Quaestiones Disputatae

Volume 4, Issue 1, Fall 2013

Selected Papers on The Legacy of Edith Stein’s Finite and Eternal Being

John Finley
Pages 107-120

Stein and Aquinas on the Problem of Individual Being

Concerning the question of individual being, Edith Stein and Thomas Aquinas agree much more than her critique of the Thomistic view indicates. This discrepancy has three sources. First, Stein encounters Thomas through the writings of Joseph Gredt, who misinterprets Thomas on several key issues. Second, Thomas’s own language is admittedly often indeterminate when it comes to discussion of individuals, individuation, and individuality. Third, Stein and Thomas generally approach the topic of individual being with distinct concerns and therefore distinct emphases: she considers individuality; he, individuation. An examination of Thomas’s thought reveals that he and Stein would in fact agree on important points regarding matter, form, and subsistence in connection with individuality. Differences between the two thinkers remain, especially concerning form as a principle of individuality, but these differences stem from distinct ways in which Stein and Thomas think about the most fundamental metaphysical principles: namely, essence and existence. Still, significant harmony between the two on the question of individuality indicates fruitful possibilities for an understanding of the human person that draws upon Thomas’s objective analysis and Stein’s attention to the subjective.