Leisure: The Basis of Culture
Publisher: Ignatius Press
Publication Date: 2009-10-01
Josef Pieper's Leisure, the Basis of Culture is a classic twentieth-century philosophy title that has maintained its relevancy and importance even fifty years after its original publishing. This edition also includes his work The Philosophical Act - both offering insightful passages on the topic of leisure as an attitude of the mind and as a condition of the soul.
Pieper highlights essential values surrounding leisure, ranging from its indispensable role in fostering our capacity to perceive reality to being a foundational influence in culture. He offers historical insight to reflect on cases such as those of Greek and Medieval Europeans that best embody this concept. Moreover, he emphasizes how religion requires leisure for its contemplation - acknowledging it’s interconnectedness with leisure and the everpresent need for free time to let our minds explore simply.
This book offers profound exploration into the realm of leisure and shines light into one specific but truly necessary aspect of life. Whether you’re interested in understanding more about philosophy or want to appreciate leisure on a deeper level, read Pieper’s Leisure, the Basis of Culture for a comprehensive and professional study into this topic.
"Philosophy--inevitably--becomes more and more distant, strange and remote; it even assumes the appearance of an intellectual luxury, and is felt to be a load on the social conscience, as the workaday world extends its claims and its sway over man."
"It is true to say that in the act of philosophizing we transcend the world of work and are carried beyond the world of work."
"The philosophical act, the religious act, the aesthetic act, as well as the existential shocks of love and death, or any other way in which man's relation to the world is convulsed and shaken--all these fundamental ways of acting belong naturally together, by reason of the power which they have in common of enabling a man to break through and transcend the workaday world."
Pieper has subjects involved in everyone's life; he has theses that are so counter to prevailing trends as to be sensational; and he has a style that is memorably clear and direct. --Chicago Tribune
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. --New York Times Book Review
These two short essays by a contemporary German philosopher go a long way towards a lucid explanation of the present crisis in civilisation.... The first essay... should be read by anyone-and young people in particular-anxious to come to some conclusions about the nature of society." --The Spectator, London
Josef Pieper was a German Catholic philosopher, at the forefront of the Neo-Thomistic wave in twentieth century Catholic philosophy. His views are rooted primarily in the Scholasticism of Thomas Aquinas and in the teachings of Plato. In 60 years of creative work as a philosopher and writer, Pieper explicated the wisdom tradition of the West in clear language, and identified its enduring relevance.
I could not recommend this book more highly to any one interested in philosophy or culture. Both of Pieper's essays included in this work display a stunning combination of depth and clarity in their respective topics. Each one can be read easily by someone with no education on the matter, yet there is a wealth of knowledge such that one can read them over and over and get new light from it each time. Each time I read a sentence of Josef Pieper's writing, I find that I understand what he's saying, but still have a thirst to go back and re-read the sentence from the beginning, and get something new out of it the more I go over it.
Disclaimer: I have not yet read the forward to this book, nor did I read the included text The Philosophical Act, so I can't speak to that. I'd like to read The Philosophical Act in the future, though. More bang for you buck here!
I agree 100% with the reviews by Davis Blank and VincentF below, so I won't repeat what has already been said. I will add that this book could be seen as a commentary on Jesus's words, "The Sabbath was made for man."
Why do we need time to rest, and what is true rest, anyway? This book will change the way you approach your Sundays and any free time you may have, and encourage you to figure out how to make more of it. If you're currently in school, this will help you better appreciate what you're doing as well! The book is a bit dense-- I read it as a sophmore in college in an advanced sort of program, and I was able to comprehend it just fine, but it did take effort. However, there are lectures online (YouTube) that can help you understand what Pieper is saying.
First things first, this book was written by a German gentleman. Yes, this book is a challenge. But its a challenge that is far more than worth it. Pieper shines the light of truth against our modern understanding of the purpose of work and leisure and you will never be able to see either the same way again. The leisure that Pieper speaks of is the worship of God, especially within the holidays and community activities that bring humanity together. It is through leisure that we grow in humanity, but not the modern form of leisure which is nothing but a means for which the body can be rejuvenated thus able to do more work. I think a "red pilling" book like this can help bring intelligent secularists (whom are not rabidly anti-Catholic) back to the Faith.
Pieper's book, Leisure:The Basis of Culture is about work and play, labor and leisure, the ultimate point/counter-point of our lives. The initial attraction of the book is based on the assumption that the concept of leisure can be discussed lucidly and without the erudite language that typically accompanies philosophical writings. This is a misconception, as the work could be classified into all the other dense, erudite writings of philosophy.
The book is a treasure hunt, where most of the time you’re reading, waiting for Pieper's argument to culminate in a robust moment of clarity. Fortunately, you do eventually reach these moments, making Leisure:The Basis of Culture a rewarding experience.