Communities and values
Dietrich von Hildebrand's social ontology
Within the debate on the ontology of social groups, a prominent view holds that, if one wants to know what a group is and how a group is created or constituted, one has to look at the internal or subjective conditions that either the group's members or the group as such have to fulfill. This idea is clearly illustrated by a by now rather standard approach to we-ness, which seeks to locate this property either in the subject of a given attitude (which, most perspicuously, is used to being characterized as an intention), or in the mode of the attitude or in its content. This view also suggests that there is one prototypical notion of group which conceptually has to be traced back to one of the three constituents of an intentional attitude and that the main way to access the notion of a group is by means of the concept of intention and/or intentional action.The present paper tackles a fairly divergent approach to the ontology of groups put forward by Dietrich von Hildebrand in his book on the Metaphysics of Community. First, von Hildebrand argues that there are different kinds of social groups and that, accordingly, individuals can be "together' in radically different ways. In particular, he substantially weakens the relevance that contemporary debate ascribes to the notion of shared intention and shared agency. Said another way, the existence of groups does not necessarily require their members to intend to do something together and to act according to this intention. Especially when it comes to communities (understood as a specific kind of group), he suggests a – within social ontology so far relatively unexplored – principle of constitution: instead of looking for the internal and subjective conditions that regulate the group's constitution, he rather stresses an external one, i.e., the "virtus unitiva" or the unifying virtue that values can exert over individuals and which might bring them to constitute a group.
Salice, A. (2016)., Communities and values: Dietrich von Hildebrand's social ontology, in A. Salice & H. B. Schmid (eds.), The phenomenological approach to social reality, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 237-257.
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