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Volume 25, Issue 2, Fall 2021

Rethinking Phenomenology with Edith Stein

Sarah Borden Sharkey
Pages 48-66

Is Edith Stein’s Finite and Eternal Being a Kind of “Phenomenological Metaphysics”?

One striking feature of Finite and Eternal Being is Edith Stein’s exceedingly rare use of the term “metaphysics.” She uses the term “formal ontology” numerous times, but the term “metaphysics” only appears a handful of times in the body of the text, and even those references are themselves a bit surprising. This could be explained in several ways, some of which may be quite innocent and have nothing to do with whether she understands her project as metaphysical. In the following, however, I would like to explore a differing explanation and argue that (at least, in part) her reason for avoiding describing her work as metaphysical is connected with the type of philosophical critique she wants to make of traditional metaphysics. I will not argue that Finite and Eternal Being should ultimately be read as a phenomenological analysis of being rather than any sort of metaphysical treatise, but I will argue that Stein has explicitly phenomenological reasons for being cautious about using the term “metaphysics.”