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Ripamonti PhD Thesis _ amended June15.pdf (1.07 MB)

Edith Stein’s critique of Martin Heidegger: background, reasons and scope

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posted on 2023-08-30, 14:10 authored by Lidia Ripamonti
This thesis is a critical assessment of Edith Stein’s critique of Martin Heidegger, which is focused on the definition of the human being. I explore Stein’s ontology of the person from the point of view of her examination of Heidegger’s existential ‘Dasein’ and the way she reaches a very different answer to the same question that Heidegger posed, the question of the meaning of being. To this end I examine key passages of Stein’s most important ontological work Finite and Eternal Being -­‐ An Attempt at an Ascent to the Meaning of Being along with its appendix Martin Heidegger’s Philosophy of Existence, in which she directly discussed Heidegger’s philosophy, focusing on his work Being and Time. In the first part of this research I draw a historico-­‐philosophical overview of the academic and political background of the period between World War I and World War II in Germany in order to position both authors in context and investigate their philosophical influences as well as their ambiguous relationship with the phenomenological school. The central part is dedicated to Stein’s analysis of Heidegger’s Dasein: I compare and explain both authors’ approaches to the philosophical understanding of human being, person, life, soul and death. This investigation was carried out with both a hermeneutical and terminological analysis. I draw upon the results to demonstrate how Stein’s phenomenology of life experiences enlarges the borders of human finitude to embrace the possibility of its ontological horizon while Heidegger restricts and concentrates the entire ontological question on the Dasein, its existence and ultimately its finitude. My findings provide an assessment of the limits as well as the strengths of Stein’s critique. I demonstrate that Stein attempted to build a bridge between classical ontology and phenomenology, while Heidegger’s distance from the philosophical tradition was rooted in his methodological refusal. I also show how their opposite methods and findings present unexpected similarities and how Stein’s philosophical significance should be reconsidered in the light of her work. This research leads to various implications for today’s philosophical debate and makes it possible to view Stein’s theory of being in a wider ethical context, as presented in the final part of this work. I argue that Heidegger depersonalises and violates traditional ontology to explain the human being only in terms of pure existence, while Stein’s portrait of the ‘fullness’ and the meaning of life contributes to the discussion between philosophy and religion. In the final section of this work I show how some of the elements emerging from Stein’s critique of Heidegger can cast a light on the current ethical discussion about how death is understood and experienced socially, and how best to care for the dying.



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