Volume 3, Issue 2, Spring 2013
Selected Papers on The Philosophy of Dietrich von Hildebrand
Stephen D. Schwarz
Dietrich von Hildebrand on the Role of the Heart and the Will in Love
Is love from the heart or from the will? Many writers claim that love is an act of the will. Von Hildebrand is emphatic in his claim that love is the voice of the heart, that to really love a person is to feel love for that person, and not merely to will for him what is good, and surely not merely to “will to love” him. In this, I think von Hildebrand is absolutely correct. But I also think that those who stress the role of the will are basically correct. And so my project in this paper is to show that these two seemingly opposed claims are not really contradictory but actually two sides of the same coin. Indeed, a careful reading of von Hildebrand himself shows that he too provides an important and even essential role for the will in his theory of the nature of love. I discuss six major ways in which the will plays a crucial role in love. The most important of these is the will as the center of cooperative freedom. The experience of love is in its very nature a gift, something I cannot produce for myself by an act of will. But once it is there in my heart I can freely say an inner yes to it. I can identify myself with it and make it explicitly my own. It is now my love in a new way since it is not merely the voice of my heart but of my whole being. Another major way in which the will plays a crucial role in love is faithfulness and perseverance. Briefly, we can say that love is the voice of the heart and the role of the will is to serve love.