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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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To facilitate the reading of this book it is useful to define a few terms often used by Stein. These are meant for the reader to have recourse to throughout the reading of the book, whenever doubt arises about the meanings of the words. They are mostly related to the phenomenological method, which she develops, tests and perfects throughout her life.


Eidetic variation is possible in imagination because essences are a priori, i.e. before (concrete) experience, and because one can gain insight into a priori relationships relatively independently of empirical experience. Thus I can discuss meaningfully what pertains to the essence of a dragon or to Sleeping Beauty, without either existing, or without me having seen either. Ontologies are sciences of essence in that they investigate various types of essence (e.g. nature, spirit).


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