Centrum för kognitiv semiotik (CCS)

Humanistiska och teologiska fakulteterna | Lunds universitet

Edith Stein’s Empathic approach to Intersubjectivity

Erik Rynell

In recent years there has been a growing interest in empathy in many disciplines. The word “empathy” is of rather recent date. It emerged at the end of the 19th century in a German debate within aesthetics in the shape of the word “Einfühlung”, before the term gradually was given the more general application it has retained to this day. “Empathy” is an English translation of the German word that eventually also spread to other languages.  
In her dissertation On the Problem of Empathy (Zum Problem der Einfühlung), issued in 1917, the German philosopher Edith Stein, a student of Edmund Husserl, used the word “empathy” (Einfühlung) as a name for our basic capacity for experiencing other minds. Despite the fact that Stein earned the highest honours in the doctoral exam her dissertation also marked the end of her academic career, but the book remains an oft-cited work on the fundamentals of intersubjectivity. I have for some time preoccupied myself with a translation of this work into Swedish. In my talk, I will review basic ideas in it, both in their original context and, as Stein extensively predates a modern debate on intersubjectivity, also in relation to ideas of more recent, and contemporary, writers on the subject, such as Gurwitsch, Schütz, Zahavi, and Gallagher.