Hildegard's Philosophic Views
An introduction



While Hildegard's status as a philosopher may be in contention (some consider her work theology), her words will be discussed below in terms of philosophy. One of the key tests of a philosopher is if they had read the works of the canonical philosophers of the past and understood contemporary theoryl. Hildegard was well-versed in the work of Boethius (Consolations of Philosophy). She was also familiar with the work of Aristotle, and certainly of the religious philosophy associated with Christianity. However, Hildegard rarely refers to these scholars in her writing. This may be because of the intesely personal connection she has with what she is writing, or because she is not directly critiquing or commenting on their views.

Hildegard uses sex differentiation throughout her theological and philosophical writings. She believed that God was both feminine and masculine. To make this theological claim, Hildegard makes a philosophical distinction between men and women. In a rare case, she critiques Aristotle's view of men as like the upper elements (fire and air) and women as lower elements (water and earth). Instead, Hildegard argues that men are like the highest and lowest elements (fire and earth respectively) and women are like the two middle elements (air and water). In this way the two sexes balance each other.




Men







Women






Hildegard also claims that women ought to obey men (she says this is what they should typically do, though there are exceptions). Her reasoning, also contrasting to Aristotle, is that a women is more in control of her emotions than a man. Hildegard pushed the idea of virtue and obligation, and since obedience was a virtue practiced by choice, other virtues could override the duty to obey.

In terms of virtue, Hildegard said that to know what is the right thing to do in any situation, one needed to understand the people involved. In other words, Hildegard argued that a choice might be wrong in one situation that was right in another. By contextualizing virtue, she took emotionality and consequence into account, where many later ethicists discounted these things. A perfect example of this is Mill, who argued that a right act is the one that creates the most net good.




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