Edith Stein on Sister Clara and Husserl

Edith Stein writes from beside the death-bed of her Sister Clara to her Sister Adelgundis, who was herself beside the death-bed of their teacher, Husserl:

Pax Christi!

Dear Sister Adelgundis,

Our greetings go from one death-bed to the other.  Our Sister Clara departed today for eternity, very gently, after a year of suffering.  I commended our dear Master [Husserl] to her often, and will do so again tonight at the wake.  I believe one is well taken care of in her company.  She was our eldest lay sister, tireless in the lowliest of tasks, but a strong and manly character who had grasped and lived the Carmelite ideal with complete determination.  So faith turned it into a completely spiritual life.  I am not at all worried about our dear Master.  It has always been far from me to think that God’s mercy allows itself to be circumscribed by the visible church’s boundaries.  God is truth.  All who seek truth seek God, whether this is clear to them or not…

Most cordially, your

Teresa Benedicta a Cruce

Reading Husserl, Or Wandering About in the Panopticum Waxworks (Poem)

Reading Husserl Or, Wandering About in the Panopticum Waxworks
for my phenomenology students

I have been reading

or I think I have;
it’s hard to tell

to tell the difference

I confront his pages
in sternly receptive fashion
hoping for a clear sentence

one that will carry clearness a little further
and make the page more than a motley of wanton arabesques

I want, I guess, for my intuitive presentation
of the physical appearance of the words
to undergo an essential phenomenological modification
(that’s rather a mouthful)
so that the words begin to count as expressions
(Mean something, dammit!)
and I can understand

my meaning-intentions cry out
for meaning-fulfillments

“For the earnest expectation of the creature
waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.”

Reading well,
I have been told,
is reading true books
in a true spirit—a noble exercise

But here I am in a sweat
reminding myself:  no pain, no gain
lifting long sentences weighted with imponderable German words,
the unintelligible unlightness of being-Husserl

And it may be
that the books of
the great poets have
yet to be read, and that because
only a great poet can read them

And so it may be
at least by that math
that I am no great phenomenologist

I haven’t as many eyes as Husserl

And So Husserl Goes…

(from a seminar handout)

As I said last time, Husserl starts, starts and starts again, and again, tracing and retracing his steps. He makes a set of phenomenological distinctions and elucidates them.  During the elucidation, the need for a new set of more finely drawn phenomenological distinctions becomes clear.  Husserl then retreats and starts over; he retraces his former path, but now with even more-mincing steps.  Sometimes, the former distinctions are overthrown in favor of the latter, sometimes they are kept, but as as marking the gross phenomenological anatomy, and requiring finer phenomenological anatomizing.  And so Husserl goes, back and forth, starting over and over, a beginner among beginners.  Husserlian phenomenology is a race to the starting line.

Immortal Openings, 8: Maurice Natanson, Edmund Husserl: Philosopher of Infinite Tasks

Philosophy, these sullen days, is somewhat a pensioner in the family of knowledge.  Like an aged grandfather living on a legacy outstripped by the times, philosophy depends on the kindness of relatives who may take some pride in the aura of grandness which surrounds the old man but who help to maintain him more out of loyalty than devotion.

Present to the Past

A couple of times in the last few months I have tried to get involved in Otto Bollnow’s fascinating paper, “On Understanding a Writer Better than He Understands Himself”.  But each time I have bogged down–for both internal and external reasons.  So I want to just state here in one post the basic point that I hoped to make in a more complete and complicated way across several posts.

The basic point:  The idea of understanding a philosopher better than he understands himself seems to me to typify the relationship between continental philosophers (and I guess I should say that I am thinking primarily of phenomenologists) and their forbears.  This idea does not typify the relationship between analytic philosophers and their forbears.  (Of course there are exceptions–vide McDowell among analytic philosophers.)  Analytic philosophers see themselves as ‘external’ to their forbears:  they agree with them or disagree with them, and they tend to understand their forbears’ work ‘discreetly’, as divided into chunks of argumentation with which they agree or not.  But continental philosophers see themselves as ‘internal’ to their forbears:  agreement and disagreement–well, neither is intimate enough to characterize the relationship.  Rather their aim seems to be to penetrate so deeply into the thinking of the forebears that they no longer know where they begin and their forebears end.  Criticism of the forebears thus becomes radically internal, almost always it is a “preaching to X from X” activity (vide Merleau-Ponty’s Husserl-contra-Husserl intro to The Phenomenology).  The forebears work is understood ‘continuously’, as a living whole that must be responded to somehow as such.  –That, such as it is, is the basic point.

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