Friday, January 14, 2011

Leisure and Philosophy

This compilation of two essays by Josef Pieper is must have for any Catholic intellectual or pseudo-intellectual, theologian, philosopher, scripture scholar, grad student.  The first essay, Leisure: The Basis of Culture, really solidified my understanding of a philosopher and how one goes about thinking.  I had heard in undergrad about Plato's concept of leisure as the prerequisite for philosophy, but I had a 20th century comprehension of that word.  To me, leisure meant someone who was rich and had leisure time, as I wrote in a previous post.  Leisure is a passive receptivity to being.  In that sense, it makes sense that leisure is the prerequisite for philosophy.  "Philosophy," as Pieper says, "is not the loving search for any kind of wisdom; it is concerned with wisdom as it is possessed by God," who is the source of all being (emphasis added by me).

To me, the first essay gives a philosophical backing for the need for silence and reflection in the life of each human person, no matter their state in life or intellectual capacity.  There is something elementary human about reflection that helps in living a good life.  Whether this silence and reflection is done in prayer, as seems to be the natural way for a Christian, or with reflecting on experience in a such a way as to come to some knowledge of the universal, or reflection to recognize one's emotions at different parts of the day.  Pieper sets up a cogent and well articulated plan to understand and begin to enact leisure in one's life.

I still wonder why didn't read this at the beginning of my philosophy studies and not 3 years after I received a degree in philosophy.  "The Philosophical Act" begins to set a premise similar to what Fr. Schall said in the preface to this edition.  We gain an understanding of philosophy by going back to the first philosophers.  The first philosophers in turn turned to the writers of myths.  There is a direct connection between philosophy and theology.  "There is no such thing as philosophy which does not receive its impulse and impetus from a prior and uncritically accepted interpretation of the world as a whole," i.e. a theology.  Pieper goes on to say that this, in a sense, can even be an atheistic theology.  However, there is only one true philosophy due to what quoted two paragraphs earlier, "Philosophy ... is concerned with wisdom as it is possessed by God."  Christian theology gives philosophy a framework from which to work.  In so doing, it does not allow for unrestricted thought and hence the possibility of extreme error, i.e. Descartes trying to start all over again.

I would suggest these two essays in a beautifully compiled edition by Ignatius Press, which also includes a forward by Fr. James Schall.

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