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Vol. 4 No. 2 (2021): Critical Phenomenology at the Collegium Phaenomenologicum

Edith Stein's Contribution to Critical Phenomenology: On Self-Formation and Value-Modification

  • Rachel Bath
February 9, 2023


One defining claim that critical phenomenologists make of the critical phenomenological method is that description no longer simply plays the role of detailing the world around the describing phenomenologist, but rather has the potential to transform worlds and persons. The transformative potential of the critical phenomenological enterprise is motivated by aspirations of social and political transformation. Critical phenomenology accordingly takes, as its starting point, descriptions of the oppressive historical social structures and contexts that have shaped our experience and shows how these produce inequitable ways of being in the world (Guenther 2020, 12). For example, critical phenomenologists have provided rich descriptions of marginalized lived experience, particularly racialized experience (Ngo, 2017; Yancy, 2017), dis-abled experience and experiences of illness (Lajoie and Douglas, 2020; Toombs, 1993), gendered experience (Beauvoir, 2009; Salamon, 2010), and so forth. What is common across these accounts is the assumption that these descriptions provide means of enacting political change. First, they illuminate the existence of oppressive structures and their effects upon us, our possibilities, and our relations. Second, through increasing awareness they begin to denaturalize the oppressive historical structures that “privilege, naturalize, and normalize certain experiences of the world while marginalizing, pathologizing, and discrediting others” (Guenther 2020, 15). Third, through strategic responses (e.g., hesitation in Alia Al-Saji’s work), they produce new possibilities of action and experience, which initiates the process of creating different ways of being in the world (Al-Saji 2014).