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Jul 19, 2010, 11:07:11 PM7/19/10
to Edith Stein Study Group
I am excited there is this group. I discovered Edith Stein quite late
in my doctoral research but couldn't find much about her, except her
association with Husserl and tantalizing bits on her philosophy of
embodiment (much to be found in the footnotes to Husserl's published
works). I continue to have the sense that I am on the verge of knowing
something very valuable.

My own work on philosophy of embodiment was stimulated by
conversations with colleagues and friends at Murdoch University, in
Western Australia, who were all writing theses about a need for a
more embodied theory. I wandered around mulling and reading about this
for years. I'd moved from feeling quite bored with the discipline of
linguistics I'd found myself working in and I didn't want to
contribute anymore to that field - especially in my core interest of
relationality. I wanted to write a thesis from within my embodied
experience and extend that to others' embodied experiences. Thus began
my phenomenological research and ultimately my return to the practice
of psychotherapy and further, into Gestalt training.

I felt I'd thrown* myself into somewhere indeterminate and didn't
quite know how to begin this new work, until one day sitting in an
plane reading a book on Zen and the art of flower arrangeing. There it
stated, the beginning of making the ikebana is in the middle of the
arrangement. Thus my clue, and my first chapter - which is placed in
the middle of the dissertation. Heidegger speaks of beginning in the
midst of things, and literally that's how I began my work. *I love a
meaning dasein has, of thrownness.

My doctoral thesis, 'Catching the Ball, constructing the reciprocity
of embodiment' plays on the idea of throwing and catching and
embodying the responsiveness and reciprocity that is being in the
world. The thesis is divided into two parts: the first examines our
relationship with the world through neurological deficit (the old
method of studying something through the via negativa, what is
missing), the second through Eastern philosophic thought, that is more
embodied anyway than West philosophic thought.

I'll say something more about this later [I've got to nip down to town
shortly], but suffice to reiterate how delighted I am to now be able
to source more Edith documents and share ideas about her.

Thank you, Sylvia for inviting me here.

Thank you, Edith Stein Study Group for existing, and Philip for
managing it.


Philip Brownell

Jul 20, 2010, 6:03:51 AM7/20/10
to edith-stein...@googlegroups.com
Hello Elizabeth,
I find your story interesting. I am curious if your work on embodiment lead you into the thinking of Merleau-Ponty? I have just recently found that he was influenced by Stein, although I suspect it was a marginal influence. Mostly, I suspect he was influenced by Husserl and Heidegger.


Dan Bloom

Jul 20, 2010, 6:58:08 AM7/20/10
to edith-stein...@googlegroups.com
I am fascinated by what your ideas.

“Catching the ball” reminds me of GH Mead’s “rules of the game” and “taking the place of the other.” I’ve spent some time in a Mead study group. (I don’t recall much Mead, though!)

On Jul 19, 2010, at 11:07 PM, Elizabeth wrote:


Jul 20, 2010, 10:58:37 AM7/20/10
to Edith Stein Study Group
Dear all,

Thank you Seán, Phil and Dan for inviting me to join this study group
of Edith Stein.

My name is Haydn Gurmin and I come from near the Hill of Tara in Co.
Meath, Ireland. I was introduced to the philosophy of Edith Stein in
2003 when I started PhD studies with Mette Lebech at National
University of Ireland, Maynooth. I have taken MA courses on Stein's
doctoral dissertation 'On Empathy' and her 'Philosophy of Psychology
and Humanities' while being interested in her other works,
particularly 'Der Aufbau der menschlichen Person', 'Was ist der
Mensch?' and 'Finite and Eternal Being'.

Last year Mette in conversation with Stein scholars world-wide came to
the belief that there was a need for an association to promote the
philosophy of Edith Stein. It was recognized that while Edith was
gaining a following worldwide as a saint and religious thinker it was
unfortunate that her philosophy was not gaining the same attention. So
the 'International Association for the Study of the Philosophy of
Edith Stein' or IASPES (www.edithsteincircle.com) was founded to help
promote Stein's philosophy by gathering Stein academics together and
through organizing international conferences. We are colloquially
called 'The Stein Circle', which was suggested helpfully by Marianne
Sawicki. Our first conference will be held, all going well, at the
National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Co. Kildare, in June, 2011.
You may wish to keep an eye on our calendar page if you are interested
in attending or submitting a paper (http://www.edithsteincircle.com/
category/calendar/ ). We look forward to inviting Stein scholars to

I found that that the best place to start a study of Stein is with her
first major work 'On the Problem of Empathy', here Stein sets out to
phenomenologically define what precisely she means by the term
'empathy' (Einfühlung). Her way of describing 'empathy' brings us into
contact with the 'other', but it is not sufficient for her to merely
state this, she aims to prove this via her phenomenological
descriptive analysis. Alas chapter 1 of 'On the Problem of Empathy' is
lost to us. It is believed to have been a chapter which outlined the
historical understanding of empathy, she begins in chapter II with the
concern of describing the 'essence of the acts of empathy'. In this
chapter she aims to differentiate the act of empathy from perception,
memory, fantasy etc., in order to define what empathy is as such. As
part of her definition of empathy (which is quite technical hence the
long quotation- it is difficult to quote Stein in snippets), she
states that empathy is:

'an act which is primordial as present experience though non-
primordial in content. And this content is an experience which, [...]
can be had in different ways such as memory, expectation, or in
fantasy. When it arises before me all at once, it faces me as an
object (such as a sadness I 'read in another's face'.) But when I
inquire into its implied tendencies (try to bring another's mood to
clear givenness to myself), the content, having pulled me into it, is
no longer really an object. I am now no longer turned to the content
but to the object of it, am at the subject of the content in the
original subject's place. And only after successfully executed
clarification, does the content again face me as an object. Thus in
all cases of the representation of experiences considered [i.e.
memory, expectation, fantasy], there are three levels of modalities of
accomplishment even if in a concrete case people do not always go
through all (i) the emergence of the experience, (ii) the fulfilling
explication, and (iii) the comprehensive objectification of the
explained experience. On the first three levels, the representation
exhibits the non-primordial parallel to perception, and on the second
level if exhibits the non-primordial parallel to the having of the
experience. The subject of the empathized experience, however, is not
the subject of empathizing, but another. And this is what is
fundamentally new in contrast with memory, expectation, or the fantasy
of our own experiences. These two subjects are separate and not joined
together, as previously, by a consciousness of sameness or continuity
of experience. And while I am living in the other's joy, I do not feel
primordial joy. It does not issue live from my 'I'. Neither does it
have the character of once having lived like remembered joy. But still
much less is it merely fantasized without actual life. This other
subject is primordial although I do not experience it as primordial.
In my non-primordial experience I feel, as it were, led by a
primordial one not experienced by me but still there, manifesting
itself in non-primordial experience. Thus empathy is a kind of act of
perceiving sui generis.' (On the Problem of Empathy, II, Section 2 c,
pp. 10-11).

In chapter III, having considered what empathy in fact is (from her
phenomenological standpoint) she gains the wherewithal to consider
the 'constitution of the psycho-physical individual', here she
considers the Pure 'I', the stream of consciousness, 'I' and the
Living Body (Körper), which brings her to detailed consideration of
the 'Foreign Individual'. Stein also considers empathy as 'the
condition of the possibility of constituting our own individual' and
further on in her work 'the significance of the foreign individual's
constitution for the constitution of our own psychic individual'.
Thus, her understanding of 'empathy' in 'On Empathy' is a key work
which gives access and insight to her later works.

Each of her works build momentum from her previous works (Philosophy
of Psychology and Humanities could be seen as an expansion of her
ideas in chapter III and IV of On Empathy). This momentum building is
particularly evident when we arrive at 'Finite and Eternal Being'
where Stein aims to link Aristotelian-Scholastic philosophy with
phenomenological reflection, this book is a summit work and one can
only imagine what else she might have written from that philosophical
vantage point which she reached at a relatively young age.

Hello to Elizabeth and Sylvia and may I wish you both best wishes for
your studies of Stein's philosophy.


Dan Bloom

Jul 20, 2010, 11:40:23 AM7/20/10
to edith-stein...@googlegroups.com

Welcome and thank you for your introducing yourself to yourself — and orienting us to Stein.

I am familiar with the quote, below, but reading it in this context gives it new meaning to me. Stein writes, or is translated, with refreshing clarity.

I read her through my Heidegger lens.
Of course Stein and Heiddegger are apples and carrots.
Stein is not addressing ontology, but intersubjectivity. Heidegger is explicit that his work addresses the ontological conditions for subjectivity and empathy. Dasein is not a subject.
I won’t do any further comparisons because I am not advanced enough for that.

Her distinction between “primordial” and “non-promordial” os powerful. It has direct relevance to gestalt therapy where our immediate experience of the phenomenal field, a primordial experience, precedes any sense of personal identity or the emergence of an ego or subject.

I now must get to income generating work.

Thank you for helping us learn.


Sean Gaffney

Jul 20, 2010, 11:42:49 AM7/20/10
to edith-stein...@googlegroups.com


Your message brings immediately to mind - well, my mind that is - the question: what is smaller than a circle? I am thinking of the Edith Stein Circle and this study-group...maybe we are a "round-table"?

And yes: her prose is dense! And so I am curious: are you a Meathman who speaks German? 

And my curiosity here is also relevant to our little enterprise. I am a fluent speaker of Swedish, and can function socially and professionally - as therapist, trainer, lecturer and author - in Sweden, Denmark and Norway. So when I returned to a hero of my youth - Kierkegaard - I found the joy of being able, with some difficulty and support, to read him in his original Danish. I found this to be invaluable.

Anyway, good to have you with us!


Sean Gaffney

Jul 20, 2010, 11:52:04 AM7/20/10
to edith-stein...@googlegroups.com

Lovely stuff. And yes, her "primordial" and "non-primordial" distinction is magnetically attractive. I can see us some day playing with the Sequence of Contact (note: Gestaltspeak!) from these perspectives, not to mention the...well, not to mention it!

Best of luck with the money-hunt. Sweden is down from Midsummer (end of June) to school start (end of August). So know the feeling.



Jul 20, 2010, 1:55:37 PM7/20/10
to Edith Stein Study Group

It's true I'm a Meath man :-), we had quite an interesting dilemma
with our neighbour's Louth there at the GAA Leinster final a few weeks
back - the last goal scored by another Meath man apparently should not
have been given, and so we win the match and the Leinster title much
to Louth's dismay.

Now, I studied French at school and then went to Louvain-la-Neuve for
an Erasmus year some time back, loved the whole Erasmus experience was
under Prof. Michel Ghins and his philosophy of science course on the
'arrow of time' which was fascinating, and good fortune would have it
that an international conference on time was held at Louvain at
summer. Huw Price was there to discuss his book 'Time's Arrow and
Archimede's Point'.

Then of course, I come back from Erasmus and I find Edith Stein, and
as you know her work is in German. So I've done some courses at the
Goethe in Dresden and elsewhere in German to intermediate level. I
have read through 'On the Problem of Empathy' in its original (which
apparently is difficult to get, or at least was), the other two works
'Der Aufbau' and 'Was ist der Mensch' remain untranslated so had to
dip into those with the German I have. Would like to spend a year in
Germany at some stage to improve my understanding of the language.
It's a great language though the way words can be combined and the
like and I've always been interested in etymology. But becoming really
proficient in a language well it would mean ideally living in Germany
for a while.

It would of course be better to read the thinker in their original
language as you've done with Kierkegaard, it's great that you can
operate in all those countries from your original learning of Swedish.
I wonder is Icelandic a similar language? I visited Iceland last year
- a wonderful country such great landscapes.


Sean Gaffney

Jul 20, 2010, 3:48:39 PM7/20/10
to edith-stein...@googlegroups.com

Just so you know, I'm a Dub. I'm surprised I'm communicating with you, and the thing against Louth is just too much!

Anyway, it seems you will be our German language resource here...and Dan is learning and can handle a certain amount - had the German Sein und Zeit alongside the translation...

Anyway, looks like we're changing gear here...moving towards second!



Jul 21, 2010, 4:38:51 AM7/21/10
to Edith Stein Study Group
Yes, I used a lot of Merleau-Ponty in my dissertation, along with
Heidegger and some contemporary (of me) phenomenologists, like David
Michael Levin and Drew Leder.
> > Elizabeth- Hide quoted text -
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