Edith Stein: The Rhetoric of Responsibility

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 1-1-2008


Campus Only

Submission Type


Degree Name



Communication and Rhetorical Studies


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Ronald C. Arnett

Committee Member

Pat Arneson

Committee Member

Kathleen Roberts


Edith Stein, rhetoric, responsibility, empathy, community, knowledge


The main purpose of this project is to invite the contributions of Edith Stein's understood use of the rhetoric of responsibility into current conversations. Stein's work points to a rhetoric of responsibility with multiple possibilities, thus adding to ethical communication theory in general and interpersonal communication theory in particular.

Sister Mary Catharine Baseheart, S.C.N. writes in Person in the World: Introduction to the Philosophy of Edith Stein that "Stein's work shows what happens when phenomenology reaches back into the tradition to broaden and illumine its vision through contact with the thought of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, and Scotus to name only a few" (xi). Sr. Mary Catherine further notes, Stein displays a hermeneutic that transcends her own and other cultures. Furthermore, her work may be studied as a paradigm for a movement toward a valuable post-modern synthesis (xii). Additionally, Sarah Borden writes that Stein is a thinker deeply engaged in the debates of her own day, and "her work offers models and insights for addressing questions of the twenty-first century" (Edith Stein vii). Stein's life work addresses the difficulties such as how should a person behave responsibly in the world toward him/her self and others; the role of community in the life and existence of a person and the compatibility of faith and reason. Stein's concerns remain with us.

The aim of this project is to introduce Stein, the rhetoric of responsibility, and Stein's rhetoric of responsibility. This dissertation lays the groundwork for Stein's compatibility within the rhetoric of responsibility, particularly that of public moral responsibility, within the field of communication. Using a constructivist hermeneutic this work engages the ideas of Stein. Attention in mind, one needs to understand the idea that we are all embedded agents involved in the interplay of her guiding story and this historical moment. The dissertation establishes the emergent metaphors of Stein's work that texture her rhetoric of responsibility. It concludes with a suggestion for a practical application of Stein's work to the field in a manner similar to the way in which Martin Buber's "dialogic ethics" and Sissela Bok's "principle of veracity" contributes to communication theory and interpersonal communication. Stein's project, and her rhetoric of responsibility, situates her narrative within a communicative tradition with ethical implications.





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