Who was Edith Stein?

Edith Stein (1891-1942) was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1998 as Saint Theresa Benedicta of the Cross. She was born into an observant Jewish family in the central European region of Silesia, which was then part of the German Empire. In 1932 she denounced the Nazi regime to Pope Pius XI. She converted to Roman Catholicism in 1922 and was received into the Discalced Carmelite Order in 1934. In a retaliatory move against Jewish converts in the Netherlands, where the carmelites had sent Stein for safety, she and her sister Rosa were transported to the Auschwitz concentration camp. They died there in the gas chamber in 1942.

Stein was a student of Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), first at Gottingen University and then at Freiburg, where she became his assistant. Her doctorate was "On the Problem of Empathy." She became a faculty member at Freiberg Uni versity after working with Martin Heidegger in preparing Husserl's manuscripts for publication. As a Jewish woman, she was barred from further postgraduate studies at Freiberg and other German universities. She finally gave up her assistantship to Husserl and began to teach in catholic girls' schools, learning about Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274) and catholic philosophy in general. She did become a lecturer at the Institute for Pedagogy at Munster, but had to give it up due to anti-Semitic laws in 1933, the same year that her former colleague, Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), was made rector of Freiburg University.

The miracle Edith Stein is supposed to have performed—that of curing a child

Edith Stein, a student of Edmund Husserl, was canonized after performing a miracle to save a child who overdosed on acetaminophen (AP).

Edith Stein, a student of Edmund Husserl, was canonized after performing a miracle to save a child who overdosed on acetaminophen (AP).

How did Edmund Husserl separate mathematics and logic from psychology?

First, Husserl distinguished between numbers that are the result of counting actual objects before us and numbers as symbols. Clearly, most of mathematics deals with numbers as symbols. Husserl claimed that symbolic numbers, as well as propositions and universals, cannot be reduced to mental states, as psychologism claimed. As intentional objects of consciousness, in Franz Brentano's (1837-1917) sense of intentionality, these logical and mathematical entities are objective.

who had overdosed on acetaminophen in response to a prayer from relatives—is disputed by some Jewish groups who claim it is not clear whether she is a genuine martyr. Her legacy includes numerous writings, some of which were translated into English in the 1980s and 1990s: Life in a Jewish Family: Her Unfinished Autobiographical Account (1986), On the Problem of Empathy (1989), Essays on Women (1996), and The Hidden Life, (1993). Stein also wrote Knowledge and Faith, Finite and Eternal Being: An Attempt to an Ascent to the Meaning of Being, Philosophy of Psychology and the Humanities, Self-Portrait in Letters, which have not yet been translated into English or published.

What was Edmund Husserl's doctrine of intentionality?

Husserl thought that the same objectivity of intentional objects that mathematical symbols have holds for all sorts of other objects, as well, including objects of perception and "categorical objects," such as causal connections, states of affairs, and relations. When we describe an object we have an intellectual intuition of it, or our intention is "fulfilled," although in terms of what we do not know our intention of the object may be "empty."

At first, Husserl thought that what was given to us in consciousness was not the Kantian "thing in itself," but he later claimed that in a "manifold of appearances," the thing-in-itself can be given to consciousness, which is to say, known. This view was criticized as idealism because all "objects" for Husserl were objects of consciousness. Husserl later qualified his position by stating that the thing-in-itself given to consciousness, was only given to consciousness as a complete object of consciousness, not as its own total reality.

Basically, Husserl was claiming that everything we know, even if what we know is true, is nonetheless something like an idea in the mind (e.g., My cat is now sitting on my computer as I write this. That's a fact. But as something that I am consciously aware of, it is also something in my mind.)

What was Edmund Husserl's phenomenological method?

Husserl thought the task of the philosopher was to perform an empirical "reduction" of intentional objects of consciousness by describing what is in the mind without making a commitment to the reality of the mental content. That is, Husserl thought that we should describe what appears to be so to us without making a commitment that it is so (e.g., My cat is sitting on my computer, but Husserl would prefer that I stick to my impressions or the "representations" in my mind of the cat sitting on the computer.)

This is a special perspective, distinctive from the natural attitudes of ordinary people and scientists who address actual things that exist in the world. For Husserl, there is no philosophical distinction between a content of consciousness that is a dream or a fantasy and one that corresponds to something happening in reality. There were, however, different types of reduction for Husserl, most notably epoche in which the truth and reality of the objects of consciousness are "bracketed." This bracketing of truth or reality was exactly the same thing as not making a commitment to the truth or reality. Husserl would have wanted me to describe the cat on my computer and my perception of it, but to stop short of claiming that the cat really is sitting on my computer.

Also influential was Husserl's eidetic reduction that had as its subjects acts of consciousness itself, and eidetic intuition that pertained to the essences of objects of consciousness.

Thus, analysis of perception, which is something that consciousness does, would be an example of eidetic reduction, whereas analysis of what is being perceived would be an example of eidetic intuition. This distinction was to prove very influential in Jean-Paul Sartre's philosophy, where he distinguished between consciousness as awareness and what we are conscious or aware of.

How did Edmund Husserl distinguish between two types of the self?

First, Husserl explained that there is the "psychological ego" or the "self" that owns or makes the intentional acts of consciousness. The psychological ego exists in the world, because one can be aware of it as a self. But there is also the transcendental ego for which there is a world and which is concerned about truth—the transcendental ego intends the world. The transcendental ego makes it possible for the psychological ego to exist and it determines how it will function.

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