Academic Biography

Edith Stein was born in Breslau, Germany (Wrocław, Poland) on 12th October, 1891. She began her studies by pursuing psychology, German and history at the University of Breslau, but became interested in the philosophy of science and moved in 1913 to the University of Göttingen to study phenomenology under Edmund Husserl. In 1916 Stein defended her doctoral dissertation, On the Problem of Empathy, trans. Waltraut Stein, 1989) which was published in 1917. After finishing her doctorate Stein became Husserl's assistant, during which time she prepared his manuscripts for publication. This resulted in Stein completing fragments of paragraphs and drafting portions of text which found their way into Husserl's posthumous publications (e.g. Ideas II).

In 1918 Stein finished working with Husserl. At this stage in her career Stein edited the papers of her teacher Adolf Reinach who sadly was killed in the First World War. Stein organised a Festschrift for Husserl and contributed two essays to Husserl's Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phaenomenologische Forschung, which are published together in English as The Philosophy of Psychology and the Humanities (trans. Mary Catharine Baseheart and Marianne Sawicki, 2000). These articles of Stein's are considered to have influenced Husserl's thought in terms of his social philosophy in the early 1920s.

In 1925 Stein published Eine Untersuchung über den Staatin Husserl's Jahrbuch, translated into English as An Investigation Concerning the State (trans. Marianne Sawicki, 2007). At this time Stein worked as a private lecturer (her prospects of securing university tenure being hampered by the fact that she was a woman). This is considered the early period in Stein's intellectual journey.

Stein received baptism into the Catholic Church in 1922. After her conversion Stein translated several works of John Henry Newman and Thomas Aquinas. From 1926 onwards she gave lectures to German teachers, especially women teachers. Her articles and lectures in this period are collected in two volumes Bildung und Entfaltung der Individualität. Beiträge zum christlichen Erziehungsauftrag and Essays on Woman (trans. Freda M. Oben, 1987). In 1930 she tried again to join a university faculty and wrote Potenz und Akt (Potency and Act,trans. Walter Redmond, 2009) which was an attempted Habilitationsschrift. Once again she was unsuccessful, but secured a post in a teacher training college. Here she continued to work on a systematic philosophy of pedagogy (Der Aufbau der menschlichen Person/Was ist der Mensch?). Due to the Nazi prohibition against Jewish professionals, she had to abandon this, and return to her family home in Breslau in 1933.

In October 1933 Stein joined the cloister of Carmel. She revised Potenz und Aktat this time and produced Endliches und ewiges Sein: Versuch eines Aufstieges zum Sinn des Sein, translated into English as Finite and Eternal Being (trans. Kurt Reinhardt, 2002). This volume was to be published in the 1930s but was forbidden given Stein's Jewish ancestry (first pub. 1950). The appendix of this work contains a critique of Martin Heidegger, now published in English as Martin Heidegger's Existential Philosophy (trans. Mette Lebech, 2007). In 1942, Stein wrote Kreuzeswissenschaft: Studie über Joannes a Cruce, (first pub.1952) translated into English as The Science of the Cross: A Study of St. John of the Cross (trans. Josephine Koeppel, 1998). Other publications remain untranslated from German, such as Einführung in die Philosophie (possibly a third Habilitationsschrift written c. 1920s-30s).

Stein's works are published in a critical edition by Herder of Freiburg, Edith Stein Gesamtausgabe (ESGA) in 27 volumes.