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International Conference to Focus on Love According to Dietrich von Hildebrand
IPS professor discusses Hildebrand’s concept of love as psychotherapy.

Dietrich von Hildebrand
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.”

Rediscovering Hildebrand

“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.”

Vitz said 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,” said Vitz.

“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 others.”

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

Vitz said 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 CBT sessions.
• 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 Those unable to attend in Rome can participate via the Internet.  To obtain the necessary login information, please visit the conference website.



Related links web site
New Gate Tours
Institute for the Psychological Sciences
Magdala Center
Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center
Pontifical Regina Apostolorum College

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Sponsored by the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement, Copyright 2011, Legion of Christ. All rights reserved.

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