Thanks to the efforts of the Dietrich von Hildebrand Legacy Project, we now have for the first time an English translation of Dietrich von Hildebrand’s The Nature of Love. Love, affectivity, and marriage were favorite topics of von Hildebrand, who published many small works on these themes such as Man and Woman, The Encyclical Humanae Vitae (later reissued by Sophia Press as Love, Marriage, and the Catholic Conscience), Marriage, and The Heart. I am a huge fan of Dietrich von Hildebrand the philosopher, who was one of Edmund Husserl’s earliest students. Husserl had only just laid out the philosophical method of phenomenology when von Hildebrand became his student. I wrote my undergraduate thesis on von Hildebrand’s theory of affectivity, and my thesis director, John F. Crosby, is the translator of The Nature of Love and knew von Hildebrand personally.
Von Hildebrand is probably best known among Catholics for his criticism of post-Vatican II reforms in the Church, which became increasingly hostile toward illegitimate changes and, regrettably, many legitimate and benign adaptations in his final years. While his Trjoan Horse in the City of God proved to be quite prescient in its warnings on post-Vatican II trends in theology and pastoral care, The Devastated Vineyard is for the most part a tragedy of pessimism and idiosyncratic analysis of ecclesial trends. Sometmes it’s hard for me the recognize the author of this latter anamoly as the same author of the magestic Transformation in Christ. Fortunately, the Dietrich von Hildebrand Legacy Project is ensuring that von Hildebrand’s greatest intellectual contributions, namely his philosophical works and his theology of love, will eclipse some of his misguided criticism of the Church. This creatively speculative, theologically faithful, and philosophically rigorous von Hildebrand is the one that all Catholics should know.