On the Problem of Empathy (Collected Works of Edith Stein Series Volume 3) / Edition 3

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780935216110
  • Publisher: I C S Publications
  • Publication date: 10/1/1989
  • Series: Collected Works of Edith Stein Series , #3
  • Edition description: Revised Edition
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 135
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.50 (d)

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  • Posted May 12, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    I know you. You know me. That's EMPATHY!

    I address this book review to the average educated American who has no repeat no background in academic philosophy. *** {DISCLAIMER: Nearly half a century ago I was happily immersed in academic philosophy for seven years. Then I abandoned philosophizing and history of Greek and Medieval Philosophy for a three-decade career in the Foreign Service of the U.S. Department of State. I have recently begun a gingerly return to philosophy, starting with "phenomenology" and the works of its German-speaking founder Edmund Husserl (1859 - 1938) and his leading disciples such as the precocious Edith Stein (1891 - 1942).} *** I am reviewing a sound but old English translation from German of Edith Stein's 1916 doctoral dissertation for Freiburg University's Professor Husserl. The translation is by Edith's great-niece Waltraud Stein and it helped Waltraud earn her Master's Degree at Ohio University. The dissertation's title in English is "ON THE PROBLEM OF EMPATHY." *** Where is Edith Stein is going in this early work of hers? Assuming that I know myself directly, body, imagination, spirit, etc. accurately, is the same true of what my senses tell me of bodies other than mine, including those that move in space, have memories and wills, make decisions, i.e. are "ensouled bodies?" Yes, says Stein. Empathy is a reliable, correctible form of true knowledge. There are other ensouled bodies "out there," Stein asserts. I can exchange my "here" for their "there," and they can return the favor to me. I know what is going on in their minds from what their faces and body language tell me. And they do the same for me. Indeed, the world is made up of vast numbers of ensouled bodies, each its own "zero-point" of reference. This method of knowing Stein, along with earlier thinkers like Merleau-Ponty and Scheler calls "empathy." Her dissertation is a classic text on the philosophical underpinnings of that unique form of knowing. *** In later works Edith Stein deepened and further applied Husserl's methods of phenomenological analysis and reduction and expanded upon what she had learned in EMPATHY into the nature of the human individual and to the lives of men and women in both Society and the State. Edith and her older sisterRosa were taken from a Carmelite convent in the Netherlands and a few days later murdered by Nazis at Auschwitz in 1942. Edith Stein is a canonized Catholic saint. Philosophizing was an important part of her great life, but only a part. She also prayed incessantly to reconcile the Torah of Judaism and the Cross of Christ. *** Bottom line: Edith Stein has much to teach educated Americans of all faiths and walks of life. But her dissertation on EMPATHY, is not the best, certainly not the easiest, place to start. Read first her autobiography, LIFE IN A JEWISH FAMILY 1891 - 1916. If you feel that you must read EMPATHY right now, no matter how little prepared, I suggest that from time to time you open Stein's dissertation at random and read and reflect upon a few sentences at a time. There are nuggets in every paragraph. Taking my own advice just now given, I discovered, "I do not 'forget' my friends, even when I am not thinking of them. They then belong to the unnoticed present horizon of my world. My love for them is living, even when I am not living in it" (Chapter III, "The Constitution of the Psycho-Physical Individual"). -OOO-

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