Identity, Alterity, and Ethics in the Work of Husserl and His Religious Students: Stein and Levinas

By Hutt, Curtis | Philosophy Today, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

Identity, Alterity, and Ethics in the Work of Husserl and His Religious Students: Stein and Levinas


Hutt, Curtis, Philosophy Today


In this essay I shall compare and contrast the work of Edmund Husserl with that of two of his most famous students, Edith Stein and Emmanuel Levinas, on "identity" and "alterity" in the constitution of the "same" and the "Other."1 The implications of their respective theories of the intersubjective, of how any "we" can be posited, on ethical formulations will be explored. Although there is no evidence to suggest that Stein or Levinas, who belonged to different generations of Husserl's students, ever met or corresponded with one another, their mutual interest in these topics is great. Each has offered critiques of their teacher's portrayal of empathy (Einfühlung-"in feeling"), in addition to proposing their own unique positions. They also engaged actively in debate over the proper relationship between individuals, between individuals and communities, as well as between communities and states. I will argue that in rebutting Stein's work on empathy, Husserl himself made way for Levinas's later contributions. At the same time, a number of Levinas's criticisms of Husserl are prefigured in Stein. Clarifying Levinas's own views vis-à-vis Husserl is itself a complicated affair and requires explication. At times, Lévinas praised Husserl as having opened the door to his own elucidation of the Other. This was accompanied, however, by a number of criticisms of Husserl's approach-some of which I shall dispute. In the end, I will highlight not only intriguing assertions which Stein and Levinas held in common, but also the middle ground between the two-more or less congruent with that maintained by Husserl himself.

In many respects, the biographies of Stein and Levinas are similar. Each was drawn to Husserl's philosophy after reading his Logical Investigations very early in their careers. Each played critical roles in the dissemination of Husserl's thought. Stein, who served as Husserl's assistant for eighteen months from 1916 to 1918, prepared a revision of the sixth Logical Investigation, edited Ideas II, and compiled what became the basis for On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time (1893-1917)-more famously "edited" by Martin Heidegger. Neither of these texts was published by Husserl while Stein was in his employ, and she complained that it was difficult to get the ever busy Husserl to review what she had done. When he did get to her work, new questions and developments forestalled completion.2 Levinas was also well-known to Husserl. This is important to establish, not only for biographical reasons, but because it increases the likelihood that Levinas had knowledge of Husserl's earlier unpublished texts on intersubjectivity and perhaps even of disagreements between Husserl and Stein. Levinas translated part of the fourth and the entire lengthy fifth Cartesian Meditation, introducing Husserl's texts to French speaking philosophers.

Both Stein and Levinas in the years after these contributions underwent religious "conversions" of differing sorts. Stein was baptized as a Roman Catholic Christian in 1922. It is important to note that Stein believed she was "integrating" Judaism and Christianity-two aspects of the same-in taking this action.3 She too, then became a translator, but of John Henry Cardinal Newman and St. Thomas Aquinas.4 In 1934, Stein entered a convent as a postulant and subsequently became a nun of the Carmelite order adopting a new name-Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. Forty-five years after her death as a Jew in Auschwitz on May 1, 1987, she was beatified-declared worthy of public veneration as a holy, blessed person-in a ceremony performed by Pope Jean Paul II.5

Emmanuel Levinas followed another distinctly religious path. After World War II from 1947 to 1951 he studied under the mysterious Mordechai Chouchani-to many like Elie Wiesel, a surviving link to the worlds of Talmudic learning before the Shoah.6 Even though Levinas at different times claimed to "universalize Judaism" and bridge Greek and Jewish thought,7 as a philosopher who effectively constructed a fence (gezeirah/siag) around Otherness he was not a proponent of any religious or cultural integration, much less assimilation. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Identity, Alterity, and Ethics in the Work of Husserl and His Religious Students: Stein and Levinas
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.