dietrich von hildebrand response

Responsibility: Not just for Recyclers

6:30:00 AMMeredith Kuzma

As humans, we have the ability to direct ourselves freely towards the objective demands of the world of values, independent of whether or not we find these demands pleasant. In Chapter 3 of The Art of Living, Dietrich von Hildebrand writes on Responsibility. We must awaken the power within us to freely choose in accord with objective value. "Unconscious men are not awakened to the specifically moral prerogative of the spiritual person either to approve or to disavow freely; they make no use of it" (p. 26). The awakened man understands the importance of moral value and the necessity of responding appropriately.

We can all see the importance of value response in our lives. As a college student at home for break, I know that the rules my parents have at their house are different than the rules I have for myself. I abide by the rules of my parents because I acknowledge their authority and respond to their dignity. The one who casts the world of values aside and lives only for the subjectively satisfying lives in a kind of deprivation.

Similar to the inconstant man discussed in a previous blog, “the man lacking in a sense of responsibility also responds too quickly, without taking the trouble to test new experiences against the background of truths that he has already discovered" (p. 29). The response to value requires not only awareness and wakefulness but also the ability to remain devoted to the values at stake. The Art of Living describes different virtues that epitomize this reality. The responsible man will put forward a continual effort and he will be ready to act in a moral situation.

Responsibility means taking inventory of a situation and determining what moral actions and value responses may be required. Man must also cultivate an awareness of the consequences to actions. This keeps man firmly in touch with reality, as opposed to those men who have no responsibility, because morality is a fundamental part of the real world”). Having a firm grounding responsibility is an “indispensable presupposition” for any man who wishes to live out value response.

The responsible man must be completely inspired by the world of values and their demands; he must reverently harken to that which is objectively right, good, and beautiful; he must be inwardly free to follow always and everywhere the call of values” (p 34).

There is always beauty to be found in life, even in circumstances where we think it may be absent. Human beings live in community and even the person we find most distasteful possesses the beauty and value of personhood. We may think that mundane life is empty of any real need for a full response. But even in the most humdrum activities, there are values to respond to. We need to be vigilant—and responsible—so that we do not miss these opportunities for value response.


Von, Hildebrand Dietrich, and Hildebrand Alice. Von. The Art of Living. Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute, 1994

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