Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift für Philosophie und Theologie , ISSN 2195-173X
The interpersonal space
between gift and annihilation
Valentina Gaudiano
From the viewpoint of the studies of Scheler, Hilde-
brand and Stein regarding the human person, we
can infer two typical aspects of human existence:
The Text is available under the Creative Commons License At-
tribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Publication date: 27.09.2018.
Dr. Valentina Gaudiano is an associate professor at the Institute
of Theology, Philosophy and Human Sciences of the Sophia Univer-
sity Institute.
Epost: valentina.gaudianoXYZ (replace ‘XYZ’ by ‘@sophiauniversi-’). Mail: Istituto Universitario Sophia - Via San Vito n.28, Lop-
piano, 50064 Figline e Incisa Valdarno (FI) Italia.
Aemaet Bd. 7, Nr. 1 (2018) 223-248,
Valentina Gaudiano
on one level to be full and complete in self, on an-
other to be naturally open to relations with oth-
ers. The first aspect - what we usually call Sub-
stance - is discussed in a different way from the
three authors because Scheler, for instance, has a
critical approach to it, but Stein and Hildebrand
speck about substance as something fundamental
and ineradicable. However, all three authors con-
sider the second aspect the most important and
consider love as the act by which a human per-
son affirms another and encounters him/her for a
full personal realization. This implies giving some-
thing of self and detaching oneself from what is
given for the other. In this paper we will instate
a dialogue with the three authors to define the
interpersonal “space” as something profound con-
stitutive for the human being, and to understand
what it means to “lose oneself” in a relationship,
without extinguishing oneself.
Keywords: Philosophical Anthropology, Person, Relation-
ship, Love, Intersubjectivity.
1 A look into today’s human
We are living at a time in which the quantitative level of
interpersonal connections has grown in a drastic manner
and very rapidly, compared to the past. We live in a world
of interconnections; we know everything about people liv-
ing very far away from us, and we are interdependent with
Aemaet Bd. 7, Nr. 1 (2018) 223-248,
The interpersonal space between gift and annihilation
one another.
“All the human beings that populate our planet
live in a relationship of mutual dependence. A
person cannot be a hundred percent sure that
his/her action/non-action has/will not have any
consequences on the condition of others, though
they be spatially and temporally far away. And,
vice versa, the condition in which an individual
make a particular choice and the success or fail-
ure of his/her actions are influenced by all that
happens in the world.”1
The level of our relationships seems therefore unlimited
as we move from one encounter to the next, but in real-
ity, we only touch one another not really experiencing a
glance, which can reach a person’s inner depth. Techno-
logy, industrialisation and urbanisation - great conquests
which mark the progress of humanity, always searching to
overcome new forms of difficulty - have fostered such great
competitiveness and bureaucratisation that ever-new ill-
nesses and social problems have appeared. Some contem-
porary philosophers2 have spoken about our times as “the
night of the world”, “the dark night of humanity”, meaning
not the death of God or the experience of this dead, but
precisely the fact that we do not experience all this as a
death! As Marìa Zambrano notes, it is the human being,
1Zigmund Bauman, Una nuova condizione umana (Milano: Vita
e Pensiero, 2004) 49 - non-authorial translation.
2I refer here in particular to Martin Heidegger and Maria Zam-
Valentina Gaudiano
which is disappearing, that perfectly rational being whose
glance has acknowledged, estimated and gained all things
in Europe, giving a name and a value to all.
This backdrop marks the start, or perhaps is an out-
growth of some previous processes, that in an unexpected
and unforeseeable manner shook human consciousness at
the beginning of the world wars, arousing a movement of
searching and rethinking the concept of person. It is a
movement, which is still underway. Human beings are cap-
able of producing the atomic bomb to sweep away thou-
sands of their own kind in a few minutes; humans have
conquered space, reaching far away planets, and have de-
veloped medicines and techniques to heal illness, chasing
the Spector of death. Humans have achieved levels of com-
munication with all other human beings. Yet, this very
same human person meets up with the limits of his/her
existence and the existence of others, of the world around
him. This happens especially on the level of communica-
tion: ‘In the season, in which we are living, language does
not give space and breath to the word’3 says Zambrano:
the authentic word, that which is able to give meaning,
struggles to become space in a time in which the abuse
of the word led to its progressive devaluation. Like man
and the world in which he lives, also the word suffered pro-
gressively a process of impoverishment, becoming a fruit-
less production of sounds that a person uses as a kind of
good, to meet his own needs or extend his power above all
3‘In questa stagione che viviamo il linguaggio non lascia quasi
spazio e respiro alla parola’. Marìa Zambrano, Dell‘aurora (Genova:
Marietti 2000) 93.
Aemaet Bd. 7, Nr. 1 (2018) 223-248,
The interpersonal space between gift and annihilation
else. The consequence is, that the human being is unable
to practice authentic communication not only with other
persons, but also with the “completely other.”
Yet, we do not have the perception of a real increase of
the level of humanity in our relations; and I refer here to
the encounter of our glances with one another that touches
the depth of the person. Indeed glances of this type are
incarnate in a feeling that generates and expresses what
is specifically human: the spirit. Instead, the relation to
the world around us - according to Trans- and Posthuman-
ists - does not need necessary sentient bodies or sentient
spirits; it uses only a sequence of neuronal bits, pure and
aseptic, that do not allow getting involved4. Yes, because
it is precisely in the real unitary conjunction between spirit
and body through feeling that qualifies the human being
as such: in this is its limit, its fragility, its greatness and
4According to many Posthumanists the human being needs to over-
come him/herself in something superior and this is the machine, the
artificial product of science and technology. A new concept of human
- H+ - is the hybridization between man and machine. Some thinkers
support new techniques in experimentation as mind uploading, anti-
aging, cryogenics. In prosthetic experimentation, for example, the
question about the non-sensitivity of some part of the body is very
important. The reduction of the human being to his/her mind and
reason alone has a dramatic consequence - or at least ethically im-
portant: to consider some human categories that are no longer such,
something like embryos, foetuses, disabled people without the ra-
tional faculty, people in a vegetative state. Cfr.: Roberto Marchesini,
Il tramonto dell’uomo. La prospettiva post-umanista (Bari: Dedalo,
2009); Giuseppe Vatinno, Il Transumanesimo. Una Nuova Filosofia
per L’uomo Del XXI Secolo, Scientia (Roma: Armando Editore,
2010); Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Tran-
scend Biology, (New York: Penguin Group, 2006).
Valentina Gaudiano
uniqueness in all creation. In addition, a first example is
my person as author of this article: I can give only my
personal perspective to this theme and my perspective is
that of a young Italian woman, a philosopher, born in a
particular family, with a specific education and values, ex-
isting here and now in a precise culture. All these factors
are my richness and my limits. It is my presence in the
world, in this world of the II Millennium, in Europe, in a
cultural background, in a family, in a network of relation-
ships - given and perhaps stolen relationships, wanted or
suffered relationships, individual or collective one.
Among the many Philosophers of the last Century who
let themselves be questioned by human tragedies and the
consequent questions about the human being there are Max
Scheler (1874-1928), Edith Stein (1881-1942) and Dietrich
von Hildebrand (1889-1977) - all three Phenomenologists
-. They have experienced on their own skin - in their per-
sonal life as in their intellectual reflection - how limiting
it is to look at man only from a perspective and what it
achieves at the level of interpersonal relationships. Their
philosophical interest was to re-give to men and women an
identity in a metaphysical horizon, starting from a phe-
nomenological analysis5 of him/her. This is a perspective
5These three Thinkers were all students of Husserl and new each
other. Edith Stein was one of the most loyal pupil who developed
the master’s thought albeit with originality; particularly interesting
for her was the human person in her individuality and in her com-
munitarian dimension. Scheler was a very independent thinker, an
intellectual genius who has taken seriously the reflection on the spir-
itual dimension of being human and developed the theory of values
and the ethic question. Stein was very impressed from the origin-
Aemaet Bd. 7, Nr. 1 (2018) 223-248,
The interpersonal space between gift and annihilation
that still seems to me to be current and to be developed
for the actual reflection on person. They were not the only
philosophers, who investigated the human being as a cent-
ral theme, but we do not have here the necessary space to
deal with the question of intersubjective relationship in all
the thinkers, who have treated it.
2 To feel the other: a key for the
encounter between persons
Max Scheler was one of the first philosophers in the twen-
tieth Century, who began to write in a systematic way
about a philosophical reflection on the human being as a
philosophical Anthropology. For Scheler, what is typical
of the human person is an original ecstatic disposition or
the propensity toward the external world, which does not
exclude perception or inside knowledge. In the social and
ality of him, but she did not agree in all with his understanding of
empathy. Probably knew Stein all the works of Scheler and she un-
derstood him as one of the most important phenomenological Philo-
sophers with Husserl and Heidegger. Particularly had the Analysis
on the person and the philosophical Anthropology, which influenced
Stein’s research. Hildebrand was the director of the Munich circle of
phenomenologists and were interested in ethical questions too, and
in the aesthetic. He were a friend of Scheler for many years, but then
he turned away, because he did not agree with some later ideas and
theories of him. He met Stein perhaps by the funeral of Reinach and
then by a conference, but later he asked her to translate John Henry
Newman for his anthology in German. All three found trough the
phenomenology a way to the Christian religion and were Christian
thinkers, particularly Stein and Hildebrand.
Valentina Gaudiano
emotional actions of various kind, one can know the other
through feelings, conceived as an unusual function of the
axiological perception (Wertnhemung) that accompanies,
rather it precedes in the order of foundation, the ordinary
perception (Wahrnehmung) as the basis of every form of
taking a position towards the reality.
The givenness of the other and his/her experiences offers
itself in a direct intuition; it does not require a cognitive
description, and the base of this giveness comes from what
Scheler defines as unipathy: a process of mutual affective
fusion in which the two I’s are constituted. The ways to
feel with others, which somehow characterize all the living,
is specified in the human being through human sympathy
(Mitgefühl) and then, even more in love - the only source
of real mutual knowledge among people. Only in the ordo
amoris6 of a person is it possible to gather the fundamental
nucleus: love is the original act through which one can be
transcended in order to participate in the life of another
human being. The human person realizes himself/herself
only through and in the love toward others.
“Love is originally directed to objects endowed with value,
and also to men, only as much and in the measure in which
6The concept of ordo amoris refers here to the Augustinian doc-
trine about an order of and in love. But Scheler will not only un-
derline the divine order - as S. Augustine done - instead he will
point a dynamic centre of our interior affective life. We can say that
the schelerian ordo amoris is similar to the Pascal ordre du Coeur.
The fundamental requirement is to revaluate the affective dimension
of the human being near the intellectual one, and to characterize a
centre - the heart - of this affective life with proper laws and a form
of ordering that not only depends from the ration.
Aemaet Bd. 7, Nr. 1 (2018) 223-248,
The interpersonal space between gift and annihilation
they are carriers of values and as much as I am capable of
an increase in values.”7 Thus, love recognizes the valuable
dimension of the other person; it recognizes him/her as
another individuality and focuses on their value for him-
self/herself and not for itself. To understand in itself is
fundamentally and contemporarily an understanding one-
self as the other: the primary degrees of feeling, therefore,
- as for example feel-again and feel-with8 - allow us to
understand the other, even if we do not know anything
of him/her and we cannot know of it unless the other is
freely given to me, or is in the disposition of opening in my
comparison and reveals me, what expresses his/her spir-
itual dimension, that through the only living body is not
readable. Interpersonal relationships are characterized by
a going to the other and receiving its gift from him/her.
Yet, also the relationship of deeper and complete love can-
not reveal to us that intimate person which characterizes
every living being, because this part remains to the other
as to itself, in its transcendence, an absolute unknown.
Our way of relating to others is destined always to en-
7Max Scheler, Wesen Und Formen Der Sympathie (Bern: Franke,
1974) - non-authorial translation.
8Max Scheler, as other phenomenologists of his time, makes a
profound and precise analysis of the feelings. In the book of Sym-
pathy, he distinguishes four types of inter-emotional feelings: 1) Com-
munity of feeling (Miteinanderfuehlen); 2) Fellow-feeling (Mitfuehlen,
Mitgefuehl); 3) Psychic contagion (Psychische Ansteckung); 4) Emo-
tional Identification (Einsfuehlung). See here: Manfred Frings, Max
Scheler. Eine kurze Einführung in die Welt eines großen Denkers.
(Duquesne University Press: Pittsburgh, Pa 1965), p. 55-56. What
I call feel-again (Nachfuehlen) and feel-with (Mitfuehlen) belongs to
the category of fellow feelings.
Valentina Gaudiano
counter an impassable limit that leaves the other in a zone
of shade in which we are not able in some way to enter, but
only to approach. Moreover, it is only by accepting this ab-
solute relational limit, due to our transcendence and which
we experience only in a relationship of authentic love, that
we can truly realize ourselves in relation.
What appears crucial in the interpersonal space - bey-
ond the impassable limit of the intimate person - is the
relational bond linked to the actions of feeling: love always
calls for a “counter-love”, or rather, being reciprocated.
This means that the love of A for B reawakens that of B
for A and thus A realizes a double value, that of his/her
love and that of B. However, if B refuses the love of A, this
would not only cause the missed fulfilment of the positive
value of the love in itself, but it would be also responsible
for the missed existence of a positive value in A. In a cer-
tain sense, we can speak of interpersonal relationships as
mutual gift because there is a revealing of oneself to the
other, which requires consent; and at the same time we
can speak of annihilation, understood as co-responsibility
in the non-realisation of determined positive values in the
other, even in oneself.
“The mutual relationship of essential implica-
tion among love toward the other and the sanc-
tification of self involves that one considers every
love toward the other pure and authentic only
in the measure in which the person who loves
is sanctified; it will be pure and authentic, in
turn, every sanctification of self only in the
measure in which it is embodied in actions of
Aemaet Bd. 7, Nr. 1 (2018) 223-248,
The interpersonal space between gift and annihilation
love for one’s neighbour.”9.
3 The human person - spiritual
living body
But the actions of love for the neighbour again requires an
incarnate body, and here begins for Edith Stein the experi-
ence of the world - both of the purely material things, and
of other living beings - because of the affections, of the
feelings, thoughts and decisions.
The incarnate human being, the psycho-physical being,
has also a sensibility for values and creativity, demonstra-
tion - according to Edith Stein - of the spiritual sphere:
“The human personality, taken as an all, presents itself
to us as a unity of qualitative characteristics, formed by
a nucleus, by a formative principle Soul, body and spirit
constitute it, but individuality engraves entirely in a pure
way, deprive of any mixture, only in the soul.”10. It follows
that the soul, as a substantial unity that manifests itself
in the physical experiences, has its foundation in the living
body and with it forms the psychophysical individual. This
individual is centred in its living body, as in a zero point
of orientation beginning from which the world is percept-
ively given to him/her. As long as the individual remains
9Max Scheler, Der Formalismus in der Ethik und die materiale
Wertethik, GW Bd.
(Bouvier: Bonn 2000) 490 - non-autgorial
10Edith Stein, Beiträge zur philosophischen Begründung der Psy-
chologie und der Geisteswissenschaften, vol. 6 (Herder Verlag, 2010)
- non-authorial translation.
Valentina Gaudiano
in his/her individuality (which also means in his/her zero
point of orientation), it is not possible to have complete
knowledge of him/herself and even less of the surrounding
It is the other - with his/her physical presence - that
allows the human being to experience itself as such, as
an embodied spirit: the insuppressible experience of the
other, because someone is always present in my life - mani-
fests one of my characteristics to me, namely that of be-
ing an open and related to someone/something. We are
able to “establish a vital contact, initially founded upon
a concrete exchange of vital energy that constitutes the
nonverbal base from which the concrete knowledge begins
to take place of the others, of his experiences, of his/her
socio-economic-political and cultural context, without pre-
judices or mental cages.”11. Through empathy I am able
to put myself in the place of the other, in their zero point
of orientation, and to see - to feel from their perspective,
that which allows me to broaden my knowledge and thus
to have a more profound experience of myself.“ When I
inquire into its implied tendencies (try to bring another’s
mood to clear givenness to myself), the content, having
pulled me into it, is no longer really an object. I am now
no longer turned to the content but to the object of it, I
am at the subject of the content in the original subject’s
place. And only after successfully executed clarification,
does the content again face me as an object”12.
11Luigia Di Pinto, Il respiro della filosofia in Edith Stein (Bari:
Laterza, 1999), 149 - non-authorial translation.
12Edith Stein, On the Problem of Empathy, trans. Waltraut Stein,
3rd ed., vol.
3, The Collected Works of Edith Stein (Washington
Aemaet Bd. 7, Nr. 1 (2018) 223-248,
The interpersonal space between gift and annihilation
Through my emphatic move in other people’s bodies, I
also have an experience of the other as a sentient body and
psychophysical individual. For example: if we see a men
beat the fist on the table, we do not feel only the physical
pain to the hand that can derive from it, but also the anger
or the restlessness behind the gesture. Another example:
if I see another person blush I am able to empathetically
blush in their place and grasp their state of shame; at the
same time I am able “to see” their shame in the external
phenomenon of their blushing.
To put oneself in the place of the other is not only a
possibility to know the other and to have a different point
of perception of the world, but also the true possibility to
know oneself as an “other”. I do my experience of individu-
ality only - so means Edith Stein - because this individual-
ity emerges in front of the alterity of another person. If my
Self remains always and only in itself, I would thus realize
only a minimal part of myself, the part that comes from
my zero point of orientation and the same would apply to
the physical level.13
I am an intersubjectively comprehensible being, and this
not only at the spiritual level: without the other I can-
not entirely develop myself because it is in the measure in
which the other gives me back to myself14, the part of my-
D.C.: ICS Publications, 1989) 10.
13See in: Edith Stein, Ibid.,10f.
14This happens only through the body: our face, arms, and legs
are the bridge to the external world and we cannot divide our way
to approach the other with the spirit from the physical level. The
encounter with the other is always physical and spiritual at the same
time, because the body expresses, what we are thinking and feeling.
Valentina Gaudiano
self which would remain obscure to me from my point of
view, that I know myself and I am realized. At the same
time when I put myself in the place of the other empath-
ising their sensations, their desires, their fantasies, I grasp
that potential me that is not yet developed and as such
unable to show itself to me. In the span of life that is con-
ceded to us, we are not able to experience all that a person
could: it is others that we find such fulfilment.
Therefore, to go out of myself in order to enter in the
other and to gather what they are living, which means to
forget myself, somehow to lose my Self, it is a gain for my-
self, not only for the other. In fact, the moment I return
to myself, I have a new experience that perhaps I had not
yet done; for example, when I do a religious experience
through another person and I did not know it before. Such
an experience is mine: in the emphatic process there is no
fusion with the other, rather the other’s experience, though
distinct, becomes also mine, but with another shade of col-
our. If I empathize the actual state of mind of my mother
who has just received the news of being seriously ill, I re-
main another person, distinct from her, even if I move into
her in order to understand her state of mind. Her pain
does not become ipso facto mine: it gives itself to me, in
fact, in a non-original15 way. Nevertheless, it touches me,
it hurts me.
15Edith Stein distinguishes the feelings of oneself from the feelings
of the other, that one can empathizes in order to the originariety or
non-originariety of the same: the empathical feelings are always non-
original for the person, which empathizes some state of the other;
on the contrary the feelings by empathy are always original, because
they are own feelings.
Aemaet Bd. 7, Nr. 1 (2018) 223-248,
The interpersonal space between gift and annihilation
Certainly, the experience of the other is not always easy
or pleasant, because the other one, through his/her exper-
ience, can reveal to me aspects of me that I do not like or
of which I would prefer to remain unaware. Also the other
one’s wound can become mine and modify completely my
“Exiting oneself without preserving oneself is also a
consummation, if it is not a gift to God or in God, in whom
the one who gives himself turns himself.”16
This is of great importance within the discourse of the
development of one’s own personality, which according to
Stein has a unique and specific form - given to us from God
- that must be drawn out during the course of life through
a process of self-formation. This process is at the same time
a “with-formation” or formation together with the other,
beginning from the other and for the other, therefore in a
mutual process aimed at making us correspond evermore
to the image of God in us.
According to Edith Stein each person forms itself during
his/her entire life and this process needs others, so that
all persons can influence my forming-process through their
lives, but this is especially evident in the field of education.
“The spiritual nature of the human being -
reason and freedom - demands spirituality in
the educational act. Thus the common action
of educator and learner must keep in mind the
progressive growth of spirituality, in which the
educating action of the educator gives more and
16Edith Stein, La struttura della persona umana (Roma: Città
Nuova, 2000), 159 - non-authorial translation.
Valentina Gaudiano
more space to the action of the learner, in or-
der to bring him or her, in the end, to complete
independence and self-education.”17
The interpersonal space between educator and learner is
characterized by the empathetic relation, which means that
each one has to be oneself and to feel the other, to meet the
other, to feel as he/she feels, but without confusing one’s
own position with the other. The other needs to be known
as he/she thinks, feels, believes, namely as a real different
person, with his or her own identity.
We can immediately understand that the risk of subjug-
ating or annihilating oneself or the other in this relation is
considerable and the balance between giving and loosing
has to be found at every moment.
4 There is no I without a You
This invokes the personal and communitarian responsibil-
ity towards our being a person. According to von Hildebrand
the human being is indeed the only living being that for
some verses is characterized by a great autonomy in front
of others, being at the same time dependent on others;
so much so that only in the encounter and in the contact
with others can one fully realize oneself and open up com-
pletely. “The biggest and most important part of personal
experiences concerns other persons, like love, worship, care,
hate. . . The features of man would be meaningless if there
were no ‘you’ whom he could address and no ‘we’ to live
17Edith Stein, Ibid., 50.
Aemaet Bd. 7, Nr. 1 (2018) 223-248,
The interpersonal space between gift and annihilation
for. In addition to that, man’s bodily and spiritual devel-
opment would be impossible without any community.”18.
In virtue of this own ability the person expresses him-
self/herself not by staying closed within his/her potentialit-
ies, on the contrary by opening himself/herself to the other
and relating to others at different levels19. Among these,
the level of the experience of the other is the most typic-
ally human, because something very amazing happens: in
some way the human being abdicates his/her own Eigen-
leben (one’s own life) to go out completely into the open
and encounter the other. It is precisely in this ability to
cross the threshold of one’s own life that the person realizes
itself. Not in holding one’s own life for itself, not in egoistic
thinking about itself, on the contrary, in delivering itself
to the other. The concept of one’s own life is a particular
notion of Hildebrand: the owness is here not in contrast to
public, but it means all the things that belong to the very
intimacy of a person, something, that makes this person
happy. “When I step out of my subjectivity in loving my
neighbour I am by no means abandoning my subjectivity,
or losing interest in it, or dying to it.”20. If a man, in fact,
18Paola Premoli de Marchi, ‘The Role of Relationality in the Actu-
alization of the Person. A Reflection upon Dietrich von Hildebrand’s
Philosophical Anthropology’, Aletheia, no. 7 (1995): 221-48.
19According to Paola Premoli de Marchi we can find four eminently
personal relations in human beings:
1) man’s relation to truth, in
knowledge; 2) man’s relation to the good, in his moral life; 3) man’s
relation to other human persons; 4) man’s relation to the Absolute,
in religious experience.” See: Paola Premoli de Marchi, ‘The Role of
Relationality in the Actualization of the Person. Cit.: 221-48.
20Dietrich Hildebrand von, The Nature of Love, trans. John F.
Crosby and John Henry Crosby (South Bend, Indiana: St. Au-
Valentina Gaudiano
did not possess his own life, he could not even deliver it in
the sense of giving it to the other, to then receive it again
from the other.
The interpersonal relationships are defined according to
an interaction that happens among two I’s who meet one
another, and in this meeting a form of becoming aware one
of the other and a coming into contact with this awareness
takes place. If I put forth a question, if I call someone by
name or I make a promise, the other one - appealed upon
by me - answers somehow to my question, call or promise.
When this happens, a “spiritual place” is created between
us, a space that Hildebrand defines as an “interpersonal
space”. Here three moments occur:
1) the contact - un-
derstood as a form of brushing one another physically and
spiritually - 2) the meeting - a conscious looking upon one
another - 3) the relationship - as awaringly intertwining
and exchanging of lives. Because the human being is in
contact with different you’s, he/she will be the place of
different and manifold interpersonal spaces, of which some
weave together, others are one close to the other, without
channels of mutual communication, and others slightly in-
tersecting a place perhaps even only temporally in contact.
Now we can ask: I brush upon the other, I consciously
look at him/her and I place myself in a relational attitude
towards her/him, but he/she might not react to this; why
should he/she answer me? What moves the other one to do
so? It is the fact that the other one is not only an object of
my attention, of my request or question, but he/she is also
a subject of actions that move him/her to do something
gustine’s Press, 2009) 210.
Aemaet Bd. 7, Nr. 1 (2018) 223-248,
The interpersonal space between gift and annihilation
likewise toward me. My social actions always consider the
other as subject and not as object, and this means that my
way to approach another human being is fundamentally
different from the way I interact with a natural landscape
or with a dress that I want to buy.
Since the human being lives in many and different inter-
personal spaces, we can imagine the person as a house, in
which there are many rooms, each characterizing a specific
relationship, as for instance that of the matrimonial rela-
tionship or that of friendship, that with colleagues from
the workplace and so forth. Therefore, there are as many
rooms as our relationships. Alongside the relationships we
have thus far taken in consideration, which are promin-
ently social, there are other forms of relationships that are
created by feelings such as love and hate. When these are
communicated to the other, they provoke in him/her a re-
action that cannot simply be limited to just taking note of
what was communicated and perhaps reacting to it. The
other one must be touched by the content and consequently
turn to me.
Let’s take a simple example: when one falls in love with
someone, one can even hold his own feelings in the secrecy
of his heart, and the person of interest perhaps would not
even notice anything; if, however, one decides to commu-
nicate his feelings of love to this person, it cannot be ig-
nored, and he/she will have to somehow answer to this
“revelation”. If the other one responds to this declaration
with similar feelings, life will be completely changed be-
cause the beloved person will enter in their life and take
part of it in such a decisive and penetrative way, that
Valentina Gaudiano
he/she will drastically modify it21. In the case in which
the other one cannot correspond the same feelings, we re-
main alone with a disappointment, which will colour in
turn the following relationships and actions. This means
that certain affections sometimes modify our existence in a
decisive way: others, in fact, can react differently to them
and according to their reaction, a real change happens in
To let oneself be touched by others is a first manner of
relating, which remains, however, unilateral in itself: the
other touches me or rather, I let myself be touched by the
other; the other, in turn, can be indifferent and not let him-
self/herself be touched by me. If, instead, it does happen,
then a real reciprocity is created. It is the I-You contact,
what Hildebrand calls the urmodus of the human person,
that is to say its original way of being, alongside which
the way of “We” develops that defines all the relational
moments in which we - for instance - make a particular
experience together with others, or we find ourselves in a
situation that interests more people and we look together
at the same object.
“As soon as a man experiences true,
real love, the blissful adventure that every love is, we find
that he breaks through the network of self-centeredness,
that he is widened, that he pierces through his own petti-
21In The Erotic Phenomenon Jean-Luc Marion says that we are ‘all
our loves’ meaning that every relationship of love changes our life,
even when it fails because the person dies or goes away. Therefore,
we are “other persons” after each relationship in a way as we receive
an indelible mark. See: Jean-Luc Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon,
trans. Stephen E. Lewis (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press
Books, 2006).
Aemaet Bd. 7, Nr. 1 (2018) 223-248,
The interpersonal space between gift and annihilation
ness. Indeed, it is in loving alone that one can truly live.”22
In whatever form our relationships realize themselves,
through such relationships we always enter the world of
values of the other and this because the human person
by itself is constituted in such way that he/she can know
and recognize values. Therefore, a new community will
always spring up among two or more people, who meet and
enter in a relationship of reciprocity, and this community
is a community of shared values. When it is the love that
directs me towards the other I affirm him/her in his/her
being and their being as they are, and I unite myself to
him/her, because according to Hildebrand all the forms of
love are characterized by an intentio unionis, a deep desire
of union with the other.
Such uniting intention, that drives all the relationships of
love, is destined to lose itself in the moment in which the re-
ciprocate and reciprocating answer of two people produces
union, it produces a space in which each of the lovers gives
themselves to the other losing themselves in each other -
we can say in a certain way annihilating himself/herself -
to receive oneself again from the other one. Therefore, it
is a gift to give oneself, to put oneself in the hands of the
other, and it is a gift to receive because in receiving is in-
herent the gift of something that is moved for the other.
It is understandable how relating oneself to the other is
never lacking of risks, because there is no guarantee that
the other one put himself/herself in the same dynamic as
myself and welcome my gift, so something of me could ir-
22Dietrich Hildebrand von, Man and Woman. Love and the Mean-
ing of Intimacy (Sophia Institute Press, 1992) 17.
Valentina Gaudiano
reparably be lost.
5 Conclusive remarks
Scheler, Stein and Hildebrand show that the human be-
ing is structurally, ontologically, a relational being. In
fact, only the glance of others, which we grant entry into
ourselves, completes us by dilating our personality; it is
only in the movement of going out of oneself in the selfless
gift of self that one has a true and complete experience of
self, of true humanity.
The condition for this is a personal encounter, it is a re-
lationship that doesn’t stop at contact - today often char-
acterized as virtual contact -, but which moves all the di-
mensions of the human person towards encounter with the
other and risks letting himself/herself be touched in depth.
Therefore, it is not possible to have an interpersonal space
in the virtual world, because there is a lack of the physical
dimension of the encounter, particularly communicated by
the glance as well as by the word in the fullness of sense.
The cybernetic space widens the possibility of contact, but
it loses depth, we could say that it increases in extension
and quantity of connections, but it loses in depth and qual-
ity. Dietrich von Hildebrand has, in this regard, a beautiful
expression Ineinanderblick der Liebe - something like love’s
mutual glance - that points to the entering into one another
of the glances among people who are in a relationship of
love. However, I think this expression applies to every re-
lationship that does not want to stop at the threshold of
the other.
Aemaet Bd. 7, Nr. 1 (2018) 223-248,
The interpersonal space between gift and annihilation
In addition, Stein underlines the human spiritual dimen-
sion as an expression of the eye that makes itself like a
bridge between inside and outside: through the eye and
therefore looking, the human being brings the external
world inside of itself and goes out his/her own inner self
giving it to the world. The communication of the inter-
personal space becomes, then, a perichoretical23 dynamic
among poles that are not contrasted, but rather are them-
selves losing themselves in the other that welcomes them
and makes be what they are. Really, when someone - a
You - meets me, calls me, demands of me, and I answer to
him/her opening myself and getting involved with him/her,
by accepting and questioning: what happens? The You-
Subject becomes a You-Object and this encounter makes
you a you, gives you the possibility to unfold itself. Only
in relationship, I become a You, because alone I remain
an I; as my mother is a mother because of me and I am
a daughter because of my mother, we can generally be a
“you” because of an “I”. At the same time that you receive
meaning from me, I make the experience of myself as an
I: I realize that I am constituted as an I in front of you,
so I can unfold myself too. I cannot be what you are and
you cannot be what I am; we can both be ourselves only
23Perichoresis is a theological expression used to describe the mu-
tual relation between the three Persons of the Trinity. By using it, I
refer particularly to Klaus Hemmerle - a Philosopher and Theologian
at the school of Bernhard Welte. See: Klaus Hemmerle, ‘Wahrheit
und Liebe - ein perichoretisches Verhältnis’, ed. Jaskòly, Piotra, Ver-
itati et caritati. W s?u?bie teologii i pojednania. Prace dedykow-
ane Ksi?dzu Biskupowi Alfonsowi Nossolowi z okazji sze??dziesi?tej
rocznicy urodzin i pi?tnastolecia ?wi?ce? biskupich, 1992, 106-18.
Valentina Gaudiano
in the encounter and in answering to one another24. The
community cannot arise if everyone wait that something
happens; only through the initial, spontaneous and not
calculate act of each person is communion possible. One
must goes beyond the other, to the encounter with him,
without reservations and expectations. This asks for an
opening of oneself, an emptying, in order to make place for
the other. When his/her becomes mine, when my staying
in front of the other one is to the meantime being the one
in the other, each one of us takes part to the life of the
other, to his/her word and the relationship becomes mu-
tual. In this reciprocity of giving and receiving lives, the
community founded upon the love.
Therefore, the interpersonal relationship, also in the dy-
namic tension between gift and annihilation, is not destined
to fail, if both the poles maintain themselves in their iden-
tity without making this identity an absolute.
“If love is Self-gift, then is love always and
above all a renouncement of the own for the
other one. If I want to give myself to the other,
or if I want to do a present of me, I must love
myself because I cannot at the same time re-
main by myself and to go out beyond the other.
This lost by loving is a gain too, when the other
also gives him/herself to me. The reciprocate
gift of oneself from the lovers is a reciprocal con-
firming about being valuable of one another.”25
Bernhard Welte, Gesammelte Schriften I/1. Person
(Freiburg, Basel, Wien: Herder, 2006).
Die Liebesphilosophie
Aemaet Bd. 7, Nr. 1 (2018) 223-248,
The interpersonal space between gift and annihilation
The gift of self to the other is a free offering of oneself to
the other, without imposing. The annihilation of oneself is
in turn not negation and renouncement of self, but positive
and active assent to the reality of the other, it is awareness,
or rather renouncement to the pretension to be the absolute
Certainly, the tension and the risk of falling in one or
other pole as crystallized extremes remains and it chal-
lenges ever again to the courage of authentic relationships.
Love is in a certain sense always a gamble, but three cat-
egories, which today have almost disappeared in common
language, can perhaps give support and make interpersonal
space something meaningful and essential for the human
being: courage, fidelity and responsibility. Only the cour-
age to put oneself completely out there with the other and
faithfulness to oneself, as well as to the other, recognized
and welcomed in his/her alterity, can create an interper-
sonal space or a community of liberty and fulfilment that
makes us authentic men and women in reciprocate respons-
ibility for one another. Responsibility for oneself is at the
same time responsibility for the other and vice versa. “To
love is assumption of responsibility toward oneself and the
others and it places weather in me nor in you, but in the
‘among-us’, that escapes to every possible definitive, last,
definable and individual capture.”26
The expression of in-
von Hildebrands.
Ansätze für eine Ontologie der Liebe
(Freiburg/München: Alber Thesen 2013) 305, Selftranslation.
26Antonio De Luca,
“La responsabilità più grande”, in:
Daniela Verducci, Vie della fenomenologia nella post-modernità.
Confronto con la fenomenologia della vita di Anna-Teresa Tymi-
eniecka, Percorsi di Etica 6 (Roma: Aracne 2014) 456.
Valentina Gaudiano
terpersonal space can then become authentic dialogue, in
which word and silence, you and me, are both necessary
and both only existent through the other.
Aemaet Bd. 7, Nr. 1 (2018) 223-248,