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Edith Stein Beyond Descartes: Empathy as Ground for Knowledge

In order to understand the significance of Edith Stein in the history of modern philosophy we must first situate her within the development of phenomenology. Phenomenology wants “to go back to things in themselves”. E. Husserl does not want, however, to set aside the whole development of modern philosophy or to go back directly to classical philosophy. In classical philosophy being stands at the beginning: “ens est illud quod primo cadit in cognitione humana”.1 In modern philosophy at the beginning stands the universal doubt on being. Knowledge must be built upon absolute certainties that resist the trial of universal doubt. We will neither ask nor answer, on this occasion, the question whether this attitude is justified or what are the limits within which it is justified. It will suffice here to state the fact that the movement of Husserl towards things in themselves does not set aside the Cartesian stance. Husserl is no Thomist or Neo-Thomist.

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