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Scheler, Helmuth Plessner, And Arnold Gehlen

Scheler, Helmuth Plessner, And Arnold Gehlen

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Exploring the Core Identity of Philosophical

Anthropology through the Works of Max
Scheler, Helmuth Plessner, and Arnold Gehlen
Jo\cnix Fiscnrr
Abstract: “Philosophical Anthropology,” which is reconstructed here, does not deal with anthropology
as a philosophical subdiscipline but rather as a particular philosophical approach within twentieth-cen-
tury German philosophy, connected with thinkers such as Max Scheler, Helmuth Plessner and Arnold
Gehlen. This paper attempts a more precise description of the core identity of Philosophical Anthropology
as a paradigm, observes the dierences between the authors within the paradigm, and dierentiates the
paradigm as a whole from other twentieth-century philosophical approaches, such as transcendental phi-
losophy, evolutionary theory or naturalism, existentialism, and hermeneutic philosophy. In determining
the human being as “excentric positionality,” Philosophical Anthropology arrives at unique categorical
intertwinings between the biological, social and cultural sciences.
The initial state of anairs can be summarized as follows: from the late 1920s
onwards various texts have cropped up under the heading of “philosophical
anthropology.” Max Scheler’s Man’s Place in Nature (1928),
1
Helmuth Plessner’s
Man and the Stages of the Organic (1928),
2
and – with a slightly later publica-
tion date – Arnold Gehlen’s Man: His Nature and Place in the World (1940),
3
are
commonly attributed to this phenomenon in the history of philosophy. That
“philosophical anthropology” exists is clear, but what distinguishes a text
as following a specitcally philosophical-anthropological argument?
4
Though
1
M. Scheler, Die Stellung des Menschen im Kosmos, Darmstadt: Reichl, 1928; [Man’s Place in
Nature, trans. H. Meyerhon, Boston: Beacon Press, 1961].
2
H. Plessner, Die Stufen des Organischen und der Mensch. Einleitung in die philosophische Anthropologie
(1928), Berlin and New York: de Gruyter, 1975.
3
A. Gehlen, Der Mensch. Seine Natur und seine Stellung in der Welt, in K.-S. Rehberg (ed.), Arnold-
Gehlen-Gesamtausgabe, Textkritische Edition unter Einbeziehung des gesamten Textes der 1. Auage von
1940, vol. 3, Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 1950/1993; [Man: His Nature and Place in the
World, trans. C. McMillan and K. Pillemer, New York: Columbia University Press, 1988].
4
In what follows it is important to keep in mind the dinerentiation between “philosophical
anthropology” as a subdiscipline and “Philosophical Anthropology” as a paradigm. Two distinct
things have emerged since 1928: on the one hand, a new subdiscipline of philosophical
Iris, ISSN 2036-3257, I, 1 April 2009, p. 153-170
© Firenze University Press
154 Joachim Fischer
various noteworthy summaries and articles have been written on the subject,
no satisfactory answer has been forthcoming.
I. Core Identity in the Dierence between the Authors
The very title, Philosophical Anthropology, indicates that, irrespective of
their dinerences, there are fundamental theoretical similarities between the
authors. To begin with, the word “anthropology” indicates that each is con-
cerned with treating, observing, quantifying, and describing various aspects
of the human sphere, human living conditions, and man’s relationship to
self, culture, and society in the categories he constructs. At the same time,
“anthropology” shows that each proceeds from an understanding that, from
the nineteenth century onwards, anthropology is also, irrevocably, a bio-
logical discipline. Therefore the internal theoretical reference to biology is
the pivotal point in Philosophical Anthropology for all three authors. The
theoretical program they each outline highlights a philosophical biology,
5

for which Philosophical Anthropology provides a theory on relationships
to the self, the world, and others. In other words, for Scheler, Plessner, and
Gehlen the comparison between plants, animals and human beings or, at
the very least, between animals and human beings, is a postulate for the
development for their argument. The “philosophical” half of “Philosophical
anthropology was established by authors such as Bernhard Groethuysen, later by Michael
Landmann, and currently by Christian Thies, who are interested in collecting and systematizing
the questions and views on “man” (Mensch) that have emerged during the history of philosophy;
on the other hand and in parallel, there has emerged a certain paradigm with a characteristic
approach to the concept of man – and this is the achievement of Scheler, Plessner, Gehlen,
Rothacker and Portmann. One can compare “philosophical anthropology” as a discipline
with other disciplines within philosophy – such as ethics, epistemology, metaphysics et al. But
having reconstructed “Philosophical Anthropology” as a paradigm, you can compare it with
other twentieth-century approaches – such as phenomenology, existentialism, hermeneutic
philosophy, critical theory, naturalism, structuralism and so on. My contribution concentrates on
Philosophical Anthropology as a paradigm (which is why the term is in capital letters in the text).
For an explanation of the dinerence, see J. Fischer, Philosophische Anthropologie. Eine Denkrichtung
des 20. Jahrhunderts, Munich and Freiburg: Alber 2008, pp. 14-15, pp. 483-488.
5
For a discussion of the philosophical biology that philosophical anthropology took as its starting
point and an introduction to the most important authors in this teld (Plessner, Portmann, Buytendijk,
Straus), see M. Grene, Approaches to a Philosophical Biology, New York and London: Dordrecht,
1965. With reference to Adolf Portmann in particular, see also J. Fischer, “Biophilosophie als Kern
des Theorieprogramms der Philosophischen Anthropologie. Zur Kritik des wissenschaftlichen
Radikalismus der Biologie und der Kultur-/Sozialwissenschaften,” in G. Gamm, A. Manzei and M.
Gutmann (eds.), Zwischen Anthropologie und Gesellschaftstheorie. Zur Renaissance Helmuth Plessners im
Kontext der modernen Lebenswissenschaften, Bielefeld: transcript, 2005.
155 Exploring the Core Identity of Philosophical Anthropology
Anthropology” indicates that, though interested in various individual scien-
titc approaches, Scheler, Plessner, and Gehlen could not, indeed would not,
be content with a philosophy based on any one approach in isolation from
either the natural, cultural, or social sciences.
In order to answer the question of the possible core identity in the dif-
ference between the authors, I will limit my analysis to one point. I will not
attempt to explain the philosophical background to the theory; i.e., the way
of looking at a problem that led the authors to construct their categories.
6

Instead, I will simply consider whether their respective approaches to catego-
rization present a common and characteristic stance.
One characteristic strand of thought that might constitute a common core
runs as follows: in the relevant texts by all three authors the self-certainty of
“mind” (Geist) is the irrefutable starting point. However, perception begins
not with the enorts of subjectivity but “elsewhere,” “indirectly,” at the factual
existence of life. Put another way: the mind’s inner self-identitcation or lin-
guistic self-assuredness is taken as a given, but it is not satisted by itself. Instead
the focus is external, on the living world. The theoretical view takes life as
its subject, not the material world per se (or nature in general), or the material
world only in so far as inanimate objects throw animate objects into relief. Nor
is the focus (of the theoretical concept) “intuitive,” directed at the “life force”
or élan vital (as the speculative principle of all existence); rather, it is directed at
concrete, empirical life. This concrete, tangible experience of the living world
is not arrived at by virtue of one’s own corporeality (the thinking subject in
the medium of its own body) but through a distanced focusing on the object
“life” (which also includes the physical self, in as far as it is a body). The ideo-
logical point of departure does not reside in the physical body, but, crucially,
it takes the distanced, biologist’s view of the organism, of the living body in its
medium or environment. Each of the relevant authors begins by considering
the living body, placed at a remove, within its environment, and then proceeds
through the classitcation of the various types of life (plants, animals), to arrive
at the end-point, which is the mind. Crucially, they do not posit a teleological
view of the relationship between body and mind (as in German idealism), nei-
ther do they reduce the phenomenon of mind to an evolutionary continuation
of life (as in the paradigm of evolutionary biology since Darwin).
This, then, is my outline of the posited thought process that is, arguably,
typical of the key texts of the three authors. Such a view contains other pos-
sible, but discarded, forks in the paths of renection. Pursuing other paths
6
O. Marquard, “Zur Geschichte des Begrins ‘Anthropologie’ seit dem Ende des achtzehnten
Jahrhunderts” (1965), in Id., Schwierigkeiten mit der Geschichtsphilosophie. Aufsätze, Frankfurt am
Main: Suhrkamp, 1973. See also Fischer, Philosophische Anthropologie, pp. 507-514.
156 Joachim Fischer
would mean considering other theoretical programs. I will now present, in
six points, what I consider to be typical of the philosophical-anthropological
approach to categorization.
1. The categories of Philosophical Anthropology are based on the premise that
it is possible to take a sideways glance at the subject-object relation, to observe
it at a remove. In other words, the point of view that is generated internally
and that, intentionally, establishes the subject-object relation, is placed out-
side of the body, so that the perception relation is observed at a distance
– from an external vantage point. Put yet another way: this approach to
categorization makes it possible in principle for the mind’s internal subject-
object relation to be observed from an external, distanced position. This is
a crucial idea to grasp for the purposes of this discussion, for when viewed
at a remove, the subject-object relation also appears as a relation of being.
The perception relation also appears as a relation in being, as a relation that is
wholly absorbed within, or that rises to the surface of being.
2. It follows that renection is not generated by the subject of the subject-
object relation, just as the private sphere of observation and thought does
not give rise to the perception of the distanced external observer. Instead,
perception is directed at “something,” at the object “Something” – a some-
thing, a living body in its environment – that becomes the focal point of
a someone who could be anyone. Placed at a remove, the object is, as it
were, subjected to the common gaze, to the public observation of com-
mon sense (not to be confused with common language – a pre-existing
linguistic communication of what is observed; rather, language is tested by
the presence of an object that could be observed by anyone).
3. Any request for a demonstration of a typical philosophical-anthropological
thought-process will therefore be met with a description of a renection,
which begins at, and delves into, the objective level. The decisive point
here is that this renection, which is generated at the objective level, is con-
sciously stimulated not at the human level – not, that is, when confronted
with the human body. Instead, it is stimulated by life lower down the scale,
at least at the level of sub-human living bodies (i.e. at the level of animals),
which can be observed in relation to their environment, and serve as a
baseline from which to think through to the higher levels. This way of
constructing the categories of Philosophical Anthropology always implies
a certain scale or hierarchy from bottom to top. The scale begins below the
human level – not as far down as the level of inanimate objects, but some-
where in between, within the realm of living beings, between inanimate
objects and human beings. In Philosophical Anthropology, then, the con-
ceptual focus is not on the comparison between human beings and inor-
ganic objects, e.g., between a stone and a human being, but rather on the
157 Exploring the Core Identity of Philosophical Anthropology
comparison between human beings and other living beings, e.g., plants,
animals, and humans, or at the very least, on the comparison between
animals and human beings.
4. The aspect that this philosophical approach or movement recognizes at
the level of organic life, be it plant or animal, is the Funktionskreis [cir-
cle of function], or the Lebenskreis [biocycle], that links an organism to
its environment.
7
Between the causal relationships of the material world
and the intentionality of mind the theoretical view identites a respective
relation between organism and environment. At the objective level then,
in the constituent dinerentiation between an organism and its respective
environment, an observation post, or point of view, is established that
observes the relationship at a remove. This distanced viewpoint drives the
categorization of Philosophical Anthropology, as it encompasses the whole
spectrum of the circle of functions (from plants and their surroundings to
animals in their environments). There is already an elementary contact, a
type of bracketing of subject-object moments, an “environmental inten-
tionality” in the correlation between life form and living environment,
between plants and animals.
5. A typical philosophical-anthropological thought-process begins at the
lower level, proceeds through a system of levels or through a compara-
tive contrast of the various levels of organic life to reach the level of the
human organism, its life form and living environment, where it identites
a break in the “biocycle” of life. “Break,” here, is meant not in the sense of
a break-away, but rather in the sense of a rupture in instinct, impulse, sen-
sory organs, movement (everything that is characteristic of living beings).
In the concrete reality of the living human body and its environment,
there is a chasm in which the entity known as “the mind” (by itself, in
self-amrmation) takes its position. The mind is necessary to bridge the
gap in life, but at the same time it is necessarily reliant on the living
thing. Expressions such as “spiritualization of the senses” or “sensitization
of the spirit” (Plessner), or “spiritualization of life,” “enlivening of the
spirit”
8
(Scheler), demonstrate the doubly dual-aspect that Philosophical
Anthropology suggests or follows in its categories. The line of thought
that proceeds along a sequence from bottom to top through a series of
contrasts and comparisons, and that introduces or elevates mind (in as
7
For a discussion of the theory of “Funktionskreis,” “Handlungskreis” and “Gestaltkreis” in
Philosophical Anthropology see Rehberg, Editor’s Notes, in Gehlen, Der Mensch, p. 908. For a
discussion of the relevance to “kybernetische Anthropologie” (“cybernetic anthropology”) see
St. Rieger, Kybernetische Anthropologie, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 2003.
8
Translator’s note: Geist, translated here as “spirit,” is elsewhere throughout the text translated
as “mind.”
158 Joachim Fischer
far as it is known to itself ) to living experience, has, from its inception,
a dual-aspect: at the very moment when, through categorization, mind
is elevated and set apart from organic life, it is simultaneously anchored
within the living world. The sphere of human life is therefore distin-
guished by the fact that the biocycles of life are, in certain regards, broken
and indirectly mediated anew, while at the same time retaining their reli-
ance on life. One could also say: all the succinct concepts of Philosophical
Anthropology are broken and newly-mediated biocycle concepts.
6. The thought process that is, arguably, typical of Philosophical Anthropology
has therefore succeeded in tying the factual reality of the objective level (the
observation of the living body at a distance, which itself implies a relation
to its environment) into the initial exposition of the factual reality of the
internal sphere (the subject-object relation, as experienced by the perceiv-
ing and thinking subject). Man tnds himself in his (objective) body, in the
living thing as a body, and from within, as a living subject in the world and
confronted with the world (the subject-object relation), without ever feeling
at one with the internal perspective. For man exists in this double-aspect.
From within, he feels like and as a centered living subject, but at the same
time, by observing himself out of the corner of his eye, at a distance, he
tnds himself as a body among material bodies, marginalized, de-centered,
objectited, like a “mere animal” (Plessner), a thing among other things. At
the same time, in this double aspect, in the incongruity between an inter-
nal and external perspective, the thinkers associated with this movement of
thought envisage the potential for further development of the philosophical
approach. For through the systematic inclusion of the vital sphere, it is not
only the seemingly body-neutral phenomena of reason and language that
can be considered the monopolies of man, but also passions, emotions, the
various senses of sight, hearing, and touch, as well as body postures, tool-,
picture-, and music-making, dance, laughing and crying, orgiastic excess,
and burial. In short, all types of movement and expression can be developed
as constituents that open up the world and make it a human world.
Now, a philosophical approach can only really be held to exist when its con-
cepts are expounded, not just by one individual, but in the texts of two or more
authors. I will argue that the three authors coincide in this reconstructed line of
thought, in this way of constructing categories, whatever the putative and actual
dinerences in the way they formulate their ideas might have been. I will dem-
onstrate this with regard to their key concepts, at the same time providing a trst
demonstration of Scheler, Plessner, and Gehlen’s respective argumentations.
The key concepts Scheler introduces to describe “man’s place in nature”
are Neinsagenkönner [he who can say no], Weltoenheit [openness to the world],
159 Exploring the Core Identity of Philosophical Anthropology
and the ability for the living being in question to regard something as having
a Gegenstand-Sein [to be an object]. The structural characteristics of the mind,
which it can demonstrate to itself for the purpose of self-identitcation – i.e.,
matter-of-factness, self-contdence and freedom – are deemed prerequisite by
Scheler. However, in his text published in 1928, Scheler’s viewpoint, before
reaching the human sphere, begins with the cosmos, starting at the bottom,
at the level of living things, which is characterized by “urge” and, as such,
is already in a contact relationship with something other than itself, a rela-
tionship that cannot simply be reduced to causality. In the Gefühlsdrang [urge
to feel] a living entity – a plant – comes into contact with something other
that is not itself. Through a series of comparisons with “biopsychic” life and
its various types (instinct, associative memory, practical intelligence) Scheler
establishes the fact that, in the animal, instinctive urges are coupled with
an environment-based experience of resistance. When the principle of this
experience of resistance becomes itself negational, then there is a break in the
biocycle. This phenomenon of life, in which the experience of resistance is
negational, is the phenomenon of the human living being. The mind as prin-
ciple of negation, of confrontation, of the renunciation of its position, is the
tense state of interrupted life. It is in this way that, according to Scheler, the
“mind” reaches its detning classitcation – namely, its matter-of-factness, the
ability to be innuenced by the reality of things.
But the mind does not arrive at this reality of “being an object” through
itself, of itself, by virtue of its own volition, but only “indirectly,” only
when there is a break in the living entity’s circle of function. For though
the relationship to its environment is objectited through the act of nega-
tion of the living experience of resistance, the living entity has an object
experience only in so far as the experience of urge (which is a characteristic
of vital life, and is the very precondition for the reality of things) comes up
against resistance in the material world. Gegenstandsfähigkeit [the ability to be
an object], the acknowledged detning characteristic of the mind, is achieved
through the combination of the double-aspect movement that is typical of
Philosophical Anthropology with primordial vitalistic resistance to urges.
Through negation – the suppression of the urge to resist – the resisting entity
becomes a “thing” within the perception of human living beings. This liv-
ing thing can, with vitality as a prerequisite, allow phenomena to approach
it as independent things, i.e., in their “essence,” rather than only acknowl-
edging the behavior-related nuances of an energetic interweaving of situ-
ational force and counter-force. The phenomenological position of recogni-
tion – the demonstration of essences along the intentionality between subject
and object – thus receives a distinctively anthropological classitcation or
explanation through Scheler’s construction. It is precisely in Scheler’s spe-
160 Joachim Fischer
citcally anthropological categorization that his approach is shown to have a
non-dualistic base. The human living being’s “openness to the world” – as
a transformation of the animal’s Umweltgebundenheit [state of being bound to
the environment] – is neither a detning feature of the mind nor a detning
feature of the vital, but is the result of a genuine wedding of “urge” (resist-
ance) and “mind” (negation) in the human living being.
This typically philosophical-anthropological double-aspect movement, in
which the mind – without pursuing any teleological aspect – attains its inter-
nally familiar characteristics from the bottom up (characteristics that are simul-
taneously modited in their vital reference), is also incorporated within Scheler’s
categorical formula, for man is described as “he who can say no.” “No” is the
pure principle of the mind, it is objection; but in the ability to “say” no (saying
no) – in the sense of making an assertion, taking a position in order to elicit a
response (the establishing of a position) – “no” relies on the mind, which alone
can provide the necessary force for the position of objection – the speech act –
by borrowing it from the living body; and this borrowing, and re-channeling,
of energy is only possible because the vital energy circle of urge-and impulse-
resistance is simultaneously broken through the pure principle of mind. In the
hierarchy of organic life Scheler identites a “change” at the human level. “As an
idea, man is the point, the phase, the place in the cosmos where the one organic
‘life’ (whether psychic or physical) that develops through all families, genera,
species, loses its absolute power and becomes subservient to a principle – mind
– for which and for whose possible enectiveness, goal and value-setting, the
organic has opened up a gap, which is the point of breakthrough.”
9
The style of categorization that I have described as typical of Philosophical
Anthropology is also explicit in Plessner’s text Man and the Stages of the
Organic. The key concepts that Plessner introduces are exzentrische Positionalität
[excentric positionality], natürliche Künstlichkeit [natural artitciality], vermittelte
Unmittelbarkeit [mediated immediacy], and utopischer Standort [utopian stand-
point]. According to Plessner, man’s distinguishing characteristic is his excen-
tric positionality. Excentric positionality is the most artitcial category of the
theoretical program; at the same time, it lends particular clarity to the typical
philosophical-anthropological thought process. It follows the same approach
to categorization as that employed by Scheler. In order to formulate a concep-
tual understanding of the human sphere, Plessner explicitly begins within the
subject-object relation, with the experience of the entity that is confronted
with the subject.
10
It is his intention to distinguish the “living thing” from
9
M. Scheler, Schriften aus dem Nachlaß, vol. 3, Philosophische Anthropologie, Gesammelte Werke, vol.
12, M. Frings (ed.), Bonn: Bouvier, 1987, p. 129.
10
Plessner, Stufen des Organischen und der Mensch, p. 50.
161 Exploring the Core Identity of Philosophical Anthropology
the non-living thing at the level of the object. His hypothesis is that the living
thing is distinguished from all other things, not only by virtue of its border,
which marks the point where it begins or ends, but by virtue of the “bound-
ary” nature of its layer. The living thing is characterized by border tramc in
relation to its environment, it is a boundary-setting thing. Plessner also refers
to this boundary-setting thing as positional, a thing that is positioned for, and
exposed to self-amrmation, self-expression, a “positionality.” The theoretical
viewpoint now observes, as it were, from the side, stages of the organic as
stages of the correlation between positional living entities and their respective
spheres of life, cycles of functions between organisms and their environments.
In contrast to plants, which are described as having an “open positionality,”
animals have a “closed positionality.” The most highly developed animal is
described as having a “centric positionality,” it perceives itself through a proc-
ess of neuronal feedback and moves in circles of functions with dinerentiated
environments; this living entity, this animal lives “into its center, and out of
its center” in the respective positional teld.
As such the theoretical viewpoint identites a break in the circle of functions
at the level of the human organism, a break in the sensory-motor-dynamic-
impulsive bio-cycle. Plessner refers to this break in the cycle of functions
at the level of the human living entity as “ex-centric positionality.”
11
The
center is removed, without being able to extricate itself from its positional-
ity – the position of vital positioning. Excentric positionality marks a break
in positionality, it is not an autocentric positionality, that is, it is not a com-
ing to itself of the living entity or of the élan vital. The rupture in the living
entity is not to be understood as a breakthrough of the mind, which could
essentially operate for itself. Excentric positionality is intended to describe the
situation of a living entity that has an in-built detached viewpoint, an excen-
tric point that cannot exist without the energy of the centrally positioned
body, from whose realm of responsibility it remains removed. Through the
systematic exegesis of the concept of “positionality” Plessner arrives at the
typically philosophical-anthropological category of “natural artitciality,”
“mediated immediacy” and “utopian standpoint.” The living entities referred
to as humans are those living entities that take a position, that have a posi-
tion, that are intended to take or have a position with regards to the positions
assumed by natural history. They are by “nature” “artitcial” or constructed
– in nature. They arrive at their achievements “through” media, which ena-
ble them to achieve things and at the same time distort those achievements.
By dint of their “excentric position” they occupy a “utopian standpoint.”
11
J. Fischer, “Exzentrische Positionalität. Plessners Grundkategorie der Philosophischen
Anthropologie,” Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie, 48 (2000), pp. 265-288.
162 Joachim Fischer
The virtual organ of their “vital imagination” (Palagyi), their rich imagina-
tive capability, allows them to wander wherever they please, though they are
always grounded in a material reality of their own perceptions (tied down
to standpoint). Everything that the mind knows of its own possibilities –
technology, morality and law, language, history, art, religion – is accessible
through the categorization of Philosophical Anthropology and, at the same
time, this approach to categorization allows for the vital moment to be pre-
served and made manifest.
For Arnold Gehlen, “Man: His Nature and Place in the World” is charac-
terized by Handlung [action], Entsicherung [security-withdrawal] and Entlastung
[unburdening], Institution [institution]. The way in which Gehlen introduces
the traditional concept of “action” in the conceptual context of “security-
withdrawal” and “unburdening” as the distinguishing character of the human
living being provides a particularly good demonstration of the philosophi-
cal-anthropological train of thought. The possibilities that the human mind
inherently knows and can prove in itself – i.e., recognition, speech – are taken
as given. However, in Gehlen’s text, the theoretical viewpoint concentrates on
the view that starts from below, and takes a sideways glance at the correlation
between organism and environment. The contrastive comparison between
animals and humans is central. The animal living being is equipped with
all the morphological elements, dynamism, and drive that it needs in order
to deal with the environmental demands tailored to it, and lives out its life
within its space of life in an instinctive coupling of perceptions and patterns
of movement. The dynamic drive circulates rhythmically within the circle
of functions, which couples organism and environment. In the phenomenon
of the human living being there is a break in the circle of life, not simply
because it appears to be less morphologically specialized – in this respect man
is a Mängelwesen [detcient being] – but in the “hiatus” between a drive and its
fultllment. The naturally co-dependent dynamic relationship between inside
and outside, between perception and behavior is entsichert [made insecure] in
the human living being through Instinktendierenzierung [instinct dinerentia-
tion]; in man the behavior of the living being is exposed to the undirected
complexity of external stimuli and internal drives.
Into this gap in life steps the ordering innuence of “action” as a mental act,
but, at the same time, the pressure of the situation can only be alleviated by
action as a result of this gap, by action that lends vitality to the material that
has been liberated through security-withdrawal (i.e., the movable drives, the
perceptive nexibility, the room for maneuver); and by constructing its own
artitcial world as culture against the pressure exerted on it by the rupture
in the external and internal world, it re-establishes the contact in the vital
circulation. On the basis of the life of perception and movement that has
163 Exploring the Core Identity of Philosophical Anthropology
been newly secured through the overarching Handlungskreis [circle of action],
language, as one of the higher functions, can close the self-ordered circle of
functions, by simultaneously releasing the pressure of the here and now and
leaving open ordered references to the opened up world. Gehlen continues
to use the same non-naturalistic approach to categorization in his concept of
“institution,” which, above all, is intended to characterize the peculiar nature
of social relations among human living beings. If the perceptions and modes
of behavior between those animals that have any dealings with each other at
all are instinctively dependent on each other, then the meeting of circles of
functions that have been instinctively made insecure demands an “instead,”
a new equivalent of interdependent coordination of life. To this end, Gehlen
suggests the category of “institution,” which is based on the interdependent
re-utilization of behavioral modes, and has a vitally stabilizing function, pro-
viding the framework for the formulation of life-style goals.
It has been my intention here to demonstrate how the three thinkers coin-
cide in the way they form categories. Each takes the human mind as his starting
point, but begins by taking a view of the living body, and through compara-
tive analysis of the various types of life – at the very least in contrast to animal
life – establishes a break in life at the organizational level of the human body,
in which the phenomena of the mind come to the fore as the new mediators of
the circulation of life. The style of categorization that can be described as spe-
citc to Philosophical Anthropology does not simply show the hiatus at which
the mind appears and disappears within the living body but rather follows this
hiatus as a line, as a broken line, so to speak, without exception, through all
of the cultural and social phenomena it covers and deals with. The relation-
ships to self, the world, and others, that is to say, the inner, outer, and shared
world, arise from the bios (the world of living things), they are a displacement
(ex-centric) of the bios, which remain within the bios, indeed live within it. It
is for this reason that there is an underlying tension of life that resonates in all
the categories of Philosophical Anthropology, and the moment of the vital, the
shadow of the living body runs deep into the ramitcations of the subsequent
concepts in psychology and the cultural and social sciences.
II. Dierence between the Authors relative to the Core Identity
In as far as the authors coincide in their approach to categorization, it is pos-
sible to speak of an independent philosophical approach. At the same time, it
cannot be denied that there are real dinerences in their respective texts. The
question to be considered here is whether there is a systematic explanation for
these undeniably divergent views, which constitute a deviation from the core
164 Joachim Fischer
identity of the theoretical program. Having already established the common
bonds between Scheler, Plessner, and Gehlen, such an explanation would pro-
vide further vindication of Philosophical Anthropology’s core identity.
There are substantial, substantive dinerences between the key terms the
authors employ to describe man’s relationship to the world, himself, and oth-
ers. For example, in Scheler’s description of man’s relationship to the world,
the stress is on the attainable Weltgrund [foundation of the world], whereas
Plessner concentrates on the “world” that is accessible only through various
sensory perceptions, i.e., mediated and fragmentary, and Gehlen on a Weltbild
[image of the world] that is both structured and solid. As for the individual’s
relationship to self, Scheler approaches the question from the perspective of the
“person,” whereas for Plessner it is a relationship that is detned by the struc-
tural characteristics of “masks” and “role-play,” and Gehlen tnds an explana-
tion in the culminating achievement of “character.” While for Scheler “sym-
pathetic feelings” underpin man’s relationships to others, Plessner stresses the
distancing “openness” of the relationship, while Gehlen provides yet another
interpretation, introducing the term “institution.”
My hypothesis is as follows: if all three thinkers are held to have a shared
approach to categorization then the dinerences between them can be described
as a systematic dinerence, stemming from the aspect of life they choose to
stress in the comparison between plants, animals and humans; that is, stem-
ming from which aspect of life they choose to consider in the human sphere,
where it is characterized by a hiatus.
All three consider life as a “circle of function” between an organism and its
environment, drawing on a basic principle of theoretical biology introduced
by Jakob von Uexküll. The biocycle of life is a term used to explain how “an
organism is, as a whole, only half of its actual life”
12
We can identify at least three
independent characteristics of the biocycle. In the trst instance, it is indeed the
case that, via the circles of perception and action, the biocycle always considers
the living being as being in real, and at the same time intentional, contact with
that which is not itself, i.e., with the world that surrounds it, or the world it
shares, in the sense of those living organisms it resembles. In the biocycle, the
living being comes into contact with “the other,” over and above mere mate-
rialistic causal links. It reaches something through the mediation of sense and
movement, it sees and feels in an unmediated way, it is impressed, or impressions
are shared with it. This real-intentional contact between an organism and its
environment is noteworthy. As for the second characteristic, it obviously can-
not be denied that the correlation between the living being’s environment and
fellow men appears simultaneously within it, and that even at the border sur-
12
Plessner, Die Stufen des Organischen und der Mensch, p. 255.
165 Exploring the Core Identity of Philosophical Anthropology
faces of its bodily form the living being expressively appears in the environment
for those it shares its circumstances with. Environment and fellow men are
mutually dependent on one another, though mediated through appearance. This
mediation, this media-based contact, can be considered noteworthy. Then, a
third noteworthy characteristic consists in the fact that the circle of function of
unmediated immediacy between the living being and its environment/fellow
beings actually functions – in animals it is a cycle that takes places rhythmically,
through instinct and adaptation as a natural way of living.
It is now possible to consider the dinerences between the three authors within
the philosophical approach of Philosophical Anthropology – irrespective of the
reasons for the dinerences themselves. Each one identites man’s “nature and
place in the world” as a function of the rupture and new mediation of the bio-
cycle, which establishes a new space for man’s encounter with his environment
as a world, with fellow living beings who are others of a dinerent nature (fellow
beings, alter ego), with familiarity with self as an internal world.
Scheler pursues the contact-break in the living circle of function in the
human sphere as the real opportunity for unmediated participation in the oth-
erness of the world, i.e., for one’s own biophysical living/actual body to par-
ticipate in other fellow living beings. Plessner, on the other hand, takes the
break in the biocycle with reference to expression, to the modalities whereby
world appears indirectly in man, and whereby man appears to other men.
Gehlen, by contrast, stresses the interruption in the rhythmically secured
circulation of life in the human sphere with reference to the mechanisms of
artitcial security that man must, and can, establish in his relationship to self,
the world, and others.
The hypothesis is as follows: the respective key terms employed by Scheler,
Plessner, and Gehlen to explain man’s relationship with the world, himself,
and others, are the result of the various nuances in stress outlined above. From
a systematic perspective, this explains the dinerent approaches each adopts in
his analysis of phenomena related to human existence within the shared theo-
retical program. At the same time, this distinction illuminates the manifold
applications of the philosophical approach.
Because Scheler is concerned with the intentional real contact of that
which is alive, his focus – with regards to the relationship to the world – is on
the experience of resistance of that which is alive (the quintessence of real
contact) at the point where it is changed, is transformed into the ability of
the human living being to become an object; and this line of thought is rig-
orously followed through, culminating in the consideration of the extent to
which a “foundation of the world” is at all attainable. Through the mind’s
ability for negation, for which it must subject itself to the power of life, the
experiences of resistance in a given reality, which are an inherent compo-
166 Joachim Fischer
nent of a living being’s Gefühlsdrang [emotional impulse], develop into feel-
ings of participation, and as such constitute “windows onto the absolute”
(Hegel). For Scheler the quality of being “open to the world” means that
the “world” actually opens itself to the specitcally positioned living being,
is placed within it. As such, he describes the relationship to the self as a living
“center of action,” in which the individual achieves an actual contact to self
through the fullness of “intentional feeling” within the relationship to the
world. Scheler’s theoretical interest is exclusively dedicated to feelings such
as “shame” and “regret,” in which the human living being confronts itself. It
follows from Scheler’s choice of focus that the relationship to others is based
on the ability of the feelings of mutual arousal – which characterize the rela-
tionship between animal living beings – to be broken and transformed into
“sympathetic feelings,” whereby this sympathy enables a participation in the
objectitable core of the other being. All in all it is Scheler who adopts the
most ecstatic position among the philosophical anthropologists. It is Scheler
who, in his choice of focus, articulates the ecstatic potential of Philosophical
Anthropology’s “excentric positionality.”
Because Plessner takes the sensory appearance-relationship of the correla-
tion between an organism and its environment as his starting point, he con-
siders the dinerentiated manifestations of the world in the Grenzächen [bor-
der areas] of the motor-sensory organism with regard to “relationship with
the world.” In the Ästhesiologie des Geistes or the Anthropologie der Sinne he sets
out a theory based on the radical change in the animal modalities (modals) of
the senses (eye, ear, touch) within the human sphere, of mediated immediacy,
media (music, pictorial representation, dance, language), each of which sup-
plies a means through which man culturally creates a space for accessing the
world. The relationship with the world as conceived by Plessner is a relation-
ship that is mediated by media through which the world appears in a diner-
ent light, depending on the respective medium. Plessner therefore proceeds
from the sensory appearance-relationship to a description of the relationship
to self as a Futteralsituation; the self that can feel the living body that is itself,
and can at the same time observe that living body from an excentric position,
behind the casing (Futteral) of which it remains forever hidden to itself, only
experiences itself – mediated – as an actor, who gives a sentient/meaningful
“embodiment” to this fractured situation. In this displayed embodiment the
self is made manifest, but at the same time it remains veiled to itself during
the display. As such, in an attempt to analyze (life’s) broken circle of functions
through the concept of “mediated immediacy,” Plessner considers the nature
of the relationship with others in terms of the public sphere (Öentlichkeit).
With the accent on mediated immediacy the relationship with others can-
not be a relationship of unreserved openness. Instead, given the rupture in
167 Exploring the Core Identity of Philosophical Anthropology
the protective boundary surfaces of life, only a staged relationship is possible,
with masks and roles, in whose typical representational forms of mediated
immediacy there is a balance between two extremes, i.e., between the desire
to be seen and the desire to remain veiled.
Because, above all, Gehlen has the functions of life’s circulation of function
in his sights, his consideration of man’s relationship with the world focuses
on how, given the break in the unquestioning, animalistic bio-cycle, an em-
cient, functioning order can be newly established at the level of man. He is
interested in how, when faced with an open reality of sensory overload and
an uncoordinated array of movements, the living subject is able to process
moments of reality that are suspended in loops of awareness and movement,
by action and through doing, into the secure foundations for an ordered,
richly suggestive and accessibly placed world.
13
Gehlen therefore introduces the key term “character” into his discussion
of the relationship to self, whereby the living subject exerts discipline over the
broken, easily displaceable, agitated dynamism of its inner world, and establishes
itself as a “character.” Finally, by placing the accent to stability Gehlen charac-
terizes the relationship to the others, in the light of ritual and institution.
Scheler, Plessner, and Gehlen share the approach to categorization that
I have described as typical for Philosophical Anthropology. In the hiatus of
the living circle of functions they identify a completely new living space for
encounter and challenge. This space can be referred to, and reconstructed as,
the human sphere. However, they each pursue this idea from dinerent angle:
Scheler’s philosophical enquiry focuses on the intentional correlation of an
encounter – that which is encountered, or the being. Plessner’s enquiry takes
the modals of an encounter as its subject, the mediation or the appearance
of character between the correlates of the correlation; while Gehlen, in his
enquiry, concentrates on the structuring innuence of an encounter, the estab-
lishment of positionality between the correlates that an encounter brings.
The noteworthy dinerences between the philosophers can there-
fore be explained through reference to the core identity of Philosophical
Anthropology. Their dinerences do not constitute a challenge to this core
identity as a philosophical approach. To argue otherwise would be to argue
that Fichte, who considered the reality of the objective mind as springing
from the acting deed of subjectivity, and Schelling, for whom it emanated
from the unfolding of nature, and Hegel, who saw it as a logical historical
consequence of the self-unfolding of an absolute mind, were at odds with the
core identity of German idealism, when in fact they draw exclusively on its
system of categorization – the dialectic. The same holds for critical theory,
13
Gehlen, Der Mensch, p. 203.
168 Joachim Fischer
where the substantial dinerences between, for example, Horkheimer, Adorno,
and Marcuse, can always be explained by reference to the core identity of a
materialistically functioning “negative dialectic.”
III. Core Identity as Distinct from other Theoretical Programs
The tnal test of the core identity of Philosophical Anthropology is very
simple. In its categorization, as demonstrated, Philosophical Anthropology
as a theoretical program cannot be confused with any other philosophical
approach. The relative superiority of one theoretical program over another is
not at issue here; the principal concern is the uniqueness of the approach.
My proposal is as follows: take any text by Scheler, Plessner, and Gehlen
from the given list and it will be clear from the approach to categorization
in evidence that despite variations in topic, style, and statements, we are not
dealing with a text that can be ascribed to either transcendental criticism,
evolutionary theory, phenomenology, existentialism, hermeneutic philoso-
phy, linguistics, or structuralism.
Philosophical Anthropology cannot be regarded as a subject theory of tran-
scendental criticism, because the latter always takes the (epistemological) achieve-
ments of culture as its starting point, from which it proceeds to question
critically the conditions for what is possible in the achieving subject (as in, for
example, Cassirer’s Philosophy of Symbolic Forms).
14
Conversely, Philosophical
Anthropology takes the world of living things, the positionality of organic
life, as the precondition for any positioning achieved by human subjectivity.
Philosophical Anthropology cannot be confused with evolutionary theory,
because the latter considers all forms of life, including the human living being,
relative to the common principles of evolution and, as such, provides a natu-
ralistic description of all forms of life within the theory of evolutionary epis-
temology and social biology, i.e., according to the principle of adaptive self-
preservation of the individual organism and the principle of adaptive genetic
reproduction through the organic individuals. Philosophical Anthropology, on
the other hand, takes a systematic view of the contrast between forms of life,
at least in the comparison between animals and humans, and as such allows for
the burgeoning of a unique logic of a specitcally human “living world.”
14
Plessner’s subsequent description of Cassirer’s Philosophy of Symbolic Forms as “anthropological
philosophy” in his contribution to the commemorative volume of Adorno’s work, is a turn
of phrase in the spirit of philosophical anthropology that Scheler and Gehlen would have
appreciated. “Cassirer is well aware that man is also a living being, but he does not exploit this
fact philosophically.” H. Plessner, “Immer noch philosophische Anthropologie?” (1963), in Id.,
Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 7, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1983, p. 243.
169 Exploring the Core Identity of Philosophical Anthropology
Philosophical Anthropology is a theoretical program distinct from
phenomenology, in that the latter takes intentional consciousness or inter-
subjectively composed consciousness as its starting point, imbued with
an inter-subjective experience of being an object as core of a universal
(human) “living world” (“living world” as inter-subjectively shared world).
Philosophical Anthropology, by contrast, starts from a philosophical bio-
logical stance, and is programmed-in at the organic level, in the world of
living things (living world as the world of living things), as the prerequisite
for a human living world; it is an attempt to provide a foundation for the
possibility of phenomenology.
Philosophical Anthropology is systematically dinerent from existential phi-
losophy, which always takes the inner experience of consciousness lodged in
the body as its starting-point – a subjectivity immersed in a concrete real-
ity. If even the Heideggerian moments of care and tniteness are character-
ized by a corporal sensitivity, then it is possible to detect a continuation of
Philosophical Anthropology in corporal existential analysis or phenomenol-
ogy of the body (e.g. in the works of Merleau-Ponty or Hermann Schmitz),
trst of the corps propre, then of the body as object. Philosophical Anthropology
does not begin systematically with the inner experience of the lived body, but
in the acknowledgement of the distanced body as a thing that establishes its
boundary: trst physical body, then lived body.
Philosophical Anthropology must be systematically dinerent from herme-
neutic philosophy, linguistic philosophy or structuralism, in short, from all approaches
that – despite their respective dinerences – inaugurate a linguistic turn,
in as far as they are approaches that begin with language, language as the
medium for all relationships to the self, the world, and others. Philosophical
Anthropology, by contrast, takes the process of life as its starting point, from
whose break in continuity language springs as just one medium among others
to bridge the divide (pictorial representation, music, dance, etc.).
IV. Conclusion
In addition to its recognized status as a philosophical discipline (“philosophi-
cal anthropology”), Philosophical Anthropology has been shown here to be
an independent, distinct theoretical program within the history of twentieth-
century theory. It is possible to identify a core identity of the philosophi-
cal approach, which is equally prominent in the relevant texts by Scheler,
Plessner, and Gehlen. The dinerence between the authors can be explained as
a systematic dinerence within the core identity, and the core identity serves as
a distinct demarcation relative to other philosophical approaches.
170 Joachim Fischer
There is considerable potential for further study of the unique and incom-
parable aspects of the philosophers in question. This essay has not demonstrated
the diagnostic vigor of the philosophical approach, or its potential applica-
tions, nor has it comprehensively engaged with the criticisms made against
it. My objective was simply to contrm that Philosophical Anthropology is
indeed a theoretical program, a paradigm among other twentieth-century
paradigms; and this in itself is already a signitcant result, for the thinkers
united in the theoretical program – Scheler, Plessner, and Gehlen – are, in
their own right, already acknowledged as important tgures in the history of
twentieth-century German philosophy.
(Translated from the German by Christina Harrison)
Joachim Fischer
University of Dresden
Joachim.Fischer@tu-dresden.de

is a postulate for the development for their argument.154 Joachim Fischer various noteworthy summaries and articles have been written on the subject. existentialism. pp. At the same time. and Gehlen the comparison between plants. at the very least. 14-15. who are interested in collecting and systematizing the questions and views on “man” (Mensch) that have emerged during the history of philosophy. the word “anthropology” indicates that each is concerned with treating. and others. My contribution concentrates on Philosophical Anthropology as a paradigm (which is why the term is in capital letters in the text).” in G. . “Biophilosophie als Kern des Theorieprogramms der Philosophischen Anthropologie. Core Identity in the Di erence between the Authors The very title. indicates that. between animals and human beings. Buytendijk. Approaches to a Philosophical Biology. Fischer. see M. anthropology is also. Plessner. culture. Philosophische Anthropologie. Zur Kritik des wissenschaftlichen Radikalismus der Biologie und der Kultur-/Sozialwissenschaften. Zwischen Anthropologie und Gesellschaftstheorie. naturalism. 5 For a discussion of the philosophical biology that philosophical anthropology took as its starting point and an introduction to the most important authors in this eld (Plessner. Therefore the internal theoretical reference to biology is the pivotal point in Philosophical Anthropology for all three authors. critical theory. 2005. animals and human beings or. and currently by Christian Thies. and man’s relationship to self. irrespective of their di erences. With reference to Adolf Portmann in particular. For an explanation of the di erence. One can compare “philosophical anthropology” as a discipline with other disciplines within philosophy – such as ethics. 1965. Eine Denkrichtung des 20. quantifying. pp. Gutmann (eds. Jahrhunderts. Bielefeld: transcript. there has emerged a certain paradigm with a characteristic approach to the concept of man – and this is the achievement of Scheler. But having reconstructed “Philosophical Anthropology” as a paradigm. Plessner. metaphysics et al. from the nineteenth century onwards. no satisfactory answer has been forthcoming. Zur Renaissance Helmuth Plessners im Kontext der modernen Lebenswissenschaften. structuralism and so on. see also J. epistemology. a biological discipline. and describing various aspects of the human sphere. Manzei and M. the world. Philosophical Anthropology. Portmann. for Scheler. In other words. 483-488. human living conditions. Fischer. The theoretical program they each outline highlights a philosophical biology. I. there are fundamental theoretical similarities between the authors. observing.). Rothacker and Portmann. The “philosophical” half of “Philosophical anthropology was established by authors such as Bernhard Groethuysen. A. you can compare it with other twentieth-century approaches – such as phenomenology. see J. To begin with.5 for which Philosophical Anthropology provides a theory on relationships to the self. Grene. on the other hand and in parallel. later by Michael Landmann. “anthropology” shows that each proceeds from an understanding that. Straus). Gehlen. Munich and Freiburg: Alber 2008. Gamm. New York and London: Dordrecht. and society in the categories he constructs. irrevocably. hermeneutic philosophy.

typical of the key texts of the three authors. and Gehlen could not.” at the factual existence of life. Such a view contains other possible. they do not posit a teleological view of the relationship between body and mind (as in German idealism). Instead the focus is external.6 Instead. animals). and then proceeds through the classi cation of the various types of life (plants. which is the mind. crucially. The theoretical view takes life as its subject. or social sciences. In order to answer the question of the possible core identity in the difference between the authors. to arrive at the end-point. This concrete.. but. but discarded. I will not attempt to explain the philosophical background to the theory. Pursuing other paths O.Exploring the Core Identity of Philosophical Anthropology 155 Anthropology” indicates that. Crucially. not the material world per se (or nature in general). though interested in various individual scienti c approaches. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. pp. arguably.” “indirectly. forks in the paths of re ection. 507-514. Philosophische Anthropologie. cultural. Marquard. within its environment. biologist’s view of the organism. but it is not satis ed by itself. placed at a remove. of the living body in its medium or environment. or the material world only in so far as inanimate objects throw animate objects into relief. Nor is the focus (of the theoretical concept) “intuitive. it is directed at concrete.e. indeed would not. perception begins not with the e orts of subjectivity but “elsewhere. This. tangible experience of the living world is not arrived at by virtue of one’s own corporeality (the thinking subject in the medium of its own body) but through a distanced focusing on the object “life” (which also includes the physical self. I will limit my analysis to one point. empirical life. rather. is my outline of the posited thought process that is. However. it takes the distanced. “Zur Geschichte des Begri s ‘Anthropologie’ seit dem Ende des achtzehnten Jahrhunderts” (1965). 6 . See also Fischer. I will simply consider whether their respective approaches to categorization present a common and characteristic stance.. then. be content with a philosophy based on any one approach in isolation from either the natural.” directed at the “life force” or élan vital (as the speculative principle of all existence). One characteristic strand of thought that might constitute a common core runs as follows: in the relevant texts by all three authors the self-certainty of “mind” (Geist) is the irrefutable starting point. Schwierigkeiten mit der Geschichtsphilosophie. in as far as it is a body). Each of the relevant authors begins by considering the living body. Scheler. i. on the living world. The ideological point of departure does not reside in the physical body. in Id. Put another way: the mind’s inner self-identi cation or linguistic self-assuredness is taken as a given. Aufsätze. Plessner. the way of looking at a problem that led the authors to construct their categories. neither do they reduce the phenomenon of mind to an evolutionary continuation of life (as in the paradigm of evolutionary biology since Darwin). 1973.

that is. to observe it at a remove. the point of view that is generated internally and that. e. distanced position. rather. and serve as a baseline from which to think through to the higher levels. is placed outside of the body. which begins at. but somewhere in between. In other words. Placed at a remove. The perception relation also appears as a relation in being. 3. Instead. establishes the subject-object relation. so that the perception relation is observed at a distance – from an external vantage point. 2. This way of constructing the categories of Philosophical Anthropology always implies a certain scale or hierarchy from bottom to top. at least at the level of sub-human living bodies (i. The scale begins below the human level – not as far down as the level of inanimate objects. perception is directed at “something. when confronted with the human body. at the level of animals). the subject-object relation also appears as a relation of being. or that rises to the surface of being. language is tested by the presence of an object that could be observed by anyone). just as the private sphere of observation and thought does not give rise to the perception of the distanced external observer.156 Joachim Fischer would mean considering other theoretical programs.” at the object “Something” – a something. The decisive point here is that this re ection. In Philosophical Anthropology.g. It follows that re ection is not generated by the subject of the subjectobject relation. but rather on the . as it were. a living body in its environment – that becomes the focal point of a someone who could be anyone. it is stimulated by life lower down the scale. between a stone and a human being. Put yet another way: this approach to categorization makes it possible in principle for the mind’s internal subjectobject relation to be observed from an external. in six points. is consciously stimulated not at the human level – not. Any request for a demonstration of a typical philosophical-anthropological thought-process will therefore be met with a description of a re ection. for when viewed at a remove. which is generated at the objective level. and delves into. Instead. intentionally. This is a crucial idea to grasp for the purposes of this discussion. between inanimate objects and human beings. I will now present. the object is. then. as a relation that is wholly absorbed within. which can be observed in relation to their environment. the objective level.. subjected to the common gaze. the conceptual focus is not on the comparison between human beings and inorganic objects. what I consider to be typical of the philosophical-anthropological approach to categorization. within the realm of living beings. 1. to the public observation of common sense (not to be confused with common language – a pre-existing linguistic communication of what is observed. The categories of Philosophical Anthropology are based on the premise that it is possible to take a sideways glance at the subject-object relation.e.

908. in self-a rmation) takes its position. 8 Translator’s note: Geist. e. movement (everything that is characteristic of living beings). in Gehlen. The aspect that this philosophical approach or movement recognizes at the level of organic life. that links an organism to its environment. there is a chasm in which the entity known as “the mind” (by itself.g. For a discussion of the relevance to “kybernetische Anthropologie” (“cybernetic anthropology”) see St. In the concrete reality of the living human body and its environment. or the Lebenskreis [biocycle]. or point of view. be it plant or animal. but rather in the sense of a rupture in instinct. 5.” “enlivening of the spirit”8 (Scheler). At the objective level then. A typical philosophical-anthropological thought-process begins at the lower level. where it identi es a break in the “biocycle” of life. demonstrate the doubly dual-aspect that Philosophical Anthropology suggests or follows in its categories. Kybernetische Anthropologie. plants. animals. or at the very least. 4. as it encompasses the whole spectrum of the circle of functions (from plants and their surroundings to animals in their environments). This distanced viewpoint drives the categorization of Philosophical Anthropology. proceeds through a system of levels or through a comparative contrast of the various levels of organic life to reach the level of the human organism. and that introduces or elevates mind (in as For a discussion of the theory of “Funktionskreis. its life form and living environment. The mind is necessary to bridge the gap in life. The line of thought that proceeds along a sequence from bottom to top through a series of contrasts and comparisons.” is elsewhere throughout the text translated as “mind. Der Mensch.. is the Funktionskreis [circle of function]. and humans. There is already an elementary contact.” here. an “environmental intentionality” in the correlation between life form and living environment. or “spiritualization of life. between plants and animals. sensory organs. an observation post. a type of bracketing of subject-object moments. p.7 Between the causal relationships of the material world and the intentionality of mind the theoretical view identi es a respective relation between organism and environment. impulse. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 2003. Editor’s Notes. “Break. is meant not in the sense of a break-away. Rieger. translated here as “spirit. in the constituent di erentiation between an organism and its respective environment. but at the same time it is necessarily reliant on the living thing.” “Handlungskreis” and “Gestaltkreis” in Philosophical Anthropology see Rehberg.Exploring the Core Identity of Philosophical Anthropology 157 comparison between human beings and other living beings. is established that observes the relationship at a remove.” 7 . Expressions such as “spiritualization of the senses” or “sensitization of the spirit” (Plessner). on the comparison between animals and human beings.

. the thinkers associated with this movement of thought envisage the potential for further development of the philosophical approach. at the same time providing a rst demonstration of Scheler. in this double aspect. hearing. and music-making. not just by one individual. In short. in the living thing as a body. 6. arguably. orgiastic excess. a philosophical approach can only really be held to exist when its concepts are expounded. but at the same time. the various senses of sight. he feels like and as a centered living subject. all types of movement and expression can be developed as constituents that open up the world and make it a human world. I will argue that the three authors coincide in this reconstructed line of thought. Plessner. mind is elevated and set apart from organic life. by observing himself out of the corner of his eye. broken and indirectly mediated anew. At the same time. has. as well as body postures. but in the texts of two or more authors. tool-. while at the same time retaining their reliance on life. a thing among other things. from its inception. Welto enheit [openness to the world]. The key concepts Scheler introduces to describe “man’s place in nature” are Neinsagenkönner [he who can say no]. whatever the putative and actual di erences in the way they formulate their ideas might have been. as a living subject in the world and confronted with the world (the subject-object relation). it is not only the seemingly body-neutral phenomena of reason and language that can be considered the monopolies of man. From within. laughing and crying. it is simultaneously anchored within the living world. and burial. objecti ed. and Gehlen’s respective argumentations. and from within. de-centered. dance. One could also say: all the succinct concepts of Philosophical Anthropology are broken and newly-mediated biocycle concepts. but also passions. like a “mere animal” (Plessner). For through the systematic inclusion of the vital sphere. Man nds himself in his (objective) body. which itself implies a relation to its environment) into the initial exposition of the factual reality of the internal sphere (the subject-object relation. at a distance. through categorization. emotions. in this way of constructing categories. as experienced by the perceiving and thinking subject).158 Joachim Fischer far as it is known to itself ) to living experience. The thought process that is. in certain regards. I will demonstrate this with regard to their key concepts. picture-. and touch. The sphere of human life is therefore distinguished by the fact that the biocycles of life are. without ever feeling at one with the internal perspective. in the incongruity between an internal and external perspective. a dual-aspect: at the very moment when. Now. marginalized. For man exists in this double-aspect. he nds himself as a body among material bodies. typical of Philosophical Anthropology has therefore succeeded in tying the factual reality of the objective level (the observation of the living body at a distance.

The structural characteristics of the mind. It is in this way that.. Gegenstandsfähigkeit [the ability to be an object]. is the tense state of interrupted life. begins with the cosmos.. self-con dence and freedom – are deemed prerequisite by Scheler. as such. by virtue of its own volition. the ability to be in uenced by the reality of things. is the phenomenon of the human living being. of the renunciation of its position.e. This phenomenon of life.” only when there is a break in the living entity’s circle of function. For though the relationship to its environment is objecti ed through the act of negation of the living experience of resistance. at the level of living things. its matter-of-factness. the acknowledged de ning characteristic of the mind. The phenomenological position of recognition – the demonstration of essences along the intentionality between subject and object – thus receives a distinctively anthropological classi cation or explanation through Scheler’s construction. is achieved through the combination of the double-aspect movement that is typical of Philosophical Anthropology with primordial vitalistic resistance to urges. However.” rather than only acknowledging the behavior-related nuances of an energetic interweaving of situational force and counter-force. according to Scheler. This living thing can. the “mind” reaches its de ning classi cation – namely. before reaching the human sphere.Exploring the Core Identity of Philosophical Anthropology 159 and the ability for the living being in question to regard something as having a Gegenstand-Sein [to be an object]. allow phenomena to approach it as independent things. which is characterized by “urge” and. The mind as principle of negation. the living entity has an object experience only in so far as the experience of urge (which is a characteristic of vital life. of itself. matter-of-factness. is already in a contact relationship with something other than itself. It is precisely in Scheler’s spe- . which it can demonstrate to itself for the purpose of self-identi cation – i. with vitality as a prerequisite. in their “essence. practical intelligence) Scheler establishes the fact that. in his text published in 1928. then there is a break in the biocycle. Scheler’s viewpoint. starting at the bottom. Through a series of comparisons with “biopsychic” life and its various types (instinct. instinctive urges are coupled with an environment-based experience of resistance. and is the very precondition for the reality of things) comes up against resistance in the material world. Through negation – the suppression of the urge to resist – the resisting entity becomes a “thing” within the perception of human living beings. a relationship that cannot simply be reduced to causality. When the principle of this experience of resistance becomes itself negational. in which the experience of resistance is negational. but only “indirectly. But the mind does not arrive at this reality of “being an object” through itself. In the Gefühlsdrang [urge to feel] a living entity – a plant – comes into contact with something other that is not itself. of confrontation.e. i. associative memory. in the animal.

vol. M. goal and value-setting. taking a position in order to elicit a response (the establishing of a position) – “no” relies on the mind. Stufen des Organischen und der Mensch. the organic has opened up a gap. which alone can provide the necessary force for the position of objection – the speech act – by borrowing it from the living body. species.”9 The style of categorization that I have described as typical of Philosophical Anthropology is also explicit in Plessner’s text Man and the Stages of the Organic. The key concepts that Plessner introduces are exzentrische Positionalität [excentric positionality]. According to Plessner. man’s distinguishing characteristic is his excentric positionality. loses its absolute power and becomes subservient to a principle – mind – for which and for whose possible e ectiveness. it lends particular clarity to the typical philosophical-anthropological thought process. the phase. and this borrowing. of energy is only possible because the vital energy circle of urge-and impulseresistance is simultaneously broken through the pure principle of mind. in which the mind – without pursuing any teleological aspect – attains its internally familiar characteristics from the bottom up (characteristics that are simultaneously modi ed in their vital reference). Gesammelte Werke. 12. Scheler. 1987. 129. 10 Plessner. Excentric positionality is the most arti cial category of the theoretical program. p. but is the result of a genuine wedding of “urge” (resistance) and “mind” (negation) in the human living being. but in the ability to “say” no (saying no) – in the sense of making an assertion.). Philosophische Anthropologie. This typically philosophical-anthropological double-aspect movement. Plessner explicitly begins within the subject-object relation. In order to formulate a conceptual understanding of the human sphere. “As an idea. natürliche Künstlichkeit [natural arti ciality]. Bonn: Bouvier. it is objection. vermittelte Unmittelbarkeit [mediated immediacy]. It follows the same approach to categorization as that employed by Scheler. genera. at the same time.160 Joachim Fischer ci cally anthropological categorization that his approach is shown to have a non-dualistic base. with the experience of the entity that is confronted with the subject. 9 . and re-channeling. 50. 3. Frings (ed. the place in the cosmos where the one organic ‘life’ (whether psychic or physical) that develops through all families. which is the point of breakthrough. vol.10 It is his intention to distinguish the “living thing” from M. man is the point. for man is described as “he who can say no. p. is also incorporated within Scheler’s categorical formula.” “No” is the pure principle of the mind. and utopischer Standort [utopian standpoint]. The human living being’s “openness to the world” – as a transformation of the animal’s Umweltgebundenheit [state of being bound to the environment] – is neither a de ning feature of the mind nor a de ning feature of the vital. Schriften aus dem Nachlaß. In the hierarchy of organic life Scheler identi es a “change” at the human level.

pp. self-expression.” The theoretical viewpoint now observes. that is.”11 The center is removed. 48 (2000). it is not an autocentric positionality. Through the systematic exegesis of the concept of “positionality” Plessner arrives at the typically philosophical-anthropological category of “natural arti ciality.” The most highly developed animal is described as having a “centric positionality. “Exzentrische Positionalität. They are by “nature” “arti cial” or constructed – in nature. His hypothesis is that the living thing is distinguished from all other things. and exposed to self-a rmation. and out of its center” in the respective positional eld. that are intended to take or have a position with regards to the positions assumed by natural history. 265-288.” The living entities referred to as humans are those living entities that take a position. 11 . without being able to extricate itself from its positionality – the position of vital positioning. Excentric positionality is intended to describe the situation of a living entity that has an in-built detached viewpoint. The living thing is characterized by border tra c in relation to its environment. Fischer. The rupture in the living entity is not to be understood as a breakthrough of the mind. not only by virtue of its border. it is not a coming to itself of the living entity or of the élan vital. As such the theoretical viewpoint identi es a break in the circle of functions at the level of the human organism.” “mediated immediacy” and “utopian standpoint. this animal lives “into its center. which are described as having an “open positionality. They arrive at their achievements “through” media.” Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie. Plessner refers to this break in the cycle of functions at the level of the human living entity as “ex-centric positionality. a break in the sensory-motor-dynamicimpulsive bio-cycle. from whose realm of responsibility it remains removed. cycles of functions between organisms and their environments. it is a boundary-setting thing. stages of the organic as stages of the correlation between positional living entities and their respective spheres of life. a “positionality.” it perceives itself through a process of neuronal feedback and moves in circles of functions with di erentiated environments. By dint of their “excentric position” they occupy a “utopian standpoint. as it were. this living entity. that have a position.Exploring the Core Identity of Philosophical Anthropology 161 the non-living thing at the level of the object. an excentric point that cannot exist without the energy of the centrally positioned body. a thing that is positioned for. from the side. which could essentially operate for itself. but by virtue of the “boundary” nature of its layer.” animals have a “closed positionality. In contrast to plants. Plessner also refers to this boundary-setting thing as positional. Plessners Grundkategorie der Philosophischen Anthropologie.” J. which marks the point where it begins or ends. which enable them to achieve things and at the same time distort those achievements. Excentric positionality marks a break in positionality.

However. and by constructing its own arti cial world as culture against the pressure exerted on it by the rupture in the external and internal world. the movable drives. though they are always grounded in a material reality of their own perceptions (tied down to standpoint). The contrastive comparison between animals and humans is central. morality and law. in Gehlen’s text.e. Everything that the mind knows of its own possibilities – technology. dynamism. recognition. speech – are taken as given. the perceptive exibility. but. In the phenomenon of the human living being there is a break in the circle of life. The animal living being is equipped with all the morphological elements. and takes a sideways glance at the correlation between organism and environment. The dynamic drive circulates rhythmically within the circle of functions. The way in which Gehlen introduces the traditional concept of “action” in the conceptual context of “securitywithdrawal” and “unburdening” as the distinguishing character of the human living being provides a particularly good demonstration of the philosophical-anthropological train of thought. The naturally co-dependent dynamic relationship between inside and outside. this approach to categorization allows for the vital moment to be preserved and made manifest. Institution [institution]. Into this gap in life steps the ordering in uence of “action” as a mental act. history.e. at the same time. allows them to wander wherever they please. Entsicherung [security-withdrawal] and Entlastung [unburdening]. between perception and behavior is entsichert [made insecure] in the human living being through Instinktendi erenzierung [instinct di erentiation]. On the basis of the life of perception and movement that has . and lives out its life within its space of life in an instinctive coupling of perceptions and patterns of movement. the pressure of the situation can only be alleviated by action as a result of this gap. their rich imaginative capability. in man the behavior of the living being is exposed to the undirected complexity of external stimuli and internal drives. not simply because it appears to be less morphologically specialized – in this respect man is a Mängelwesen [de cient being] – but in the “hiatus” between a drive and its ful llment. the room for maneuver). art. at the same time. religion – is accessible through the categorization of Philosophical Anthropology and.162 Joachim Fischer The virtual organ of their “vital imagination” (Palagyi). “Man: His Nature and Place in the World” is characterized by Handlung [action]. which couples organism and environment. and drive that it needs in order to deal with the environmental demands tailored to it.. it re-establishes the contact in the vital circulation. the theoretical viewpoint concentrates on the view that starts from below. For Arnold Gehlen. by action that lends vitality to the material that has been liberated through security-withdrawal (i. The possibilities that the human mind inherently knows and can prove in itself – i. language..

If the perceptions and modes of behavior between those animals that have any dealings with each other at all are instinctively dependent on each other. in which the phenomena of the mind come to the fore as the new mediators of the circulation of life. It has been my intention here to demonstrate how the three thinkers coincide in the way they form categories. Di erence between the Authors relative to the Core Identity In as far as the authors coincide in their approach to categorization. The question to be considered here is whether there is a systematic explanation for these undeniably divergent views.” a new equivalent of interdependent coordination of life. It is for this reason that there is an underlying tension of life that resonates in all the categories of Philosophical Anthropology. through all of the cultural and social phenomena it covers and deals with. it is possible to speak of an independent philosophical approach. Gehlen continues to use the same non-naturalistic approach to categorization in his concept of “institution. Gehlen suggests the category of “institution. outer. indeed live within it. above all. arise from the bios (the world of living things). but begins by taking a view of the living body. At the same time. as one of the higher functions. To this end. that is to say. the shadow of the living body runs deep into the rami cations of the subsequent concepts in psychology and the cultural and social sciences. as a broken line. the world. II. is intended to characterize the peculiar nature of social relations among human living beings. and the moment of the vital.” which. and through comparative analysis of the various types of life – at the very least in contrast to animal life – establishes a break in life at the organizational level of the human body.” which is based on the interdependent re-utilization of behavioral modes. which constitute a deviation from the core . it cannot be denied that there are real di erences in their respective texts. The style of categorization that can be described as speci c to Philosophical Anthropology does not simply show the hiatus at which the mind appears and disappears within the living body but rather follows this hiatus as a line. Each takes the human mind as his starting point. the inner. then the meeting of circles of functions that have been instinctively made insecure demands an “instead. without exception. by simultaneously releasing the pressure of the here and now and leaving open ordered references to the opened up world. and shared world. The relationships to self.Exploring the Core Identity of Philosophical Anthropology 163 been newly secured through the overarching Handlungskreis [circle of action]. they are a displacement (ex-centric) of the bios. providing the framework for the formulation of life-style goals. so to speak. which remain within the bios. can close the self-ordered circle of functions. and has a vitally stabilizing function. and others. language.

Plessner. contact with that which is not itself. As for the individual’s relationship to self.” My hypothesis is as follows: if all three thinkers are held to have a shared approach to categorization then the di erences between them can be described as a systematic di erence. and Gehlen. whereas Plessner concentrates on the “world” that is accessible only through various sensory perceptions. while Gehlen provides yet another interpretation. i. drawing on a basic principle of theoretical biology introduced by Jakob von Uexküll. animals and humans. introducing the term “institution. .” While for Scheler “sympathetic feelings” underpin man’s relationships to others. Having already established the common bonds between Scheler. All three consider life as a “circle of function” between an organism and its environment. The biocycle of life is a term used to explain how “an organism is. or the world it shares. mediated and fragmentary. i. For example. and others. the living being comes into contact with “the other. it is indeed the case that. as a whole. it obviously cannot be denied that the correlation between the living being’s environment and fellow men appears simultaneously within it. stemming from the aspect of life they choose to stress in the comparison between plants. Scheler approaches the question from the perspective of the “person. Die Stufen des Organischen und der Mensch. 255. Plessner stresses the distancing “openness” of the relationship. where it is characterized by a hiatus. There are substantial. or impressions are shared with it. it is impressed.164 Joachim Fischer identity of the theoretical program. This real-intentional contact between an organism and its environment is noteworthy. stemming from which aspect of life they choose to consider in the human sphere.e. substantive di erences between the key terms the authors employ to describe man’s relationship to the world.. via the circles of perception and action. in Scheler’s description of man’s relationship to the world.e. with the world that surrounds it..” over and above mere materialistic causal links. and Gehlen on a Weltbild [image of the world] that is both structured and solid. It reaches something through the mediation of sense and movement. In the biocycle. p. the biocycle always considers the living being as being in real.” whereas for Plessner it is a relationship that is de ned by the structural characteristics of “masks” and “role-play. that is. In the rst instance.” and Gehlen nds an explanation in the culminating achievement of “character. it sees and feels in an unmediated way. the stress is on the attainable Weltgrund [foundation of the world]. only half of its actual life”12 We can identify at least three independent characteristics of the biocycle. himself. such an explanation would provide further vindication of Philosophical Anthropology’s core identity. and that even at the border sur12 Plessner. As for the second characteristic. and at the same time intentional. in the sense of those living organisms it resembles.

this explains the di erent approaches each adopts in his analysis of phenomena related to human existence within the shared theoretical program. are the result of the various nuances in stress outlined above. Scheler pursues the contact-break in the living circle of function in the human sphere as the real opportunity for unmediated participation in the otherness of the world. the experiences of resistance in a given reality. and whereby man appears to other men. is transformed into the ability of the human living being to become an object. alter ego). a third noteworthy characteristic consists in the fact that the circle of function of unmediated immediacy between the living being and its environment/fellow beings actually functions – in animals it is a cycle that takes places rhythmically. It is now possible to consider the di erences between the three authors within the philosophical approach of Philosophical Anthropology – irrespective of the reasons for the di erences themselves. Gehlen. From a systematic perspective. with familiarity with self as an internal world. with fellow living beings who are others of a di erent nature (fellow beings. Then. this distinction illuminates the manifold applications of the philosophical approach. which are an inherent compo- . and others. and others. At the same time.Exploring the Core Identity of Philosophical Anthropology 165 faces of its bodily form the living being expressively appears in the environment for those it shares its circumstances with. his focus – with regards to the relationship to the world – is on the experience of resistance of that which is alive (the quintessence of real contact) at the point where it is changed. and this line of thought is rigorously followed through. and can. Environment and fellow men are mutually dependent on one another. Because Scheler is concerned with the intentional real contact of that which is alive. for one’s own biophysical living/actual body to participate in other fellow living beings. culminating in the consideration of the extent to which a “foundation of the world” is at all attainable. can be considered noteworthy.. this media-based contact. for which it must subject itself to the power of life. though mediated through appearance. takes the break in the biocycle with reference to expression. through instinct and adaptation as a natural way of living. Plessner. and Gehlen to explain man’s relationship with the world. the world. Each one identi es man’s “nature and place in the world” as a function of the rupture and new mediation of the biocycle.e. Through the mind’s ability for negation. to the modalities whereby world appears indirectly in man. Plessner. by contrast. This mediation. i. establish in his relationship to self. stresses the interruption in the rhythmically secured circulation of life in the human sphere with reference to the mechanisms of arti cial security that man must. himself. on the other hand. The hypothesis is as follows: the respective key terms employed by Scheler. which establishes a new space for man’s encounter with his environment as a world.

” In the Ästhesiologie des Geistes or the Anthropologie der Sinne he sets out a theory based on the radical change in the animal modalities (modals) of the senses (eye.” in which the individual achieves an actual contact to self through the fullness of “intentional feeling” within the relationship to the world. Instead. The relationship with the world as conceived by Plessner is a relationship that is mediated by media through which the world appears in a di erent light. is placed within it. given the rupture in . and can at the same time observe that living body from an excentric position. but at the same time it remains veiled to itself during the display. in an attempt to analyze (life’s) broken circle of functions through the concept of “mediated immediacy. media (music. of mediated immediacy.” in which the human living being confronts itself. only experiences itself – mediated – as an actor. For Scheler the quality of being “open to the world” means that the “world” actually opens itself to the speci cally positioned living being.166 Joachim Fischer nent of a living being’s Gefühlsdrang [emotional impulse].” whereby this sympathy enables a participation in the objecti able core of the other being.” Because Plessner takes the sensory appearance-relationship of the correlation between an organism and its environment as his starting point. All in all it is Scheler who adopts the most ecstatic position among the philosophical anthropologists. As such. It is Scheler who. each of which supplies a means through which man culturally creates a space for accessing the world. In this displayed embodiment the self is made manifest. and as such constitute “windows onto the absolute” (Hegel). With the accent on mediated immediacy the relationship with others cannot be a relationship of unreserved openness. develop into feelings of participation. pictorial representation. Plessner therefore proceeds from the sensory appearance-relationship to a description of the relationship to self as a Futteralsituation. dance. Scheler’s theoretical interest is exclusively dedicated to feelings such as “shame” and “regret. As such. It follows from Scheler’s choice of focus that the relationship to others is based on the ability of the feelings of mutual arousal – which characterize the relationship between animal living beings – to be broken and transformed into “sympathetic feelings. he considers the di erentiated manifestations of the world in the Grenz ächen [border areas] of the motor-sensory organism with regard to “relationship with the world. the self that can feel the living body that is itself. he describes the relationship to the self as a living “center of action. language). depending on the respective medium. in his choice of focus. behind the casing (Futteral) of which it remains forever hidden to itself. articulates the ecstatic potential of Philosophical Anthropology’s “excentric positionality. touch) within the human sphere. who gives a sentient/meaningful “embodiment” to this fractured situation. ear.” Plessner considers the nature of the relationship with others in terms of the public sphere (Ö entlichkeit).

Exploring the Core Identity of Philosophical Anthropology 167 the protective boundary surfaces of life. This space can be referred to. and Schelling. the human sphere. above all.” Finally. concentrates on the structuring in uence of an encounter.. Scheler. his consideration of man’s relationship with the world focuses on how.13 Gehlen therefore introduces the key term “character” into his discussion of the relationship to self. Because. i. when faced with an open reality of sensory overload and an uncoordinated array of movements. In the hiatus of the living circle of functions they identify a completely new living space for encounter and challenge. 13 Gehlen. while Gehlen. Their di erences do not constitute a challenge to this core identity as a philosophical approach. in his enquiry. whereby the living subject exerts discipline over the broken. . and reconstructed as. the establishment of positionality between the correlates that an encounter brings. p. for whom it emanated from the unfolding of nature. Plessner’s enquiry takes the modals of an encounter as its subject. Plessner. given the break in the unquestioning. The same holds for critical theory. the living subject is able to process moments of reality that are suspended in loops of awareness and movement. were at odds with the core identity of German idealism. in the light of ritual and institution. by placing the accent to stability Gehlen characterizes the relationship to the others. richly suggestive and accessibly placed world. 203. The noteworthy di erences between the philosophers can therefore be explained through reference to the core identity of Philosophical Anthropology. functioning order can be newly established at the level of man. who considered the reality of the objective mind as springing from the acting deed of subjectivity.e. between the desire to be seen and the desire to remain veiled. only a staged relationship is possible. into the secure foundations for an ordered. animalistic bio-cycle. in whose typical representational forms of mediated immediacy there is a balance between two extremes. To argue otherwise would be to argue that Fichte. and Hegel. and Gehlen share the approach to categorization that I have described as typical for Philosophical Anthropology. Gehlen has the functions of life’s circulation of function in his sights. or the being. However. easily displaceable. and establishes itself as a “character. who saw it as a logical historical consequence of the self-unfolding of an absolute mind. with masks and roles. they each pursue this idea from di erent angle: Scheler’s philosophical enquiry focuses on the intentional correlation of an encounter – that which is encountered. an e cient. He is interested in how. when in fact they draw exclusively on its system of categorization – the dialectic. agitated dynamism of its inner world. the mediation or the appearance of character between the correlates of the correlation. by action and through doing. Der Mensch.

phenomenology. but he does not exploit this fact philosophically. as such. Adorno. we are not dealing with a text that can be ascribed to either transcendental criticism. as the precondition for any positioning achieved by human subjectivity. “Cassirer is well aware that man is also a living being. 243. and Marcuse. Plessner. 14 . 7. 1983. because the latter considers all forms of life.” III. style. evolutionary theory. In its categorization. My proposal is as follows: take any text by Scheler. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Plessner. provides a naturalistic description of all forms of life within the theory of evolutionary epistemology and social biology.. hermeneutic philosophy. the positionality of organic life. according to the principle of adaptive selfpreservation of the individual organism and the principle of adaptive genetic reproduction through the organic individuals. i. on the other hand. takes a systematic view of the contrast between forms of life. Philosophical Anthropology cannot be regarded as a subject theory of transcendental criticism. or structuralism. including the human living being. Horkheimer.” H. and Gehlen from the given list and it will be clear from the approach to categorization in evidence that despite variations in topic. Core Identity as Distinct from other Theoretical Programs The nal test of the core identity of Philosophical Anthropology is very simple. The relative superiority of one theoretical program over another is not at issue here.e.168 Joachim Fischer where the substantial di erences between. linguistics. Gesammelte Schriften. the principal concern is the uniqueness of the approach. Philosophical Anthropology cannot be confused with evolutionary theory. vol. Philosophical Anthropology takes the world of living things.” Plessner’s subsequent description of Cassirer’s Philosophy of Symbolic Forms as “anthropological philosophy” in his contribution to the commemorative volume of Adorno’s work. as demonstrated. for example. can always be explained by reference to the core identity of a materialistically functioning “negative dialectic. Philosophical Anthropology as a theoretical program cannot be confused with any other philosophical approach. “Immer noch philosophische Anthropologie?” (1963). from which it proceeds to question critically the conditions for what is possible in the achieving subject (as in. Philosophical Anthropology. in Id. is a turn of phrase in the spirit of philosophical anthropology that Scheler and Gehlen would have appreciated.14 Conversely. and statements.. and as such allows for the burgeoning of a unique logic of a speci cally human “living world. relative to the common principles of evolution and. for example. p. because the latter always takes the (epistemological) achievements of culture as its starting point. at least in the comparison between animals and humans. Cassirer’s Philosophy of Symbolic Forms). existentialism.

If even the Heideggerian moments of care and niteness are characterized by a corporal sensitivity. from whose break in continuity language springs as just one medium among others to bridge the divide (pictorial representation. Philosophical Anthropology does not begin systematically with the inner experience of the lived body. Philosophical Anthropology has been shown here to be an independent. The di erence between the authors can be explained as a systematic di erence within the core identity. linguistic philosophy or structuralism. which always takes the inner experience of consciousness lodged in the body as its starting-point – a subjectivity immersed in a concrete reality. it is an attempt to provide a foundation for the possibility of phenomenology. Philosophical Anthropology.).Exploring the Core Identity of Philosophical Anthropology 169 Philosophical Anthropology is a theoretical program distinct from phenomenology. but in the acknowledgement of the distanced body as a thing that establishes its boundary: rst physical body. the world. and is programmed-in at the organic level. in short. by contrast. then it is possible to detect a continuation of Philosophical Anthropology in corporal existential analysis or phenomenology of the body (e. by contrast. then of the body as object. In addition to its recognized status as a philosophical discipline (“philosophical anthropology”). in the works of Merleau-Ponty or Hermann Schmitz). takes the process of life as its starting point. language as the medium for all relationships to the self. Philosophical Anthropology must be systematically di erent from hermeneutic philosophy. distinct theoretical program within the history of twentiethcentury theory. music. and the core identity serves as a distinct demarcation relative to other philosophical approaches. in as far as they are approaches that begin with language. IV Conclusion . and Gehlen. dance. Plessner. from all approaches that – despite their respective di erences – inaugurate a linguistic turn. rst of the corps propre. Philosophical Anthropology. . as the prerequisite for a human living world. imbued with an inter-subjective experience of being an object as core of a universal (human) “living world” (“living world” as inter-subjectively shared world). then lived body. in that the latter takes intentional consciousness or intersubjectively composed consciousness as its starting point. which is equally prominent in the relevant texts by Scheler.g. in the world of living things (living world as the world of living things). It is possible to identify a core identity of the philosophical approach. Philosophical Anthropology is systematically di erent from existential philosophy. etc. and others. starts from a philosophical biological stance.

(Translated from the German by Christina Harrison) Joachim Fischer University of Dresden Joachim. in their own right. Plessner.de . and Gehlen – are.170 Joachim Fischer There is considerable potential for further study of the unique and incomparable aspects of the philosophers in question. a paradigm among other twentieth-century paradigms. or its potential applications.Fischer@tu-dresden. nor has it comprehensively engaged with the criticisms made against it. already acknowledged as important gures in the history of twentieth-century German philosophy. My objective was simply to con rm that Philosophical Anthropology is indeed a theoretical program. and this in itself is already a signi cant result. This essay has not demonstrated the diagnostic vigor of the philosophical approach. for the thinkers united in the theoretical program – Scheler.

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