunderstandings and criticisms. In short, Spader's work continues the process of developing Scheler's pioneering theory of ethical personalism.

Excerpt

In the early years of the twentieth century, a new beginning in ethics took shape as a German philosopher named Max Scheler laid the foundations for an ethical personalism that would challenge the austere rational ethics of Immanuel Kant. Scheler's work opened new insights into values, feelings, and the person. Using the classic phenomenological approach, he presented a fresh view of the intricacy of the world of values, seeing not just values, but values arranged hierarchically in ranks. He rehabilitated the role of feelings in morals, distinguishing “cognitive” feelings from passions. Indeed, Scheler defended a logic of feeling, presenting an interrelated realm of intentional feelings, acts of preference that give us the rank of a value, and acts of love that open our hearts to whole new realms of higher values, enabling us to grow morally. He showed us how acts of hatred blind and distort our vision of values. Crowning his work on values and feelings, Scheler defended the autonomy and dignity of the whole, integrated person—a being centered in the heart, not the head. Finally, he began to forge a subtle ethics worthy of his view of values, feelings, and the person. in sum, Scheler began to shape a new ethical personalism.

This book will develop the systematic nature of Scheler's quest for an ethical personalism in order to show how the work he so admirably began can be completed. Scheler was a pioneering explorer, and as happens with many pioneers, he was so taken with what he saw that his notes are sometimes garbled, his maps sometimes poorly drawn and noted. By retracing his steps I hope to correct some of the misunderstandings that have grown up over the years due to the nature of Scheler's task and the writings he has left us, for only then can we begin to concentrate not just on what he said but also on what he was trying to get us to see.

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