Alice von Hildebrand beloved

Alice von Hildebrand on Love

6:30:00 AMMeredith Kuzma

This week has been Finals week at Franciscan University. One of my classes this semester was titled “Philosophy of Religion” and in addition to all of the great personalities we studied such as Rudolf Otto or Kant we also read Alice von Hildebrand’s Introduction to a Philosophy of Religion.

In Chapter 7 of this excellent short work, Lady Alice talks about the eight Basic Religious Attitudes. These are:

  1. Obedience
  2. Dependence
  3. Confidence
  4. Fear
  5. Contrition
  6. Hope
  7. Gratitude
  8. Love

With these eight attitudes, Lady Alice goes beyond her treatment of faith earlier in the book (Chapter 6) to talk about the breadth and depth of religious response, using these “loftiest manifestations of religious life” (p77). In this blog post I would like to concentrate on her treatment of love and make the connection to Dietrich’s The Heart and other blog entries here on this theme.  

Building on the other responses yet also the “highest and most sublime” is the response of love. Here Lady Alice is specifically talking about the response to God, but discusses the nature of love in general as a foundation.

“Love is a value-response to the beloved, and has two essential features with D. von Hildebrand calls intentio unionis (desire to be united with the beloved) and intentio benevolentiae (desire to do good to the loved one). In love, man gives himself more completely than in any other value-response; for he gives his heart, and this donation of self is the greatest gift a person can give to another” (p85, emphasis original).

On this blog we have covered many of the different forms of love: family, friends, lovers. However, love of God is special. It is an adoring love and it also flows from an ought. We ought to love God because of His goodness. Additionally, this is the highest value-response.

In my class, we discussed man’s metaphysical restlessness--distinct from personal or spiritual unrest, irrational unrest, or Pascal’s unrest--as a finite and infinite creature. Here the response to God embodies all the characteristics of man’s ordination to God. This, then, leads to the second feature of love, the desire to do good to the beloved which “assumes in religion the form of an ardent yearning for the glorification of God, a burning desire to see his kingdom come” (p86). In a non-religious context, the desire to good to the beloved can be seen when a man lays down his life for a friend or when a father performs an extraordinary feat to save his children or in many other cases.

Finally, love as a response to God is very personal. Biblical religions make it clear that God is the Absolute, the creator above the man creature, but also make a claim that “divine love bridges this abyss, and offers man a type of communion with him and a closeness with him.”

“For love is always love of someone, and essentially calls for an I and a Thou” (p87).


Hildebrand, Alice von. Introduction to a Philosophy of Religion. Chicago: Franciscan Herald, 1971. Print.

Image: Prayer on Flikr by Chris Yarzab

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