Studia Phaenomenologica

Volume 15, 2015

Early Phenomenology

Alessandro Salice
Pages 259-280

Actions, Values, and States of Affairs in Hildebrand and Reinach

The present article discusses Dietrich von Hildebrand’s theory of action as presented in his Die Idee der sittlichen Handlung (1916), and focuses on the moral relevance Hildebrand assigns to diff erent kinds of motivations. The act of will which leads to a moral action, Hildebrand claims, can be “founded” or “motivated” in different ways and, in particular, it can be motivated by an act of cognizing (Erkennen) or by an act of value-taking (Wertnehmen). The act of cognizing grasps the state of aff airs that the action strives to bring about as a deontic state of aff airs, i.e., as a state of aff airs that ought to be. By contrast, the act of value-taking is primarily directed towards the values inhering in this state of aff airs. Although both kinds of motivations are morally sound, Hildebrand argues that the latter is preferable due to its vicinity to values and to its immediacy in the way in which it grasps values. In what follows, Hildebrand’s view is reconstructed, assessed and evaluated against the background of Adolf Reinach’s theory of intentionality. More specifically, two elements of Reinach’s thought are highlighted as being central for Hildebrand’s understanding of the notion of an action. First, it is argued that Hildebrand’s idea of the act of willing as a stance (Stellungnahme) that can be founded either by an act of cognizing or by an act of presentation is developed in strict symmetry with Reinach’s view that conviction is a stance that can be founded by means of an identical mechanism. Secondly, it will be shown that Hildebrand adopts the notion of a state of affairs (Sachverhalt) from Reinach.