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When it came time to select a topic for her doctoral dissertation in philosophy, the young Edith Stein eventually settled on the topic of empathy. Today, this work of hers can be read in English under the title, On the Problem of Empathy.

In German, the word Stein uses for empathy is einfühlung, and it gives a sense of “inward feeling.” More than just a sympathetic awareness of the feelings and thoughts of others, empathy is understood as the very experience within ourselves of the experience of other persons. In a way, we bear within ourselves the life of the other, thus opening up the very possibility of interpersonal life. 

My guest on today’s episode is Donald Wallenfang, Professor of Philosophy and Theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan. Donald is a Secular Discalced Carmelite and received his Ph.D. from Loyola University Chicago. Donald has written and edited numerous books, articles and essays, but today we discuss his work titled, Human and Divine Being: A Study on the Theological Anthropology of Edith Stein. 

Over the course of this interview, Wallenfang helps us see Edith Stein’s understanding of empathy, how it contributes to our own selfhood, communal life, and our relationship with the completely Other, God. 

 Links:

1.     On the Problem of Empathy by Edith Stein

2.     Human and Divine Being: A Study on the Theological Anthropology of Edith Stein by Donald Wallenfang

3.     Edith Stein: A Philosophical Prologue by Alasdair MacIntyre

4.     Donald Wallenfang, Ph.D., OCDS

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