Volume 4, Issue 1, Fall 2013
Selected Papers on The Legacy of Edith Stein’s Finite and Eternal Being
Sarah Borden Sharkey
Eternal Rest: The Beauty and Challenge of Essential Being
Stein develops a tri-partite account of being, distinguishing three types of being: actual being, mental being, and essential being. The third—essential being—is particularly significant for Stein’s project of bringing together phenomenology and medieval metaphysics; it provides a response to a weakness Stein sees in the classic account of potency; it accounts for the deep intelligibility of all that is; and it plays a role in Stein’s understanding of artistic truth. In this piece, I lay out Stein’s understanding of essential being and a few of the reasons she posits this notion of being. I then contrast her account of essential being with at least one interpretation (a ‘thin-essence’ existential reading) of Thomas Aquinas on essence. Although Stein’s account of essential being offers many advantages and answers certain difficult questions, I end with challenges that her view faces, including what I see as a problematic reliance on an overly spatial metaphor for being.