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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 4: The Motivated Constitution of the State



The Motivated Constitution of the State

Stein’s Philosophy of Psychology and the Humanities, written immediately after Stein took her leave as Husserl’s assistant, were meant to complement Husserl’s Ideas II in respect of the constitution of the psyche and the spirit.1 Stein’s doctoral dissertation On the Problem of Empathy equipped her well for this task, as the complete constitution of both the psyche and the spirit depends on the mirror perspective offered by the other, accessed by means of empathy. The access to the experience of the other allows me to identify the world of values – the objects of motivation – as objective, and to understand myself as a being whose nature stands under the influence of the motivation which my I is subject to as a person, and also to identify myself as a sentient being in possession of a psyche. Her understanding of mental energy allows her to analyse the formation of the ‘we’ which arises from the sharing of motivational energy and gives rise to communal experience. With the understanding of the flexible formation of the communal subject a map of the dynamic structure of inter-subjectivity is achieved, and with it, as its correlate, an understanding of the inter-subjective constitution of the world; a model of what could be called its ‘social construction’.

It is the community-forming ability of values that make them of decisive importance for Stein’s concept of the state, as the state is a community or at...

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