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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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Stein’s work is notoriously difficult to access. This is paradoxically not because her writings are difficult to read, they are written in plain and handsome German, and with a stringency seldom matched. It is the very stringency however, together with the fact that Stein rarely repeats herself, which accounts for the fact that it takes a long time to get through a few pages. To get the full picture moreover, one must not only expect to have one’s categories rearranged, one will also have to start at the beginning, since Stein never repeats herself. As Stein’s works amount to twenty-seven volumes, many give up, or content themselves with knowing that there is something there one might read one day.

This collection of essays provides a series of shortcuts. It brings together previously published articles revised for the purpose of providing both an overall picture of Stein’s work as well as twelve self-contained introductions to specific aspects of it. If read from beginning to end some repetitions occur. It is hoped these can be of benefit to the beginner, and be to the specialist an occasion for assessing my interpretation.

The collection is divided into two parts reflecting the development of Stein’s thought. The first one is entitled ‘Phenomenology’ and deals with the features of Stein’s phenomenology which sets it apart from that of other phenomenologists’, notably Husserl’s. The second part is called ‘Metaphysics’ and treats of those of Stein’s works that testify to her...

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