Monthly Archives: August 2020

Edith Stein, Empathy, and Goodwill

The attached PDF is to a very interesting paper by Kit Apostolacus, a graduate student at Villanova. This is from a public domain academic site. These papers are free by subscribing.

A Hermeneutic of Empathy: On Edith Stein in Relation to Hermeneutical Theology

What caught my attention was Apostolacus’ identification of something I’ve been searching for, namely, a way to express goodwill. We talk and hear much of our “freewill.” But my own work is leading me to the conclusion that what we are missing is more discussion and understanding of “goodwill.” No matter where I turn in my own efforts, I seem to come face to face with the problem of goodwill (more than freewill).

Apostolacus relates:

“a person trying to understand a text is prepared for it to tell him something.”

That seems to me to be a very helpful foundation upon which to integrate goodwill formerly into the model. We must desire to understand before we can be prepared to receive that which the other offers. The desire to receive is the first step in goodwill. This predisposes us to empathy with the “otherness” facing us. Apostolacus continues: “As Stein might say, we must empathize with the text.”

Desire to receive combined with empathy for the other – now I think I am moving this forward to a definition of goodwill I can integrate with the larger model.

Objectivity affects consciousness – not the other way around (Husserl)

As one whose life-project is to bring to light how our subjective experiences are grounded in objective truths, we can see how the following statement shattered the darkness.

“I apprehend the world-about-them and the world-about-me objectively as one and the same world, which differs in each case only through affecting consciousness differently.” ~ Edmund Husserl, Ideas 

Husserl’s point here in Part II of his Ideas is a radical disruption to the modern worldview. The axiom here is that the world is an objective reality, and this objective reality affects individual consciousness, not the other way around. The modern “progressive” worldview reverses this by positing that the individual more or less creates his or her (or none?) reality, i.e., individual consciousness determines objective reality for that person. The Phenomenological Husserlian understanding finds this modern view to be intellectually untenable. 

In my earliest manuscript, I asserted that whereas each of us walking the same trail will highlight different moments (the subjective experience), we nevertheless all are walking the same trail (the objective experience). I did not realize how phenomenologically Husserlian was that metaphor. I was saying the same thing Husserl posits in his Ideas.

This phenomenological orientation is why I am unable to cooperate with a society that believes in radical “progressive” individualism and claims that people should create whatever reality suits them (e.g., a man decides that his “reality” is that he is a she). They have it all backwards. Affective consciousness does not create the objective; it is the objective that “affects consciousness differently.” Men cannot be women; though, the objective reality of “manhood” possibly can affect their consciousness to make them think it is so. But a man, they remain.

What is objectivity, then, but “essence” in Husserl’s view? Well, if objective truth is “essence,” then, de facto, no subjective mind can “create it.” To do so is not “essence” (reality) but “imagination.”

Monarchy through the lens of Edith Stein’s Empathy

Edith Stein’s work on empathy is complex and rigorous; however, one ray of common-man light shines forth. This is that we come to know ourselves in great part through empathy with others. Part of our self-knowledge is primordially interior, but part is empathic. We see ourselves, but also see ourselves through the eyes of others. At times others see us differently than we know ourselves to be, but at times others know us better than we know ourselves.

I see this as covering an expansive terrain. This light reflects so far as to inform my understanding of culture and society. It leads me to a conclusion that what others do in society truly effects me in a profound way. Sin is never private, and the “personal” choices others make impact me empathically so deeply as to inform me of who I am. They soak into me. To tell me that I should not judge the lifestyle of another, that I should simply make my own choices differently if I believe so, to “live and let live,” is not only insufficient but harmful. What we decide has an impact on all of us.

This is why I reject not only the cultural and political Left but the Libertarian Right as well. The Left forces upon us a personally harmful and distorted society, while the Right, no matter how much they protest the opposite side’s society, ensures the latter’s success through their own libertarianism.

This is one of the fundamental reasons I am a Monarchist. As individuals who come to know ourselves through both primordial and empathic means in the Steinian sense, we require as a correlate both individual freedom and a healthy reflective society based on truth, beauty, and goodness. We must be free (primordial) but at the same time embrace healthy “foreign others” and role models (empathic).

For these reasons I reject both the Republican left and Republican right. They are two sides to the same coin, each feeding off of the other in a spiritually carcinogenic fashion. What is required is a society grounded neither in Left nor Right but in Truth. This is the essence of Légitimité and the Légitimiste Monarchy.

This healthy, life-giving embrace of both our primordial selves and the empathic “other” is expressed profoundly and with great clarity in the following gospel story.

Luke 10:38-42

Jesus came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking. Now Martha who was distracted with all the serving said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered: ‘Martha, Martha,’ he said ‘you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.’

The model influenced by Edith Stein and Edmund Husserl

The model I have been developing for the past twelve years to which I often refer is, as stated in my writings, bimodal. That was the beginning form. Over these many years, I have focused on two particular phenomena, a sudden “instant instance” whereby I received an intuition about Thérèse of Lisieux and a sudden “instant instance” whereby I received an intuition about Joan of Arc. This bimodal experience became the definition of my life, and anyone who knows anything about Thérèse of Lisieux also knows that she and Joan together represent a spiritual speciation of a more encompassing genus of French Spirituality. Thus, by simple syllogism, my life became defined by French spirituality. 

My efforts the past few years have been around modeling the experience, the idea being that the instantiation of Joan and Thérèse in my life is an objective reality given to me in my own subjectivity. The challenge to objectify subjective phenomena began. The solution came through the philosophy of Edith Stein and her mentor Edmund Husserl. As I integrated Stein into my work, it became clear the she was the only philosopher who could close the system and give me relief in my search.

Through Husserl, I came to define the bimodal “instant instances” (my term) as his “primordial dator” which, according to him is the “principle of all principles.” The area under the curves represents the speciation of the model through intuition of essential essence (Husserl) with the model developed in a “step-by-step” fashion (Stein).

The capstone for me, though, has been the one principle I added on my own that gave the model its final presentation and life – syntax. I added syntax after reading Husserl and experiencing the most serendipitous (seemingly) encounter with the works of the French pop artist Nolwenn Leroy (how unexpected!). That experience brought to light the principle of syntax which demonstrated how the model was “ordered” so as to be a complete instantiation of my “primordial dator” experiences in 1984 and 2008. Syntax represents the spirit that orders it to a certain rhythm and mathematical beauty.

Monarchy as an expression of Edith Stein’s spirituality

“I want, let us say, to solve a problem (I mean, I want to start at once and if possible go on until I find the solution). By this will act, the I that wills to solve it sets itself in motion spiritually in a definite direction. In this act, it must keep hold [gefasst halten] of itself, of the goal it aims at, and of the movement leading to the goal.” ~ Edith Stein, Potency and Act

Earlier in Potency and Act,  Edith Stein defines “spirituality” with a beautiful analogy, that of seeing a mountain as it first appears on the horizon. We observe, “There is something over there,” and we ask, “What is it?” The movement toward the mountain in search of the answer is spiritual movement. The mountain we seek to know is a “spiritual object.” The closer we get to it, the more we understand it, and when we leave, it remains with us always as a memory and lived experience. The totality of this intentional act is what we would call “spirituality.”

Later, in the quote above, she reinforces her definition and, specifically, defines spiritual movement as “goal-oriented,” just as implied in her earlier analogy.

This satisfying definition is suitable to explain why I consider my work on royalty to be an act of spirituality even before being political, cultural, or sociological. My devotion to Monarchy began over a decade ago with a “There is something over there, what is it?” moment inspired by the life of Joan of Arc. The pursuit of the answer has been foremost, by Stein’s definition, a spiritual one. The spiritual object on the horizon is the living form, the genus, the point of origin, for the royal heart.

My resulting judgements along the way of what is “good” and what is “bad” reflect the degree to which the action, ideology, or belief in question moves me toward my “goal,” which movement I require in order to fulfill my own potential and to become who I am. The goal-oriented movement (spirituality) toward “There is something over there, what is it?” (the spiritual object) requires judgements, or judging, of what is “right” and what is “wrong,” without which I will never reach my goal. To not judge the appropriateness, the goodness or badness, of actions, ideologies, and beliefs as they relate to my quest is to abandon the goal, the object, the search for “What is it?” which means to abandon spirituality and the becoming of who I am.

Spirituality is never, by definition, purely subjective. Nor is it merely a feeling or sense of well-being. There is always an object toward which we journey, our goal, that requires objective judgments, or we will never reach our “mountain.”

Edith Stein’s Investigation of the state

Edith wrote this paper while in her late twenties or so. It was her last foray into political science. She also ended her political activism because she “was sick of it.” How I understand. But there are some fascinating threads here. In the first part she examines the state in categories I find meaningful even today. Namely, are we a community with a shared mentality or an association of objectified individuals? Do we come together out of affinity and empathy for one another or through a fabricated relationship?

Investigation of the state

Key categories

• The Masses (individuals not yet in community)

• Community (mental commonality, affinity, empathy)

• Organization (consistent across changing individuals)

Association (objectification) is an alternative sociality to community.

“Community grows; association is established. Modes of community develop; modes of association are created.”

The authentic State (inspired by Edith Stein)

The essence of the authentic state is communal more than contract. The social contract is constitutionally associative, not empathically communal, and therefore is a fabricated social norm. The associative binds together individuals as ‘objects’ while the communal binds together humanity through empathy. Thus, the constitutional republic, as an associative contract, is a fabrication and unsustainable as a unifying, life-giving socio-political form. On the other hand, the Monarchy is totally consistent with the communal understanding of state. This conflict between the communal and associative forms is at the heart of the conflict between the Monarchy and the Republic respectively.

It is the communal understanding of state that the global elites have worked so hard to destroy. We see this typically as a disdain by the elites for local customs and traditions. The issue for the elites is that local traditions create friction in global markets. The elites need frictionless markets to maximize their wealth. Thus, their globalization must necessarily create uniformity at the expense of local self-expression and cultural autonomy. Conversely, Monarchy is actualized through local self-expression and cultural autonomy.

(The communal/associative construct above is taken from Edith Stein’s An Investigation of the State.)

This article also was inspired by the following National Geographic article.

The beautiful mind of Edith Stein

In her book The Science of the Cross, Edith Stein wrote the following extraordinary summary of the spiritual life. Edith’s influence on my own thinking is more profound than is the influence of any other philosopher. It was this passage that opened the intellectual door for me to realism in general, the difference between Platonic and Aristotelian realism, and the beauty of Carmelite spirituality when framed in what she calls a “holy realism.” Edith Stein bridged the gaps and unified the individual paradigms and axioms that made up the content of my spirituality, religion, and philosophy. Through Stein’s beautiful and expansive mind, it all became a unified whole, a model to share with others and the inspiration for my next movement from potency to act toward the final vision implanted in my heart many years ago.  

“The example of the saints demonstrates to them how things should actually be: where there is genuine, lively faith, there the doctrine of faith and the ‘tremendous deeds’ of God are the content of life. All else steps aside for it and is determined by it.

This is holy realism: the original inner receptivity of the soul reborn in the Holy Spirit. Whatever the soul encounters is received in an appropriate manner and with corresponding depth, and finds in the soul a living, mobile, docile energy that allows itself to be easily and joyfully led and molded by that which it has received, unhampered by any mistaken inhibitions and rigidity. Such realism, when it leads a holy soul to accept the truths of faith, becomes the science of the saints. If the mystery of the cross becomes its inner form, it turns into a science of the cross.

Holy realism has a certain affinity with the realism of the child who receives and responds to impressions with unimpaired vigor and vitality, and with uninhibited simplicity…

…But the Crucified One demands from the artist more than a mere portrayal of the image. He demands that the artist, just as every other person, follow him: that he both make himself and allow himself to be made into an image of the one who carries the cross and is crucified.

Expressing the image externally can be a hindrance to doing so internally, but by no means must this be so; actually, it can serve the process of interior transformation because only with the production of the external expression will the inner image be fully formed and interiorly adopted.

In this manner, when no obstacle is placed in its path, it becomes an interior representation that urges the artist to effectively reproduce it in action, that is, by way of imitation, externally.

And yes, the external image, one’s own artistic creation, can always serve to spur one on to transform oneself interiorly according to its meaning.”

To understand Stein’s answers we first need to know the questions

“The soul has typical qualities, such as a ‘woman’s soul,’ a ‘child’s soul,’ or souls of whatever other ‘type.’ And as individual the soul is ‘itself’ in its inexpressible peculiarity. These are not all in the soul beside one another as separable parts; they are rather in one another as realiter [really] inseparable species and genus, for the genus can exist only as specified.”

— Potency and Act (The Collected Works of Edith Stein) by Edith Stein

Edith Stein answers the most subtle questions, questions whose subtlety and importance dissipate and are lost in the cacophony of the noise of the world. In the world, irrelevant, competing, and distracting communication drowns out the quiet life-giving voice inside of us. We grow spiritually in quiet contemplation of profound questions, thus the need for solitude and retreat from the world. Edith Stein is our philosophical mentor but can be only in this solitude. She answers questions that we do not even hear in the midst of a vain and noisy world.

We struggle to understand her answers because we rarely retreat in solitude to listen quietly for the question.

Edith Stein’s systems give meaning and purpose to daily living

The attraction of Edith Stein’s philosophy is that it seeks unity and wholeness. We naturally gravitate toward the warm sunlight of the soul that shines across the horizon of our mind through that unity. Her search for truth is systematic, logical, and thorough. She has an inherent understanding of the divine order and searches the intellectual pathways that connect to that order. Truth seems to be, through her philosophical lens, the synchronicity of the heart that knows with the mind that seeks to understand that which the heart knows.

Stein reconciles modern philosophy with medieval, Aristotelian scholasticism, which is her towering achievement. She uniquely among modern philosophers quickens hope in our soul by her particular method. Most importantly, she seeks truth with an end-game in mind. One does not day-dream, lost in spontaneous sophistic musings with Edith Stein. One senses movement toward a goal, a seriousness, an end, the form of which we see on the horizon but cannot fully comprehend.

Her systems, the excitement of a journey, the understanding that there is a reward, gives meaning and purpose to our ordinary daily living.