Author Archives: Walter Adams

About Walter Adams

I desire to be widely read, rarely recognized, and never followed. "Je désire être largement lu et rarement reconnu."

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.

Edith Stein – Potency, Act, and The Logos

Edith Stein’s path thus far through the first thirty percent of Potency and Act can be modeled as following. This is a summary of and outline for the development of her thesis to this point. We must keep in mind that Edith was a Phenomenologist, mentored under Edmund Husserl, the father of modern Phenomenology. After her conversion to Catholicism, Edith set about the task of reconciling the philosophy of her teacher with that of the Scholasticism of Thomas Aquinas, a mission for which we are most grateful. What a treasure we would would have lost had she felt the need to abandon her former way rather than make it her mission to reconcile it! The description and steps following are my own outline and serve as an attempt to create an ongoing summary of Edith Stein’s work.

The first step is deep and challenging. Stein begins by building her foundation on an ontology of “being” itself. This can be very difficult to wade through for those of us not trained in the field. However, despite our difficulties in understanding, we sense that she is leading us to safe ground if only we follow her “step by step,” a common phrase of hers. We will not digress into her ontology here. We do, however, begin to understand why she is doing this. How can we discuss “potency and act,” which presuppose being, if we do not establish what it means “to be” in the first place? Step by step. Her conclusion establishes the conceptual framework for “finite being” and “absolute (infinite) being,” and we soon will see the significance of this categorization.

In the second step, she builds on the aforementioned ontological foundation by integrating in to it the Aristotelian and Thomist concepts of potency and act. Now that we understand being, we can apply the necessary concepts related to “how we come to be.” Here she brings together beautifully the first and second steps. If there is absolute being, and if there is a “coming to be” of potency, act, new potency, new act, and so forth, then there must be something unchanging in time that “forms” that act and potency over time, that is, an “idea.” Otherwise potency and act have no real meaning; they are vacuous notions. In order to bring the finite into existence from the absolute, or infinite, as established in the first step, she introduces the necessity of “ideals” in the Platonic-Augustinian manner. How does the infinite create the finite but by ideals (Plato) which are in the mind of the absolute (Platonic Augustinian)? How does a purely simple, un-contingent, absolute – God – contain the almost infinite multiplicity of contingent ideals, a problem that plagued Plato? Stein resolves this in a brilliant display of intellectual cohesiveness:

“The feature of ideal objects that allows us to connect them to the divine being, is their timelessness, the eternalness of their being. It makes no sense to say that numbers, colors, sounds, geometrical shapes, emerge in time or are created, as heaven and earth, plants and animals and people emerge in time. Certainly, before the creation of the world “there could be” no colors and sounds “in the world.” But color as such and in its varieties in the spectrum, sound as such as well as the qualities of its various species, have a being that does not coincide with their “occurrence [ Vorkommen] in the world.” It was the case -indeed not in a purely formal, but in a material sense- that red was different from green and the pitch C was different from D before any note sounded and before any color shone in the world.”

~ Edith  Stein. Potency and Act (The Collected Works of Edith Stein) (Kindle Locations 1464-1469). Kindle Edition.

In the third step, Stein now grapples with an absolute – God – outside of which no form or idea can exist separately without rendering absolute act – God – to that of potentiality which is a contradiction in terms, and who contains and creates finite being from ideas that of themselves seem lifeless.

“At first glance an idea appears to be something lifeless, dead, and ineffective. By itself the idea of man cannot bring forth a man.”

Well and good, we might say, then how? Stein’s step by step approach leads her to the following conclusion. How does something “dead and ineffective” bring life but by a spirit which is “living”? 

In the fourth step, Stein demonstrates that matter is lifeless and spirit is living. We do not venture into that robust development here. 

“The original manner in which spirit exists [Existenz] is actuality and it is life.”

In the fifth step, she ties it all together by demonstrating through the opening of the Gospel of John, looking at it purely philosophically, that “dead and ineffective” ideas come to life only through a living spirit that is “actuality and life” (step four) and works with “intentionality.” Intentionality is introduced as an important factor, as we must accept as rational and logical that not all potency has to be actualized. Not all ideas have to be actualized in the finite world. The absolute, working “intentionally,” decides which ideas are to be actualized and which are not.

“It is indeed to be gathered from this Biblical passage so interpreted that the being of things in themselves -their real being, as we were saying- should be referred back to the being of their corresponding ideas in God. So this is an answer to our present question: how are we to understand the transition of things from nonbeing to being and the entry of ideas into matter’? Ideas are -on this view- archetypes of things and the things are their likenesses or copies. But the ideas owe the fact that they have the power to call their likenesses into existence and to form the matter into copies of themselves to their being in the Logos, who makes them alive [lebendig], hence effective as well.”

The malevolent deconstructionist metaphysics of the Progressive Left

I spent some time the other night reading the introduction to Plato’s Republic (free on Gutenberg.org – you have no excuse) followed by a bit of Church history. It resulted in a moment of clarity around something that has bothered me for years.

To set up the problem, I posit that the great divide in thought and worldview throughout the ages is that between Plato and Aristotle. This is the direct result of reading an outstanding book several years ago on the same topic. This divide is not a recent or modern phenomenon; it runs through the ages.

My Monarchism is a worldview that, like Plato, uses the manifestation of society’s organizational structure as a model for explaining the deeper, more transcendent, metaphysical concepts. That is why I define royalism as an orientation more spiritual in nature than socio-political. This method is straight out of Plato’s handbook. My Monarchism is Platonic while the American Republican system is, in my view, more Aristotelian, a view with benefits but one that I cannot embrace as a whole. I am Platonic and not Aristotelian.

I think a person’s first priority should be to figure out on which side of this divide they stand. One’s Platonic or Aristotelian orientation effects even one’s interpretation of the more important religious concepts. A Platonic Christian thinks differently than an Aristotelian Christian, which explains much of the free-for-all in modern Christian apologetics.

The problem, then, is that the ideological mortal enemy of Monarchism is the progressive Left, which is itself Platonic. When Rousseau was asked by the Polish to develop a communist model (which proved unsuccessful), it was grounded in Platonic philosophy. At the same time, the exact opposite ideology inherent in the French Monarchy was itself grounded in Platonic philosophy. France owned the Platonic ultra-realism of the day.

So, if progressive Leftism and the conservative, traditional Monarchy are both grounded in Platonic philosophy, how can we explain the difference? That question baffled me for years. I have decided now that it is this – the progressive Left is a deconstructionist Platonic philosophy, while the French Monarchy was grounded in an affirmative, Catholic constructionist Platonic philosophy.

The early Church, and up through the first one thousand years, was decidedly Platonic. Christianity was, in fact, the answer to the questions Plato raised. They go hand in hand, not because the Church tainted itself with pagan philosophy but, rather, because the Church was the very thing toward which Plato was pointing.

Plato is right. He also is dangerous in a spiritual vacuum. His philosophy needs a metaphysics grounded in truth to support it, one that he could not provide in the pre-Christian era. The danger comes when his philosophy falls into the hands of malevolent metaphysics. This is my assertion – that the progressive Left is filling the spiritual void in the modern era with a malevolent deconstructionist metaphysics; for, we have lost sight of the life affirming ultra-realism of old.

Christians need to re-establish our philosophical footing alongside our scriptural and doctrinal foundations if we are to be victorious.

Two pinnacle questions – Husserl and Edith Stein

There are two pinnacle questions that drove me to study both Edmund Husserl, the father of modern day phenomenology, and his student Edith Stein. It is analogous to walking around a piece of art in amazement, trying to understand what is its essence, or perhaps listening in awe to a pianist elevate and unveil an unseen but very beautiful and very real substance that exists above and beyond us. 

Edmund Husserl developed a model of thought that purposefully, deliberately excluded facts. He loved science but found science’s claim to be a pathway to truth as absurd and circular in its reasoning. His model is, in his mind, the science of all sciences and one without which natural science can never achieve its stated goal. Husserl’s model is one of pure consciousness and apriori reasoning. For Husserl, reason directs science, not the other way around. That was the first of my pinnacle questions. Why?

His student Edith Stein, a Jewish atheist, assisted him in the organization of his work. She was transfixed on Husserl’s work. One day she came across the book St. Teresa of Avila’s Autobiography, who was the founder of the Discalced Carmelite Order. There is reason to believe that Edith read it overnight in one sitting. When she finished the book, she closed it and said, “This is truth.” That was my second pinnacle question. Why?

Why did two well-recognized philosophers believe that truth could be found through pure essence, pure consciousness and reason, such that it could even direct the natural sciences, and why did one of them, Edith Stein, close St. Teresa’s book and posit, “This is truth”?

These are my two questions, the answers to which I seek. Stein later would give me a clue. There is something, she said, that consistently is there, unchanging, in the flow of our life, something higher and toward which we move in space in time, something toward which each artist, each person, strives. Ultimately, she would fulfill her phenomenological mission. She would discover that this something toward which we move, toward which we strive, that we seek to unveil, is a Trinity of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.

Music and My Life Philosophy

Wanting to love music but not knowing how has been a lifelong struggle. Loving classical music seems daunting if one is not skilled or knowledgable about the subject. Yet, I do love it.

My regret always was that I felt I could go no further than my superficial emotions and sensory perceptions. I liked a particular piece because “it made me feel happy.” Of course, there is nothing wrong with liking music that makes one feel happy; however, I was searching for a much deeper and substantive connection. Perhaps I could engulf myself in the formal study of classical music? Alas, too daunting a task. 

Am I limited, however, to what I “know” about music? 

I have discovered a gateway to the world of substantive, essential love for music, including modern as well as classical genres. That gateway is not the one leading to formal academic knowledge but one journeying through my personal life philosophy. Looking at music across the panorama of my life project’s own syntax, order, and essence led me to the music matched for my soul. Rather, I would say that the actualization of my life philosophy was a call in the wilderness, a call heard by the music searching for me. Music came to find me, to rescue me, while I myself searched in vain through the dark forest for a music to love. Rather than conquering music, music conquered me! Music conquered me through the world of philosophy which itself seeks truth, beauty, and goodness through mathematical, ordered syntax. No wonder Plato’s school admitted none who did not know geometry. Philosophy and mathematics are inextricably linked, and the manifestation of that relationship is music. Music is the spiritual language emanating from philosophy and mathematical order. I love music and know that music loves me not because I “know” music but because I know myself.

Music conquers me. I do not conquer music. The moment I stopped trying to find music to love and simply allowed myself to be found by music that loves me, I found the “syntax” between myself and music.

What I have discovered is that more important than my love of music is my discovery that music loves me. I may not always know why I love a particular piece, but I always know when a piece loves me. That is the gift my life philosophy bequeathed to me – the gift of a mysterious but substantive relationship with music.

Composers and performing artists, I think, have no idea the extent to which they create these divine relationships for other people. They are guided by the hand of God as intercessory co-inspirateurs for the rest of us, even if they know not whom they inspire or how they connect. They compose and perform, while God connects their work with whom and through whom he designs.

The Monarchy as the social order of creation’s liturgy

The Monarchy as the social order of creation’s liturgy

The essence of the Monarchy is the divine order. Its telos is the structuring of human society in accord with the liturgy of the created universe. The cosmos themselves are part of the divine liturgical expression. Within this expression, the movement of the heavens, the earthly eloquence of the mountains, rivers, meadows and lakes, alongside the natural beauty of the wildlife inhabiting it, form one panorama, maintain one rhythm and melody, that is synchronized through the divine liturgy of the Mass. The Mass is the apex of the telos that draws upward all of creation’s liturgical affinities.

“1 In the beginning God created a the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit b of God was moving over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day. 6 And God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 And God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.”

And so on through each day whereby the order, rhythm, and mathematical beauty of creation was informed and actualized.

Edith Stein emphasizes in The Hidden Life that Jesus reconstituted fallen creation to once again act in accord with its divine telos through the Mass as its crowning glory.  The Mass is the form and content that the created order seeks to actualize. Stein’s integration of her philosophy with her spirituality might be our own in “seeking first the Kingdom” across the threshold of the “knowledge horizon” from the natural philosophical to the supernatural spiritual. Monarchy is the visible manifestation of that transcendence from time and space to eternity.

“Blessing and distributing bread and wine were part of the Passover rite. But here both receive an entirely new meaning. This is where the life of the church begins. Only at Pentecost will it appear publicly as a Spirit-filled and visible community. But here at the Passover meal the seeds of the vineyard are planted that make the outpouring of the Spirit possible.”

“The wondrous form of the tent of meeting, and later, of Solomon’s temple, erected as it was according to divine specifications, was considered an image of the entire creation, assembled in worship and service around its Lord.”

“In place of Solomon’s temple, Christ has built a temple of living stones, the communion of saints.”

“…and finally also the inhabitants of heaven, the angels and the saints. Not only in representations giving them human form and made by human hands are they to participate in the great Eucharist of creation, but they are to be involved as personal beings—or better, we are to unite ourselves through our liturgy to their eternal praise of God.”

Stein, Edith. The Hidden Life: Essays, Meditations, Spiritual Text (The Collected Works of Edith Stein Book 4). ICS Publications. Kindle Edition.

My Edith Stein Blog

My Edith Stein blog, newly emerging and not at all in full maturity, i.e., it will develop more over time, is devoted to inspiring in others a love of philosophy.

I believe that it is your responsibility to be actively and purposefully in pursuit of knowledge and wisdom. This goes for everyone. Without exception. In particular, this goes for those of us who profess to be Christians. Philosophy deals with natural wisdom, a wisdom alone which cannot bring us to Heaven. However, in order to “accept Christ” in the most full manner, we must be open to his divine wisdom, which is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. That means it is really, really important. Our natural philosophy is the event horizon between the natural and supernatural.

Does this mean being smart? Does this mean that only smart, well-educated people can open themselves up to divine wisdom through the expansion of their natural philosophical understanding? Please. That is painfully naive. We need a better grounding than that.

Many of the greatest saints in history were among the least educated. Yet, their minds were open to receiving divine wisdom. Their event horizon between natural and supernatural thought was well developed, and that is what we are describing as the true philosophical mind. I learned philosophy through a 15th century teenage peasant woman with no education. Her philosophical event horizon was second to none. During her trial, she humiliated the philosophy “experts” from the university of Paris by giving them such wise responses that they knew not how to deal with her. Even the notaries recording the events were dumfounded as we know by their own remarks. True to scripture, the Holy Spirit will guide us in what we need to say, and we can be more open to that divine inspiration with the correct natural philosophical framework.

As Christians, we have responsibilities in the natural world. One cannot excuse being a negligent, lazy husband and father just because he is a Christian. His Christian faith bears down upon him a supernatural responsibility to be a caring, responsible husband and father in the natural realm. Philosophy is one of those responsibilities in the natural realm we all carry.

Most people can explain what they believe, but few can explain why. However, that is only representative of a dearth in critical thinking. The real test is if you can explain what you believe and why without referencing your Christian faith. That is philosophical thinking. The final test is if you can bring together the two and find that they complement and nurture one another. When they do, we have our event horizon well prepared.

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.”