Tenth Annual Summer Seminar: The Heart | A Virtual Seminar

The Heart | A Virtual Seminar

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

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.

Virtual Seminar Resumes Live In

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.

How to Participate

Our seminars are designed to provide our participants a chance to explore rich insights, interact with our master faculty, and engage in vibrant conversation and networking with their fellow participants.

Attendance is based on interest and a simple online application.

Upon acceptance, applicants have full access to the following:

  • Two daily keynote sessions with talks and panel discussions featuring seminar faculty, including the ability to ask questions during the Q&A
  • Daily “face to face” small group discussions moderated by seminar faculty
  • Optional afternoon sessions on special topics, like Rocco Buttiglione on his friendship with St. John Paul II, Affectivity and Gender, and more
  • Personal engagement and networking with faculty and fellow participants

Participants will have the same small group throughout the seminar, so individual participation is important to the overall experience of you and your peers (who are sure to soon become your friends!). Participants are asked to commit to a modest amount of reading before the seminar, which will help enrich the overall conversation.

Register as a Guest

We understand that not everyone who is interested is also able to commit to the full seminar and the readings. For those who cannot but who still want to attend in some way, we offer a limited Guest Pass, which will allow you to view the daily keynote sessions. Click here to request a Guest Pass.

Daily Schedule

Sessions will begin on Monday, July 6th and run through Friday, July 10th. 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 Participants only
Afternoon/Evening Various Times (Special topics sessions, one-on-one with faculty, social gatherings) Full Participants

It is expected that Participants attend 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 for a Guest Pass.

Special Guest

Bishop Robert Barron is the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He is also the host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking, award-winning documentary about the Catholic Faith, which aired on PBS.
Bishop Barron is a #1 Amazon bestselling author and has published numerous books, essays, and articles on theology and the spiritual life. He is a religion correspondent for NBC and has also appeared on FOX News, CNN, and EWTN.

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. He is also an Associated Scholar of the Hildebrand Project.

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.

Peter J. Colosi is associate professor of philosophy at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island. He earned his BS in mathematics from Franciscan University, an MA in Franciscan Studies from St. Bonaventure University, and his MPhil and PhD from The International Academy of Philosophy in the Principality of Liechtenstein. He publishes in areas including medical ethics, Catholic social and moral teaching, philosophical personalism and Franciscan studies. He is co-founder of the Theology of the Body International Symposia, co-founder of and lecturer at the Catholic Medical Student and Resident Boot Camp of the Catholic Medical Association, and a Hildebrand Project Associated Scholar.

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

Maria Fedoryka is associate professor of philosophy and chair of the department at Ave Maria University. She works in the field of the philosophy of love, dealing with issues spanning from the centrality of love to the divine being, to its role at the center of creation, to its meaning for marriage, family, and sexuality. Among her publications are the booklet The Special Gift of Women for God, the Family and the World published by the Catholic Truth Society in England, as well as a number of popular and scholarly articles on Humanae vitae and Hildebrand’s philosophy of spousal intimacy, and on topics relating to gender and marriage. Dr. Fedoryka is an Associated Scholar of the Hildebrand Project.

Derek S. Jeffreys is a professor of Humanities and Religion at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay. He teaches courses in the humanities, ethics and the philosophy of religion. His research focuses on personalism and violence, with a particular emphasis on punishment and incarceration. He is author of Defending Human Dignity: John Paul II and Political Realism  (Brazos Press, 2004), Spirituality and the Ethics of Torture (Palgrave, 2009), Spirituality in Dark Places: The Ethics of Solitary Confinement (Palgrave, 2013), and America’s Jails: The Search for Human Dignity in an Age of Mass Incarceration (NYU Press, 2018). He is currently working on issues related to hope and mental illness in penal institutions.

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.

Anthony Stadlen is a practising Daseinsanalyst, teacher, and supervisor, the Independent Effective Member for UK of the International Federation of Daseinsanalysis. Since 1977, he has conducted research, supported by the Nuffield Foundation, sponsored by the Department of Philosophy at the University of Essex, England, on the paradigmatic case-studies of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. Since 1996 he has convened the Inner Circle Seminars, a search for truth in psychotherapy. He is an Honorary Visiting Fellow of Regent s School of Psychotherapy and Psychology, London. He is a former Research Fellow of the Freud Museum, London. He received the 2003 Thomas S. Szasz Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Cause of Civil Liberties (professional category).

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 and Fellow for the Hildebrand Project. 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.

Maria Wolter graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy, Theology, and History from Franciscan University of Steubenville. She pursued her M.A. in Philosophy, as well as her STB, M.A., and STL in Theology at the Katholieke Universiteit in Leuven (KUL), Belgium, where she also received her Ph.D. in Philosophy. An Austrian-American national, she returned to Austria upon receiving her present appointment at Franciscan University of Steubenville at its Study Abroad Program in Gaming, Austria, in 2007. Dr. Wolter is an Associated Scholar of the Hildebrand Project.

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.

Participants and Guests will be able to submit questions following Keynotes and Panel Discussions.

Participants 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 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 and guests will be sent a packet of reading materials prior to the start of the Seminar. Participants are expected to complete the modest readings before the start of the seminar.

Free to Attend

There is no cost to attend as a Participant or Guest.

If you are able, we invite you to make a donation to help defray the cost of putting on this seminar. Participation is not contingent on a donation.

Your gift of any amount is gratefully accepted. No gift is too small (or too large!).

Attendance Type                                       Suggested Donation

Student Participation                              $99

Professional Participation                    $199

Guest                                                                 Free. Any donation is appreciated.

How to Attend

Choose your mode of attendance:

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 apply.

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"


July 6 - July 10, 2020




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Zoom session password provided immediately upon registration.

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