Eric J. Mohr

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Summer 2014


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name





McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

James Swindal

Committee Member

Eugene Kelly

Committee Member

Tom Rockmore


Critical Theory, Ideology Critique, Max Scheler, Phenomenology, Sociology of Knowledge, Value Theory


This work explores the way core elements of phenomenology map on to the critical theory program in order to demonstrate phenomenology's relevance for ideology critique. "Critical phenomenology" means putting the findings of phenomenology to work for the sake of social critique. I argue that phenomenology gains a critical edge precisely where many critical theorists suggest phenomenology withdraws from a critical function: on the basis of their theory of intuition. While Adorno takes phenomenological intuition to be another version of identity philosophy, he overlooks the significance of the way in which phenomenological givenness is incommensurable with, and at best only symbolized by, conceptual articulation. An awareness of the tension between logos (concept) and phenomenon (intuition) offers an opportunity for the phenomenologist to critique the substitution of lived-experience for conceptual variations of that experience, a tendency central to ideology.

This is seen clearly in Scheler's phenomenology. With the three concurrent components of his theory of intuition--the givenness of the intentional object; the givenness of reality; and the givenness of value--Scheler addresses all the main objections Frankfurt School critical theorists traditionally pose against phenomenology. And he insists on phenomenology's importance for sociology and the sociology of knowledge. The fact that Scheler's theories of intentionality and value are, as I argue, taken into an existential and social context, adds social relevance to his value theory. This is significant for the question of ideology and for emphasizing certain shortcomings of critical theory's approach to this question.

I suggest that phenomenology elucidates prior grounds for the possibility of emancipatory critique. The domain of the moral (love and the values the act discloses) is the common root of both theory and practice. The way a society thinks and acts is an outgrowth of attitudinal factors suggestive of certain patterns of valuation. Ideology is, in this case, an intellectual outcome of improper valuing. According to Scheler, rationality is in large part an expression of patterns of valuation, so a critique of rationality in its instrumental form, for example, has to be framed in terms of a moral critique of the trends of social valuation.