Leading Church Thinkers to Discuss Philosophy of Love

The 20th century philosopher, Dietrich von Hildebrand
The 20th century philosopher, Dietrich von Hildebrand (photo: Register Files)

What is love?

The age-old question will be put under the spotlight for three days here in Rome beginning tomorrow (Thursday), when some of the Church’s leading thinkers take part in a conference reflecting on Dietrich von Hildebrand’s philosophy of love.

Entitled ‘The Christian Personalism of Dietrich von Hildebrand: Exploring His Philosophy of Love,’ the conference coincides with the English translation of von Hildebrand’s work: The Nature of Love.

The impressive line-up of speakers include Michael Novak, Rocco Buttiglione, Robert Spaemann, Joseph Bottum, Fr. Charles Morerod O.P., Alice von Hildebrand and Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamon.

For the many who won’t be able to make it, the organizers of the conference, the Dietrich von Hildebrand Legacy Project, have generously arranged for the speeches to be watched on-line. More details can be found here and here.

Von Hildebrand (1889-1977), an anti-Nazi activist who fled the regime and settled in the United States in 1940, wrote a number of philosophical works which are said to have helped many to embrace the Catholic faith. His writings contributed to the development of a rich Christian personalism, especially through his stress on the transcendence of human persons.

The organizers have written a summary of the conference goals which state:

“We entitle our conference, ‘The Christian Personalism of Dietrich von Hildebrand: Exploring His Philosophy of Love,’ because we want our study of his treatise on love to stand in the service of what he once called “the struggle for the person.” We want our discussions about love to lead us back to questions about the dignity and destiny of the human person, and especially about the capacity of the human person to encounter the other by making a gift of self to the other. We are organizing the conference on the assumption that one cannot make sense of the human person apart from his or her capacity for loving and being loved.”

Pope Benedict XVI lauded the Hildebrand Legacy Project back in 2007, saying in a letter to the organization that its goals contribute to the evangelization of contemporary culture. He wrote:

“Grounded in the rich philosophical movement which stretches from the Presocratics through Plato, Aristotle and Plotinus, to Augustine, Thomas and the great thinkers of the modem age, and taking up the challenge set forth in the Encyclical Fides et Ratio, the Dietrich von Hildebrand Legacy Project aims to enter into reasoned dialogue with contemporary currents of philosophy, bringing the full scope of reason to bear on fundamental human questions and contributing to the recovery of the sapiential dimension inherent in the philosophia perennis.

Without such a commitment to the philosophical enterprise, Christian faith would fall prey to a “fideism” which would deprive it of its grandeur as man’s free submission of intellect and will to the splendor of God’s truth, and gravely compromise its missionary dynamism, whereby believers are called to offer to all a reasoned account of the hope that is within them (cf. / Pet 3:15). I therefore express my appreciation and support for the work of the Dietrich von Hildebrand Project, and my confidence that this praiseworthy initiative will bear abundant fruit for the evangelization of contemporary culture.”