Nikolas Prassas - 'Empathy and the Constitution of the Self in the Philosophy of Edith Stein'. Delivered at the 2015 HPP/DLC Persons and Community colloquium.
Empathy and the Constitution of the Self in the Philosophy of Edith Stein The end and purpose of this paper is to offer an expository analysis of the concept of empathy as it is presented in the work of Edith Stein. The text with which I shall be concerned is her remarkable doctoral dissertation 'Zum Problem der Einfühlung,' an essay conceived of and composed while Stein was studying under Edmund Husserl at the university of Freiburg. In particular, the focus of my enquiry shall be around a set of propositions that Stein makes as to the relation between empathic acts and the constitution of the human person. I intend to show that for stein empathy—the act by which other living bodies are apprehended as conscious persons—is the condition for all intelligible experience. Without the radical capacity to stand at the point of a foreign consciousness we would no longer be able to understand ourselves as persons situated in and opposed to a real world that has its existence outside of the ego. Stein, I shall argue, delivers us into the heart of the mystery of empathy—and for this reason deserves our renewed attention.