Religious sister gives talk on Edith Stein’s philosophy of passions


Photo by Ulises Iniguez

On Wednesday, March 22, Sister Prudence Allen presented on Edith Stein’s philosophies of masculinity and femininity and the passions in a talk sponsored by the Hildebrand Project.

Sister Prudence Allen presented on Edith Stein (now St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross), specifically her philosophical journey. Allen explained Stein’s view of masculine and feminine characteristics, with men being more detached and abstract and with women being more connected and experiential. However, “to be balanced,” men and women need both characteristics, according to Stein.

Allen focused on Edith Stein’s love of truth throughout her life. Allen explained how Stein fell in love with reading philosophers like Aquinas, Kant, and Spinoza. Allen showed how, in philosophy, “something in you catches fire by something the teacher says.” Even when Stein’s fire turned into an ember, she continued philosophizing “as a gift to others in obedience.”

Allen focused on Stein’s work on the morally-neutral passions. For each passion, there is usually a contrary passion. Beautifully illustrating the philosophy, Allen said love—like the love of a lost friend—can cause its contrary: hate—hate of the disease that took the friend. Allen explained the different degrees of impact these passions can have on us, suggesting that it may be better to ask “what passion are you feeling?” instead of “how are you feeling?”

Exploring the effect and meaning of passions, Allen revealed how the passions affect us. The passions have a certain degree of: reach, duration, intensity and depth. Basically, our passions show how much we care about something, our “hierarchy of values.” Allen illustrated how “anger can take over the whole person.” However, the passion can be shallow, like when one loses a pen.

After the talk, there was a lively question-and-answer period. After that, there was a light reception.

Bernadette Buchanan, senior, appreciated the clarity of the masculine-feminine distinction, as facilitated by the provided handouts. She praised Allen for making the talk relatable and understandable, especially for someone not majoring in philosophy.