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Max Scheler quotes (showing 1-17 of 17)

“Existential envy which is directed against the other person’s very nature, is the strongest source of ressentiment. It is as if it whispers continually: “I can forgive everything, but not that you are— that you are what you are—that I am not what you are—indeed that I am not you.” This form of envy strips the opponent of his very existence, for this existence as such is felt to be a “pressure,” a “reproach,” and an unbearable humiliation. In the lives of great men there are always critical periods of instability, in which they alternately envy and try to love those whose merits they cannot but esteem. Only gradually, one of these attitudes will predominate. Here lies the meaning of Goethe’s reflection that “against another’s great merits, there is no remedy but love.”
Max Scheler
tags: envy
“All ancient philosophers, poets, and moralists agree that love is a striving, an aspiration of the “lower” toward the “higher,” the “unformed” toward the “formed,” ... “appearance” towards “essence,” “ignorance” towards “knowledge,” a “mean between fullness and privation,” as Plato says in the Symposium. ... The universe is a great chain of dynamic spiritual entities, of forms of being ranging from the “prima materia” up to man—a chain in which the lower always strives for and is attracted by the higher, which never turns back but aspires upward in its turn. This process continues up to the deity, which itself does not love, but represents the eternally unmoving and unifying goal of all these aspirations of love. Too little attention has been given to the peculiar relation between this idea of love and the principle of the “agon,” the ambitious contest for the goal, which dominated Greek life in all its aspects—from the Gymnasium and the games to dialectics and the political life of the Greek city states. Even the objects try to surpass each other in a race for victory, in a cosmic “agon” for the deity. Here the prize that will crown the victor is extreme: it is a participation in the essence, knowledge, and abundance of “being.” Love is only the dynamic principle, immanent in the universe, which sets in motion this great “agon” of all things for the deity.
Let us compare this with the Christian conception. In that conception there takes place what might be called a reversal in the movement of love. The Christian view boldly denies the Greek axiom that love is an aspiration of the lower towards the higher. On the contrary, now the criterion of love is that the nobler stoops to the vulgar, the healthy to the sick, the rich to the poor, the handsome to the ugly, the good and saintly to the bad and common, the Messiah to the sinners and publicans. The Christian is not afraid, like the ancient, that he might lose something by doing so, that he might impair his own nobility. He acts in the peculiarly pious conviction that through this “condescension,” through this self-abasement and “self-renunciation” he gains the highest good and becomes equal to God. ...
There is no longer any “highest good” independent of and beyond the act and movement of love! Love itself is the highest of all goods! The summum bonum is no longer the value of a thing, but of an act, the value of love itself as love—not for its results and achievements. ...
Thus the picture has shifted immensely. This is no longer a band of men and things that surpass each other in striving up to the deity. It is a band in which every member looks back toward those who are further removed from God and comes to resemble the deity by helping and serving them.”
Max Scheler
tags: love
“It is precisely the essential feature of egoism that it does not apprehend the full value of the isolated self. The egoist sees himself only with regard to the others, as a member of society who wishes to possess and acquire more than the others. Self-directedness or other-directedness have no essential bearing on the specific quality of love or hatred. These acts are different in themselves, quite independently of their direction”
Max Scheler
tags: egoism
“The precepts “Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you” ... are born from the Gospel’s profound spirit of individualism, which refuses to let one’s own actions and conduct depend in any way on somebody else’s acts. The Christian refuses to let his acts be mere reactions—such conduct would lower him to the level of his enemy. The act is to grow organically from the person, “as the fruit from the tree.” ... What the Gospel demands is not a reaction which is the reverse of the natural reaction, as if it said: “Because he strikes you on the cheek, tend the other”—but a rejection of all reactive activity, of any participation in common and average ways of acting and standards of judgment.”
Max Scheler, Ressentiment
“Ressentiment must therefore be strongest in a society like ours, where approximately equal rights (political and otherwise) or formal social equality, publicly recognized, go hand in hand with wide factual differences in power, property, and education.”
Max Scheler, Ressentiment
“Ressentiment is always to some degree a determinant of the romantic type of mind. At least this is so when the romantic nostalgia for some past era (Hellas, the Middle Ages, etc.) is not primarily based on the values of that period, but on the wish to escape from the present. Then all praise of the “past” has the implied purpose of downgrading present-day reality.”
Max Scheler, Ressentiment
“It is peculiar to “ressentiment criticism” that it does not seriously desire that its demands be fulfilled. It does not want to cure the evil. The evil is merely the pretext for the criticism.”
Max Scheler, Ressentiment
“The “noble” person has a completely naïve and non-reflective awareness of his own value and of his fullness of being, an obscure conviction which enriches every conscious moment of his existence, as if he were autonomously rooted in the universe. This should not be mistaken for “pride.” Quite on the contrary, pride results from an experienced diminution of this “naive” self-confidence. It is a way of “holding on” to one’s value, of seizing and “preserving” it deliberately. The noble man’s naive self-confidence, which is as natural to him as tension is to the muscles, permits him calmly to assimilate the merits of others in all the fullness of their substance and configuration. He never “grudges” them their merits. On the contrary: he rejoices in their virtues and feels that they make the world more worthy of love. His naive self-confidence is by no means “compounded” of a series of positive valuations based on specific qualities, talents, and virtues: it is originally directed at his very essence and being. Therefore he can afford to admit that another person has certain “qualities” superior to his own or is more “gifted” in some respects—indeed in all respects. Such a conclusion does not diminish his naïve awareness of his own value, which needs no justification or proof by achievements or abilities. Achievements merely serve to confirm it. On the other hand, the “common” man (in the exact acceptation of the term) can only experience his value and that of another if he relates the two, and he clearly perceives only those qualities which constitute possible differences. The noble man experiences value prior to any comparison, the common man in and through a comparison. For the latter, the relation is the selective precondition for apprehending any value. Every value is a relative thing, “higher” or “lower,” “more” or “less” than his own. He arrives at value judgments by comparing himself to others and others to himself”
Max Scheler, Ressentiment
“The ultimate goal of the arriviste’s aspirations is not to acquire a thing of value, but to be more highly esteemed than others. He merely uses the “thing” as an indifferent occasion for overcoming the oppressive feeling of inferiority which results from his constant comparisons.”
Max Scheler, Ressentiment
tags: envy
“If the awareness of our limitations begins to limit or to dim our value consciousness as well—as happens, for instance, in old age with regard to the values of youth—then we have already started the movement of devaluation which will end with the defamation of the world and all its values. Only a timely act of resignation can deliver us from this tendency toward self-delusion.”
Max Scheler, Ressentiment
“All the seemingly positive valuations and judgments of ressentiment are hidden devaluations and negations.”
Max Scheler
“Whenever convictions are not arrived at by direct contact with the world and the objects themselves, but indirectly through a critique of the opinions of others, the processes of thinking are impregnated with ressentiment. The establishment of “criteria” for testing the correctness of opinions then becomes the most important task. Genuine and fruitful criticism judges all opinions with reference to the object itself. Ressentiment criticism, on the contrary, accepts no “object” that has not stood the test of criticism”
Max Scheler, Ressentiment
“There are two fundamentally different ways for the strong to bend down to the weak, for the rich to help the poor, for the more perfect life to help the “less perfect.” This action can be motivated by a powerful feeling of security, strength, and inner salvation, of the invincible fullness of one’s own life and existence. All this unites into the clear awareness that one is rich enough to share one’s being and possessions. Love, sacrifice, help, the descent to the small and the weak, here spring from a spontaneous overflow of force, accompanied by bliss and deep inner calm. Compared to this natural readiness for love and sacrifice, all specific “egoism,” the concern for oneself and one’s interest, and even the instinct of “self-preservation” are signs of a blocked and weakened life. Life is essentially expansion, development, growth in plenitude, and not “self-preservation,” as a false doctrine has it. Development, expansion, and growth are not epiphenomena of mere preservative forces and cannot be reduced to the preservation of the “better adapted.” ... There is a form of sacrifice which is a free renunciation of one’s own vital abundance, a beautiful and natural overflow of one’s forces. Every living being has a natural instinct of sympathy for other living beings, which increases with their proximity and similarity to himself. Thus we sacrifice ourselves for beings with whom we feel united and solidary, in contrast to everything “dead.” This sacrificial impulse is by no means a later acquisition of life, derived from originally egoistic urges. It is an original component of life and precedes all those particular “aims” and “goals” which calculation, intelligence, and reflection impose upon it later. We have an urge to sacrifice before we ever know why, for what, and for whom! Jesus’ view of nature and life, which sometimes shines through his speeches and parables in fragments and hidden allusions, shows quite clearly that he understood this fact. When he tells us not to worry about eating and drinking, it is not because he is indifferent to life and its preservation, but because he sees also a vital weakness in all “worrying” about the next day, in all concentration on one’s own physical well-being. ... all voluntary concentration on one’s own bodily wellbeing, all worry and anxiety, hampers rather than furthers the creative force which instinctively and beneficently governs all life. ... This kind of indifference to the external means of life (food, clothing, etc.) is not a sign of indifference to life and its value, but rather of a profound and secret confidence in life’s own vigor and of an inner security from the mechanical accidents which may befall it. A gay, light, bold, knightly indifference to external circumstances, drawn from the depth of life itself—that is the feeling which inspires these words! Egoism and fear of death are signs of a declining, sick, and broken life. ...
This attitude is completely different from that of recent modern realism in art and literature, the exposure of social misery, the description of little people, the wallowing in the morbid—a typical ressentiment phenomenon. Those people saw something bug-like in everything that lives, whereas Francis sees the holiness of “life” even in a bug.”
Max Scheler, Ressentiment
“Antiquity believed that the forces of love in the universe were limited. Therefore they were to be used sparingly,and everyone was to be loved only according to his value.”
Max Scheler, Ressentiment
tags: love
“In ressentiment morality, love for the “small,” the “poor,” the “weak,” and the “oppressed” is really disguised hatred, repressed envy, an impulse to detract, etc., directed against the opposite phenomena: “wealth,” “strength,” “power,” “largesse.” When hatred does not dare to come out into the open, it can be easily expressed in the form of ostensible love—love for something which has features that are the opposite of those of the hated object. This can happen in such a way that the hatred remains secret. When we hear that falsely pious, unctuous tone (it is the tone of a certain “socially-minded” type of priest), sermonizing that love for the “small” is our first duty, love for the “humble” inspirit, since God gives “grace” to them, then it is often only hatred posing as Christian love.”
Max Scheler, Ressentiment
“The world according to Heidegger is like a prep school for Calvinists.”
Max Scheler
“Existential envy which is directed against the other person’s very nature, is the strongest source of ressentiment. It is as if it whispers continually: “I can forgive everything, but not that you are— that you are what you are—that I am not what you are—indeed that I am not you.” This form of envy strips the opponent of his very existence, for this existence as such is felt to be a “pressure,” a “reproach,” and an unbearable humiliation. In the lives of great men there are always critical periods of instability, in which they alternately envy and try to love those whose merits they cannot but esteem. Only gradually, one of these attitudes will predominate. Here lies the meaning of Goethe’s reflection that “against another’s great merits, there is no remedy but love.”


― Max Scheler”
Max Scheler


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