Edith Stein and the contemporary psychological study of empathy

Rita W. Meneses*, Michael Larkin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Illuminated by the writings of Edith Stein (1917/1989), this paper presents a model of empathy as a very particular intersubjective understanding. This is commonly a view absent from psychology literature. For Stein, empathy is the experience of experientially and directly knowing another person's experience, as it unfolds in the present, together with the awareness of the 'otherness' of that experience. It can be conceptually distinguished, in terms of process and experience, from current models that propose that empathic understandings are 'intellectual' experiences (e.g., explicit simulation theories, perspective-taking) or sympathetic experiences (e.g., implicit simulation theories, contagion-related theories). As such, she provides an additional or alternative aspect to understanding other people's experiences. Our paper provides a summary of Stein's key analytic claims about three key facets of empathy (directly perceiving, experientially projecting, and interpretatively mentalizing). Her views are discussed in the light of debates relevant for contemporary psychology and social cognition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-184
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Phenomenological Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012


  • empathy
  • intersubjectivity
  • social understandings
  • sympathy


Dive into the research topics of 'Edith Stein and the contemporary psychological study of empathy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this