Freedom and Responsibility in the Community A heated dispute between Edith Stein and Max Scheler

    Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talkScientific


    When the relationship between Edith Stein and Max Scheler is examined, there are many who emphasise the apparent similarity between their respective approaches. It is true that Stein leaned heavily on Scheler in her anthropological work. When Stein looked for a partner with whom to communicate for her anthropological research, she relied on Scheler. Yet her initial enthusiasm quickly gave way to a critical distance. Even in her dissertation and in ‘Individuum und Gemeinschaft’, as well as in her later work, Stein makes many critical references to Scheler’s works. The different conceptions that Scheler and Stein have regarding the relationship between the individual person and the community can be traced back to their differing understanding of the subject and freedom. Quite essential differences are apparent here. Stein maintains the singularity of the subject. Thus, the individual person remains free with respect to the community. On that same basis, though, the individual is still to be held responsible for the community and for his or her own actions. This is true as much in small communities as it is in the context of a whole society. From Scheler, on the other hand, we can draw the following conclusions: (1) The individual can enter into the feeling of oneness within the community and pass responsibility for the consequences to the community – trusting in the morality of the combined person. (2) Individuals thereby run the risk of finding themselves in a manipulable crowd which is led by the will of one individual or of a few people. (3) A community which is postulated as being a responsible combined person undermines the responsibility and thus also the freedom of its individuals. It disempowers them and robs them of their critical potential. – Scheler’s theory therefore runs the risk of opening the door to the formation of ideology. For an ideologising of community which undermines freedom and responsibility leads invariably into catastrophe – and that remains true today.
    Period5 May 2022
    Held atIASPES Steinonline
    Degree of RecognitionInternational


    • Edith Stein
    • Max Scheler
    • responsiblity
    • Freedom
    • community
    • state
    • subject