The Dangers of Ignoring Beauty

The Way We Respond to Values Ends Up Shaping Our Character and Our Destiny

Luke Burgis
8 min readApr 4, 2022


I once made a solo snowboarding trip to Big Bear Mountain in 2010 and spent the entire weekend reading and studying Dietrich von Hildebrand’s Ethics from start to finish. I never made it to the mountain, and I didn’t care.

In his work, I found a key to understanding questions that had haunted me for years:

Why was I moved by some things and by others…not at all?
What role did I have to play in my ability to be moved?
And to what extent should I be the one doing the moving?

This is not meant to be an exhaustive overview of this giant thinker’s central idea, “value-response”. It is only a brief introduction. I will relate it to the topic of my recent book, Wanting, which is about why people want the things they want.

In a world where everything and everyone is trying to elicit certain responses from us, from Netflix shows to social media, it seems more important than ever to respond with intention.

The Big Idea

The core idea of Hildebrand’s thought is ‘value-response’: that is, the way that a person responds to various values (aesthetic, moral, etc) when confronted with them — on both the level of desire (the will) and of affectivity —is ultimately a moral question.

Are we outraged at that which is worthy of outraged and joyful at that which is worthy of joy? Usually, we think of these responses as merely ‘emotional’ or something out of a person’s control—as things that happen to us. But if we look deeper, as Hildebrand does, we’ll see that our response to values involves our whole being.

In Hildebrand’s view, the universe is swarming with values—and the way that we respond to values eventually shapes our personality and our destiny. Channeling our energy and our desires according to the demands that these values make of us is the fundamental goal.

The promise is that we can freely choose how to respond — not react — to values. We can learn how to give each of the values we encounter its proper due so that we are ordering our desires according to some objective…



Luke Burgis

Author of “WANTING: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life.” Find more at