Seventh Annual Summer Seminar: Retrieving Beauty

Retrieving Beauty

Does beauty exist only in the eye of the beholder, or is it a fundamental reality? Does beauty culminate in the experience of delight, or is it an opening into greater truth? Is beauty merely a matter of private taste, or is it an essential public good, enriching a culture by its presence, and impoverishing it by its absence?

In earlier times, these would have been rhetorical questions. Not so today. In a culture dominated by relativism and the assertion of ugliness, there has been a wholesale loss of the sense for beauty and its vital role in individual and communal flourishing.

If beauty can be forgotten, even rejected, the longing for it cannot be extinguished. It will seek fulfillment in distortions of beauty, notably in kitsch. But it remains potent and can be reawakened through the encounter with genuine beauty.

This is the context for the arrival of a major new work: Dietrich von Hildebrand's magisterial Aesthetics.

Our seminar will mine the Aesthetics for answers to today’s pressing questions about beauty. We will be led by Hildebrand and other major voices on beauty, from Plato, Augustine, and Aquinas, to Hans Urs von Balthasar, Jacques Maritain, and Joseph Ratzinger, toward a retrieval of beauty.


John F. Crosby is Professor and Director of the MA Program in Philosophy at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He has published extensively on the philosophy of the human person. He was a student and friend of Dietrich von Hildebrand, and during his ten years teaching at John Paul II's Pontifical Institute for Marriage and Family in Rome was deeply formed through personal and philosophical encounters with the Holy Father. He is a Senior Fellow at the Hildebrand Project, which he cofounded. His latest book is The Personalism of John Henry Newman.

Fritz Wenisch is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Rhode Island. Born in Austria, he studied at the University of Salzburg. He considers himself as belonging to a philosophical movement going back to Edmund Husserl’s publication Logical Investigations (1900/01), called phenomenological realism. He is particularly interested in examining thinkers of this movement, especially the contributions of Dietrich von Hildebrand, whom he knew as teacher and friend. In systematic philosophy, his interests center on ethics, theory of knowledge, and philosophy of religion.

Robert E. Wood is professor of philosophy at the University of Dallas. He is a past president of the American Catholic Philosophical Association and, from 1989-2009, editor of its organ, the American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly. He is author of Martin Buber’s Ontology, A Path into Metaphysics, Placing Aesthetics, Hegel’s Introduction to the System, and The Beautiful, the True, and the Good: Studies in the History of Thought, a collection of 23 of his papers from 1966-2012. He has completed a second aesthetics book, Nature, Artforms, and the World Around Us, and has published over 90 articles, several of them on aesthetics.


Roberta Green Ahmanson is a writer and explorer focused on discovering the nature of reality, the role of religion, and the meaning of history and the arts. Since 1986, Ahmanson has worked with her husband, Howard, in shaping the granting priorities of his private philanthropy, Fieldstead and Company. In that time, the Ahmansons have sponsored a number of art exhibitions at museums in the United States and the U.K., including The Sacred Made Real at the National Gallery in London. Two things stand out in her publications and speeches at universities, churches, and conferences: first, she is certain that Beauty is essential to human life, every human life. Second, she is convinced that we become what we worship.

D.C. Schindler is Associate Professor of Metaphyics and Anthropology at the Pontifical John Paull II Institude for Marriage and Family at the Catholic University of America. He received his Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America in 2001, with a dissertation on the philosophy of Hans Urs von Balthasar.  He taught at Villanova University from 2001-2013, first as a teaching fellow in the Philosophy Department, and then in the Department of Humanities, where he received tenure in 2007.  He received an Alexander von Humboldt fellowship to do research in Munich from 2007-2008.  He is currently working on a multi-volume critique of the modern concept of freedom as the power to choose in light of a metaphysics of freedom based on actuality.  Professor Schindler is a translator of French and German and has served as an editor of Communio: International Catholic Review since 2002.

Justin Shubow is president of the National Civic Art Society, a nonprofit that promotes the classical tradition in public art and architecture.  He is the author of The Gehry Towers over Eisenhower, a 150-page critique of the Eisenhower Memorial’s competition, design, and agency approval. He writes about architecture for Forbes magazine online, and received a 2015 Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship from the Fund for American Studies. Shubow spent four years in the University of Michigan’s Ph.D. program in philosophy, and has taught his own philosophy courses at Michigan and Yale.

Special Guest

Marie Miller is a songwriter and Curb Records recording artist from the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.

When Marie Miller writes a song, she does what all gifted writers do: She looks at her life and into her heart to make sure what she creates comes from real emotion and experience.

She also does something none of peers likely do: she searches through classic literature, whether it be Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy or Homer. There, she finds parallels for what she wants to say, channels that inspiration into her lyrics and comes up with something unique: Music that’s immediate and timeless, driven by feelings all listeners can relate to yet infused with a perspective that transcends the present.

Marie Miller will offer a special performance for conference participants and speak on the role of beauty in contemporary music and culture. 


The Hildebrand Project’s annual Summer Seminar is an intensive immersion program in the philosophy of Dietrich von Hildebrand. Since 2011, it has brought together students, scholars, educators, and professionals who wish to understand the contributions of Hildebrand and the broader traditions he represents (notably Christian personalism and realist phenomenology) in addressing both perennial and pressing philosophical questions. 

Alongside Hildebrand, seminars may explore the thought of Karol Wojtyla, Max Scheler, John Henry Newman, Søren Kierkegaard, Edith Stein, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, and others. 

In addition to presentations devoted to the annual theme (in 2017: Retrieving Beauty), the seminar offers both introductory and advanced sessions. Thus, the seminar is appropriate for both new and advanced students. A schedule of plenary and break-out sessions allows participants to concentrate on areas most relevant to their own interest, studies, and practice.

Hildebrand events are intellectual and convivial. Participants will be sent a list of reading materials upon acceptance, which should be completed before the start of the seminar. The days are devoted to seminar sessions, while the evenings are free—and often devoted to wine, music, and conversation.

There will be an opening dinner on Sunday, June 25, and a closing banquet on Friday, June 30.

Schedule of Topics

View and download the full schedule here. 

Day 1.  Beauty as a source of happiness; affirming this against both puritanical and utilitarian suspicions

Day 2.  The basic kinds of beauty (metaphysical, aesthetic), and the reality of beauty (not just in the eye of the beholder)

Day 3.  The transcendence of beauty (beauty of second power, John Henry Newman)

Day 4.  The opposites of beauty, especially triviality and kitsch

Day 5.  The aesthetic experience (contemplation, reverence), and its aestheticist distortions

How to Apply

The seminar is open to anyone who wishes to explore the nature and significance of beauty, including especially:

  • Undergraduate and graduate students
  • University and high school professors 
  • Artists, writers, musicians, and architects 
  • Critics and art patrons
  • Seminarians and clergy 

The application process is based on interest but subject to space limitations. Applications will be reviewed on a weekly basis, so we encourage you to apply early.

The deadline to be considered for financial assistance is March 31. The application window ends on April 20.

The application is online here. 

Fees and Scholarships

The fee covers room, board (including formal dinners and receptions), and reading materials for the length of the seminar. Attendees are asked to pursue all possible funding sources as fees play a critical role in making the seminars possible. Attendees whose participation is contingent on financial support may request a scholarship by applying by March 31.

Student Fee: $400 | Professional Fee: $1,000

Room, Board, and Travel

The seminar will be held on the campus of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where participants will be lodged in university housing. Participants will have access to the university library, internet, and other basic amenities. All costs for room and board are included in the seminar fee.  

Travel to and from Pittsburgh International Airport will be provided. Parking will be available on campus for those who drive. 


For additional information, please consult our FAQ or contact us at


June 25 - July 1, 2017


Franciscan University of Steubenville


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