Tenth Annual Summer Seminar: The Heart | A Virtual Seminar

The Heart | A Virtual Seminar

While we will miss the chance to welcome so many friends, old and new, in person to our 10th annual summer seminar, we are excited and delighted to convene our first ever virtual seminar.

“The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.” – Blaise Pascal

The human heart, understood as the center of the emotional life, has often been neglected by philosophers who give an account of the human person. Many think that human dignity arises mainly from the intellect and from the will, and that the heart is of only secondary importance. In fact, some see in the emotions mainly a threat to thinking clearly and to willing resolutely. Our seminar will focus on those philosophers who have resisted this devaluation of the heart.

The leading figures will be Dietrich von Hildebrand, whose original work on affectivity restores the emotions to the central place at the heart of the person, and the recently canonized St. John Henry Newman, who chose for himself the motto, “heart speaks to heart." Hildebrand and Newman both sought knowledge of the truth not by the intellect alone, but by the heart as well.

Hildebrand and Newman will be set in dialogue with a broad selection of thinkers from various traditions who have been sensitive to the role of the heart, including Søren Kierkegaard, Max Scheler, and Gabriel Marcel, and, of course, the classics: Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas. Reflecting together on this rich tradition will lead us to appreciate more deeply the central place of the heart in the human person, with implications for our moral, religious, aesthetic, and social existence.

Two Ways to Attend

Potential participants may choose between two types of attendance:

  • Auditor: Access to two daily plenary sessions. Auditing is free with easy registration.
  • Full Attendee: Access to daily plenary sessions, plus:
      • Daily small group discussions moderated by seminar faculty
      • Optional evening sessions on special topics
      • One-on-one conversations with faculty and fellow participants

Full attendance, which most closely mirrors attending the seminar in person, is by application and comes with a modest fee (see below).

Daily Schedule

Sessions will begin on Monday, July 6th and run through Saturday, July 11th. All events take place live.

10:00-10:55 AM EDT (Keynote Presentation)

11:00-11:55 AM EDT (Panel Discussion)
12:00-1:00 PM EDT (Small Groups) Full Attendees only
Afternoon/Evening Various Times (Special topics sessions, one-on-one with faculty, social gatherings) Full Attendees only

It is expected that Full Attendees participate in all of the Keynote Presentations, Panel Discussions, and Small Groups. Indeed, such participation is vital for the cohesion of the seminar. If you are unable to participate fully, please consider registering as an Auditor.

Detailed schedule to come. Check back soon.

Summer Seminar Faculty

Fr. James BrentFr. James Dominic Brent, O.P. was born and raised in Michigan. He pursued his undergraduate and graduate studies in Philosophy, and completed his doctorate in Philosophy at Saint Louis University on the epistemic status of Christian beliefs according to Saint Thomas Aquinas. He also holds an STL from the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies where he currently serves on the faculty teaching Philosophy. His current research focuses on developing the thesis that Thomas Aquinas is a master of the spiritual life. He commonly gives talks for the Thomistic Institute, and leads retreats across the country.

Rocco Buttiglione is a philosopher, statesman, and leading European public intellectual. He was a beloved friend and trusted collaborator of Pope St. John Paul II, and is an authority on his philosophical anthropology. His book Karol Wojtyla: The Thought of the Man who became Pope John Paul II is a fundamental work on the pope’s early philosophy. A member of the Italian Parliament for over two decades, he serves on the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and holds the John Paul II Chair for Philosophy and History of European Institutions at the Lateran University in Rome. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the Hildebrand Project.

John F. Crosby is Professor and Director of the MA Program in Philosophy at Franciscan University. 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 co-founded. His latest book is The Personalism of John Henry Newman

Beth Rath serves at Borromeo Seminary in Wickliffe, Ohio as Assistant Professor of Philosophy. Professor Rath was raised in St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Parma and is a graduate of St. Joseph Academy. She earned her B.A. in Philosophy and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2008 and her  doctorate in philosophy from Saint Louis  University in 2015. The title of her dissertation is: “Self-giving: The Personal Orientation Towards Giving and Receiving and Governing Norms.” Her academic interests include ethics, philosophical anthropology, philosophy of religion, and the work of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Josef Seifert received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Salzburg in 1969 and, under Professor Robert Spaemann, his habilitation from the University of Munich (Privatdozent) in 1975. He studied chiefly under Balduin Schwarz, the most distinguished German former student of Dietrich von Hildebrand, at the University of Salzburg, and under Gabriel Marcel in Paris. Already as a child (from age 3 on) he knew Hildebrand personally, because Seifert’s mother had been a student of Hildebrand in Munich and both of his parents were Hildebrand’s friends. He is the author of many books, and Europe’s leading student and teacher of Hildebrand’s philosophy.

Mark K. Spencer is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of St. Thomas. He earned his Ph.D. from the University at Buffalo, and  his M.A. and B.A. from Franciscan University of Steubenville, where he  first encountered the work of Dietrich von Hildebrand. In his research, he focuses on topics like the human person, beauty, and God's relations to us. In over thirty articles, he has brought together many approaches to these topics, including Thomism, Scotism, phenomenology, personalism, and Greek patristics. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota with his wife, Susanna, and their four children.

James Matthew Wilson is Associate Professor in the Department of Humanities and Augustinian Traditions at Villanova University.  An award-winning scholar of philosophical-theology and literature, he has authored dozens of essays, articles, and reviews on all manner of subjects secular and divine, and especially on those where we see the two in their intrinsic relation, as truth, goodness, beauty, and being disclose themselves in art and culture, in the political and intellectual life, in our quest for self knowledge and the contemplation of God.  His scholarly work especially focuses on the meeting of aesthetic and ontological form, where the craftsmanship of art-work discloses the truth about being.

Hildebrand Project Faculty

JHC Portrait John Henry Crosby is a translator, writer, and cultural entrepreneur. Under his leadership, the Hildebrand Project has become the world’s leading organization dedicated to Dietrich von Hildebrand’s legacy. His work has been featured in both popular (e.g., The Daily Beast) and scholarly publications (Logos). His numerous radio appearances have taken him from PRI's The Takeaway to the Hugh Hewitt Show. He was host of He Dared Speak the Truth, a 13-part television series on the life of Dietrich von Hildebrand, which aired on EWTN (2014).

Christopher T. Haley is Director of Publications and Marketing at the Hildebrand Project, where he manages the Hildebrand Press and communicates Hildebrand’s philosophical witness to new audiences. He studied philosophy and ancient languages at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Dallas. He is a frequent guest on a number of Catholic radio shows and has published broadly on topics in art, culture, and Catholicism, with a special interest in the work of Edith Stein.

Virtual Format

All presentations and group discussions will be conducted live in Zoom. Links for each session will be sent out ahead of time.

Auditors and Full Attendees alike will be able to submit questions via chat following Keynotes and Panel Discussions.

Each Full Attendee will be part of a small group moderated by a seminar faculty member. Small groups will have the same participants and moderators throughout the seminar.

Special topics and social sessions will be available for Ful Attendees in the afternoons and evenings throughout the seminar. These will vary in size and duration.

Spirit of the Seminar

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, 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. We’re excited to continue the annual seminar in a virtual format.

This year's seminar will explore contemporary issues of human affectivity. Hildebrand spoke of “affective atrophy,” so we will ask: what are the main forms of affective deadness to which the men and women of today are vulnerable? How, for example, does the passion for autonomy lead to a certain atrophy of the heart? Hildebrand also spoke of the “hypertrophy of the heart,” and so we will ask: what are the main forms of affective excess – the main disordered passions – to which we are vulnerable?  What, for example, do we make of the moralizing rage that we see in many people today?

We will devote special attention to the questions that have arisen as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic as they relate to the heart and human person: the effects of isolation, hope and hopelessness, the expression of the face, the value of human contact, and other topics.

Hildebrand Project events are intellectual and convivial—qualities we will carry into our virtual sessions. Participants are sent a list of reading materials upon registration (Auditors) or acceptance (Full Attendees). Full Attendees are expected to complete the readings before the start of the seminar.

How to Attend

Choose your type of attendance:

  • Auditor: Access to two daily plenary sessions. Auditing is free with easy registration.
  • Full Attendee: Full attendee participation requires an application. The application process is based on interest and will be reviewed on an ongoing basis. The application is online here.

The application window ends on June 12th.

Which Type of Attendance is Right for Me?

The seminar is open to anyone who wishes to explore the nature and significance of the heart. Nothing more than interest is needed to sign up as an Auditor.

If you want a more immersive experience, including daily small group discussions and opportunities to interact with faculty, you will want to apply as a Full Attendee. Past seminar attendees have included:

Undergraduate and graduate students
University and high school professors
Artists, writers, and musicians
Teachers, educators, and academic administrators
Seminarians and clergy
Anyone serious about life's "big questions"

We encourage faculty to nominate their past and current students to participate as Full Attendees. Nominations will serve in lieu of required references for Full Attendees. The online nomination form is here.

The last day to submit a nomination is June 1.


Auditor: No cost, requires only registration. We suggest a tax-deductible donation which aids in covering the honorarium of faculty presenters and allows the Hildebrand Project to continue to provide online programing.

Full Attendee:

  • Student: $99
  • Professional: $199

The fee helps defray the cost of faculty-led small groups, access to supplementary social sessions, and reading materials for the length of the seminar.

If special circumstances prevent you from attending all seminar sessions or paying the full registration fee, please contact us at events@hildebrandproject.org



July 6 - July 11, 2020


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