Aesthetics: Volume I



“There is no more important issue in our culture—sacred or secular—than the restoration of beauty. And there is no better place to start this urgent enterprise than Dietrich von Hildebrand’s Aesthetics.”

 – Dana Gioia

Former Chairman, National Endowment for the Arts


Written in the early 1970s during the last years of his life, as if harvesting a lifetime of reflection, Aesthetics is Dietrich von Hildebrand’s comprehensive two-volume study and defense of beauty and art. 

Aesthetics [is] best understood as an explosion of insights,” writes Alice von Hildebrand, widow of Dietrich, in a note on the text. “He knew he was running out of time, and so he tried to capture the Niagara Falls of ideas that flowed out of him.” 

For those familiar with Hildebrand’s background, it is no surprise that beauty should be a central theme in his thought. His father, Adolf von Hildebrand, was one of the most revered German sculptors of the turn-of-the-century period and Dietrich von Hildebrand grew up in a world filled with many of Europe’s leading artists, musicians, and writers. 

Beauty subsequently became a formative theme in all of Hildebrand’s philosophy, even in his outspoken resistance to Nazism. When Hildebrand converted to Christianity at the age of twenty-four, he did not come primarily by way of history and theology, like John Henry Newman, or through a moral awakening, like St. Augustine. He came instead by way of beauty. 

Beginning in 2007, the Hildebrand Project embarked upon a multiyear initiative to translate the Aesthetics into English. The first volume is on sale on Nov. 15, 2016, along with a new edition of a Hildebrand classic, Liturgy and Personality. Together, these publications mark the launch of the Hildebrand Press. 

“My husband would have been immensely happy to see this long-awaited English edition,” writes Alice von Hildebrand. “But nothing would have gladdened him more than to know that his explorations of beauty had awakened in even one reader a portion of his own reverence, joy, and gratitude for all things beautiful.” 

With the publication of Aesthetics, Hildebrand becomes a contemporary spokesman and defender of the importance of beauty at a time when many think that beauty is relative and art unnecessary. 

The Hildebrand Press exists to publish the works of Dietrich von Hildebrand and to give voice to writers who are inspired by the vision of the human person offered by Hildebrand, Karol Wojtyla, and others. The Press is an initiative of the Hildebrand Project, which advances, through publications, academic programs, and public events, the vital tradition of twentieth century thinkers who have enriched the Western and Christian vision of the human person. 

Dietrich von Hildebrand (1889-1977) was a philosopher known for his seminal works in ethics, aesthetics, social philosophy, and philosophy of religion. He was one of Europe’s most outspoken voices against Nazism and Communism. A convert to Catholicism, he had a profound impact on the thought and life of the Church in the twentieth century. 


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