Student philosophers discuss the true meaning of beauty


A group of Franciscan University students gathered April 19 to discuss the definition of beauty according to Dietrich von Hildebrand’s “Aesthetics.”

Senior Joseph Anderson has coordinated similar philosophy reading circles, sponsored by the Hildebrand Project’s Student Fellowship, once to twice a month.

Anderson said that these discussions, set in open forum style, are open to all and are usually led by Dr. John F. Crosby, director of the master’s philosophy program at Franciscan.​

Much of the discussion centered on how beauty is manifested and if that beauty is manifested subjectively or objectively.

​Graduate student Alex Anderson said that “we (are) all clouded in some ways,” which contributes to conflicting notions of beauty.

Crosby said that beauty has “power to elevate the soul,” and, therefore, reflects the “glorious dimension of the world.”

Elaborating on Crosby’s point, junior Hannah Bruckner said that his definition lined up with Hildebrand’s definition of beauty, which is a “shining forth of an inner excellence of a thing.”

However, the forum concluded that present-day culture hampers people from contemplating that beauty.​

Joseph Anderson said that culture today “snuffs beauty out in backhanded ways.” ​

The forum concurred that those backhanded ways most especially include “kitsch” that poses as art.

​Crosby defined “kitsch” as apparent art that is actually trashy, communicating an “element of triviality.”

Joseph Anderson spoke of the Hildebrand Project Student Fellowship that sponsors the philosophy reading circles, mentioning that it is a group of students belonging to the larger Hildebrand Legacy Project.

​According to its description on Franciscan’s website, the Hildebrand Legacy Project, an initiative independent of the university, was founded by John Henry Crosby, John F. Crosby’s son and Franciscan alumnus, to “preserve and promote the thought and witness” of von Hildebrand.

Most of the attendees at the reading circle belong to the Student Fellowship, said John F. Crosby.

Joseph Anderson said that the members of the fellowship receive stipends from the Hildebrand Legacy Project to study and promote Hildebrand’s thought and witness.