Phenomenology Online

A Resource for Phenomenological Inquiry

Max Scheler was born in Munich on August 22, 1874; and brought up in the Jewish faith by his mother. However, at age 11 Max Scheler turns catholic by doing communion in the Roman Catholic church. As a young man he studies philosophy and natural science at several German universities. At the University of Berlin he follows lectures by Wilhelm Dlithey, Carl Stumpf, and George Simmel. Dilthey gives him a sense of the history of philosophy and introduces him to the philosophy of vitalism. Stumpf contributes to his interest in descriptive psychology, and Simmel introduces Scheler to the study of cultural forms. Scheler receives his doctorate in 1897 at the age of twenty-five. He teaches at Jena, Munich and Berlin.


Scheler meets Husserl in 1901 and this encounter makes a great impression on him. Upon reading Husserl’s Logical Investigations, which appears also in 1901 Scheler becomes a phenomenologist. However, by applying phenomenology to ethics, culture, and religion he takes a very different direction from Husserl. Scheler seeks to understand the essence of human nature not in reason or thinking but in love and sympathy. The human being is a homo amans, a being who loves. He elaborates the Ordo Amoris of Augustine; for a child to become a human person, in the full sense of the word, the parents must develop a sensitivity to values. One of Scheler’s great phenomenological works is The nature of Sympathy. In the spring of 1928 Max Scheler accepts a position at the University of Frankfurt am Main. He dies suddenly of a coronary thrombosis on May 19, 1928, at the age of fifty-four.