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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 6: The Formation of Christian Europe



The Formation of Christian Europe

As Stein wrote her two volume philosophical and theological anthropology with the goal of providing a theoretical foundation for Catholic education (Aufbau der menschlichen Person and Was ist der Mensch?), she chose the following as the title of the first chapter: ‘The idea of the human being as basis for the theory and practice of education’. For Stein ideas have essential (i.e. ideal, not real) being, which can be disclosed to spiritual beings.1 But for human beings, who live as spiritual beings in space and time, such disclosure happens gradually in the world, in a process of education which initially is far more familiar to us than the idea it discloses, despite the latter being more intelligible in itself. Stein underwent such an educational process herself, like all human beings do, and her reflection on this process was the means by which she could clarify the idea of the human being needed for it. Education is not something one can dispense with, as it happens, and with great consequence for society, whether one pays specific attention to it or not. The most important thing that happens in education is in Stein’s view the discovery of the image of the human being, in accordance with which one will accept to be formed oneself. This idea had in the final analysis to be Christian, she thought, as only the image of God can do justice to what the human being is...

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