Rest in Peace, Alice von Hildebrand


I don’t know how many people here know of Alice von Hildebrand. She’s probably better known as the wife of the more famous 20th-century philosopher, Dietrich von Hildebrand, but she was a philosopher in her own right. She taught at Hunter College in New York City where, in an age of relativism and deconstructionism, insisted on the philosophic principle that objective truth existed. She passed away Friday. This is a fine article from Aleteia, Alice von Hildebrand, Catholic philosopher and critic of moral relativism, dies at 98.” Here is how they describe her relationship within the left-wing academy:

She found it difficult to get a teaching position, even at Catholic colleges, which told her at the time that they did not hire women to teach philosophy. Finally hired at Hunter College, part of the City University of New York, she became the first woman to teach philosophy there. She also found herself in a secular world for the first time. Her dedication to objective truth raised the hackles of professors who were materialistic, liberal and communist, she said.

I went to a couple of City University of NY colleges and I know from personal experience they were filled with left-wing radicals. Here from the article is what I would say is at the heart of her philosophy:

“The crucial question in teaching philosophy is whether there is an objective truth and whether man’s mind can find it,” she said in a 1996 interview with Catholic New York, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of New York. “Relativism and subjectivism inevitably block the way to God, who is truth itself. … The moment you recognize that there is an objective truth, independent of man’s mind, you look for it, and, if you’re honest, you find God.”

Here she describes the seed that perhaps shaped her heart for life. Jourdain was her maiden name:

Growing up in Belgium, French was Alice Jourdain’s mother tongue. She wrote that at the age of 11, she discovered Blaise Pascal while taking a course on 17th-century French literature. His Pensées overwhelmed her, especially “with the beauty of his style. [He] awakened in me a profound philosophical interest. I started memorizing many of his most beautiful thoughts, and I recall reciting them over and over again as I walked along the Belgian seashore where my parents had a summer home.”

I assume she considered herself a conservative. When I searched online for some of her notable quotes, they all have a conservative bent. Here are a few.

A woman by her very nature is maternal — for every woman, whether … married or unmarried, is called upon to be a biological, psychological or spiritual mother — she knows intuitively that to give, to nurture, to care for others, to suffer with and for them — for maternity implies suffering — is infinitely more valuable in God’s sight than to conquer nations and fly to the moon.

By the way, Alice did not have any children herself. But I wonder if this next quote is an amplification of the above:

Do you think that the Lord gave them to me for a decoration?

LOL, I’m guessing at what she’s referring to. But I love this quote:

The diabolical work that has taken place since the legalization of abortion is that it has destroyed, in those tragic women who have allowed their child to be murdered, their sense for the sacredness of maternity. Abortion not only murders the innocent; it spiritually murders women… the wound created in their souls is so great that only God’s grace can heal it. The very soul of a woman is meant to be maternal.

She held such a high value to femininity that it led to this quote:

By living up to their calling, women will succeed in guaranteeing a proper recognition of the unique value of femininity and its crucial mission in the world.

And she had a fighting spirit in defending that femininity, as in this challenge to feminists:

Unwittingly, the feminists acknowledge the superiority of the male sex by wishing to become like men.

And finally one more on her faith and her perspective of the transitory nature of this life:

One thing is certain: When the time has come, nothing which is man-made will subsist. One day, all human accomplishments will be reduced to a pile of ashes. But every single child to whom a has given birth will live forever, for he has been given an immortal soul made to God’s image and likeness.

May her immortal soul be now with God and her beloved husband. Eternal rest grant unto this good woman, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace. Amen.

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There are 11 comments.

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  1. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter

    Well done, Manny.

    • #1
  2. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp

    Hoo boy.

    Thx very much for this piece, Manny.  What a beautiful and unique philosopher she seems to have been, as we who are not educated can tell just from your short, powerful article.

    • #2
  3. AQ Member

    This makes me want to learn about her life – what a beautiful tribute!

    • #3
  4. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp

    AQ (View Comment):

    This makes me want to learn about her life – what a beautiful tribute!

    I Liked this for the reason that I sometimes do.  That this is what I was trying to say in an earlier, less compact–not to say less eloquent–Comment.

    • #4
  5. Scott Wilmot Member
    Scott Wilmot

     Very nice, Manny. Thanks. I learned a lot from this post.

    • #5
  6. Manny Member

    You’re welcome to all. 

    • #6
  7. colleenb Member

    Had the privilege of going to an Institute of Catholic Culture talk by Professor Hildebrand. Probably can be found on the website. When Fr. Hezekias asked if she’d take questions at the end, she said no. I don’t think she going to suffer the possibility of a foolish question. Thanks Manny for this beautiful tribute.

    • #7
  8. Sandy Member

    She must have guided and consoled many.  Thank you, Manny, for bringing consolation to Ricochet today.

    • #8
  9. colleenb Member

    Link to her talk (I hope):

    It was entitled The Role of Women in Church and Society.

    • #9
  10. Manny Member

    colleenb (View Comment):

    Link to her talk (I hope):

    It was entitled The Role of Women in Church and Society.

    Thank you Colleen. 

    • #10
  11. Manny Member

    If anyone is interested, this is one of Alice’s last interviews.  

    • #11
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