Volume 9, Issue 2, Spring 2019
Toward a Thicker Notion of the Self
Sartre and von Hildebrand on Individuality, Personhood, and Freedom
In this article, I compare Jean-Paul Sartre’s and Dietrich von Hildebrand’s analyses of the look of the other to argue that personhood is more fundamental than individuality. Sartre restricts subjectivity to individual consciousness, which, qua individual, is defined as not being what others are. As a result, both freedom and selfhood for Sartre are defined as “nihilation.” By contrast, for von Hildebrand, the experience of the loving interpenetration of looks reveals both the self and the other as concrete values precisely insofar as they are persons. I conclude with the implications of this primacy of person over individual for understanding freedom. Both Sartre and von Hildebrand recognize our “fundamental” freedom of choosing our ends, which corresponds to our being individuals. However, only von Hildebrand recognizes that the highest freedom is not found in individual choice but, rather, in the “cooperative freedom” of personal love.