Edith Stein and Gerda Walther: The Role of Empathy in Experiencing Community

  • Antonio CalcagnoEmail author
Part of the Women in the History of Philosophy and Sciences book series (WHPS, volume 1)


Gerda Walther has no developed account of empathy; rather, she draws from the writings of early phenomenologists and psychologists on empathy. Generally, for Walther, empathy is an act of mind that permits the understanding of another’s consciousness and experience. Edith Stein, in many respects, lays the ground for a phenomenological account of empathy. Stein’s treatment of intersubjectivity and the nature of intersubjective acts such as empathy draws greatly from Husserl. There exist three primary sources for Stein’s analysis of empathy, all of which were written while Stein was still in direct contact with Husserl either as his student, assistant or as a private researcher attempting to habilitate. The primary and better known source is Stein’s doctoral dissertation published originally in 1917, titled On the Problem of Empathy. The text, which is the only extant portion of her doctoral dissertation, sets the stage for Stein’s later work on the subject. Husserl was pleased by Stein’s selection of the topic, but he wanted her to give more of a historical overview, with special reference to Lipps’ work. Hence, the text is replete with discussions of notable philosophers like Scheler, Dilthey, and Lipps. The second major work that addresses empathy is to be found in Stein’s Philosophy of Psychology and the Humanities (Beiträge zur philosophischen Begründung der Psychologie und der Geisteswissenschaften). This work was published in Volume V of Husserl’s Jahrbuch and consists of two principal texts: Psychic Causality (Psychische Kausalität) and Individual and Community (Individuum und Gemeinschaft). This text comes from Stein’s period during and after her assistantship with Husserl. The text is largely, but not exclusively, based on her work on Husserl’s Ideen II. The last source is Stein’s research manuscript titled, Einführung in die Philosophie.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyKing’s University CollegeLondonCanada

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