Cover image for Leisure, the basis of culture
Leisure, the basis of culture
Pieper, Josef, 1904-1997.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Musse und Kult. English
Publication Information:
Indianapolis : Liberty Fund, 1999.

Physical Description:
xxi, 137 pages ; 20 cm
General Note:
Consists of a translation of the author's Musse und Kult, and of his Was heisst Philosophieren?

Originally published: New York : Pantheon Books, 1952.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BJ1498 .P513 1952C Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
BJ1498 .P513 1952C Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



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 non-activity, 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 an introduction by T. S. Eliot.

Table of Contents

T.S. Eliot
Introductionp. xi
Author's Preface to the English Editionp. xix
Leisure The Basis Of Culture
I Leisure the foundation of Western culturep. 1
'We are "unleisurely" in order to have leisure'
The claims of the world of 'total work'
II 'Intellectual work' and 'intellectual workerp. 6'
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
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
III Sloth (acedia) and the incapacity to leisurep. 23
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'
IV The influence of the ideal of leisurep. 33
'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
Notesp. 54
The Philosophical Act
I By philosophizing we step beyond the world of workp. 63
'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
II Where does the philosophical act carry us when it transcends the 'world of work'?p. 81
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
III 'World' and 'environment' are not watertight compartmentsp. 98
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
IV Philosophy always preceded by a traditional interpretation of the worldp. 117
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
Notesp. 135