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Thine Own Self

Individuality in Edith Stein's Later Writings

Sarah Borden Sharkey

Publication Year: 2012

Thine Own Self investigates Stein's account of human individuality and her mature philosophical positions on being and essence. Sarah Borden Sharkey shows how Stein's account of individual form adapts and updates the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition in order to account for evolution and more contemporary insights in personality and individual distinctiveness.

Published by: The Catholic University of America Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

What it means to be a human being is a critical question, but it is also important—in an even more personal way—to say what it means to be an individual, to be a particular human being. There is increasing concern, in both our philosophical community and our more general society, for difference, ...

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pp. xv-xxviii

Stein’s position on individuality is of interest because she attempts to offer a substantive and nuanced account of individuality that compromises neither the unique irreproducibility of each person nor a common human form. She follows the Platonic and Aristotelian tradition in claiming a common human ...


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pp. xxix-xxxii

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1. Individual Form and Relevant Distinctions

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pp. 1-25

Stein claims that individuality and one’s position regarding the individuation of entities, especially human beings, is critical for understanding human nature, our place in the world, and our relation to God. This interest in our individuality is not, however, limited to Stein’s late Finite and Eternal Being. ...

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2. Reasons for Affirming Individual Forms

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pp. 26-55

Stein posits an individual form, which is distinct from the speciesform, for each human being, and she understands this individual form as having some significant role in making individual (finite) persons1 unique (although not in the stronger sense of unrepeatably unique). ...

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3. Types of Essential Structures

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pp. 56-80

Stein posits individual form as a metaphysically real principle distinct in content for each finite personal being. In the following three chapters I would like to look more carefully at the kind of principle the individual form is intended to be and therefore the role it plays in making each of us individual. ...

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4. Types of Being

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pp. 81-103

Stein’s account of the types of and relations among the essential structures is relatively complex. What allows her to make the distinctions that she does is her concept of essential being.1 Stein does not think that being is identical with actuality. Rather, she thinks that “being” can be said in at least three ways. ...

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5. Principles of Individuality

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pp. 104-126

I would like to turn to Stein’s theory of individuation and individuality in light of the claims laid out in the previous two chapters regarding essentialities, essences, and essential being. As seen there, Stein distinguishes essences, which are capable of temporal unfolding and which are the essence of something, ...

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6. Individual Form and Mereology

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pp. 127-152

Many philosophers—Descartes, for example—argue that if something is genuinely distinct, it must also be separable, at least by God.1 In contrast, Thomas argues that two things may be distinct but inseparable. For example, the substantial form and the matter of a bird are truly distinct, but nonetheless inseparable.2 ...

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7. Challenges for Individual Forms

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pp. 153-184

Insofar as she has presupposed Husserl’s mereology, Stein has a clear way of understanding the relation between individual and universal form which preserves not only the genuine commonality of our human nature but also the essential uniqueness (in the weaker sense) of each person. ...

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8. Alternative Accounts of Individual Form

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pp. 185-209

Stein shares with the Christian tradition, in a way that Aristotle did not, a concern for the individual and for the value of each and every individual. Each individual is not merely a means for the continuation of the species but is, rather, immeasurably valuable in the eyes of God. ...

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9. An Alternative Account Revisited

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pp. 210-233

The idea that there is something each of us as an individual ought to be strikes a deep chord. Most of us have met people who are deeply, deeply distinctive and yet profoundly authentic and truly themselves. And we can contrast these with others who seem to have taken on habits and mannerisms ...

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10. Conclusion

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pp. 234-238

Stein’s conception of the human individual is beautiful, and she articulates well an experience all of us have had of the uniqueness of each person we truly love. We do not love a human being, but this particular person. Stein’s focus on individuality—and what it means to be oneself—is exceedingly valuable and challenging. ...

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 239-252


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pp. 253-254

E-ISBN-13: 9780813217550
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813216829

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2012