Faith and Reason in the Philosophy of Edith Stein

Karl C. Schudt, Marquette University


I examine the shape of the Christian philosophy that Edith Stein develops in her post-baptismal work Endliches und Ewiges Sein. Drawing on the influence of Husserl and Aquinas, Stein develops a theory of the relationship between faith and reason. If philosophy is a rigorous science that seeks a complete understanding of being, and human reason is unable to complete this project, and further if faith is a legitimate source of knowledge that goes beyond reason, then it is appropriate and necessary for philosophy to look to faith for assistance. Stein argues that this is possible without philosophy becoming theology, because the content of faith is proposed as hypotheses or possible solutions to philosophical dilemmas. Stein starts with the Cartesian indubitable fact of the life of the I, providing a proof for the existence of God that starts from the contingency of the I, as well as a phenomenological argument that the security humans feel in their own being requires that they have an implicit belief in God. She works out an ontology that starts with non-material entities of meaning and ascends through pure forms to the essences of individual persons. In each case she proceeds to an aporia at the limit of human reason and attempts to show bow faith can provide a solution. Stein concludes with a description of Being itself according to the transcendentals, and ultimately concludes that Being must be a person. Here her work becomes primarily theological as she looks to the purported self-revelation of the divine person. I argue that Stein's project is sound: if faith is true, it must agree with true philosophy, and can therefore provide direction to human reason. There are some flaws in her execution of this plan, but within Stein's limited claims to provide possible solutions to philosophical dilemmas she is successful.