The Personalist Project

Accessed on January 19, 2019 - 1:59:59

St. Benedict and phenomenology

Katie van Schaijik, Jul 11, 2012

The key to the kind of phenomenology Jules and I studied, which is sometimes called "realist phenomenology" or "von Hildebrandian phenomenology" is a reverent, attentive listening to the voice of Reality, to "things in themselves."  It sees "the art of living" as a matter of "receiving" what we find in reality, and responding to it faithfully. It stands in contrast to a way of philosophizing that is more concerned with constructing conceptual systems, or with studying texts.

One of the key features and contributions of von Hildeband's thought, in particular, is a rehabilitation of the role of the heart, not only in human relations, but in our apprehension of Reality.  The heart is not just "the seat of the passions", belonging to our animal nature and needing to be ruled by our "rational part".  Rather, it is, in a way, the locus of the person, the center of our being.

From this point of view, the very first lines of the Rule of St. Benedict have always struck me as having a deep spiritual affinity with our school of phenomenology.  And it is not surprising or coincidental that Dietrich von Hildebrand and many of his friends and disciples became Benedictine oblates.

Here it is:

Listen, O my son, to the precepts of thy master, and incline the ear of thy heart, and cheerfully receive and faithfully execute the admonitions of thy loving Father, that by the toil of obedience thou mayest return to Him from whom by the sloth of disobedience thou hast gone away.

I think it's right to consider him among the patron saints of the Personalist Project, and today among our special feasts.  St. Benedict, pray for us.