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The Philosophy of Edith Stein

From Phenomenology to Metaphysics

Mette Lebech

Many interested reader will have put aside a work by Edith Stein due to its seeming inaccessibility, with the awareness that there was something important there for a future occasion. This collection of essays attempts to provide an idea of what this important something might be and give a key to the reading of Stein’s various works. It is divided into two parts reflecting Stein’s development. The first part, «Phenomenology», deals with those features of Stein’s work that set it apart from that of other phenomenologists, notably Husserl. The second part is entitled «Metaphysics», although Stein the phenomenologist would, like Husserl, initially have shied away from this designation. However, as Stein gradually understood the importance of the Christian faith for completing the phenomenological project of founding the sciences, and accepted it as indispensable for a philosophical view of the whole, her «attempt at an ascent to the meaning of being» can legitimately be called metaphysics, even as it also constitutes a fundamental criticism of Aristotle and Aquinas.
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Chapter 10: Beginning to Read Finite and Eternal Being



Beginning to Read Finite and Eternal Being

Beginning to read Stein’s Finite and Eternal Being is somewhat daunting, as one seems to remain at the level of beginning for quite some time. To assist that beginning, I shall here give an overview of the preoccupations that structure the work. As after a number of readings of the work I still consider myself a beginner, it may well be that some accents are misplaced and some essential issues are left unaddressed.1

We shall first characterise the tendencies implicit in Stein’s work as a whole, since it is it as a whole, which comes to fruition in Finite and Eternal Being (1). Then we shall examine her claim that the investigation of the meaning of being must, for the believer, take account of Revelation, and thus be Christian philosophy (2). As the philosophy resulting can be characterised equally as phenomenology and metaphysics, an explanation of how these disciplines are related in the work is required. The difference between the two subjects can best be stated in relation to ontology: whereas phenomenology essentially includes a reference to formal ontology, ← 133 | 134 → metaphysics includes both formal and material ontologies in a view of the whole. Thus we shall examine the relationship of phenomenology and formal ontology in (3), so as to be able to clarify the relationship between these and metaphysics in (4).

From Stein’s early work in phenomenology (1915–20) through Introduction to...

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