Tag Archives: Teresa Benedicta

Edith Stein’s empathy as sharing noematic perception

Imagine that you and I both are looking at a breathtaking panorama – the sun rising over majestic snow-capped mountains reflecting off pristine lakes below with flowered meadows and a rushing river in the foreground. For you the experience is powerfully spiritual; so many concepts and experiences from your life merge into a single vision of faith, hope, and love. It transforms you. You simply stand and stare in contemplation. I’m next to you looking at the same landscape. My reaction is, “Wow, that sure is beautiful! You don’t see that every day!” I take a picture with my Iphone, upload it to Facebook, and that’s about it for me.

We are looking at the exact same thing. But you are experiencing a noema, a “meaning” through your experience. Sure, we have the same beautiful panorama before us; however, you see more. There is a “field” of related ideas, concepts, experiences, and beliefs that are the material making up that merging vision. The entirety of these not-immediately-apparent aspects is your “internal horizon” of perception. This totality of what you see, apparent (the vista) and not-apparent (the field of related ideas), is your perceptual “thematic field.” You see the panorama, but you see still more somewhere on the edges, behind, in front, and above. There are ideas and concepts all around it. I do not see the entirety of your thematic field. I see only the vista.

So, we see the same object. It is objectively real. However, we do not share the same “noematic perception” due to my “natural attitude” that is devoid of meaningful reflection and your thematic field. Another way to say it is that I do not empathize with you. To empathize is not simply to see the same thing as another or to share in their “feelings.” It is to share in the totality of their noematic thematic field of perception.

Edith Stein wrote her doctoral thesis on empathy. I have read the entire document. At the time she was a Jewish atheist. But it is clear to me how she gravitated toward Edmund Husserl and his development of modern-day phenomenology. As an atheist she was searching for truth and true experience. She began with empathy, and no doubt found the fulfillment of her thesis in Husserl’s work. Later, she read the autobiography of St. Teresa of Jesus, put it down and said, “This is truth.” Today, Edith Stein is one of six patron saints of Europe.

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.

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.