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Leisure: The Basis Of Culture

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  1,289 Ratings  ·  130 Reviews
One of the most important philosophy titles published in the twentieth century, Josef Pieper's Leisure, the Basis of Culture is more significant, even more crucial, today than it was when it first appeared fifty years ago.Pieper shows that the Greeks understood and valued leisure, as did the medieval Europeans. He points out that religion can be born only in leisure -- a l ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published November 15th 1998 by St. Augustines Press (first published 1948)
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Nov 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
"Pieper's message to us is plain. The American democracy is not blissfully immune to the Western blight; we have in fact done our part in generating the totalitarian epidemic. The idolatry of the machine, the worship of mindless know-how, the infantile cult of youth and the common man--all this points to our peculiar leadership in the drift toward the slave society. "--from the 1952 NYT Book Review

A lovely, contrarian work of philosophy. Pieper watches how Socrates' prerequisite for philosophy
Fr. Peter Mottola
The definitive analysis, and rebuke, of our society's obsession with productivity. Pieper explains why the inability to enjoy leisure is also closely related to sloth and despair. "One can only be bored if the spiritual power to be leisurely has been lost." Leisure is rooted in wonder, and therefore brings us a lasting joy that we cannot find in the mere temporary cessation of work ("vacation"). Pieper shows the perverse effects of thinking that something is better simply because it is harder, a ...more
David Withun
Feb 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, philosophy
This book, which actually consists of two essays, is very short; I read the entire thing in only three sittings and probably could have read it in less time if I had not gone back and re-read several portions of it. It is, at the same time, one of the best books I have ever read and one of the greatest defenses of and introductions to philosophizing that I have yet come across. Pieper offers a wealth of insight into the subjects he takes up, focusing especially on the necessity of authentic leis ...more
Matt Bianco
What an astounding little book, my first introduction to Josef Pieper, other than him being footnoted in other books I've read. The book, if you aren't familiar with it, is essentially two essays made up of a series of lectures and papers Pieper wrote. The first, "Leisure: The Basis of Culture" and the second, "The Philosophical Act" are both excellent and worthy reads. The two were written near to one another in time, so their themes play right into one another.

This is an important book to read
Kirk Lowery
This book is actually two monographs. The first, from which the book's title is taken, laments the distinction made in modern (circa 1947 post-war Germany) between work that is "useful" and philosophy which is "useless". Pieper argues that the distinction is false: philosophizing (the subject of the next essay) is an essential part of human nature. Leisure is not snowboarding in the Rockies or yachting in the Caribbean. It is taking the time to contemplate Things As They Are. So what is philosop ...more
Bob Nichols
Jul 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is an excellent description of a modern-day Platonic perspective. The book has two essays (and an introduction by T.S. Eliot). In the first essay, “Leisure: The Basis of Culture,” Pieper distinguishes between the common man and the man of leisure. The former is the one who works, who does the menial things, who focuses on the practical to satisfy human need. The latter is free of all of this, and this is the meaning of “leisure.” But it is not a piddling leisure. Leisure allows man to d ...more
Jun 13, 2013 rated it liked it
dense, loquacious, pragmatic

The Good: contains some real gems; socially relevant theme
The Bad : dense philosophical writing;

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 cou
Craig Barner
The background of "Leisure: The Basis on Culture" is almost as interesting as the book itself. It was published two years after World War II by Josef Pieper, a German philosopher. Germany had worked itself--and most of Europe, as well as a good portion of the rest of the globe--to death under a tyrannical regime. This book represents Germany and most of western society rejecting the mindless slavery of work for a true understanding of prosperity.

Pieper's strongest insight is that leisure is an a
Tam Nguyen
Oct 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I quite disappointed at the end of this book when he mentioned that Christian philosophy is the way to attain truth. It is not persuasive since he hadn't given an account of Christian theology in relation with philosophy in general. But the rest of this book is excellent.

What I want to ask him is while Philosophy is about doubt and wonder, science also concerns about wonder and questioning. If they are very similar in the sense of questioning, then what are the distinctions between them?
David Mosley
Sep 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Previously Read:
2013 (11-16 September)
2014 (23-28 December)
2016 (31 August-6 September)
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have never seen so much dense information packed in 176 pages! I picked up this thin book thinking I would finish it with a little enlightenment on embracing a more leisurely lifestyle (more "down" time for pursuits of enjoyment and learning). What I found was an incredibly thoughtful discussion (2 essays) on leisure as an act of intellectual thought and on philosophy as a thought that not only needs but also requires us to embrace our theology in the process of philosophizing. I spent over a ...more
Jul 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: good-nonfiction
Surprisingly slim read. Written in an engaging but rather 'lightweight' manner. Although the pages do contain very easy-to-track footnotes and there is an index, a bibliography, and an afterword (everything properly done); it takes the author a long while before he makes cogent points. There's a lot of convenient 'cherry-picking' from the statements of great men. Once the argument begins in earnest (approximately halfway through) it's thoughtful enough. He makes decent sense. I wound up enjoying ...more
Theresa Kenney
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is an ever-fresh reminder of what human beings are really made for in our noise-hungry age. Pieper is concise, clear, and profound. An unforgettable book.
Jun 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy, education
Pieper offers many dazzling insights and important truths. Doubtless this is the sort of book that demands multiple readings to fully divulge its secrets. I took notes and reread portions as I went, and I still felt utterly overwhelmed at points--aware that I was seeing only a portion of what he intended to communicate.

The defects are not in the book itself, though, but rather in me as a reader. What is revelatory is the view of leisure (both passive and active reflection) as integral to humani
Robert Tessmer
Mar 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a pleasant surprise. It is actually two lectures and I enjoyed both. It also included an introduction by T. S. Eliot.

The web link provides the following review:

One of the most important philosophy titles published in the twentieth century, Josef Pieper’s Leisure, the Basis of Culture is more significant, even more crucial, today than it was when it first appeared more than fifty years ago. This edition also includes his work "The Philosophica
Sep 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christian-books
I love reading Josef Pieper ... his writings stir up a desire for the joy of truth. Leisure the Basis of Culture actually contains two of Pieper's essays, Leisure the Basis of Culture and The Philosophical Act. In both essays, Pieper calls us out of the strain and tension and perpetual activity of the world of work, challenging the idea that man is most useful and most valuable when he is working. He challenges the idea that man must mistrust everything that was acquired without great trouble an ...more
Oct 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: worldview, philosophy
This "book" is essentially 2 essays. The first is set to define "leisure" and differentiate it from idleness as well as to separate utilitarian and "useless" (philosophy) intellectual work. These are fascinating ideas that are well fleshed out in ways that I've never heard talked about previously.

The 2nd essay answers questions of "what is philosophy?" and "what is philosophizing?" as well as discussing the value of each. Briefly, Pieper talks about philosophizing as being in a state of wonder,
Mar 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, work, leisure
I've been interested in studying a Christian perspective on leisure, which led me to this and one other book (there was actually a third book by Jurgen Moltmann titled A Theology of Play but it is out of print and my budget does not allow purchasing almost $100 books!). Pieper mostly focuses on philosophy as leisure, though many of his conclusions could be generalized to apply to other types of leisure such as cooking, hiking, board games and really anything that is not work. They key for Pieper ...more
Feb 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Piper explains how leisure is different from work. Leisure is not idleness, but a ceasing from work for productivity's sake in order to "affirm the universe" or to celebrate life. He pulls from Aristotle who says that leisure is the purpose of life and what makes life worth living. The author didn't emphasize this idea with the Christian tradition of the Sabbath (although the author is Christian), but the book helped me understand the purpose of the Sabbath. The second half is an essay on philos ...more
Oct 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This little book is mind-blowing. Pieper makes a case for leisure--the liberal arts--as an integral aspect of humanity. What he says is largely counter-culture, and has me thinking of all sorts of ways "work," which dominates American value sets especially, is soul-sucking and counter-productive to reaching our full potential. His solution, however, was not what I was expecting and still has me thinking!
Jan 30, 2014 marked it as to-read
I added it to my "want" list,
it looks so interesting & "nice",
then found it immediately a used bookstore
I'd only been in twice.

The convenience of it seemed almost dreamlike,
a mystery for the ages,
I didn't think I'd find this tome
in a shop for ages.

--I was really quite impressed.
Will read it soon,
deep down
I've a feeling it'll
leave me quite depressed.
Here are some good things about this sort of philosophical writing: brief; memorably phrased; learned but not esoteric; straightforward in its assumptions; rooted in Plato; able to make me reconsider things of which I am mistrustful (in this instance, scholasticism). Also, it has an introduction by T. S. Eliot.
Angie Libert
Jan 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent comparison between work/leisure and servile/liberal education. I have explored the topic of servile/liberal education, but looking at it from the perspective of leisure was really interesting. I also appreciated that the author fully explained what leisure is, it is not recreation like most modern people would think. It is as the author says essential to being a whole human. :)
Tricia Oaks
Dec 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Amazing philosophical treatment of leisure/feasting/rest. Meaty and so good that I want to return to it again later
May 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
What an interesting read, a keeper, a book to be re-read again and again.

Pieper wrote this book right after the close of World War II, in Germany, as it laid in ruins and was rebuilding. A nation, deep in building a new culture, a new nation, a new government, and new buildings. A nation devastated and in ruins.

Yet, in the midst of all this, the insight Pieper had of the world and where it was headed. It's obsession with the industrial revolution, of forging ahead to build something greater out
Amanda Patchin
Jun 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A few quotes that review the book better than I could:

"The vacancy left by absence of worship is filled by mere killing of time and by boredom, which is directly related to inability to enjoy leisure; for one can only be bored if the spiritual power to be leisurely has been lost. There is an entry in Baudelaire... "One must work, if not from taste then at least from despair. For, to reduce everything to a single truth: work is less boring than pleasure.”

“A man who needs the unusual to make him "
Daniel G.
Jun 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am just getting to this renowned classic for the first time. What a remarkable read--Pieper paints a picture of human activity and thought that is even more timely today than it was seventy years ago. As we approach the "post-work" world, and continue to wrangle with the profound spiritual effects of the world of "total work," it is more imperative than ever to explore the question of how we relate to work and (more importantly) how we relate to leisure.

For Pieper, while work will forever be a
This small book contains two essays: "Leisure the Basis of Culture" and "The Philosophical Act." In "Leisure the Basis of Culture," Pieper points out our tendency to make everything serve a useful purpose and how, in doing so, we have lost our ability to rest. This diminishes our culture. In "The Philosophical Act," Pieper argues the importance of wonder. While both essays required careful thought, both were greatly worth it. They have profoundly changed the way I understand the Sabbath's rest.
Marc Lewandowski
A real eye-opener. Very German, though not much more difficult to read than other philosophy texts. Maybe because these were originally lectures. A wonderful introduction in how not to be bored, to have a sense of wonder about the world: we were made to contemplate all of it.
Aug 07, 2017 rated it liked it
It was good shit until he started wrapping it up in theological mumbo-jumbo.
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Josef Pieper was professor of philosophical anthropology at the University of Münster/Germany; he was a member of several academies and received numerous awards and distinctions, among them the International Balzan Prize for outstanding achievements in the field of humanities.

Pieper is among the most widely read philosophers of the 20th century. The main focus of his thought is the overcoming of c
More about Josef Pieper...

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“Leisure is only possible when we are at one with ourselves. We tend to overwork as a means of self-escape, as a way of trying to justify our existence.” 32 likes
“Of course the world of work begins to become - threatens to become - our only world, to the exclusion of all else. The demands of the working world grow ever more total, grasping ever more completely the whole of human existence.” 21 likes
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