Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Leisure: The Basis Of Culture” as Want to Read:
Leisure: The Basis Of Culture
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Leisure: The Basis Of Culture

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  1,633 ratings  ·  183 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)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Leisure, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Leisure

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.25  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,633 ratings  ·  183 reviews

Sort order
Elie F
Jun 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: german, non-fiction
To do philosophy is to realize the naturally essential inclination of the human mind toward totality.
I often wonder why is Achilles always resting in The Iliad; at one point it almost feels like he is angry not with Agamemnon taking the slave girl but with Agamemnon denying his right to leisure. Josef Pieper gives leisure an interesting definition: "Leisure is the disposition of receptive understanding, of contemplative beholding, and immersion in the real." In other words, leisure is what promp
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
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
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
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
Maybe 4.5 stars is more accurate. I didn't read The Philosophical Act, which comprises the last half of the edition I read. I led a Colloquium discussion on this book at Baylor University on Nov. 10, 2014.

My biggest criticism is Pieper's view of work. I'd like to know whether or not he views pre-lapsarian work as "practical" and "useful" (in a negative sense) as he views modern work.
John Majors
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I can't stop talking about this book. Everyone should read this book. It's a response to life as total work culture. But a healthy culture flows from thoughtful intentionality. Pockets of stillness lead to better production and life with intrinsic purpose not predicated on more volume of products created.

Reading this books enforces how critical it is to protect oneself from being swept along by a culture that demands people serve its end - which in our world is consumption. Yet humans have a hi
Dec 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
A wonderful little book.
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
10 out of 5 stars. Essential reading.
Brian Murphy
This book is actually 2 sets of lectures in book form. The first lecture is called Leisure and the second is the Philosophical Act. It is appropriate that they are included together in this order because in many ways the Philosophical Act builds on Leisure. It is hard to rate this book because the lessons seem quite simple and yet are very profound. The main points are desperately needed, especially in our time, and I plan to come back and read this again and again.

The first part shows us that l
Miguel Dominguez
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I wish I could have read this book several years ago, when I first began defining myself by my work. Now I've begun coming to these conclusions through a longer path, and this book is mainly affirmation.

This book decidedly rejects leisure as we think of it: As a time to rest or entertain ourselves in preparation for the next day of work. Instead if argues that leisure is for seeking philosophical truth. However, it's not a time for poring over tomes and exerting ourselves in reasoning: The best
Mary Beth
Aug 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, worldview
A thoroughly enjoyable and instructive read.
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
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
Jan 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book expecting it to contain something like a Catholic critique of the Protestant work ethic. That is not exactly the case—instead it provides a strong defence of philosophy, and more broadly the very idea of the liberal arts, against the utilitarianism of the modern world of total work. However, it is more than just that. Pieper's "Leisure" also contains a definition, and a history, of philosophy, and explains how it is intimately connected to theology. To top it all of, the bo ...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!
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?
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.
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
Oct 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This edition of Pieper's work includes both Leisure: The Basis of Culture and The Philosophical Act. These two collections of essays, although not written as a single book, nonetheless read well in a single volume as they have a good deal of overlap in theme and topic. Pieper's basic premise is that the basis for culture is contemplation. One of the more direct statements of this thesis is his quotation of Aquinas when he writes "It is necessary for the perfection of human society that there sho ...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
Stephen Heiner
Revisiting this work which I had not read since my undergraduate days was such a pleasure that it became the base of an article I wrote for the Intercollegiate Review, which will double as a worthy review for it:
Cameron Bernard
A pretty slippery book. Philosophy is the highest thing for a human to do! But sort of not as well.

Much I appreciated in this book. Much frustrated me.
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.
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
For the Greeks, as will as the Romans, there was no word for work, but instead it was represented by a word which signified the negation of labor: i.e., 'not labor'.

Note that there was a difference, historically, between 'servile' and 'liberal' arts. As such, the modern concept of 'intellectual worker' resulted in the line being blurred between the two, where they are both 'servile' now in function, and merely differ by degree.

For Kant, the knowledge is born not form mere perception, but rather
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods
  • The Idea of a University
  • Another Sort of Learning
  • Ideas Have Consequences
  • Beauty for Truth's Sake: The Re-Enchantment of Education
  • Norms and Nobility: A Treatise on Education
  • Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of Education
  • The Great Tradition: Classic Readings on What it Means to Be an Educated Human Being
  • The End of the Modern World
  • Fides et Ratio: On the Relationship Between Faith and Reason
  • Back to Virtue: Traditional Moral Wisdom for Modern Moral Confusion
  • The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas
  • Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction
  • Art and Scholasticism With Other Essays
  • The Liberal Arts Tradition: A Philosophy of Christian Classical Education
  • Tending the Heart of Virtue: How Classic Stories Awaken a Child's Moral Imagination
  • I See Satan Fall Like Lightning
  • Religion and the Rise of Western Culture
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
“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.” 45 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
More quotes…