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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 2: The Constitution of the Body



The Constitution of the Body

In On the Problem of Empathy Stein presents a phenomenology of the body which forms part of a constitutional analysis of the psycho-physical individual. To approach it, we shall start by situating her work in relation to that of Husserl and other phenomenologists of the time (1). Then we shall characterise the nature of inter-subjective constitution according to her later Philosophy of Psychology and the Humanities, since the body is also inter-subjectively constituted (2). Finally we turn to the analysis of the body as it is found in her doctoral dissertation (3).

Stein’s place in the phenomenological movement

Stein became Husserl’s assistant following the death of Adolph Reinach during the First World War. In that capacity she was editor of Ideas II and III. But before that she had already attempted to underpin Husserl’s understanding that empathy was foundational for inter-subjectivity by writing her doctoral dissertation on the topic. On the Problem of Empathy (1917) originally comprised a hermeneutic analysis (now lost) of various occurrences of the theme in authors influencing the early stirrings of phenomenology such as Theodor Lipps, Max Scheler and Wilhelm Dilthey. This led up to an eidetic analysis of the essence of empathy (which is now the first chapter) and two constitutional analyses pertaining to what empathy contributes to the constitution of: the psycho-physical individual (Chapter Three) and the person (Chapter Four). In these analyses Stein follows what she understands to...

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