Friday, August 10, 2007

Einfühlung

Edith Stein describes how she began her first major philosophical work:

In his course on nature and spirit, Husserl had said that an objective outer world could only be experienced intersubjectively, i.e., through a plurality of perceiving individuals who relate in a mutual exchange of information. Accordinly, an experience of other individuals is a prerequisite. To the experience, an application of the work of Theodor Lipps, Husserl gave the name Einfühlung [Empathy]. What it consists of, however, he nowhere detailed. Here was a lacuna to be filled; therefore I wished to examine what empathy might be. The Master found this suggestion not bad at all. However, almost immediately I was given another bitter pill to swallow: he required that, as format for the dissertation, I use that of an analytical dialogue with Theodor Lipps. He liked to have his students clarify, in their assignments, the relation of phenomenology to the other significant directions current in philosophy. This was not his forte. He was too preoccupied with his own thoughts to take time for the comparative study of others. And whenever he demanded that of us, he found us as unwilling. He used to say, with a smile: "I educate my students to be systematic philosophers and then I'm surprised that they dislike any tasks that have to do with the history of philosophy."


Edith Stein, Life in a Jewish Family. Josephine Koeppel, tr. ICS Publications (Washington, D.C.: 1986) p. 269

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