The Personalist Project

Accessed on September 21, 2023 - 5:58:57

Von Hildebrand and the health of the soul

Katie van Schaijik, Jan 18, 2013

This afternoon Jules pointed out these lines from Martha Nussbaum's book, The Therapy of Desire.

Philosophy heals human diseases, diseases produced by false beliefs. Its arguments are to the soul as the doctor's remedies are to the body. They can heal, and they are to be evaluated in terms of their power to heal.

It rings true to me, at least to a point. Philosophy can't save us from sin and death.  No matter how true it is, no philosophy can win us eternal life. But errors in our thinking do more than just darken and constrict the mind, they burden the soul.  Good philosophy doesn't merely sharpen the intelligence, it relieves the soul of distress.

To give an example from my own experience: Before I found von Hildebrand, I had been taught to mistrust my feelings, and to think I was responsible to control them through my willpower.  To learn from him that there are different kinds and levels of feelings, and that the deepest and most important are supremely rational, was to be liberated from real tension and confusion about myself and my experience.  Now instead of using my will in a hopeless and back-firing effort to stifle and manipulate my feelings, I was using my intelligence to discern them—to separate the valid from the invalid, the ordered from the disordered, the properly spiritual from the merely sensational, etc.  

For this reason, from almost the first hour I discovered it, I have wished von Hildebrand's philosophy, in particular, were better-known among psychologists. 

So, I was thrilled to find through a facebook friend the other day a link to an essay over at the New Existentialism laying out some of von Hildebrand's key insights on love.  May it be a harbinger of a new wave coming!