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 "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"




MAD SCHELER, 1874-1928: An Intellectual Portrait.
By John-Raphael Staude. Free Press.
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.


Scan of original review




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