|Dietrich von Hildebrand|
March 29, 2010. Arlington, VA – It is time for
the writings of Dietrich von Hildebrand to get their due.
That is the hope of those sponsoring the upcoming international
conference on von Hildebrand’s writings about love. Called the “Dietrich von Hildebrand Legacy Project,” the conference will take place
in Rome from May 27-29, 2010, at the Pontifical University
of the Holy Cross.
One of those co-sponsoring the event will
be the Institute for the Psychological Sciences (IPS) Catholic
graduate school for psychology. Dr. Paul Vitz, Professor and Senior
Scholar at IPS, is writing a paper to present at
the conference. The paper will be entitled “Applying von Hildebrand’s
Concept of Love in Psychotherapy.”
“I think the intent for
the conference is to get people to read von Hildebrand’s
writings, and make intelligent and constructive responses to it,” he
said. “I think the world is ready for it.”
it is interesting that the writings of John Paul II,
including his theology of the body, were written after von
Hildrebrand’s, but have received critical acclaim before von Hildebrand’s. “JPII’s
intellectual reception preceded von Hildebrand’s though he wrote after him,”
“Hildebrand died 40 years ago and most of his
important works were written in German,” Vitz explained. Hildebrand’s writings
have been relatively “dormant” in the intellectual world until this
past summer when this major work The Nature of Love
was released in an English translation.
Vitz said both JPII and
von Hildebrand were personalists. “They emphasized the experience of the
individual person and his or her relationships with God and
This point of view is distinctive from Thomism, or the
thinking of St. Thomas Aquinas, which Vitz said is a
more objective and abstract view. Vitz said one of von
Hildebrand’s contributions was his focus on transcendent love as a
response to the intrinsic value or beauty of the other
in the relationship between man and woman.
“Transcendent love is similar
to JPII’s idea of self-giving love, but von Hildebrand emphasized
more the affective response, while the late Pope emphasized more
the will in the act of self giving,” said Vitz.
“Both understandings are, I believe, compatible.”
Linking philosophy to psychology
his paper will focus on how von Hildebrand’s writings relate
to people in the real world and to psychotherapy. He
will focus on the standard psychotherapeutic procedure known as Cognitive
and Behavioral Therapy or CBT. He explained his theoretical approach
to using von Hildebrand’s concepts in a procedure that would
involve three basic steps:
• Educating the person about the concept of
love, especially transcendent love. He or she may have vague
or even incorrect ideas about the nature of love. This
focus on understanding and new knowledge is common in early
• Helping the person search for memories of the
different types of love in his or her background and
in present experiences.
• Helping the person to practice love in
his or her daily life. (The homework aspect of CBT.)
A reasonable place to start is with the practice of
altruism or charity, which Vitz believes may lead the person
to different and often higher types of love such as
von Hildebrand’s concept of transcendent love.
Vitz hopes this theoretical approach
may help patients heal from such psychological problems as moderate
depression and possibly to heal some anxieties.
Some of the others
speaking at the international event in Rome include Dietrich von
Hildebrand’s widow Alice von Hildebrand, Michael Waldstein, John Zizioulas, Michael
Novak, and Josef Seifert.
In addition, a number of
IPS students will be competing in the essay contest entitled
The Nature of Love, to be held in conjunction with
the conference. Up to five contestants will be invited to
present their papers and receive an award.
For more information,
visit www.hildebrandlegacy.org. Those unable to attend in Rome can
participate via the Internet. To obtain the necessary login information,
please visit the conference website.