"Intellectual Portrait of Max Scheler",
A review by Carroll Quigley in The Washington Evening Star, 16 February 16, 1968,
of a book:
MAX SCHELER, 1874-1928: An Intellectual Portrait,
by John-Raphael Staude.
New York: Free Press, 1968.
"Intellectual Portrait of Max Scheler"
By CARROLL QUIGLEY
MAD SCHELER, 1874-1928: An Intellectual Portrait.
By John-Raphael Staude.
298 pages. $6.95.
The life of Max Scheler was a continuous, and violent, struggle for
truth; under constant pressure from the emotional problems of his private life
on the one side and the chaos of German public affairs on the other side.
Staude's "intellectual portrait" is remarkably successful in
tracing these three strands through their tumultuous interactions over that
crucial generation when 19th-century ideas became clearly inadequate and Germany
took that wrong turn which almost destroyed Europe.
From the beginning, Scheler rejected intellectual relativism as
well as the crude materialist positivism of science, perferring a view that
insisted there must be an absolute truth somewhere, and that any satisfactory
picture of that truth must recognize that it has spiritual elements and human
freedom in it.
In the same way, he rejected the outlook of the triumphant
bourgeoisie, either the insatiable greed of the successful middle classes or the
sour, "free-floating, ill-temper" of the petty-bourgeoisie (which he called "ressentiment").
Scheler was the first to provide a clear description of this latter outlook,
which subsequently provided the chief basis for Hitler's appeal and plays a
major, if largely unrecognized, role in American life today.
Scheler's intellectual odyssey in search of a more satisfactory
ideology took him through neo-romanticism, Germanic conservative mythology,
Roman Catholicism, and onward to an outlook more typically his own. Before his
death, he saw that there was a truth, although no man or group had any adequate
grasp of it. The shape of that truth, could be seen in outline by examining the
views of diverse social groups to grasp each group's unique glimpse of that
truth and to free their dim and partial view from its narrow perspective, and,
above all, from its conceptual and verbal formulation in their own limited
social and historical context.
Scheler was one of the founders of the modern theory of the
sociology of knowledge, an area in which he exercised considerable influence on
thinkers like Ernst Cassirer and Karl Mannheim. He rejected both capitalism and
socialism as such time-bound and partial points of view, opposite sides of a
single sordid effort to exploit both man and nature for material ends.
He ended up with a vision of man, history, the universe, and God,
which has a great deal to offer future thinkers, from its early recognition of
the interrelationships among many strands of contemporary thought, from that of
Teilhard de Chardin to recent work on cognitive studies, on the educational
problems of ghetto groups and "backward peoples," the new revolt against
overspecialized education (such as inspires men like E. Z. Friedberg or
organizations like the New School College of the New School for Social
Research), and the whole recent effort, in art, religion, education, and social
policy, to get free from the organizational structures and verbal and
conceptualized forms in which life now presents itself so that people can get to
the real content of the living process which they can share together. Staude
does not see the full value of Scheler's later thought and criticizes him unduly
for the speed with which he gave up many stages of his thinking to go on to new
ideas. Staude does not see that the more inclusive and less egocentric nature of
Scheler's later thought justifies his changes, but, despite the author's rather
unfavorable opinion of his subject, Staude knows more about Scheler's life and
thought than anyone else is ever likely to know, and he treats them with immense
skill. The result is a book of great value to Americans today.