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If such qualities are present in a person's world, they tend to be apprehended. But the reverse is also true: the meanings ascribed to things, people, situations and the like are uniquely co-extensive with the subjective relativity of every person , as the "totality of acts of different kinds" [6] having a unique qualitative direction [7] and destiny. This is why Scheler's ethics is commonly referred as a Material Value-Ethics as opposed to a formal ethics Immanuel Kant.

Third, values are emotively intuited. The whole of "something" is intuited by consciousness before any of the parts can fully be rationally known or assimilated. Values are realized though personal apprehensions i. Fourth, depth of emotion signals importance intensity of value, just as absence of feeling signals the lack. For Scheler, human feelings, feeling states and emotions display a meaningful and progressive pattern of levels from our peripheral to the deeper more stable structures of personality.

At our most periphery we have sensible feelings e. These feelings are shortest in duration, extended and localizable with reference to the lived-body, and are the most readily alterable and accessible through external means and stimuli. Next we have vital feelings or feeling states of the unitary lived-body which are experienced as a unified field or whole e. The remaining two strata of the emotive map belongs to the realm of individual personhood because these emotions transcend or at least exceed the physical restrictions of lived-body and environment; they are the least subject to arbitrary alteration; and they are also by their very nature communicable and social in character.

These are, first, the purely psychic feeling states or emotions having a characteristically ego-quality e. These types of emotions overtake and overcome us, usually quite unexpectedly. We can not reason or will to produce such spiritual feelings. As positive experiences, we can only open our hearts and mind and hope that they find us. The structure of Scheler's stratification model of emotive life correlates to the inherent spectral type structure of value rankings, or what Scheler termed the apriori hierarchy of value modalities. Just as all colors we intuit see are derivative of the pure spectrum or hues as when pure "white" light is refracted through a prism, so too all intuited felt values are derivative of the apriori hierarchy of value modalities as when Divine love is apprehended through a purely ordered heart Ordo Amoris.

Scheler's claim is that these value modalities are constant and unchanging throughout history, forming a basis for objective non-formal ethics. From lowest to highest these modalities with their respective positive and corresponding negative dis-value forms are as follows: sensual values of the agreeable and the disagreeable ; vital values of the noble and vulgar ; mental psychic values of the beautiful and ugly , right and wrong and truth and falsehood ; and finally values of the Holy and Unholy of the Divine and Idols.

The logical implication of all the above is that human beings will naturally prefer a positive value i. Furthermore, human beings will naturally prefer values of a higher ranking over those of a lower to the extent that they will invest time, work and sacrifice to order to attain them: for example, people will routinely defer a measure of immediate gratification in order to secure a child's education, their own retirement, etc.

Hence, the relativity of value experience transitions to the beginnings of an objective morality which ensures personal fulfillment and transcendence.

Critics and admirers alike find Scheler's ethics susceptible to flights of romanticism as "decisively canceling the normative character of ethical acts. This is all the more true when we consider just what this might mean for a well-ordered free and democratic society. The scientific worldview assumes a particular understanding of the natural world in its investigations and determination of meaning, an atomistic or mechanistic conception of a living being. In both cases, there is no reflection regarding the meaning presupposed in the intention.

The phenomenological attitude does not negate the practical or scientific world and way of being. It merely holds them in abeyance, suspending judgment.

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Max Scheler (1874–1928) Centennial Essays: Centennial Essays

Such a suspension is motivated not by a disdain or a devaluation of the practical life, but by a love of the world. It is in this respect that Scheler describes phenomenological attitude as a psychic technique comparable to Buddhist techniques of suffering GW VIII, Scheler shares the conviction with realist phenomenologists such as Adolf Reinach that the essential insight, an intuitive and immediate grasping of the essence of the being of the object.

This grasping of the object is never complete and assumes merely a partial insight into the thing itself GW V, Modernity, for Scheler, suffers from a fundamental mistrust of the world, a mistrust that the world given in experience is not the world itself, but rather some construct produced by the human mind. Phenomenology assumes a trust in the world and in experience.

It is the world that gives itself to intuition, beckoning us to participate ever more fully in its significance.


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By virtue of this loving trust, the world itself is given. The phenomenological attitude is an expression on this trust and seeks to describe the object as it gives itself, as it is brought to self-givenness. This work was motivated in part by a critique of the highly scientific or formalistic approaches to ethics introduced by Immanuel Kant and then later developed by the Neo-Kantians during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

With Kant, Scheler rejects both utilitarianism and eudaimonism, and holds that ethics rests upon an a priori, an obligation non-relative to future consequences or happiness. For Kant, the a priori is expressed in the form of a categorical imperative, an imperative that is universalizable. For Scheler, such a formulation of the a priori is abstract and as a consequence, fails to account for both the unique obligation one has to another person and the unique call to responsibility given in the ethical imperative GW II, Scheler argues that a material or a non-formal a priori arises in experience, specifically in the experience of value.

All experience is already value latent GW II, An object of perception such as an oak tree is not only green or large, but also pleasurable, beautiful and magnificent. Objects of experience are bearers of values. Just as the color red does not inhere in the tricycle, but is only given in the act of perception, the beauty of the painting is only given in the act of valuing. The value an object bears is given intuitively through a type of value-ception. The grasping of value is our most original and primordial relation to the world. An object has value for us before it is perceived or known GW II, Following Franz Brentano, Scheler conceived of positive and negative values as given in a relation to being.

Positive values are not only given as that which entices us, but also as that which ought to be. Similarly, negative values are given as that which ought not to be GW II, In the relation values bear to existence, an ideal ought is given. What ought to be is not logically derived or categorical, but is felt, i.

Valuing is an act of meaning giving or creation and is therefore an intentional act. For Scheler, there are two basic emotional acts, the act of love and the act of hate. In the act of love, the value of an object or a person is deepened, revealing its highest or most profound significance. Hate, by contrast, is a movement of destruction, a movement wherein the value of an object or a person is demeaned or degraded. The feelings of love and hate are the acts in which the world first comes to have meaning for us and a preferencing is inherent in this process. We tend toward or are attracted to that which is of greater or positive value, and tend to move away from or are repelled by that which is of lesser or negative value.

Present in every experience is a ranking of values, a preference of certain values to others GW II, That there is an order of preferencing in experience is perhaps best demonstrated by the act of sacrifice.


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  7. For the sake of a particular life value such as health, we may sacrifice pleasurable experiences such as an overindulgence of ice-cream. It is in the experience of value preferencing that Scheler further clarifies the ethical a priori. The ranking of value types from lowest to highest is as follows: pleasure, utility, vitality, culture, and holiness. How the different types of value stand in relation to one another is grasped intuitively in the experience of value.

    We ought to act in such a manner that promotes the higher or positive values. This non-formal or material a priori of value is not given prior to experience, but it is present in the experience of the particular value modalities. A religious icon is given not only as holy, but also as that which is to be preferred to the merely useful or vital. What types of value an object has is relative to the individual or culture. A cow certainly has a different value for the Hindu than for the rancher. Nonetheless, that the holy is to be preferred to the vital is not historically or culturally relative.

    Scheler describes the person as the concrete unity of acts of different types and nature GW II, The person is present in each and every act, but the person is not reducible to any one act. Every individual has his or her unique style of loving, of assigning meaning, and necessarily has his or her own access to the world.

    When a person dies, not only is that unique style of loving and assigning meaning lost, but so is that world.

    Max Scheler (1874–1928) Centennial Essays

    Understood as the unity of acts or an act center, the person is necessarily non-objectifiable GW II, Objects only take on the meaning as objects through intentional acts. Persons execute intentional acts. The meaning of a person is determined by the way in which a particular person brings meaning to the world.

    Max Scheler

    It is never a question of what a person is, but who a person is. Scheler takes great pains to distinguish his notion of person from the traditional notions of subject, ego, mind or psyche. All of these traditional, philosophical notions are objectifications, i. Who a person is cannot be captured by a definition and can only be grasped through value insight, an immediate and direct grasping of the other as a person in and through the act of love GW II, [ 1 ].

    The human being is constituted as person most profoundly through loving. The imperative that is given in the value a priori, the objective rank order of values, is only felt by persons and, consequently, persons are the only beings who are ethically responsible. Because every experience is value latent, a person is responsible to love the object or a being of that experience most fully, realizing the highest or deepest value of that being.

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    In relation with other persons, this responsibility is ethical. In loving another person, one is called ethically to love ever more fully and deeply. Failing to do so and responding to this calling through acts of hate is not only ethically irresponsible but it is also morally evil. Any act that compromises or reduces the person to a lower value such as mere pleasure or utility is pernicious and evil. The good in itself is thus a movement and openness to the higher or deeper values. In the experience of positive values, we, as persons, are called to love others ever more profoundly.

    Stratification of emotional life (Scheler) - Wikipedia

    In the experience of negative values, we are called to act in such a manner that ends the destructive acts of hate and consequently brings an end to negative values. The call to act for the sake of the good itself is, for Scheler, not general or universal, but radically individual or rather, unique.

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    There is no experience of the good in itself in general, but only the good in itself for me, and this constitutes in part the experience of vocation peculiar to each unique person as creatively becoming GW II, The deeper the value, the more individual, the more personal, the call to act for the sake of the good becomes. Ethical experience, the experience of being called to act for the good, is a process of individuation GW II, The call becomes ever more personal as the value deepens. In acting ethically, I come to realize my unique place and contribution, and as a result, I become more conscious of my obligation and duties to the world and to others.

    A material value ethic, in contrast to a formal ethic, reveals both the radically unique manner by which each person is called to act and the radically unique value of each and every person. There is, for Scheler, no problem of the other. This is not to say that he rejects the alterity or difference of the other.