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Leisure the Basis of Culture. Josef Pieper. “The thing that I should wish to obtain from money is leisure with security.” Bertrand Russell. Aristotle Redux (We currently have it backwards). “We are unleisurely in order to have leisure”

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Leisure the Basis of Culture

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Leisure the basis of culture l.jpg

Leisurethe Basis of Culture

Josef Pieper

“The thing that I should wish to obtain

from money is leisure with security.”

Bertrand Russell


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Aristotle Redux(We currently have it backwards)

  • “We are unleisurely in order to have leisure”

  • Value contemplation (open-minded)

  • Leisure is receptivity, not action

3


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Aristotle Redux(continued)

  • Humankind’s gifts (much of culture) are not necessarily practical

  • Holism (not philosophy or science, but science and philosophy and…)

2


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“Intellectual activity used always to be considered a privileged sphere”

“Pieper’s influence should be in the direction of restoring philosophy to a place of importance for every educated person who thinks…” T.S. Eliot


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The Falsehoods of Work

Modern Views of Work Say:

  • Learning is an active pursuit

  • Knowledge comes only through hard effort

  • Training is more useful than education (liberal arts vs. servile arts) (i ji je chang)


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Leisure is Contemplation

  • Leisure is liberal arts that are end in themselves

  • Leisure comes to those who are open, not grabbing

  • Leisure is not rejuvenation for work

  • Leisure is attitude of inactivity (Wu wei)

3


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Wu-wei (no-action???)

  • Avoidance of unnecessary action

  • Desire to be unneeded

  • Wu-wei comes only with experience


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Avoidance of unnecessary action

  • Not laziness, not idleness

  • Satisfied with good enough

  • Do as little as is necessary

“One must start out with a belief that there are no catastrophes in this world, and besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the nobler art of leaving things undone”

Lin Yutang, The Importance of Living


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Desire to be unneeded

The goal is to set up situations where the leader’s presence is not necessary – but always available if needed.

“Even after you have achieved non-doing, you should still carry out undertakings, fulfilling them and realizing their proper results.”

Lü Yan (in Cleary’s Spirit of the Tao)


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Wu-wei comes only with experience

  • Need experience to deviate from the plan

  • Confidence to not need any of the credit

Wu-wei must be understood as a form of intelligence – that is, of knowing the principles, structures, and trends of human and natural affairs so well that one uses the least amount of energy in dealing with them.”

Alan Watts, Tao: The Watercourse Way


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Questions on wu-wei

What are examples of times when you lived in a way consistent with wu-wei?

Did these experiences work well or not so well?

Are these examples the norm – or something unique?


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Leisure is Contemplation

  • Leisure is attitude of inactivity (Wu wei)

  • Leisure is liberal arts that are end in themselves

  • Leisure comes to those who are open, not grabbing

  • Leisure is not rejuvenation for work

3


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Leisure is Contemplation (con’t)

  • Leisure is only possible to person who is one with himself/herself

  • Leisure is only possible to person who is one with the world

  • Leisure is celebration (union of peace, contemplation, and intensity of life)

  • Note: Idleness is none of this

4


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Is it possible to save people from being excessive workers?

  • Leisure is opposite of activity as a practical social function

  • Need to relax (while relaxation, by definition is effortless, it is harder to attain than stress)

  • Many are as tied to their jobs as a poor person, but not because of the money (inner impoverishment)

  • Span the gulf between an educated leisure class (who are free to pursue knowledge) and the proletarian (who know spare time for rejuvenation)

4


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Deproletarianizing

  • Enlarge the scope of life beyond servile work

    Must overcome

    1. Economic need to always work

    2. Government forcing constant work

    3. Impoverishment of the individual

  • Honorarium, not a wage

1


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Leisure must include divine worship

  • Organized religion is the one institution which forbids useful activity

  • Divine worship sets aside time from working hours, from utilitarian ends

  • Celebration brings together the 3 elements of leisure (effortlessness, calm, relaxation)

3


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Leisure must include divine worship (con’t)

  • Celebration without the divine becomes diversion (and people turn back to work)

  • Unless something as encompassing as religious worship, no chance for leisure in a workaholic world.


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So What?

What do you think of Pieper’s notion that:

  • True leisure, at least for the masses, can only exist if institutionalized

  • AND divine worship is the only path that will make this happen.

    Can you take Pieper’s ideas and stop short of divine worship?


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So What?

Pieper claims that the central problem of liberating people from this condition is:

  • Lack of significant activities for the working person

  • Lack of people willing to forego work for leisure.

    Can we - do we - should we – address these issues?


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