Leisure the Basis of Culture / Edition 1

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In this elegantly written (and produced) work, Josef Pieper introduces the reader to an understanding that leisure is nothing less than "an attitude of mind and a condition of the soul that fosters a capacity to perceive the reality of the world." Beginning with the Greeks, and through a series of philosophic, religious, and historical examples, Pieper demonstrates that "Leisure has been, and always will be, the first foundation of any culture." Of the frenetic contemporary clamor for things, entertainment, and distraction, Pieper observes, "in our bourgeois Western world total labor has vanquished leisure. Unless we regain the art of silence and insight, the ability for nonactivity, unless we substitute true leisure for our hectic amusements, we will destroy our culture—and ourselves." For, to Pieper, slavery is a state of mind and soul into which entire peoples descend when mental, moral, spiritual, and political independence is corrupted by a preoccupation with material well-being. Long unavailable, this reprint of the original edition of 1952 includes a renowned introduction by T. S. Eliot.

Josef Pieper (1904–1997) was an influential German Catholic philosopher, scholar, and author.

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Editorial Reviews

Chicago Tribune
Pieper has subjects involved in everyone's life; he has theses that are so counter to the prevailing trends as to be sensational; and he has a style that is memorably clear and direct.
New York Times Book Review
Pieper's message for us is plain... The idolatry of the machine, the worship of mindless know-how, the infantile cult of youth and the common mind - all this points to our peculiar leadership in the drift toward the slave society... Pieper's profound insights are impressive and even formidable.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780865972100
  • Publisher: Liberty Fund, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/30/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 158
  • Sales rank: 668,693
  • Product dimensions: 4.90 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction by T.S. Eliot xi
Author's Preface to the English Edition xix

Leisure the foundation of Western culture--'We are "unleisurely" in order to have leisure'--Aristotle--The claims of the world of 'total work' 1
'Intellectual work' and 'intellectual worker'--Discursive thought and 'intellectual contemplation'--Kant and the Romantics--Ratio and Intellectus:the medieval conception of knowledge--Contemplation 'superhuman'--Knowledge as 'work': the two aspects of this conception--'Unqualified activity'--Effort and effortlessness--Hard work is what is good--Antisthenes--Thomas Aquinas: 'it is not the diffiiculty which is the decisive point'--Contemplation and play--Willingness to suffer--First comes the 'gift'--'Intellectual work' as a social function 6
Sloth (acedia) and the incapacity to leisure--Leisure as non-activity--Leisure as a festive attitude--Leisure and rest from work--Leisure above all functions--Leisure as a means of rising above the 'really human' 23
The influence of the ideal of leisure--'Humanism' an inadequate position?--Excursus on 'proletariat'--The philosopher and the common working man--Man 'fettered to work'--Lack of property, State compulsion and inner impoverishment as the causes--'Proletarianism' not limited to the proletariat--artes liberales--Proudhon on Sunday--'deproletarianization' and the opening of the realm of leisure--Leisure made inwardly possible through Divine Worship--Feast and worship--Unused time and space--The world of work and the Feast day--Leisure divorced from worship becomes idleness--The significance of Divine worship 33

Notes 54

By philosophizing we step beyond the world of work--'Common need' and 'common good'--The 'world of total work' rests on the identification of 'common need' and 'common good'--The situation of philosophy in the 'world of work'--The relation between religious acts and aesthetic acts, between philosophizing and the experience of love or death--Sham forms of these basic attitudes in life--The everlasting misunderstanding between philosophy and the everyday world of work: The Thracian maid and a figure in the Platonic dialogues (Apollodorus). The positive aspect of their incommensurability: the freedom of philosophy (its unusableness)--The knowledge of the functionary and the knowledge of a gentleman--The sciences 'unfree'--Philosophy free, its theoretical character--The presupposiition of theoria--The belief that man's real wealth consists neither in the satisfaction of his needs, nor in the control of nature 63
Where does the philosophical act carry us when it transcends the 'world of work'?--The world as a field of relations--The hierarchic gradations of the world--The notion 'surroundings' (v. Uexkull)--Spirit as the power of apprehending the world; spirit exists within the whole of reality--Being as related to spirit: the truth of things--The gradations of inwardness: the relation to the totality of being and personality--The world of spirit: the totality of things and the essence of things--Man not a pure spirit--Man's field of relations: both world and environment, both together--Philosophizing as a step beyond our environment vis-à-vis de l'univers--The step as 'superhuman'--The distinguishing mark of a philosophical question: it is on the horizon of the whole of reality 81
'World' and 'environment' are not watertight compartments--The world preserved in the environment: wonder--The 'unbourgeois' character of philosophical wonder--The danger of being uprooted from the workaday world--Wonder as 'the confusion of thought at itself'--The inner direction of wonder not aimed at doubt but at the sense of mystery--Wonder as the moving principle of philosophy--The structure of hope and the structure of wonder similar--The special sciences cease 'wondering', philosophy does not--Philosophia as the loving search for wisdom as it is possessed by God--The inner impossibility of a 'closed' system of philosophy--Philosophizing as the completion of man's existence 98
Philosophy always preceded by a traditional interpretation of the world--Plato, Aristotle and the pre-Socratics in their relation to tradition--Plato: tradition as revelation--Its freedom vis-à-vis theology one of the marks of Plato's philosophizing--Christian theology the form of pre-philosophizing--Christian theology the form of pre-philosophic tradition to be found in the West--The vitality of philosophy dependent upon its relation to theology--Is a non-Christian philosophy possible?--Christian philosophy not characterized by its ready answers but by its profounder apprehension of the mysterious nature of the world--Christian philosophy not intellectually simpler--The joy which goes with not being able to understand utterly and completely--Christianity not, in the first place, doctrine but reality--The real soil of Christian philosophizing: the living experience of Christianity as reality 117

Notes 135

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2008

    A reviewer

    I had to read this for a philosophy class, and I'm glad that I did! It sheds more light on festivals, and their underlining meaning for the Believer.

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