Max Ferdinand Scheler (1874 – 1928) was a German philosopher known for his work in phenomenology, ethics, and philosophical anthropology. Considered in his lifetime one of the most prominent German philosophers, Scheler developed the philosophical method of Edmund Gustav Albrecht Husserl, the founder of phenomenology. Given that school's utopian ambitions of re-founding all of human knowledge, Scheler was nicknamed the "Adam of the philosophical paradise" by Jose Ortega y Gasset. After Scheler's death in 1928, Martin Heidegger affirmed, with Ortega y Gasset, that all philosophers of the century were indebted to Scheler and praised him as "the strongest philosophical force in modern Germany, nay, in contemporary Europe and in contemporary philosophy as such."
Scheler was an important influence on the theology of Pope John Paul II,
who wrote his 1954 doctoral thesis on "An Evaluation of the Possibility of
Constructing a Christian Ethics on the Basis of the System of Max Scheler", and
later wrote many articles on Scheler's philosophy. Thanks to John Paul II as
well as to Scheler's influence on his student Edith Stein, Scheler has exercised
a notable influence on Catholic thought to this day.
Scheler taught at Jena from 1901 until 1906, then returned to the University of Munich where he taught from 1907 to 1910. At this time his study of Edmund Husserl's phenomenology deepened. Scheler had first met Husserl at Halle in 1902. At Munich, Husserl's own teacher Franz Brentano was still lecturing, and Scheler joined the Phenomenological Circle in Munich, centred around M. Beck, Th. Conrad, J. Daubert, M. Geiger, Dietrich von Hildebrand, Theodor Lipps, and Alexander Pfänder. Scheler was never a direct student of Husserl's, and in fact, their relationship was somewhat strained.
At Munich Scheler was caught up in the conflict between the predominantly Catholic university and the local Socialist media, which led to the loss of his Munich teaching position in 1910. He then briefly lectured at the Philosophical Society of Göttingen, where he made and renewed acquaintances with Theodore Conrad, Hedwig Conrad-Martius (an ontologist and Conrad's wife), Moritz Geiger, Jean Hering, Roman Ingarden, Dietrich von Hildebrand, Husserl, Alexandre Koyré, and Adolf Reinach. Edith Stein was one of his students, impressed by him "way beyond philosophy". In 1911, he moved to Berlin as an unattached writer and grew close to Walther Rathenau and Werner Sombart.
Along with other Munich phenomenologists such as Reinach, Pfänder and Geiger, Scheler co-founded in 1912 the famous Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung, with Husserl as main editor. Scheler's first major work, published in 1913, was strongly influenced by phenomenology and by Catholic introspective thought: Zur Phänomenologie und Theorie der Sympathiegefühle und von Liebe und Hass (English translation: The Nature of Sympathy, 1954).