Scheler’s Perspectivism and Life

  • Robert Sweeney
Part of the Analecta Husserliana book series (ANHU, volume 54)


My aim here is to explore the relevance of Scheler’s perspectivism to the theme of life in his thought. From time to time I have reexamined Scheler’s theory under the influence of the new forms of relativism grouped under the catch-all term, “post-modernism.” What has struck me is the importance of trying to clarify and rethink this situation so that in academic and other public discourses we might avoid misconstruing or even demonizing various positions. Scheler’s position, while not always clear, constitutes an early effort to think through the problem of relativism. The current vogue comes primarily, it would appear, from Nietzsche’s usage where perspectivism represents the equivalent of a radical, skeptical (and for some, pernicious) relativism. Perspectivism is opposed, by Nietzsche, to a single, changeless meaning “in-itself “ as in repeated passages like the following: “Is meaning not necessarily relative meaning and perspective?” or “... it (knowledge) has no meaning behind it but countless meanings, — ‘perspectivism.’”1 The implication is that we are cut off from reality by our own perspective on it. It is amplified by linguistic positions in which, e.g., truth is described as an “army of metaphors.” Nietzsche’s perspectivism may indeed, as Danto and others have pointed out, entail a positive metaphysical position — one that describes the world as consisting of points of origin for perspectives.


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  1. 2.
    E.g., Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Phenomenology of Perception, trans. C. Smith (London: Routledge Paul, 1962) p. 353; Paul Ricoeur, Temps et récit, III, Le temps raconte (Paris: Seuil, 1985) p. 319.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Max Scheler, Formalism in Ethics and Non-Formal Ethics of Value, trans, by M. Frings and R. Funk (Evanston: Northwestern U. Press, 1973), p. 302.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Ibid., pp. 307–308.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Ibid., pp. 309–317.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Ibid., p. 292.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Max Scheler, Problems of a Sociology of Knowledge, trans. M. Frings, ed. K. Stikkers (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983), p. 154.Google Scholar
  7. 12.
    E. g., in Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Advantage and Disadvantage of History for Life, trans. P. Preuss (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, Inc., 1980), p. 11.Google Scholar
  8. 13.
    Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Primacy of Perception, ed. J. Edie (Evanston: Northwestern U. Press, 1964), p. 18.Google Scholar
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    See e.g., Paul Ricoeur, Time & Narrative, trans. K. MClaughlin, D. Pellauer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), p. 220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    See M. Frings, Max Scheler (Pittsburgh: Duquesne U. Press, 1963), pp. 33–34.Google Scholar
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  12. 17.
    Max Scheler, Man’s Place in Nature, trans. H. Meyerhoff (NY: Noonday Press, 1961), p. 74.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 51.Google Scholar
  14. 19.
    Ibid., p. 71. Max Scheler, On the Eternal in Man.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 78.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 68.Google Scholar
  17. 22.
    Paul Ricoeur, “Life: A Story in Search of a Narrative,” Facts and Values, ed. by M. C. Doeser and J. N. Kray (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 1986), pp. 121–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Paul Ricoeur, “De l’Esprit,” Revue Philosophique de Louvain, No. 2–3, Mai-Août 1994, p. 252.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Sweeney
    • 1
  1. 1.John Carroll UniversityClevelandUSA

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