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THE DIETRICH VON HILDEBRANDLIFEGUIDE
Also from St. Augustines PressThe John Paul II LifeGuideThe St. Augustine LifeGuide
The Dietrich von HildebrandLifeGuide
Dietrich von Hildebrand
Edited by Jules van Schaijik
A LifeGuide Series Title
ST. AUGUSTINES PRESSSouth Bend, Indiana
2007in association with
the Dietrich von Hildebrand Legacy Project
Copyright 2007 by the Dietrich von HildebrandLegacy Project
All rights reserved. No part of this book may bereproduced, stored in a retrieval system, ortransmitted, in any form or by any means,
electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording,or otherwise, without the prior permission of
St. Augustine's Press.
Manufactured in the United States of America.
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Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Von Hildebrand, Dietrich, 1889
[Selections. English]The Dietrich von Hildebrand lifeguide / Dietrich
von Hildebrand; edited by Jules van Schaijik.p. cm.(LifeGuide series)
Includes bibliographical references and index.ISBN 978-1-58731-179-6 (paperbound: alk. paper)
1. Catholic ChurchDoctrines. 2. Theology. I. Van Schaijik, Jules. II. Title.
BX1751.3.V6613 2007230.2dc22 2007007171
The paper used in this publication meets theminimum requirements of the American National
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St. Augustine's Presswww.staugustine.net
Dietrich von Hildebrand vii
Preface by Jules van Schaijik ix
THE DIETRICH VON HILDEBRAND LIFEGUIDE
Beauty and Utilitarianism 32
The Heart 37
Love and Community 49
Man and Woman 55
Liturgy, Prayer, and the Transformation in Christ 63
Dietrich von Hildebrand Legacy Project 77
Jules van Schaijik 79
vi The Dietrich von Hildebrand LifeGuide
Dietrich von Hildebrand 18891977
Dietrich von Hildebrand was an original philoso-pher, religious writer, heroic anti-Nazi activist,courageous Christian witness, and passionate propo-nent of beauty and culture.
Born in 1889 as the son of a famous Germansculptor, von Hildebrand grew up in the rich artisticsetting of Florence and Munich. He studied philoso-phy under Edmund Husserl, the founder of phe-nomenology and a giant of twentieth century phi-losophy, and under Adolf Reinach, and was pro-foundly influenced by his close friend, Germanphilosopher Max Scheler, who helped to pave theway for his conversion to Catholicism in 1914.
By 1930 von Hildebrand had become an impor-tant voice in German Catholicism, perhaps bestknown for his pioneering work on man and womanand on marriage. One can trace the chapter on mar-riage in Gaudium et spes of Vatican II back to vonHildebrands writings in the 20s in which he arguedthat the marital act has not only a procreative mean-ing but a no less significant unitive meaning. But healso distinguished himself in other ways during hisyears at the University of Munich, most of allthrough his ethical writings and through his book,The Metaphysics of Community, in which he used the
resources of phenomenology to rethink fundamentalissues of social philosophy and of moral philosophy.
When Hitler came to power in 1933, vonHildebrand left his native Germany, and dedicatedhimself to resisting Nazism. He moved to Viennaand founded a journal for combating at the level ofphilosophical first principles the rising Nazi ideolo-gy and for defending the independence of Austriaagainst Germany. With the German occupation ofAustria in 1938, von Hildebrand became a politicalfugitive; fleeing through Czechoslovakia, Switzer-land, France, Portugal, and Brazil, he eventuallyarrived in the United States in 1940.
Von Hildebrand wrote many works unfolding thefaith and morals of Catholicism, such as In Defense ofPurity, Marriage, Liturgy and Personality, and, aboveall, Transformation in Christ, now recognized as aclassic of Christian spirituality.
In the United States von Hildebrand taught atFordham University until his retirement in 1959.Many of his most important philosophicalworksamong them Ethics, What is Philosophy?, TheNature of Love, Morality and Situation Ethics, TheHeart, and Aestheticswere completed in the UnitedStates.
Through his many writings, von Hildebrandcontributed to the development of a rich Christianpersonalism, which in many ways converges withthat of Karol Wojtyla/Pope John Paul II.
Von Hildebrand died in New Rochelle NY in1977.
viii The Dietrich von Hildebrand LifeGuide
With a literary corpus as large and varied as that ofDietrich von Hildebrand, the editor of a briefanthology is faced with the challenge of finding aprinciple of selection that can enable him to give thereader not just a series of insightful passages but asense of the essence of the man and of the generalthrust of his contributions to Catholic thought andculture. Of particular concern to me was to try toshow what I have felt more deeply the more I havestudied von Hildebrand, namely, that while his workhas an unmistakable classical air, he was, eminently, aman of our time and for our time. This comesthrough clearly in what could be called von Hilde-brands personalist emphasis.
In his introduction to The New Tower of Babel, acollection of essays in which he examines variousmanifestations of modern mans flight from God,von Hildebrand wrote that [t]he dignity of thehuman person is written over this period as its objec-tive theme, regardless of how few persons hold theright and valid notion of this dignity and its meta-physical basis. The present epoch is great becausethe struggle that centers around the human person isultimately a fight engaged under the banner ofChrist . . .
This great struggle centered around the humanperson and engaged under the banner of Christprovides an interpretive key to the life and work ofDietrich von Hildebrand. Whether it was his heroicresistance to the evil of totalitarianism, or his critiqueof relativism, materialism, and all secularizing trends;his value ethics, his personalist metaphysics, hisemphasis on the heart, the liturgy, beauty, marriageand love; whether in his religious writings or hisphilosophical writings, his teaching in the classroomor in the small gatherings of friends and disciples inhis grand home in Munich or in his tiny New Yorkapartment, his passion and the implicit mission of hislife was to unfold, cherish, and defend the great mys-tery of what it means to be a human persona beingcalled to live his life in conscious, free, and fullresponsiveness to the world of values and above all toGod, who created him, who redeemed him, and whooffers him total transformation in Christ.
It is his dedication to this great theme, too, whichperhaps accounts for the remarkable accessibility ofvon Hildebrands thought. Though he deals in deep-est philosophical truths at the highest levels of intel-lectual seriousness and originality, he is never arcaneor dryly academic. He manages to engage the mindsand hearts of ordinary readers, because he address-es himself not to interesting problems, but to thedeepest yearnings and aspirations of our hearts, andto the concrete questions perplexing our minds.What is the meaning of human life? Is my longingfor love nothing but nave sentimentality or selfish-ness? Is it possible to know Truth? Is there such a
x The Dietrich von Hildebrand LifeGuide
thing as greatness? Can my life be changed, evennow?
This is not to say that von Hildebrand is alwayseasy to read. Certainly, many of his most importantcontributions are well beyond the purview of thepresent format. (These deserve much more scholar-ly attention than they have yet received.) My purposehere is only to give a kind of foretaste: a feel for thepersonality of von Hildebrand, the nobility of hisspirit, and the greatness of his thought, by selectingpassages that reveal it bestpassages I find particu-larly compelling and particularly apropos today.
Jules van SchaijikOctober, 2006
It seems fitting to begin this anthology of Dietrich vonHildebrand, that ardent lover of truth, with a passage onthe importance of truth for human life and interpersonalcommunion. It is taken from an essay in which he criti-cizes one of the most ominous features of the presentepoch which, he thinks, is undoubtedly the dethrone-ment of truth.
The role of truth in human life is so predominantand so decisive, the interest in the question ofwhether a thing is true or not is so indispensable inall the domains of human life (ranging from the mosthumble everyday affairs to the highest spiritualspheres), that the dethronement of truth entails thedecomposition of mans very life.
Disrespect for truthwhen not merely a theo-retical thesis, but a lived attitudepatently destroysall morality, even all reasonability and all communi-ty life. All objective norms are dissolved by this atti-tude of indifference toward truth; so also is the pos-sibility of resolving any discussion or controversyobjectively. Peace among individuals or nations andall trust in other persons are impossible as well. Thevery basis of a really human life is subverted. . . .
There exists an intimate link between the
dethronement of truth and terrorism. As soon asman no longer refers to truth as the ultimate judge inall spheres of life, brutal force necessarily replacesright; oppression and mechanical, suggestive influ-ence supersedes conviction; fear supplants trust.
Indeed, to dethrone truth means to sever thehuman person from the very