Philosophy of Hildebrand
Dietrich von Hildebrand was one of the pioneering philosophers of his times. The most profound contribution of his lies in his skeptical and rational understanding, explanation and analysis of the established doctrines of Christianity; his philosophical enquiry about the question of what constitutes at the heart of human knowledge and the meaning and significance of philosophy for mankind. Dietrich von Hildebrand was well known for viewing the inner meaning of the prevalent doctrines and breaking free from the parochial and uncritical bent of human mind to accept the state of affairs and the ideas that are prevalent in society without must protest. Since Dietrich von Hildebrand had been able to think differently, his works find a reflection of that and that has generated a profound impact in causing human beings to open up to a totally new world of ideas and imbibe the spirit of awakening. In the works of Dietrich von Hildebrand one can find an influence of several classical philosophers and also of those philosophers who were his contemporaries. Those ideas were combined by means of taking into account their positive aspects and by imbibing his personal philosophical predispositions. Through that process Dietrich von Hildebrand has been able to prove the centrality of philosophy in all human questions thereby elevating the status of the discipline above all other. In this particular essay, a synoptic view of the ideas provided by Dietrich von Hildebrand shall be provided with special emphasis on the aspect of the attempt made by him in deciphering the meaning and significance of philosophy that has relevance for entire mankind. In other word it is an epistemological understanding of knowledge and the utilitarian significance it has in human life. It is however impossible to ignore the mention of religion in his works since that has been placed at the heart of his theorization of human knowledge and philosophy. Thus in this particular essay, three aspects shall be finding a mention, the views of Dietrich von Hildebrand on Religion, his views on human knowledge and what constitutes philosophy.
According to Dietrich von Hildebrand the very interest which propels one to embark upon a deep quest of knowledge is synonymous to indulgence in a philosophical enquiry. Thus the philosophy is the quest for seeking answers to the problems and as to why a particular state of affair prevails or exists. On the basis of the inference that is drawn from the query that the task of establishing knowledge is accomplished (Hildebrand). This particular analysis provided by Dietrich von Hildebrand has a sophist undertone to it. Socrates had considered truth to be knowledge and that knowledge is formed by means of questioning and seeking answer behind why a system functions in the way it does. The activity of looking forward to finding the reason is the very essence of knowledge creation, and that strand of logic is found both the set of ideas provided by Socrates and Dietrich von Hildebrand. Both of them have elevated the status of the quest for knowledge or indulging in philosophical requisites of human existence to that of agent which sharpens human intellect. The very basis of the generation of knowledge lies in the human interest to look for answers and provide a credible basis to the set of human values and beliefs. When the very interest to indulge in the philosophical queries cease to exist, that marks the death of human intellect. As per the opinions of both Socrates and Dietrich von Hildebrand, human intellect must relentlessly propel itself to the path of seeking answers and that leads to the awakening of the human mind, and that in turn showcases itself by means of the development that human beings brings about. Development is thus but a state which first begins at the realm of mind, and then manifests itself materially in the social sphere. Until and unless the thought process develops, the state of human life shall not be developing, since elevated ideas are the basis of actions that shall be leading to the development (Hildebrand). This importance of ideas over the materialistic aspects of life is an indication that the philosophy of knowledge as provided by Dietrich von Hildebrand has an essence of Hegelian Idealism to it. Hegel had argued that materials are but a manifestation of the ideas. Ideas are abstract and their concrete expression and manifestation lies in the materials. It is very important thus to have a clear and well defined idea, without which it would be difficult to render the idea a physical, tangible and concrete form. Thus the connection between idea and philosophy is clear that they are complementary to each other. Philosophy is the quest for new ideas and that cuts across all disciplines. Naturally, philosophy as one can find in Platonic discourses is the master of all science. Whether it is an enquiry about human behaviour and problems in the sphere of social sciences, or an indulgence in some experiment or research by a natural scientist, philosophy is central to each of the branches of scholarly pursuit. Both the genres of scholarly pursuits, concerning social science as well as the natural science is motivated by indulging in enquiries which shall be aimed at solving the problems of human beings. Naturally, both disciplines have to devote efforts which shall be enable them to find out the answers and that requires questioning. If the spirit of questioning, the spirit of being critical is absent then it shall become difficult to solve the problems of human lives (Hildebrand). That is owing to the fact that the problems of human lives are dynamic in nature and they keep on appearing and reappearing. Problems do not seem to stop and the solving of one problem does not imply that it shall be the be all and end all of all problems. Naturally, human beings are supposed to exhibit a sense of preparedness at all points of time and be prepared to provide a solution to the problems that shall be coming in future. For that purpose the established knowledge base shall become redundant and a newer set of ideas and knowledge must be created in order to provide a worthwhile solution (Hildebrand). This necessitates that the exercise of constantly expanding and broadening the horizon of human knowledge must be kept intact. The very generic misconception about philosophy being a discipline of social science is based on a wrong premise, since its scope is all pervasive. The centrality of philosophy can be attributed to the fact that it is aimed at enquiring about the very essence of the existence and the meaning of the life of mankind, and that makes philosophy synonymous to knowledge itself. It would however not be very unjustified to call philosophy as the parent of all other disciplines, and the highest amongst all forms of knowledge, given its embededness and all pervasiveness in all the disciplines. If one looks into the scheme of life that a human being is supposed to observe in order to fulfill the purpose of indulging in scholarly pursuits, the discipline of philosophy is the last discipline which one is supposed to pursue, according to Plato (Hildebrand). He had planned things that way not because philosophy is the least important discipline and the other disciplines like mathematics, medicine, arts, dance, music, sports and warfare are way more important than the discipline of philosophy. Rather, the importance of philosophy is way more than that of all other disciplines as per the views of Plato, hence it is the prerogative of the chosen few to be pursued. For pursuing philosophy, Plato had said that an individual needed to be intellectually sound and that was a matter of age and maturity. The other disciplines which Plato had mentioned and prescribed to be pursued in the early stages of life was not without substantial reason. The other disciplines were supposed to be the base for the base and their scope of fulfilling the promise of solving the human problems were very much limited given the fact that they were very specific and could only solve the problems that fell in their respective domains (Hildebrand). Philosophy on the other hand concerned itself with providing solutions for all the human problems. Thus having grasped the basic forms of knowledge, an individual could be considered to be fit for indulging in the pursuance of philosophy. Only those individual could reach up to the level of being capable enough to pursue philosophy who had attained the level of intellectual superiority way more than that of others, and that individual could potentially be the philosopher king. The philosopher king had the responsibility to look into all the problems and affairs of the people which were of heterogenous nature and had to accordingly find the relevant solutions. Thus the idea that Dietrich von Hildebrand wanted to disseminate about knowledge and its connection to philosophy can be found in the works of many other solutions and that is an evidence of the credibility of the point made by him that philosophy occupies a position of centrality in all indulgences by human to extract knowledge (Hildebrand). Dietrich von Hildebrand had made a point that philosophy can claim relevance even in the field of natural science as well. In this regard the example of the discovery of gravity by Isaac Newton could be cited to substantiate the claim made by Dietrich von Hildebrand. Issac Newton was on a lookout for the reason behind the phenomenon of all objects fell back on the surface of the earth when flung upwards. While the rest of the world seemed not to care about finding out the reason behind objects being attracted to the surface of the earth, Newton seemed perplexed as to why such a phenomenon took place. Apples fell from the trees on the surface of the earth after being detached from the branches of the trees since time immemorial and that is something which was not discovered by Issac Newton. The contribution of Newton was that he had questioned and this he had discovered that the gravitational pull was the reason behind objects falling on the surface of the earth. The philosophy herein is the spirit and the motivation to find out the reason behind the phenomenon without accepting the thing blindly. Similarly in the social sphere, changes are constantly happening. One social order is getting replaced by another one (Hildebrand). What used to be just in previous generations, lose their relevance and are rendered as obsolete and archaic. In this way human beings have been able to eradicate several social evils and put an end to several draconian practices. The episodes of Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution are the classic examples of a change in social order and all of the changes at the societal level through those historical events have been brought about since human beings had questioned the state of affairs and the deep philosophical question that had motivated the people was the philosophical question of how to bring about a change and how shall the problems be solved (Hildebrand). Had the people nit questioned the state of affairs that prevailed back then in the 17th and the 18th Century Europe, the tyrannical and the old fashioned practices would have prevailed for a longer period of time. Most of the changes in the societal level and in the field of science have been brought about because of the fact that human beings tend to question and they are propelled by the motivation to learn the secrets and gain more knowledge which shall ultimately lead to their own benefit in the long run. This is a continuous process and never ceases to exist, since human desires are infinite and is forever looking for innovation and something new. Thus knowledge and philosophy are central to the very essence of human existence. It is something which is inextricable linked to human existence and the recourse to all problems of human beings as per Dietrich von Hildebrand. This justifies the significance and meaning of philosophy in human lives and its connection to knowledge (Hildebrand).
Having discussed about the importance of knowledge and philosophy in the lives of human beings as per the arguments of Dietrich von Hildebrand, now the discussion shall be devoted towards discussing the aspect of divinity and the quest for God in human lives. This particular philosophical question as discussed by Dietrich von Hildebrand cannot be understood without being acquainted with the aspect of the philosophy of knowledge (Hildebrand). The conception of Divinity and its role in shaping human lives is something which Dietrich von Hildebrand have explained not from an abstract and purely theological point of view, but from a very rational and intuitive perspective which is devoid of the ecclesiastical complexities or the ritualistic intricacies. The concept of seeking God or divinity is something which is equal to the human quest for knowledge and the key to solving the mysteries of life (Hildebrand). God and the entire retinue of divine aspects are but in very generic sense the ultimate truth and the ultimate knowledge. It is a mystery, which is both a social construct and an epitome of mystery by itself. The divine aspects are a mystery by virtue of the social perceptions because of the anecdotes recounting of the miracles and the ecclesiastical efforts to keep it a mystery. Moreover, it is also the social attitude of not questioning or trying to find out the mystery that divinity embodies. That acquiescent and submissive attitude towards not challenging the clerical interpretation of the religious scriptures has led to the entire concept of divinity and God beings a mystery to the human world. On the other hand divinity and God are but a mystery because no one has ever been able to prove the existence of God, but there are numerous instances of people experiencing that divine grace in their lives. They are hailed and revered as saints and there position is made equivalent by the human beings to that of being next to God. People tend to believe very quickly of the instances recounted by the persons who have supposedly experienced the divinity and they do not readily express any form of disbelief or doubt as they fear that they might fall out of the divine grace and incur the wrath of the god which shall devastate the lives totally (Hildebrand). The approach towards God and Divinity that is generally observed is motivated primarily by two factors. One is the hope of incurring the grace of God by laying immense and undoubted belief in him, and the other is the fear of sanctions which God might wreak on the human lives. The explanation of Dietrich von Hildebrand with regard to God and divinity is however very different from these generic explanations. It has more to do with the philosophical quest to decipher and discover the mystery God embodies. The attempt is more intellectual and philosophical rather than something mystical and metaphysical which cannot be either proven or testified. In the explanation of Dietrich von Hildebrand, God is rather symbolic than anything of that sort which is of divine and miraculous by nature, having immense capabilities to either make or mar human lives. God and divinity symbolizes the eternal quest of human beings for the sake of seeking the knowledge and the truth (Hildebrand). The attempt taken by Dietrich von Hildebrand to explain God is thus aimed at simplifying the complexities and the abstractions related to the aspect in entirety. The inference drawn is not to cause human beings to discontinue their belief in God and render it obsolete. Rather, the goal is to imbibe the element of rationality into religion and divinity so that the scope of its meaning is easily conveyed to the masses, and that in turn is expected to enable people to follow their religion, act according to the wishes of God not as a matter of obligation but as a matter of conscious decision. The rational attitude of Dietrich von Hildebrand in explaining the significance of God, religion and divinity has been aimed at making people more religious since the idea was to convey the values and moral essence it embodied. Dietrich von Hildebrand has based his explanation on the premise that human activities which emanates from a position of being informed and conscious are much more fruitful and utilitarian than the ones which are not based on consciousness. Thus the aspect of God and Divinity has been defined by Dietrich von Hildebrand vis a vis its relationship to human beings as a natural bond, which leads one to conclude that God is not some magical, super powerful alien creature that controls human lives, and nor is religion any activity or indulgence having a special significance in human lives (Hildebrand). Both Religion and God are nothing mystical, they find expression in the everyday lives of human beings, in all the positive and morally upright aspects of human lives. What Dietrich von Hildebrand has said can be proven by the example of the reformation movement that took place in Europe. The continent had undergone a phase of turmoil which had led to the transformation of the old values and their replacement by the new ones. One such instance had been the change in the religion by awakening the consciousness of the people and driving people to question the orthodoxies of Catholicism. The Reformation however did not turn people away from religion, rather people were made to take conscious decision of having more rational approach towards religion and learn about it, to discover the mystery themselves without reliance of the clergy solely.
Thus religion and knowledge are nothing but the philosophical indulgences of human beings to discover the truth that the world is replete with. That is the basis idea that I could decipher and substantiate with evidences on the basis of my reading of Dietrich von Hildebrand. This is what I have learnt from the lessons delivered in this particular module and shall be serving as the key to the analysis that I am likely to take up I future.
Hildebrand, Dietrich von. "What Is Philosophy?, with an Introductory Essay by Josef Seifert (London and New York." (1991).