Max Scheler's Theory of Love

David A Dilworth, Fordham University


INTRODUCTION In 1914, in words still provocative to the Christian reader, Nicholai Berdyaev described Friedrich Nietzsche as “the most significant spiritual phenomenon — of modern history.“ These words were at once a prophecy and a challenge to the Christian consciousness. Berdyaev wrote: After Nietzsche, his works and his fate, humanism is forever overcome. Zarathustra is the most powerful human book without grace; whatever is superior to Zarathustra is so by grace from on high. Zarathustra is the work of man abandoned to himself. And never did a man left to himself and his own power rise higher. Berdyaev thus characterized Nietzsche as “an instinctive prophet. . . of the religious renaissance of the West.” After Nietzsche there was no return. After Nietzsche, the new humanity must advance out of godless humanism to a divine humanism, to a religious anthropology. For as no one else has in the course of all history, Nietzsche senses the creative calling of man, a concept unknown alike to patristic and to humanistic consciousness. Berdyaev’s words were a challenge to the Christian consciousness to come to the full experience of spiritual creativity. And they were a prophecy of the new race of vital personalities who would lead mankind to a fuller sense of its creative calling. Berdyaev’s remarks seem particularly a propos of the theme of this thesis. In this study the attempt is made to present the inner core of the philosophy of Max Scheler. An early death robbed the mysterious Scheler of the opportunity of being perhaps the most powerful German thinker since Nietzsche. Nonetheless we have in Scheler’s writings a conscious awareness and embodiment of the stream of ideas which flowed from Nietzsche’s pen. In Scheler we have a man who, like Berdyaev, realized the positive significance of Nietzsche. Endowed with an unusually creative personality himself, Scheler was to project into his own life and philosophy all the striking elements of Nietzsche’s world of ideas— the typically German spirit, the brilliance, the poetry, the bitterness, the pathos, even the amor fati of Nietzsche’s vibrant soul. And while aspects of Scheler’s life, and sudden death, spoke also of the tragic element of Nietzschean man struggling to realize himself, Scheler was nevertheless a step forward to a new creative humanism.

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Recommended Citation

Dilworth, David A, "Max Scheler's Theory of Love" (1960). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI28673354.