Edith Stein

Portrait of Edith Stein: https://www.karmelitinnen-koeln.de/edith-stein/kurzbiographie

Edith Stein, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

*October 12, 1891 (Breslau, German Empire; Wrocław, Poland)
†August 9, 1942 (Auschwitz, German occupied Poland; Oświęcim, Poland)

During her years as Husserl’s assistant in Freiburg (1916-1918), Edith Stein developed her own approach to social phenomena. In her dissertation On the Problem of Empathy and her subsequent work Philosophy of Psychology and the Humanities, the experience of self and others, as well as the relationship between individual and communal thinking were developed in dialogue with Husserl’s thinking. While Stein’s early work is predominantly phenomenological, her conversion to Christianity and the study and translation of Christian thinkers such as Thomas Aquinas resulted in more broadly ontological concerns, culminating in her posthumosly published work Finite and Eternal Being: An Attempt at an Ascent to the Meaning of Being. 

For an extensive bibliography see the timeline on Edith Stein.

  • Biography

    Edith Stein was born into a Jewish family, the youngest of 11 children. Her father, Siegfried Stein, was a lumber merchant who died when she was only two years old, leaving her mother, Auguste Stein (née Courant), to take over the business and care for the children alone.

    In 1911, Stein enrolled at the University of Breslau in German studies and history, although her real interests were philosophy and women’s issues. While in Breslau, she attended the lectures of the psychologist William Stern (the father of Günther Anders) and the Neo-Kantian philosopher Richard Hönigswald. Stein also became a member of the Prussian Society for Women’s Right to Vote and the Pedagogical Group at the university. It was through the Pedagogical Group that Stein became friends with Georg Moskiewicz, who introduced her to the Würzburg school of experimental psychology. In studying the literature of the Würzburg school, Stein stumbled upon the work of Edmund Husserl. In 1913, Stein transferred from Breslau to the University of Göttingen to study philosophy under Husserl on the recommendation of her cousin Richard Courant and his wife Nelly (née Neumann).

    Stein enrolled at Göttingen in SS 1913 and began taking courses with Husserl and Adolf Reinach. During her student years, Stein developed close friendships with numerous members of the Göttingen Circle of phenomenologists, particularly Roman Ingarden. When lectures were cancelled due to the outbreak of the First World War, Stein returned home to Breslau and trained to become a nursing assistant. After completing her training, Stein went back to Göttingen in October 1914 for another semester with Husserl and completed her Staatsexamen on 15 January 1915. That spring she was called upon by the Red Cross and worked for several months in a soldiers’ hospital in Austria. Following her time in the field hospital, Stein returned once more to Breslau and prepared her dissertation.

    In 1916, Husserl joined the faculty at the University of Freiburg, and Stein followed. She defended her dissertation, Das Einfühlungsproblem in seiner historischen Entwicklung und in phänomenologischer Betrachtung, that summer. Parts II-IV of the dissertation were published under the title Zum Problem der Einfühlung in 1917. In this work, Stein attempts to uncover the essence of empathy through phenomenological analysis. She maintains that the controversy over empathy stems from the assumption that foreign subjects and their experiences are given to us in experience. Stein is suspicious of this assumption. For Stein, empathy is not a first hand-experience of the content of the mental-life of someone else, nor is it the process whereby we assume what their mental-life is like. It is the experience that announces the mental-life of another.

    After completing her dissertation, Husserl hired Stein as his private research assistant – a position she held from October 1916 until February 1918. Her main tasks were transcribing, expanding, and arranging Husserl’s manuscripts for Ideen II, his manuscripts on time-consciousness, and others. In SS 1917, Stein also began teaching the seminar for beginners in phenomenology – her “philosophical kindergarten,” which included Gerda Walther, Ludwig Ferdinand Clauss, Otto Gründler, and Rudolf Meyer. In this way, she took over the job which Reinach had had prior to the war.

    After leaving her position as Husserl’s assistant in 1918, Stein began preparing her habilitation, even though women were not awarded such degrees at that time. Her Habilitationschrift of 1919, Beiträge zur philosophischen Begründung der Psychologie und der Geisteswissenschaften, was rejected by the University of Göttingen. It was published in the Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung in 1922. Building on the results of her dissertation, the First Treatise, Psychische Kausalität, discusses the relation between the psyche and the natural and social worlds. The Second Treatise, Individuum und Gemeinschaft, Stein analyses the relationship between the mind or spirit [Geist] and the life of the individual and the community. Here she develops a concept of communal experience, and argues that personal experience is inextricably immersed in, yet distinct from, communal experience. These investigations served as a basis for Eine Untersuchung über den Staat (1925).

    During the years following the Great War, and after completing her dissertation, Stein became a member of the Bergzabern Circle of phenomenologists, comprised of former members of the Göttingen Circle who had survived the war. The group, which included Jean Hering, Alexandre Koyré, Hans Lipps, and Alfred von Sybel, met sporadically at the farm of Theodor Conrad and Hedwig Conrad-Martius, and worked to preserve the philosophical legacy of their fallen mentor, Adolf Reinach.

    From reading the works of St. Teresa of Jesus, Stein was drawn to Catholicism, and on 1 January 1922 she was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church. She then took a position teaching German literature and history at St. Magdalena College for Girls in Speyer, where she taught for 9 years. In 1931 Stein attempted once more to habilitate, but despite Heidegger’s assistance and Husserl’s encouragement, her Potenz und Akt – the second of three works that attempted to reconcile phenomenology with the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas  – she was again unsuccessful. In 1932, she obtained a position teaching philosophy at the German Institute for Pedagogical Science in Münster. However, she was removed from her position in the spring of 1933 due to her Jewish heritage. No longer able to teach in Germany, Stein was admitted to the Discalced Carmelite monastery in Cologne the following October, taking on the religious name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. It was during this time that she wrote her last major work Endliches und ewiges Sein. In 1938 she fled Germany to the Carmelite monastery in Echt for safety. On 2 August 1942, she was arrested by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz. She died in the gas chamber on 9 August 1942. Edith Stein was canonized by Pope John Paul II on 11 October 1998.

  • Primary Sources

    Stein, Edith (1917): Zum Problem der Einfühlung: Teil II/IV der unter dem Titel “Das Einfühlungsproblem in seiner historischen Entwicklung und in phänomenologischer Betrachtung” eingereichten Abhandlung. Halle: Waisenhauses.

    Stein, Edith (1919): Zur Politisierung der Frauen. In: Der Volkstaat. Demokratische Wochenschrift 1 (4), S. 5–6.

    Stein, Edith (1920): G. Kuznitzky, Naturerlebnis und Wirklichkeitsbewusstsein. Review. In: Kant-Studien 24, S. 402–405.

    Stein, Edith (1921): Vorwort zu Über das Wesen der Bewegung. In: Adolph Reinach: Gesammelte Schriften. Hg. v. Edith Stein. Halle: Niemeyer, S. 406.

    Stein, Edith (1922): Beiträge zur philosophischen Begründung der Psychologie und der Geisteswissenschaften. In: Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung 5, S. 1–284.

    Stein, Edith (1924): Was ist Phänomenologie? In: Wissenschaftliche Beilage zur Neuen Pfälzischen Landeszeitung (5), S. 1–2.

    Stein, Edith (1925): Eine Untersuchung über den Staat. In: Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung 7, S. 1–123.

    Stein, Edith (1926): Wahrheit und Klarheit im Unterricht und in der Erziehung. In: Volksschularbeit 11, S. 321–328.

    Stein, Edith (1928): Der Eigenwert der Frau in seiner Bedeutung für das Leben des Volkes. In: Zeit und Schule 25 (5), S. 107–110.

    Stein, Edith (1929): Die Typen der Psychologie und ihre Bedeutung für die Pädagogik. In: Zeit und Schule 26 (2), S. 27–28.

    Stein, Edith (1929): Husserls Phänomenologie und die Philosophie des heiligen Thomas v. Aquino. Versuch einer Gegenüberstellung. In: Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung 10, S. 315–338.

    Stein, Edith (1929): Zum Kampf um den katholischen Lehrer. In: Zeit und Schule 26 (17), S. 121–124.

    Stein, Edith (1930): Die theoretische Grundlagen der Sozialen Bildungsarbeit. In: Zeit und Schule 27 (11), S. 81–85.

    Stein, Edith (1930): Die theoretische Grundlagen der Sozialen Bildungsarbeit (Schluss). In: Zeit und Schule 27 (12), S. 90–93.

    Stein, Edith (1930): Zur Idee der Bildung. In: Zeit und Schule 27 (22), 159–162; 167.

    Stein, Edith (1931): Das Ethos der Frauenberufe. Augsburg: Haas und Grabherr.

    Stein, Edith (1931): Der Intellekt und die Intellektuellen, I-II. In: Das heilige Feuer 18, S. 193–198.

    Stein, Edith (1931): Der Intellekt und die Intellektuellen, III (Schluss). In: Das heilige Feuer 18, S. 269–272.

    Stein, Edith (1931): Elisabeth von Thüringen. Natur und Übernatur in der Formung einer Heiligengestalt. In: Das neue Reich 37 (13), 779-781.

    Stein, Edith (1931): Elisabeth von Thüringen. Natur und Übernatur in der Formung einer Heiligengestalt (Schluss). In: Das neue Reich 18 (28), S. 801–802.

    Stein, Edith (1931): Grundlagen der Frauenbildung. In: Stimmen der Zeit 120 (6), S. 414–424.

    Stein, Edith (1931): Lebensgestaltung im Geist der hl. Elisabeth. In: Benediktinische Monatschrift 13 (9-10), S. 366–377.

    Stein, Edith (1932): Beruf des Mannes und der Frau nach Natur- und Gnadenordnung. In: Die Christliche Frau 30, S. 5–20.

    Stein, Edith (1932): D. von Hildebrand, Metaphysik der Gemeinschaft. Review. In: Mädchenbildung auf christlicher Grundlage 28 (24), S. 689–695.

    Stein, Edith (1932): Discussion à propos de rapport du D. Feuling. In: Société Thomiste (Hg.): La Phénoménologie. Juvisy: Éditions du Cerf, S. 41–55.

    Stein, Edith (1932): Discussion à propos de rapport du R. Kremer. In: Société Thomiste (Hg.): La Phénoménologie. Juvisy: Éditions du Cerf, S. 71–94.

    Stein, Edith (1932): Notzeit und Bildung. In: Bericht über die Mitglieder- und Delegiertenversammlung des Vereins Katholischer Deutscher Lehrerinnen 46-47, S. 149–153.

    Stein, Edith (1932): Probleme der Frauenbildung, I. Entwicklung der Problematik von der gegenwärtigen Lage der Frau her. In: Benediktinische Monatschrift 14 (9-10), S. 356–371.

    Stein, Edith (1932): Probleme der Frauenbildung, II. Lösungsversuche der letzten Jahrzehnte. In: Benediktinische Monatschrift 14 (11-12), S. 436–444.

    Stein, Edith (1932): Texte original des interventions faites en langue allemande. In: Société Thomiste (Hg.): La Phénoménologie. Juvisy: Éditions du Cerf, S. 101–113.

    Stein, Edith (1933): E. W. Dackweiler, Katholische Kirche und Schule. Review. In: Vierteljahrsschrift für wissenschaftliche Pädagogik 9, S. 495–496.

    Stein, Edith (1933): Eingliederung der Frau in das Corpus Christi mysticum. In: Benediktinische Monatschrift 15, S. 412–425.

    Stein, Edith (1933): Karl Adams Christusbuch. (K. Adams, Jesus Christus). Review. In: Die Christliche Frau 31, S. 84–89.

    Stein, Edith (1933): L. Habermehl, Die Abstraktionslehre des hl. Thomas von Aquin. Review. In: Philosophisches Jahrbuch der Görres-gesellschaft 46, S. 502–503.

    Stein, Edith (1933): Probleme der Frauenbildung (Schluss). Das Bildungsziel. In: Benediktinische Monatschrift 15 (3-4), S. 110–122.

    Stein, Edith (1933): Probleme der Frauenbildung, III. Das Bildungsmaterial. In: Benediktinische Monatschrift 15 (1-2), S. 24–44.

    Stein, Edith (1934): Die deutsche Summa (Teil 1). In: Die Christliche Frau 32, 245-252; 276-281.

    Stein, Edith (1934): Die heilige Teresia Margareta vom Herzen Jesu. Würzburg: Rita.

    Stein, Edith (1934): Theresia von Jesus. Liebe um Liebe. Konstanz: Canisius.

    Stein, Edith (1935): Das Weihnachtsgeheimnis I & II: Menschwerdung und Menschheit. In: Die katholische Schweizerin 23 (3), S. 66–68.

    Stein, Edith (1935): Das Weihnachtsgeheimnis III: Menschwerdung und Menschheit. In: Die katholische Schweizerin 23 (4), S. 107–112.

    Stein, Edith (1935): Die deutsche Summa (Teil 2). In: Die Christliche Frau 33, 26-28; 118-120.

    Stein, Edith (1935): Eine Meisterin der Erziehungs- und Bildungsarbeit. Teresia von Jesus. In: Katholische Frauenbildung im deutschen Volk 48, S. 114–133.

    Stein, Edith (1936): Das Gebet der Kirche. Ich lebe und ihr lebt. Paderborn: Bonifacius (Vom Strom des Lebens in der Kirche, 4).

    Stein, Edith (1937): 300 Jahre Kölner Karmel. In: Die katholische Frau 10, S. 69–70.

    Stein, Edith (1937): Edmund Husserl, La crise de la science et de la philosophie transcendentale. Review. In: Revue Thomiste 42-43, S. 327–329.

    Stein, Edith (1937): Neuere Bücher über die hl. Teresia von Jesus. In: Die katholische Schweizerin 24 (4), S. 125–127.

    Stein, Edith (1938): Ein klösterlicher Reformator. P. Andreas vom hl. Romuald OCD 1819-1883. In: Stimmen unserer lieben Frau vom Berge Karmel 15, S. 107–110.

    Stein, Edith (1938): Eine deutsche Frau und große Karmelitin: Mutter Franziska von den unendlichen Verdiensten Jesu Christi OCF (Katharina Esser), 1804-1866. In: Eugen Lense (Hg.): Die in Deinem Hause wohnen. Einsiedeln: Benziger, S. 147–163.

    Stein, Edith (1938): Sämtliche Schriften der hl. Theresia von Jesu. Review. In: Die katholische Schweizerin 25 (11), S. 329.

  • Secondary Sources in Cooperation with the Center
  • Edith Stein at the Center
  • Central Concepts of Edith Stein
  • Other Online Sources
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