What people do in leisure is how to sense if the people are “addressed” or only “explained” (away), aided by philosophy as wonder, clearing, waiting, and self-defense.
Quoting Aristotle, Josef Pieper writes in Leisure, the Basis of Culture: ‘This is the main question, with what activity one’s leisure is filled.’¹ What we do in our “free time” is who we are, not what we do to make money (though we often say, “We’re an engineer,” “We’re a doctor,” etc.), and if we have nothing to do in our freedom, we too are nothing. “Leisure,” as Josef Pieper means it, is not a state absent of work though, which is what we might think given how the term “leisure” is often used to refer to “free time” after work (a notion that makes it nearly impossible to understand what Aristotle is getting at). ‘Idleness in the old sense […] is really ‘lack of leisure.’ There can only be leisure, when man is at one with himself, when he is in accord with his own being.’² “The Garden of Eden” was a place of leisure, for Adam could “walk with God” and thus was at home with Adam’s self (and please note “the man” and “the woman” were not divided into “Adam and Eve” until after “The Fall,” suggesting even further “fitted-ness”). And yet there was work in Eden (just not “toil”), for Adam was responsible for the animals and the garden. Eden suggests that leisure is a state of our most human work, and yet that work is profoundly “useless” (a point which brings to mind Julien Benda and his Treason of the Intellectuals). Isn’t that horrible? Only perhaps if humans were never “an end in themselves” (itself of which would be a horrifying state).
Dr. Johannes Niederhauser has taught extensively on the topic of leisure and “Scholé,” and I think he is right to emphasize the topics, as does Peter Limberg at The Stoa. ‘Idleness and lack of leisure belong with each other; leisure is opposed to both.’³ Rather, ‘[l]eisure is a form of that stillness that is the necessary preparation for accepting reality,’ which we can think of like “preparing a kitchen for a meal” — is this not work?⁴ Without this work of the chef (sharpening the knives, stocking the fridge, cleaning the oven…), how would the cooking prove possible? Likewise, without the leisure that prepares for “hosting reality,” how would we ever hope to do anything really “useful?” Leisure is what makes pragmaticism possible: otherwise, like the chef with an unprepared kitchen who works incredibly hard and yet still can only produce a bad meal. So we with an unprepared understanding of life, humanity, and the labor can only generate work which accomplishes little. “Leisure” is required if we are to avoid the “capture” of Deleuze and “ideology” of Žižek — not that there are any guarantees (hence all the more reason to prepare).
Without leisure, real work is impossible, that is work which “makes contact with reality,” for leisure is required if ‘the truly human is [to be] rescued and preserved.’⁵ Humans are real, and if we are not human, any work we do will prove unreal or that which contributes to making the world less real. Critically, Pieper argues ‘that the frenzied need to work, to plan, and to change things is nothing but idleness under other names — moral, intellectual, and emotional idleness.’⁶
‘Work is the means of life; leisure the end. Without the end, work is meaningless — a means to a means to a means…and so on forever, like Wall Street or Capitol Hill. Leisure is not the cessation of work, but work of another kind, work restored to its human meaning, as a celebration and a festival.’⁷
‘Feast, festival, and faith lift us from idleness, and endow our lives with sense’ — suggesting what is required for “The Meaning Crisis” to be “addressed.”⁸ And time might be running out: ‘ ‘[i]ntellectual work, ‘intellectual worker’ — these terms characterize the latest stretch of the road we have traveled, bringing us at last to the modern ideal of work in its most extreme formulation.’⁹ Once the mind itself becomes a place where leisure is not allowed, then so is lost the capacity to even recognize that leisure has been lost. “Despair” then, as Kierkegaard thought of it, becomes our success.
‘Thomas Aquinas wrote […] ‘The essence of virtue consists more in the Good than in the Difficult. When something is more difficult, it is not for that reason necessarily more worthwhile, but it must be more difficult in such a way, as also to be at a higher level of goodness.’¹⁰ The world will probably always happily give us opportunities to work really, really hard, but this alone would not necessarily prove we are increasing in virtue. So it goes with thinking: there is no necessary correlation between the difficulty of a thought and its accuracy. ‘It would follow, then, that the essence of knowing would lie, not in the effort of thought as such, but in the grasp of the being of things, in the discovery of reality.’¹¹ Note the word “discovery” here, for it indeed suggests that we can associate “leisure” with something more akin to Heidegger’s “clearing” (which I have spoken to Andrew Luber about). Thinking is to be in the act of “making space for” more than seeking to find and grasp, because frankly thinking is a poor method for encountering the beautiful, good, and true. Better is thinking and work that creates a “clearing” in and by which the Infinity might encounter us versus the other way around (when we seek the Infinite, we seemingly cannot help but reduce it). Unfortunately, in a world that conflates “leisure” with “lazy,” there is no space for the creation of “clearings,” and so the Infinite dies, and “The Meaning Crisis” follows.
‘From the perspective of such a ‘worker’ [shaped by ‘autonomous pragmaticism’], leisure can only appear as something totally unforeseen, something completely alien, without rhyme or reason — as a synonym, in fact, for idleness and laziness.’¹² Situated in this “modern framework,” “leisure” can only be understood as irrational, and thus “the wise person” only reads when its for a class; “the educated” only studies philosophy when he or she might gain a degree; and so on — a horrifying “transvaluation of all values” (alluding to Nietzsche). If leisure is required for us to be human, this would mean that we’ve made the way to “be human” irrational and illogical all while we might praise efforts to “be human.” In a topsy-turvy world, the way up leads down.
Pieper elaborates on his point through examining what was meant by ‘Acedia,’ which is more like ‘not wanting ‘to be oneself’ ’ then it is about laziness.¹³ Pieper stresses:
‘The opposite of acedia is not the industrious spirit of the daily effort to make a living, but rather the cheerful affirmation by man of his won existence, of the world as a whole, and of God — of Love, that is, from which arises that special freshness of action, which would never be confused by anyone with any experience with the narrow activity of the ‘workaholic.’ ’¹⁴
It is good to make a living, and in fact it would be immoral not to so labor. But we are foolish if we believe the whole of human life is “making a living,” for without leisure we have no life in which to employ that living we’ve made. We end up with money we don’t know what to do with (a fate I think befalls many people in retirement), and so we just spend the money on thrills and entertainment. We can pass the money to our children (after taxes), but then they might just use the money to also “make a living” for a life that is always on the way.
Pieper has interesting things to say about Marxism, and ultimately suggests that Marxism without leisure is just as dehumanizing as Capitalism without leisure (‘the real key to overcoming [being proletarian] […] would consist in making available for the working person a meaningful kind of activity that is not work — in other words, by opening up an area of true leisure’).¹⁵ Humans suffer without work, but work can only be work and not “toil” if it is situated in and informed by leisure. Soul is birthed in leisure, and so work without leisure is soulless (“toil”).¹⁶
How do we engage in leisure though? There are lots of people who are unemployed, and people have free time after work — isn’t that leisure? No, and why it isn’t is because “a philosophical act” is required to transform “free time” into “leisure”; otherwise, we end up bored (which makes it seem rational to be a workaholic). We cannot “think beyond our everyday” without an act that asks, “Why?” or “Does this have to be the case?” — such a question “separates us out” from what we are embedded in, which makes it possible for us to think about “what we are embedded in” as something that could be different. And this changes everything, for ‘a philosophical act is an act in which the work-a-day world is transcended,’ suggesting that philosophy is what makes it possible for us “to stand outside of” and thus “clear (ourselves from)” (without which an “address” becomes impossible, I fear).¹⁷
It is often said that philosophy begins in wonder, and though I don’t disagree with this approach, I sometimes wonder if it would be better to say, “Philosophy begins with absurdity.” If we look at a cup we have used a thousand times and suddenly ask, “What is a cup?” — isn’t that absurd? And yet we are suddenly separated from the object as something different from how we usually treat it (“a thing from which we drink”), which is to say we stand in relation to it as “possibly something else.” Our prenotions and pre-uses of the cup are thus “cleared” (in a Heideggerian sense), and from this “clearing” who knows what might come forth? This “possibility of a coming-forth” could be seen as a state of leisure, and if so that would suggest that leisure must come after “the philosophical act,” which we might be quicker to enjoy or carry out if we realize that “philosophy starts with absurdity.” Yes, wonder can motivate and inspire this absurd act, but we can also, right now, without any waiting, do something absurd and ask, “What is a laptop?” Sure, perhaps without wonder this question will stay factual and definitional, but the point is that we shouldn’t be surprised when we feel absurd for doing philosophy. If we know philosophy is the only way to leisure though, we’ll be better equipped to handle and work through this absurd feeling.
Again, I’m not against wonder, but rather I want to draw attention to how philosophy works as something which borders on absurdity, hence why it can free (a point which makes me think of Benjamin Fondane and his emphasis on “the irrational” as necessary for freedom). I don’t think Pieper would disagree with me, for he writes that ‘[w]onder does not make one industrious, for to feel astonished is to be disturbed […] Someone who is astonished at everything he encounters, may forget, at times, how to handle the same things in terms of everyday life.’¹⁸ Mainly, the point is that if we over-emphasis “wonder” regarding philosophy, then when people feel the absurdity of philosophy, they might think they aren’t engaging in philosophy, but instead doing something wrong. I want to make a point to stress that this isn’t the case, that absurdity can be a sign of progress and freedom.
A reason philosophy can “separate us out” from everyday life is precisely because ‘philosophy is ‘useless’ in the sense of immediate profit and application,’ which is to say that it thus cannot be reduced to simple cause and effect and so immediately seems “other” and “transcendent” of the world in which we are always situated.¹⁹ What has “use” is easily “captured” in the Deleuzian sense by the system, but in today’s world it’s absurd to do something that doesn’t have “use” — which means right there that doing philosophy suggests a level of willingness to be rejected, which seems necessary for “leisure” to prove possible (we cannot be at rest if we are nervous about being accepted). This in mind, we can say that we can only be free from that which we can introduce some degree of “uselessness” into, and if ours is a world in which no “uselessness” is allowed, then ours is a world in which freedom is outlawed. In the name of productivity, nothing “real” is produced.
The freedom described here ‘belongs to the particular sciences only to the extent that they are pursued in a philosophical manner,’ which would suggest that a science which only allows facts is a science which cannot be free (of itself, which means it is A/A and so autocannibalistic and self-effacing).²⁰ Such a fate has befallen academia for Pieper, who writes that ‘academic freedom has been lost, exactly to the extent that the philosophic character of academic study has been lost, or, to put it another way, to the extent, that the totalitarian demands of the working world have conquered the realm of the university.’²¹
Again, this suggests that no freedom is possible without philosophy, for the “philosophical act” is what “separates us from” the world, the society, causation, and the like: without it, we cannot be so separated, and so cannot be free. Now, be warned, this for David Hume is what starts the dangerous “Philosophical Ascent” which could make us bitter, self-righteous “Philosopher Kings” who then feel entitled to recreate “common life” according to his or her own ideas, but this would mean that we can only avoid this risk if we do not allow ourselves to be free (which risks “the banality of evil”). Thus, there is no possibility of “leisure” without risking the “Philosophical Ascent,” which means “leisure” is only found for those who “return to common life” — but that is elaborated on in “Deconstructing Common Life” by O.G. Rose (our hope is dangerous, as it must be in a world lacking danger).
If “the philosophical act” is necessary for “leisure,” for it separates us from the world and thus makes it possible to change our orientation and “fitted-ness” to the world (beyond “capture,” preset assumptions, etc.), then if “leisure” is a necessary “test” for Address and for us to then experience Address meaningfully (and by extension trust it actually there), then we can see why “the address” of Belonging Again seems to require “Absolute Knowing,” Deleuzian Dividualism, Nietzschean Children, an the like. Additionally, Pieper tells us:
‘[i]n leisure, there is […] something of the serenity of ‘not-being-able-to-grasp,’ of the recognition of the mysterious character of the world, and the confidence of blind faith, which can let things go as they will; there is in it something of the ‘trust in the fragmentary, that forms the very life and essence of history.’ ’²²
“Mystery” and “Transcendence” seem needed for leisure, for indeed these are “everywhere and nowhere,” which means that we do not have to work a 9-to-5 for fifty years to access them or access great power and wealth. They are available to us now, and even if we gain them, we will not grow bored with them, precisely because they are infinite. We avoid the tragedy of “getting” and/or “not getting,” as Dimitri has discussed (which is also discussed in “To Live-Along or to Live-At” by O.G. Rose). Indeed, we seem to require “Mystery” to make us “practically toward” “a world of situations” versus “a world of things” (which for Owen Barfield is idolatry), and this is provided for us in Hegel with “The Absolute,” as it might also be available in Deleuze and Nietzsche (or at least those two can be fit into Hegel). That’s another topic, but we require something like “Mystery” that, wherever we are and whatever we are doing, we are capable of simply “being-there” and “living-along,” for this is to prove capable of “leisure” (a “resting in,” a “confidence in,” a “being in”…). ‘Leisure is not the attitude of the one who intervenes but of the one who opens himself; not of someone who seizes but of one who lets go, who lets himself go […]’²³ Indeed, the “Absolute Knower” integrates with “lack” and accepts limitation, and in this realizes a quality of character that is only possible in this state of negation. “Absolute Knowing” is the condition of leisure. Pieper writes:
‘This, then, is what is peculiar and distinctive about a philosophical question, that something comes to the fore in it, touching the very nature of the soul: to ‘come together with every being’ — with everything that exists. You cannot ask and think philosophically without allowing the totality of existing things to come into play […]’²⁴
Philosophy is an act which recognizes a whole, which automatically “separates us” from “the parts” we live our lives amid, and yet we do so into something which enhances and completes those “parts’ (which we suddenly can see as “parts” at all). Without a sense of the whole, we cannot be “fully human,” and if leisure is the state possible thanks to philosophical in which “the whole” can be sensed, then indeed “full humanity” requires leisure. A world without leisure is a world that will hardly be a world at all.
Please note though that ‘[t]he one who philosophies does not turn his head in a different direction [from reality], when he transcends the work-a-day world in the philosophical act; he does not take his eye of the things of the working world’ — the one who so fails to engage in leisure but instead engages in escapism (philosophy that isn’t ultimately concrete is arguably not even philosophy, following Hegel).²⁵ To engage in the act that helps us “step back from the world” is not the same as “stepping out of the world,” and in fact the point of “stepping back” is precisely so that we might actually “step forward” (the philosophical is in service of the lived). Granted, philosophy doesn’t always do this, and it can prove in service of disembodied and abstraction, but this is not the use of philosophy for which we are interested. Instead, our concern is philosophy that helps us gain humanity, which requires “stepping back” and creating a “clearing” of leisure — but we will also have to be able to defend that “clearing,” which suggests a third function of philosophy which should be highlighted and encouraged.
The Conflict of Mind ends with a paper called “Deconstructing Common Life” which focused on David Hume, who championed philosophy as a means of self-defending our “common life.” As Samuel Barnes has written about in The Iconoclast, Hume was a skeptic of the Pyrrhonian lineage, which considered philosophy’s greatest problem philosophy itself, which is to say our very ability to philosophize is what can cause us grave trouble. Indeed, Dr. Livingston warns that Hume foresaw the spread of “philosophical consciousness” as changing the foundations of government and the State to something which was “unbound” and “totalizing,” which by extension meant “total war” became possible. Furthermore, in it being possible for philosophy to be about anything, it thus become possible for the State to make claims on any and everything — and so the State has (“unbound”).
The Iconoclast: An Anti-Philosophy
The Iconoclast: An Anti-Philosophy [Barnes, Samuel] on Amazon.com. *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. The…
The hope of “Deconstructing Common Life” is meant to show how philosophy should be used to “defend common life,” not to criticizing it or find it lacking and thus worthy of deconstruction (for philosophy can always find a problem). People will confront us with philosophical notions, ideas with how we should live our lives, moral premises regarding God’s Will, and the like, and if we don’t have philosophy, we will be defenseless and easily taken advantage of — we might give up everything in the name of the good, the true, and the beautiful, and end up in darkness. This is a horrifying possibility, but without philosophy we will lack the tools to even be aware that we are falling into this mistake if we are (the one in despair doesn’t know they are in despair, Kierkegaard admonished). Also, we tend to “gradually slip” into bad ideas over the years, making this detection all the more unlikely.
More than locate or build systems, we must create and defend “a clearing” for ourselves in which the true, beautiful, and good might disclose themselves (as Being). For Hume, philosophy which sought to find the truths of the world would end up tearing the world apart or reducing it to (philosophical) notions, and indeed even Plato sensed this according to DC Schindler, for Plato understand that Being and the Infinite had to be something we conditioned ourselves to be worthy of experiencing on its terms (the Infinite is not something just anyone can access if only the person were to find the right method). Being is an “Unmoved Mover”: if we can move it (to use, with some method), it is not Being, but something we have misnamed as “Being.” “The Unmoved Mover” moves us or we are not ourselves: we have become something else, inhuman. This in mind, we can say leisure is the “clearing” in which we allow ourselves to be moved by “The Unmoved,” and to be fully human, we must be so moved. There is no other way, for a human is “a being who is moved by Being.”
Here, we might be able to better understand why philosophy has this weird tendency to seem both incredibly important and yet irrelevant at the same time. Though philosophy has so much to do with skill acquisition, there at the end of the day is something “useless” about it, in the sense that Pieper and Benda would applaud, but also in the sense that seems like it doesn’t “do” anything. Indeed, we have described how philosophy for Heidegger “clears” more than “adds,” which right there seems inactive (though this “clearing” is very hard to maintain given all the forces trying to control our thinking and lives), and furthermore Martin Buber would then have us “wait” in that “clearing,” for an overly-active life is one that tends to reduce everything to an It versus a Thou. Javier Rivera talks extensively on Buber and “waiting” (which is ontological versus just temporal), and for Buber when we head off into the world with our ideas of what we should or shouldn’t do, we inevitably treat everything we encounter as either in service of our ideas or not, and in this way the world becomes a collection of Its. The Thou and “true other” of life is lost, which to receive we must “wait” for that other to come to us on the terms of that other. We must be inspired by wonder, make a “clearing” to observe that wonder, and then we must “wait” for life to disclose itself on its terms (all while we “self-defend” ourselves from anyone who would try to take us out of our “clearing” and posture of “waiting”).
That said, we can incorporate here points that were made during “The Net (57)” on the “uselessness of philosophy” and how it doesn’t primarily “solve problem” but “problematize problem-solving.” Alex Ebert noted that “philosophers problematize problem-solving,” which sounds annoying and frustrating (and indeed can be), but this function of philosophy is also critical precisely because once we start problem-solving we don’t tend to be able to go back. We’ve created a new world, and the old world might be forever gone. Is this the world we wanted to end up in? Perhaps not, but now it is too late — which is exactly what the philosopher understands. It is a big deal to make a choice, and once we start down x path versus y path, we can never see the world which “could have been” had we gone y way. The world is always concealing what didn’t happen, and all rationality and choice-making must be “set” in the world that exists versus the world which could have been. The world is the board “under” rationality, and all problem-solving occurs on such a board: if we would have been better off to problem-solve on board x versus board y, once we are on x, it’s too late. Philosophy is generally aware of this and thus “problematizes problem-solving,” for to choose to solve a problem is to choose to accept a “board.”
Philosophy is arguably more preventative than something which solves, which automatically means it is at a disadvantage (as discussed in “Incentives to Problem-Solve” by O.G. Rose). In that paper, it is noted also how problem-preventers can’t be so certain that they’ve “actually done anything,” precisely because they never see the problem manifest that would have manifest had they done something. The problem-solver, however, does experience themselves as “doing something,” even though that “opportunity” is only thanks to a failure to prevent the problem from manifesting. As a result, the philosopher can always wonder if he or she is actually doing anything (which also speaks to why leisure can prove hard to maintain and enjoy: we can always wonder if we are “actually” doing something important). We never see the world that a lack of leisure would have generated, and so we can always doubt that leisure is the right course. And so only those who can maintain existential stability for themselves (without external support or validation) can maintain the condition in which life can prove a Festival.
Once we begin problem-solving about how to become healthy again, that means we already failed problem-preventing ourselves from becoming unhealthy in the first place, and now who knows where our life will end up. This is what the philosopher realizes: we must be careful where we let problem-solving take us, and frankly we are prone to see problems that aren’t there, meaning that to problem-solve would be to engage in error. To assure that when we problem-solve we actually problem-solve, the philosopher clears, waits, and self-defends the space in which problems can “manifest themselves”: if we go to problems, we will likely create them; if we let problems “come to us,” there is a far higher chance they will be real problems. But this is also terrifying, for what if a problem is worse because we let it “come to us” versus “go to it?” That is the risk the philosopher is willing to take, aware that life is tragic and some risk must be taken: it’s best to be slow versus in a hurry, to defend leisure than risk a life of workless busyness.
Also, philosophy is more in the business of “taking choice seriously” than “problem-solving,” which of course is a kind of “problem-solving,” but it is also distinct. Philosophy will ultimately lead to a place of the “Absolute Choice’ (as discussed in The Absolute Choice), which is where we realize that we must choose for ourselves own our “ground of being,” which is utterly abyssal beyond the choice itself. This is a strange notion that requires much to explain, but philosophy is to help us through Wonder, Clearing, Waiting, and Self-Defense prove able to make and sustain an Absolute Choice, without which our leisure will be at risk and perhaps impossible. But this point will require unpacking Hegel to justify.
But wait, how exactly are we to engage in “self-defense” and it not violate the “clearing” and “waiting” that we have claimed we need to honor? Doesn’t self-defense only make sense if we know what is right, which runs counter to the ethos of philosophy itself? A very fair point, one that drawing from Javier Rivera’s reflection, “Reflections on Philosophy: Impotence,” might help us consider. Javier notes that the philosopher does not straight dismissing what he or she is presented in a conversation, but rather the philosopher accepts and assumes it in the act of then asking questions “assuming it is the case.” Javier notes how Socrates rarely if ever references anyone outside the dialogue he is engaged in: while philosophers today might often note how “Kant said this” or “that’s not what Deleuze said” or the like, Socrates simply accepts what he is given and works with it. This is how “philosophical self-defense” is to be engaged in, for it is always possible that someone brings us an idea that would be good for us to accept, which means we cannot be quick to wall ourselves off from all outside influences. At the same time, the philosopher is aware that many and even most ideas can destroy us, and so a need for diligence, care, and wisdom is paramount. And yet there is always the possibility of something being offered to us that is good and needed, a tension that squaring requires a model like Socrates to take seriously. Without that model, I fear philosophy has fallen into decline, as has education (as discussed in “Austin Farrer and the Problem of Verifiable Education” by O.G. Rose).
To pick back up on a previous line of thought — it is not destined though that we will be moved by the Unmoved, and indeed ideas, thinking, practical concerns, and the like have a tendency to naturally lead us into being compelled by habits which align with the zeitgeist and socioeconomic order of the day. This is what Pieper warned against, and if we are to escape this tendency we will require philosophy to “step back” from the world. In this, from “stepping back” from the stream of causality which defines the everyday world, it is possible for us to “step into” the stream of Being in which we can be moved by the Unmoved. But this means we will have to defend ourselves against ideas of the good that are defined by Capitalism; it means we will have to deconstruct notions of beauty which reduce beauty to a mere pleasantry; it means we will have to avoid environments that would convince us that leisure is mere idleness. This will take great discernment and skill, but we will not even be able to tell we need these abilities without philosophy which can alert us to the threat, let alone have us move into a place where we learn and master the skills required for us to self-defend our “clearing of waiting” (as David Hume encouraged us to gain).
Philosophy is about “stepping back,” “clearing,” and self-defense, and yet we are often taught that philosophy is about abstract system-building, which keeps us from training ourselves to learn the skills of philosophy that we might use to defend ourselves. And so we are left vulnerable. And so philosophy does not address the problem of philosophy and proves an enemy of leisure versus its greatest friend. It has betrayed its reason, and, like work, become soulless.
Without philosophy, we cannot “step back from life” to gain a sense of the whole (which means we can gain no sense of the Music which Plato suggested all education must begin with), and without this “whole” we are are risk of living a life that sees everything as fragmented and ultimately nihilistic. But even if we experience this Music, this experience will prove only a temporary glimpse if we cannot defend ourselves from the forces which would come and make us forget the Music. In this way, philosophy that doesn’t also train us in self-defense will ultimately prove unable to sustain its victories. O.G. Rose is hopefully full of tools, mental models, notions, and skills which would come together to form a picture of “philosophy as self-defense,” but I’ll let readers decide.
There is an emphasis on “philosophy as skill” in O.G. Rose, as there is an emphasis on “conditioning” (see “Conditionalism” by O.G. Rose), which is to say that if we engage in philosophy well we will prove “skillful” more than possess some perfect “model” or “system” by which we understand all the nuances and details of reality. What exactly are these skills requires many papers to elaborate on, but the point is that philosophy might not be in the business of what we think it is: it is training so that we might be “artful in life,” not merely people sitting on rocks with fits under our chins (a metaphor that has perhaps made philosophy incapable of helping us engage in leisure, for we confuse philosophy with inaction). Philosophy is wrestling, writing, dancing — there are many more active metaphors which better suggest what philosophy is about that, in lacking, we cannot understand how philosophy is the realm in which we learn the skills needed to prove capable of leisure, for leisure is only available to those who face Lacan’s “The Real” and terror of being alone with themselves.
Didn’t we say philosophy helped us engage in wonder and Music? Yes, but critically it requires conditioning to experience beauty, truth, and goodness in all their fullness: philosophy begins with an experience of Music that then we must work at ourselves to keep experiencing (and experience better). Whether philosophy as found in Socrates, Heidegger, Buber, or Hume, all of these require perfecting, for all of them entails skills and “art-fullness.” This is most obvious with Hume’s “self-defense,” but it is not guaranteed that we will prove forever capable of experiencing beauty: that requires cultivation, conditioning, and skill as well, and where all this “perfecting” is lacking, we will also prove lacking in leisure and “good times.”
Simon Stolzoff in his book The Good Enough Job notes how most of human history saw an inverse relationship between wealth and work, but now people might work more as they make more money. This makes little sense, but we can understand why people are “trading leisure for work” if leisure is a space that requires skills, psychological conditionally, and the like. Lacking these capacities, leisure is ostensibly impossible, only idleness, and idleness feels like wasting time, “un-optimal,” a missed opportunity, and even torture — even if its tough, work can feel better. Furthermore, when we are at home we are around people, and if we lack the skills needed to be around people in a fulfilling way, then this can be a terribly difficult circumstance. Returning to work seems rational…
More could be said, but my point is that work takes over where leisure is lacking, and leisure must be trained and earned. If indeed the West today is failing to employ leisure, and if leisure is indeed the realm where “the human” emerges, then the West is failing the test to prove human. But where leisure and humanness are lacking, so too can be lacking the capacities needed to tell they are lacking — our plight is easily severe and invisible.
We can see leisure as impossible where people lack the skills to “perform,” face “The Real,” and “entertain” during their free time, which is to say they incapable of passing “The Unarmored Test” (as discussed, inspired by Raymond K. Hessel, in “Neighbors, Artful Skill, and Gender-Forgetfulness” by O.G. Rose). To put it simply, “The Unarmored Test” is a gage of how well we might prove entertaining to our neighbor if we didn’t have a movie to watch together, if we didn’t have a cellphone to distract us both — if it was just us, alone in a room, with nothing between us (“naked”). In many respects, the question on if we are capable of leisure versus idleness is the question of if we can pass “The Unarmored Test,” which nobody passes perfectly, but there is a serious problem if we cannot pass it more so than not.
It is hard for us to understand the virtues of “performance” today, say in being an engaging conversationalist, in proving able to add value to those around us, etc., because we naturally associate “performance” with “acting,” which we then associate with “fakeness.” Thus, to “perform” is to be “fake,” and today a higher value is placed on “being authentic” and “real.” And there is legitimacy to “authenticity,” but there is a danger when it leads to a people who replace “performance” with “expression.” Indeed, today there is an emphasis on “expression” and “expressing ourselves,” which any of us can do simply by being ourselves (we easily have things we like which we can wear, things we think that we can say, and so on). Now, what we express might not necessarily be interesting or valuable, but if we practically act as if “expression is an innate good,” then whatever we say or do will have value simply by virtue of being “expressed.” Under this moral zeitgeist, the emphasis to master “performance” will be very low, and as a result it will be unlikely that we prove capable of true leisure.
TV lead us to combining “performance” and “acting,” which then made “performance” what celebrities did, and celebrities tend to have “secret lives” they try to hide from the media; thus, “performance” became an act of “hiding something,” which is to say people “perform” who don’t want to “express,” which means they are trying to avoid being “authentic” and what is culturally considered the right thing to do. In this way, there is then a moralization against “performance,” and as a result people do not undergo the training and conditioning necessary so that they might handle leisure and spaces in which life can be used in service of making us “fully human.” And this mistake benefits the corporations and systems which benefit from endless labor — because we won’t “perform” for ourselves, we end up avoiding leisure and serving masters. The only freedom we know is then idleness: we cannot enjoy the freedom of Festivals.
A full life is like a work of art, a constant performance and dance, closer to athletic mastery than it is celebrity culture. To be capable of this, as the athlete must go through intense practice, so I think a person must confront “The Real” that Lacan describes and also put in the intense work required to prove excellent and masterful.
To bring this paper to a close, there are four main activities that we need “the philosophical act” for, without which leisure becomes impossible:
stepping back from the world
(with)in the world
in the “clearing”
from ideology, busyness, etc.
We need philosophy “to break out from” the hole the world has on us, as we then need philosophy to create a “clearing” in which Being (Beauty, Goodness, and Truth) might meet us (on Being’s terms versus ours), and then we need philosophy to “wait in,” defend, and maintain this “clearing” from all outside enclosures. To put it another way, we need philosophy to realize what leisure is, to create a space for leisure, to “wait in” and “inhabit” leisure, and then to defend leisure, and please note that when we talk about leisure we talk about “our humanity,” which means we need philosophy to recognize and define ourselves, to create space in which we might “become,” and then to defend that space. If we indeed use philosophy this way, we will succeed at gaining leisure, which means we will then have the conditions needed to “test” any and all possible “address” we might posit regarding our current socioeconomic situation. Otherwise, a supposed “address” that seems to pass a given test will pass according to terms which dehumanize us according to “autonomous pragmaticism,” which is the zeitgeist Josef Pieper writes against.
What would it mean for our “address” to pass the test of leisure? Personally, I think it would mean that we maintain a state of “self-forgetfulness” and “intrinsic motivation,” for “intrinsic motivation” is on the same gradient as the “flow state” in a less concentrated form. And the meaning of life is intrinsic motivation, for if we are intrinsically motivated, life has meaning.
What would such a life look like? Well, I think it would look like a life that celebrated life. It would be a life which made life into a festival. ‘The highest form of affirmation is the festival,’ Pieper tells us, for:²⁶
‘[t]he holding of a festival means: an affirmation of the basic meaning of the world, and an agreement with it, and in fact it means to live out and fulfill one’s inclusion in the world, in an extraordinary manner, different from the everyday.’²⁷
‘The festival is the origin of leisure, its inmost and ever-central source. And this festive character is what makes leisure not only ‘effortless’ but the very opposite of effort or toil.’²⁸
Nietzschean Children live Festivals; to be a Child is to live a Festival. I will capitalize “Festival” here because I mean to signify with the term the metric we should judge the success of our “new communities of address” against. To determine if we have created “Absolute Communities,” we must ask:
Do we find Children there?
Does “there” make us more capable of Festivals?
If the answer is “yes” to these questions (which are arguably the same question), then we have achieved Address. If we answer “no,” we have not achieved Address and are stuck in Explanation. Our goal must be to find ourselves taken ‘to an endless day of celebration […] rapt from the confines of the working environment into the very center of the world.’²⁹ Rituals and “ecologies of practices” must all be in service of the Festival, for rituals without Festivals fail (festivals mattered to religions for a reason).
(Also, as a closing though admittedly vague note, if (Re)constructing “A Is A” by O.G. Rose succeeds in arguing that “lack entails ought,” and if the very “ontological lack” which defines the humans is “addressed” through “intrinsic motivation,” which is to say thanks to Childhood and Festivities, then societies ought to become Festivals — we will be suggesting here an “ethical address” (as perhaps every “address” must be).)
To bring this paper to a close, moderns seem obsessed with not “wasting time,” and as a result they can fall into infinite busyness, but what we learn from Pieper is that we only avoid “wasting time” and not missing the opportunity time affords when we learn to properly “inhabit time” (to allude to Bruce Alderman), which is for us to learn to engage in leisure. Time is an opportunity to be “toward” Beauty, Truth, and Goodness (“The Three Infinites”), which is to say time is a chance for a Festival of Children which honors Mystery we never fully access because we always find more to access (like the “always-other/abyssal Future” of Hegel) (Mystery entails a “lack” that proves itself an “opening” for the Infinites, making possible “intrinsic motivation”). But to be so orientated, we will have to rise above the “mechanical causality” we naturally find ourselves pushed along by thanks to a philosophical act which helps us step outside of time and causality into the space where wonder and Festival are possible. To ask “why” about anything in the world is to ask a question which causality never presents us with, and in this act which makes the world reflect on itself (“meta”), we step into a possibility of creation distinct from causality. The act admittedly seems absurd, but in taking the initiative to engage in an absurd act, we can find that the time can be inhabited anew.
Josef Pieper tells us that ‘[i]n no way […] does philosophy become easier […] Plato understand philosophy to be something tragic for this reason, it must constantly have recourse to mythos, since the teaching of philosophy can never close itself into a system.’³⁰ Where does this leave philosophy? It means philosophy must sense and honor a Music it can never directly access, only instead humbly accept its role in making a “clearing” for that it then waits in and “self-defends,” with no guarantee Being will ever “come forth.” Being is the mythos (according to whatever Alterology we might choose), and philosophy serves it, but the courage and “risk” this servitude requires suggests why philosophy might help us address Thymos and develop character. We might work for nothing, and thus our work can make us human.
Does all this mean we need a world of “decentralized scenes” of Festivals, where Children dwell, intrinsically motivated, and so find freedom-in-Being (which I think aligns with what DC Schindler discusses)? Yes, it does, but now we must describe what that means.
¹Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. South Bend, Indiana. St. Augustine’s Press, 1998: 49.
²Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. South Bend, Indiana. St. Augustine’s Press, 1998: 30.
³Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. South Bend, Indiana. St. Augustine’s Press, 1998: 30.
⁴Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. South Bend, Indiana. St. Augustine’s Press, 1998: 31.
⁵Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. South Bend, Indiana. St. Augustine’s Press, 1998: 36.
⁶Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. South Bend, Indiana. St. Augustine’s Press, 1998: xi.
⁷Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. South Bend, Indiana. St. Augustine’s Press, 1998: xii.
⁸Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. South Bend, Indiana. St. Augustine’s Press, 1998: xii.
⁹Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. South Bend, Indiana. St. Augustine’s Press, 1998: 8.
¹⁰Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. South Bend, Indiana. St. Augustine’s Press, 1998: 17.
¹¹Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. South Bend, Indiana. St. Augustine’s Press, 1998: 18.
¹²Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. South Bend, Indiana. St. Augustine’s Press, 1998: 27.
¹³Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. South Bend, Indiana. St. Augustine’s Press, 1998: 28.
¹⁴Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. South Bend, Indiana. St. Augustine’s Press, 1998: 29.
¹⁵Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. South Bend, Indiana. St. Augustine’s Press, 1998: 48.
¹⁶The question of “leisure” may also help with gender, for it suggests we should identify the male in leisure versus at work (and yet we tend to define gender according to “occupation” — a terrible mistake). If we discussed “gender” in terms of leisure, what genders choose to do without pressure, there might be less tension around the topic. For more on this, seeing as I think “leisure” and “self-forgetfulness” align, please see “Bringing Biblical and Pragmatic Masculinity Together” at Maniphesto.
¹⁷Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. South Bend, Indiana. St. Augustine’s Press, 1998: 64.
¹⁸Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. South Bend, Indiana. St. Augustine’s Press, 1998: 103.
¹⁹Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. South Bend, Indiana. St. Augustine’s Press, 1998: 74.
²⁰Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. South Bend, Indiana. St. Augustine’s Press, 1998: 75.
²¹Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. South Bend, Indiana. St. Augustine’s Press, 1998: 75.
²²Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. South Bend, Indiana. St. Augustine’s Press, 1998: 31.
²³Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. South Bend, Indiana. St. Augustine’s Press, 1998: 32.
²⁴Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. South Bend, Indiana. St. Augustine’s Press, 1998: 97.
²⁵Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. South Bend, Indiana. St. Augustine’s Press, 1998: 98.
²⁶Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. South Bend, Indiana. St. Augustine’s Press, 1998: 33.
²⁷Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. South Bend, Indiana. St. Augustine’s Press, 1998: 33–34.
²⁸Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. South Bend, Indiana. St. Augustine’s Press, 1998: 34.
²⁹Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. South Bend, Indiana. St. Augustine’s Press, 1998: 60.
³⁰Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. South Bend, Indiana. St. Augustine’s Press, 1998: 128.