Monthly Archives: April 2021

Edith Stein as a giant figure in my own work

It was only about four or five years ago, I think. I knew who Edith Stein was and had read a little of her work but really had no concept at all of what she was about. It had something to do with Phenomenology, a branch of Philosophy that, candidly, I had never heard of. But she was a German philosopher, so I knew it had to be systematic and substantive. Stein worked alongside Martin Heidegger in assisting Edmund Husserl, the father of modern day Phenomenology.

I was at a stuck point in my own model. Troubled I drove to the shrine of St. Thérèse of Lisieux in Darien IL. They have a bookstore behind the gift shop. After praying for guidance in the chapel, I walked in to the gift shop, around the counter, and straight back to the book store. The very moment I crossed the threshold, my eye caught a book directly across the room. It was positioned facing front rather than sideways where you only see the title on the binding.

I did not look at anything else. I was drawn immediately to this book. I picked it up, read the back, and said, “This is it.” I payed, and off I went.

Five years later, looking back on my model, I am dumbstruck at what a giant figure Stein has become in my work. Her shadow now seems to loom over almost every aspect. When I started with Stein, she was to be an auxiliary addition, a “nice touch” on a couple of essays. Her influence now is everywhere, in fact, it appears my model, which at the time I thought quite mature, was only a disassembled set of spiritual and philosophical concepts. Stein provided the “instructions” on how to assemble.

I started here, and this is the most influential of her books on me, along with Potency and Act. However, I would caution the potential reader to do a little background study on Phenomenology before diving in. I was confused by her use of words and terminology until I did so myself.

Phenomenology – The Basics (book recommendation for those interested in Edith Stein’s work)

“A proper philosophical exploration of reality does not consist in inventorying the content of the universe, but in accounting for the conditions that must be satisfied in order for something to count as real.”

~ Zahavi, Dan. Phenomenology: The Basics (p. 38). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.

I highly recommend this book for those who are interested in learning more about the philosophy of phenomenology. It is by far the most influential branch of philosophy for me after Platonism. Edith Stein was well known in the field. She studied and worked under the father of modern day phenomenology, Edmund Husserl. She was Husserl’s assistant alongside Martin Heidegger. After her conversion through reading the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, Stein developed her own unique philosophy which blended Thomist Aristotelian medieval scholasticism with modern day phenomenology. The discovery of Stein’s philosophy was a watershed moment for me in the development of my own life philosophy model.

I jumped into Edith Stein’s writings with no warning. It was pretty foggy in there. But the more I studied Husserl and phenomenology in general, Stein’s use of words and phrases became more clear and the fog dissipated in the sunlight.

I’m only about 25% into this, but it promises to be a very good guide for anyone who wants to know more, and especially for those who want to know more about Edith Stein.