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Genevieve Buono on Purposeful Lab Podcast
Purposeful UniverseApril 25, 20242 min read

Purposeful Lab: Edith Stein on Art, Philosophy, and Sainthood

In this Purposeful Lab episode, Genevieve Buono, who is currently writing her dissertation on Edith Stein's aesthetics, joins Dan and Catherine to discuss Stein's views on art, philosophy, and her path to sainthood. Stein, a pioneering female philosopher, tragically perished in Auschwitz alongside her Jewish loved ones. Listen to this week's episode to discover the relevance of Stein's teachings to your life.


Edith Stein: Early Life

As Genevieve explains, Edith Stein was born to a large Jewish family in Wroclaw, Poland. In her early works, she described the relationship between being of Jewish descent but also participating in German culture. However, by the time Edith was 15 years old, she decided to be agnostic. She attended the University of Breslau where she was introduced to the work of Edmund Husserl, the father of the philosophical field of phenomenology: posits the central aim of philosophy is the study of human consciousness in relation to the world.

Through engaging with Husserl’s work at the University, Edith met many Christians who exemplified a purposeful way of living which fascinated her. She eventually converted to Christianity, which many consider to have been brought about by her love of God as truth.

Following her conversion, she eventually entered the Carmelite order, the same order as St. Teresa of Avila.

The Philosophical Writings of Edith Stein

Edith Stein is known for her work in phenomenology, particularly her attempt to fuse phenomenology with older scholastic thought within the Catholic Church. Phenomenology emphasizes how humans experience the world and the similarities between all of our experiences.

Edith Stein was the first person to take the phenomenological method with a Catholic approach. She wrote extensively on the nature of empathy and how we are able to sense the emotions of others in a deep way. Additionally, she wrote on the relationship between masculinity and femininity. Edith claimed that women and men are different species with positive meanings associated with each gender. To her, men and women are equal but with different proclivities in their experiences. This does not mean that there are exclusive jobs for men and for women, but rather that each gender often embodies different realities and meanings within human experience.

Edith Stein’s Philosophy of Art

In the realm of art, Edith Stein gave great respect to the human creative experience. However, she believed that art should capture the essence of truth in a way that elevates humanity towards deeper meanings. A great artist will participate in real truth and beauty through the creation of their works.

She opposed the idea that an artist alone puts meaning into the work. Rather, Edith believed that art is not exclusively subjective or objective. There is an objective meaning within art that people respond to and the artist acts as the creator who brings art into the world as an intermediary for truth and beauty.

Take a Listen

This episode demonstrates that the vocations within sainthood are extraordinarily diverse and Edith Stein is one saint who embodies the philosophical desire for truth and beauty within humanity. Edith Stein discovered God through her desire for truth and continues to enlighten those within the Church and beyond with her profound commentaries on human experience, empathy, and the relationship between men and women.    




Purposeful Universe

The Purposeful Universe seeks to explore and present, through award winning videos, the abundant order in nature that funnels biological systems toward increasing levels of complexity and sophistication—suggesting that human life is the purposeful outcome of a complex, ordered system.