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Quaestiones Disputatae

Volume 3, Issue 2, Spring 2013

Selected Papers on The Philosophy of Dietrich von Hildebrand

Ann-Therese Gardner
Pages 28-36

The Phenomenology of Body and Self In Dietrich von Hildebrand and Edmund Husserl

Dietrich von Hildebrand was a student of Edmund Husserl, the father of phenomenology; but the former’s phenomenology does not entirely correlate with that of the latter. Von Hildebrand does not have the overarching phenomenological perspective of reduction that Husserl does, but engages in a more regional application of phenomenology. That there is also a real difference between their notions of phenomenology is manifest when we look at their characterizations of the body in relation to the self. For Husserl, it is precisely on account of the way he defines phenomenology that the body remains exterior to the self (where self is understood as Transcendental Ego). For von Hildebrand, the body is more closely related to interiority. We see this in his account of marriage, the exemplar of love, where the body is necessary for the perfect expression of spousal love; this indicates that the body is a constitutive part of the person as such. After drawing this distinction between Husserl and von Hilde brand on the notion of self, I formulate a more general account of von Hildebrand’s phenomenology through his understanding of given-ness. What von Hildebrand preserves of Husserlian phenomenology is a method of taking things as they appear. Love is given in ourselves and in the other, and the inter-personal nature of given-ness lets love appear in essential completeness to us.