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Phenomenology 2010

Volume 4, 2011

Selected Essays from Northern Europe

Susan Gottlöber
Pages 115-137

Krieg als Katharsis?
Die Phänomenanalyse Schelers im Spiegel der weilschen Ilias-Interpretation

Traditionally the phenomenon of war and its causes have been predominantly examined by the disciplines of political science, history and political philosophy, but these disciplines seem to be unable to grasp the nature of the phenomenon of war completely. One of the few methods that actually attempts to ‘grasp the phenomenon of war’ in its totality, is the philosophical-phenomenological method. The philosophical-phenomenological approach to the phenomenon of war can be found in the works of the German philosopher and phenomenologist Max Scheler (1874-1928). In his essays on war Scheler tries to fathom the nature of war in a cultural critical way, that is, war is viewed as being able to reveal “true” structures of reality that have been covered by static perceptions. It will be shown that--though it appears counterintuitive--Scheler’s approach to war as katharsis needs to be understood within the wider concept of his value theory and philosophical anthropology: man as ens amans. The major flaw of Scheler’s argument, however, lies in his assumption that meaning and values remain untouched by the destructiveness of war. A counter point to Scheler’s view can be made by turning to the French philosopher Simon Weil. Weil argues that the all-embracing destructiveness of war changes perceived reality altogether, and instead of removing separation between individuals, new and stronger ones arise that cannot be crossed by acts of compassion or empathy. By bringing both Scheler and Weil’s approaches together, it is argued new light can be shed on the phenomenon of war and thus in turn bring about new explorations which aim to grasp the totality of the phenomenon and its causes per se.

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