Tuesday, June 16, 2009

St. Edith Stein rocks my world.

Okay, so how many hard-core philosophers do you remember using the image of a trusting little child to prove their point? Here, Edith Stein (in Finite and Eternal Being) is responding to Heidegger's idea that human life is a process, dominated by anxiety, of hurtling toward death. He made the case that the only "rational human attitude" is "a passionate ... consciously resolute and anxiety-stricken freedom toward death." She objects:

"By no means. The undeniable fact that my being is limited in its transience from moment to moment and thus exposed to the possibility of nothingness is counterbalanced by the equally undeniable fact that despite this transience, I a, that from moment to moment I am sustained in my being, and that in my fleeting being I share in [eternal] being. In the knowledge that being holds me, I rest securely. This security, however, is not the self-assurance of one who under her own power stands on firm ground, but rather the sweet and blissful security of a child that is lifted up and carried by a strong arm. And, objectively speaking, this kind of security is not less rational. For if a child were living in the constant fear that its mother might let it fall, we should hardly call this a rational attitude."

Interesting historical note: Stein was gassed at Auschwitz under Nazi rule; Heidegger defended National Socialism, apparently to the grave, and is still lauded as the most influential thinker of the 10th-century in continental philosophy. Nonetheless, I guess I'd rather be the happy child than speed with such accolades toward death.

1 comment:

Carla said...

Thanks again for making your little corner of the internet world full of thought and prayer-provoking substance. Can I ask for a good starting point for reading Edith Stein? I've never read anything of hers and I both want to and probably should...