Contemporary mass culture is such that it now demands that one takes care of their body. The cult of the body has dominated our actions to such an extent that, oftentimes, the value of a person is perceived in terms of his or her physical perfection. However, the modern cult of the body cannot be seen as a revival of the ancient Greek concept of kalos kagathos. Today's culture, while coaxing people into tending to their body's needs, mystifies that very care. The question therefore arises whether the cult of the body upholds the value of body or whether it, in fact, denies it.
Facing such a paradox, one may first question what significance the body itself has. Here, Max Scheler's concept of nobleness seems to be an alternative to the extremes represented in the philosophy of the body by both the traditional schools, more in line with Plato, and between those with more contemporary, somatocentric tendencies. As such, this antagonism between the noble and the ordinary constitutes one of the core issues in the demonstration of a human's vital values, values connected with maintaining life and health, in both the physical and mental aspects.
This paper aims at presenting the range and specificity of such vital values and their influence on human activities. Scheler draws a clear demarcation line between those values which are vital and those which are hedonistic and utilitarian. His concept of vital values assumes that they encompass the widely understood ideas of physical culture, health promotion and ecology. He does not reduce the vital values when compared to those hedonistic, but underlines their autonomy and grants them a high standing in the hierarchy of values. While considering Scheler's philosophy of vital values, this paper will also set them in the context of Ortega y Gasset's speculation on values.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.