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Intersubjectivity, Humanity, Being

Edith Stein’s Phenomenology and Christian Philosophy

Edited By Mette Lebech and John Haydn Gurmin

This volume brings together revised versions of papers presented at the inaugural conference of the International Association for the Study of the Philosophy of Edith Stein (IASPES). The conference papers are supplemented by a number of specially commissioned essays in order to provide a representative sample of the best research currently being carried out on Stein’s philosophy in the English speaking world. The first part of the volume centres on Stein’s phenomenology; the second part looks at her Christian philosophy; and the third part explores the contexts of her philosophical work.
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Edith Stein’s Concept of Empathy and the Problem of the Holocaust Witness: War Diaries of Polish Warsaw Writers



ABSTRACT: It is quite plausible to imagine that when fleeing Germany in 1939, hiding in Holland, and boarding the train to Auschwitz, Stein directed her thoughts to the concept of empathy she had analyzed many years before in her doctoral thesis. She was watching and experiencing the complete negation of the theory. The Nazi ideology, which excluded the Jews from humanity, undermined the notion of empathy. The unprecedented phenomenon of the Final Solution posited a problem of empathy for the witness. This paper investigates the witness’s capacity to maintain the notion of the victims as subjects in the reality of their dehumanization as a subhuman species sentenced to mass murder. The occupation diaries of Polish Warsaw writers provide a unique opportunity for an empirical assessment of empathy in time of terror. We will never know what Stein thought and felt about empathy when facing the horrific moral disintegration of her world and her personal fate. However, the event of the Holocaust highlights the frailty of empathy. It therefore impels the need for ethical education in a world which has witnessed the horror of the genocide.

Ironically and tragically, history put Edith Stein’s doctoral dissertation, On the Problem of Empathy, to the ultimate test.1 The humanistic ideals, grounded in the Enlightenment principles of the equality and dignity of human beings’ ← 57 | 58 →Weltanschauung, which informed Stein’s investigation of empathy, were shattered by the edict of the Final Solution, of which, in yet...

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