Scheler’s phenomenology of freedom and his theory of action

Authored by: Eugene Kelly

The Routledge Handbook of Phenomenology of Agency

Print publication date:  October  2020
Online publication date:  October  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138098978
eBook ISBN: 9781315104249
Adobe ISBN:


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In the Second Part (§ 6) of Der Formalismus in der Ethik und die materiale Wertethik (cf. Scheler 1973) Max Scheler is concerned to distinguish his new platform for normative ethics both from the deontology of Kant and the teleological eudaemonism of Aristotle and the Utilitarians. First, his material value-ethics is not a formal ethics such as Kant’s, that is, an ethics founded in a single formal or a priori moral principle, the categorical imperative, which governs a consistent system of moral laws that determine, in ways specified by Kant, what is morally legitimate for an agent. These formal and rational moral laws are dictated by an agent to him or herself insofar as he or she is rational. Hence Kant’s ideal agent, like that of Scheler, acts autonomously. Kant teaches, according to Scheler, that the impulse to action emerges from the chaos of natural “inclinations” toward self-gratification, but that practical reason must override these out of respect for duty and allow the rational good will to direct action in conformity to the formal system.

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