Heart, The

978-1-58731-357-8c 978-1-58731-358-5p
Cloth $25; Paper $18
208 pages, 6” x 9”, preface, introduction, notes, biographical timeline, index, paperback pub date: August 2012

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Heart, The

An Analysis of Human and Divine Affectivity

von Hildebrand, Dietrich

This new edition of The Heart (out of print for nearly 30 years) is the flagship volume in a series of Dietrich von Hildebrand’s works to be published by St. Augustine’s Press in collaboration with the Dietrich von Hildebrand Legacy Project. Founded in 2004, the Legacy Project exists in the first place to translate the many German writings of von Hildebrand into English.

While many revere von Hildebrand as a religious author, few realize that he was a philosopher of great stature and importance. Those who knew von Hildebrand as philosopher held him in the highest esteem. Louis Bouyer, for example, once said that “von Hildebrand was the most important Catholic philosopher in Europe between the two world wars.” Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger expressed even greater esteem when he said: “I am personally convinced that, when, at some time in the future, the intellectual history of the Catholic Church in the twentieth century is written, the name of Dietrich von Hildebrand will be most prominent among the figures of our time.”

The Heart is an accessible yet important philosophical contribution to the understanding of the human person. In this work von Hildebrand is concerned with rehabilitating the affective life of the human person. He thinks that for too long philosophers have held it in suspicion and thought of it as embedded in the body and hence as being much inferior to intellect and will. In reality, he argues, the heart, the center of affectivity, has many different levels, including an eminently personal level; at this level affectivity is just as important a form of personal life as intellect and will. Von Hildebrand develops the idea that properly personal affectivity, far than tending away from an objective relation to being, is in fact one major way in which we transcend ourselves and give being its due. Von Hildebrand also developed the important idea that the heart “in many respects is more the real self of the person than his intellect or will.”

At the same time, the author shows full realism about the possible deformities of affective life; he offers rich analyses of what he calls affective atrophy and affective hypertrophy. The second half of The Heart offers a remarkable analysis of the affectivity of the God-Man.