Josef Pieper quotes
Birthdate: 4. May 1904
Date of death: 6. November 1997
Josef Pieper was a German Catholic philosopher, at the forefront of the Neo-Thomistic wave in twentieth century Catholic philosophy. Among his most notable works are The Four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance; Leisure: the Basis of Culture; The Philosophical Act and Guide to Thomas Aquinas .
Quotes Josef Pieper
„Of course in the present day […] 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.“
Source: Leisure, the Basis of Culture (1948), The Philosophical Act, pp. 64–65
Source: Leisure: The Basis Of Culture
„Leisure lives on affirmation. It […] includes within itself a celebratory, approving, lingering gaze of the inner eye on the reality of creation.
The highest form of affirmation is the festival; and according to Karl Kerenyi, the historian of religion, to festival belong "peace, intensity of life, and contemplation all at once." The 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 fulfil one's inclusion in the world, in an extraordinary manner, different from the everyday.
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.“
Source: Leisure, the Basis of Culture (1948), Leisure, the Basis of Culture, pp. 33–34
The Kerenyi quote is from Karl Kerenyi, Die antike Religion (Amsterdam, 1940), p. 66.
„We can begin, like the Scholastic masters, with an objection: videtur quod non … ""It seems not to be true that…"" And this is the objection: a time like the present [i. e., a few years after the Second World War, in Germany] seems, of all times, not to be a time to speak of leisure. […]
That is no small objection. But there is also a good answer to it. […]
For, when we consider the foundations of Western European culture (is it, perhaps, too rash to assume that our re-building will in fact be carried out in a ""Western"" spirit? Indeed, this and no other is the very assumption that is at issue today), one of these foundations is leisure. We can read it in the first chapter of Aristotle's Metaphysics. And the very history of the meaning of the word bears a similar message. The Greek word for leisure (σχολή) is the origin of Latin scola, German Schule, English school. The names for the institutions of education and learning mean ""leisure.""“
Source: Leisure, the Basis of Culture (1948), Leisure, the Basis of Culture, pp. 3–4
„And in this, that philosophy begins in wonder [Plato, Theaetetus 155d], lies the, so to speak, non-bourgeois character of philosophy; for to feel astonishment and wonder is something non-bourgeois (if we can be allowed, for a moment, to use this all-too-easy terminology). For what does it mean to become bourgeois in the intellectual sense? More than anything else, it means that someone takes one's immediate surroundings (the world determined by the immediate purposes of life) so "tightly" and "densely," as if bearing an ultimate value, that the things of experience no longer become transparent. The greater, deeper, more real, and (at first) invisible world of essences is no longer even suspected to exist; the "wonder" is no longer there, it has no place to come from; the human being can no longer feel wonder. The commonplace mind, rendered deaf-mute, finds everything self-explanatory. But what really is self-explanatory? Is it self-explanatory, then, that we exist? Is it self-explanatory that there is such a thing as "seeing"? These are questions that someone who is locked into the daily world cannot ask; and that is so because such a person has not succeeded, as anyone whose senses (like a deaf person) are simply not functioning — has not managed even for once to forget the immediate needs of life, whereas the one who experiences wonder is one who, astounded by the deeper aspect of the world, cannot hear the immediate demands of life — if even for a moment, that moment when he gazes on the astounding vision of the world.“
Source: Leisure, the Basis of Culture (1948), The Philosophical Act, pp. 101–102
„""We work in order to be at leisure."" […] Doesn't this statement appear almost immoral to the man or woman of the world of ""total work""? Is it not an attack on the basic principles of human society?
Now I have not merely constructed a sentence to prove a point. The statement was actually made — by Aristotle [Nichomachean Ethics X, 7 (1177b4–6)]. Yes, Aristotle: the sober, industrious realist, and the fact that he said it, gives the statement special significance. What he says in a more literal translation would be: ""We are not-at-leisure in order to be-at-leisure."" For the Greeks, ""not-leisure"" was the word for the world of everyday work; and not only to indicate its ""hustle and bustle,"" but the work itself. The Greek language had only this negative term for it (ά-σχολία), as did Latin (neg-otium).
The context not only of this sentence but also of another one from Aristotle's Politics (stating that the ""pivot"" around which everything turns is leisure [Politics VII, 3 (1337b33)]) shows that these notions were not considered extraordinary, but only self-evident. […] Could this also imply that people in our day no longer have direct access to the original meaning of leisure?“
Source: Leisure, the Basis of Culture (1948), Leisure, the Basis of Culture, pp. 4–5
„To philosophize (we have already asked, What empowers the philosophical act to transcend the working-world?) — to philosophize means to take a step outside of the work-a-day world into the vis-à-vis de l'univers. It is a step which leads to a kind of "homeless"-ness: the stars are no roof over the head. It is a step, however, that constantly keeps open its own retreat, for the human being cannot live long in this way.“
Source: Leisure, the Basis of Culture (1948), The Philosophical Act, p. 94
„The truth is the good of our knowing mind, upon which the mind fixes itself by nature; it is not granted to the mind to choose or not choose that good (truth!) on the basis, again, of knowledge. The finite mind does not comprehend itself so profoundly, and does not have such power over itself, that it follows its own light.“
The Four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance (1965)
„When the physicist poses the question, "What does it mean to do physics?" or "What is research in physics?" — his question is a preliminary question. Clearly, when you ask a question like that, and try to answer it, you are not "doing physics." Or rather you are no longer doing physics. But when you ask yourself, "What does it mean to do philosophy?" then you actually are "doing philosophy" — this is not at all a "preliminary" question but a truly philosophical one: you are right at the heart of the business.“
Source: Leisure, the Basis of Culture (1948), The Philosophical Act, p. 63
„Now this structure of hope (among other things) is also what distinguishes philosophy from the special sciences. There is a relationship with the object that is different in principle in the two cases. The question of the special sciences is in principle ultimately answerable, or, at least, it is not un-answerable. It can be said, in a final way (or some day, one will be able to say in a final way) what is the cause, say, of this particular infectious disease. It is in principle possible that one day someone will say, "It is now scientifically proven that such and such is the case, and no otherwise." But […] a philosophical question can never be finally, conclusively answered. […] The object of philosophy is given to the philosopher on the basis of a hope. This is where Dilthey's words make sense: "The demands on the philosophizing person cannot be satisfied. A physicist is an agreeable entity, useful for himself and others; a philosopher, like the saint, only exists as an ideal." It is in the nature of the special sciences to emerge from a state of wonder to the extent that they reach "results." But the philosopher does not emerge from wonder.
Here is at once the limit and the measure of science, as well as the great value, and great doubtfulness, of philosophy. Certainly, in itself it is a "greater" thing to dwell "under the stars."“
But man is not made to live "out there" permanently! Certainly, it is a more valuable question, as such, to ask about the whole world and the ultimate nature of things. But the answer is not as easily forthcoming as for the special sciences!
The Dilthey quote is from Briefwechsel zwischen Wilhelm Dilthey und dem Grafen Paul Yorck v. Wartenberg, 1877–1897 (Hall/Salle, 1923), p. 39.
Source: Leisure, the Basis of Culture (1948), The Philosophical Act, pp. 109–111
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„[I]f knowing is work, exclusively work, then the one who knows, knows only the fruit of his own, subjective activity, and nothing else. There is nothing in his knowing that is not the fruit of his own efforts; there is nothing "received" in it. […]
It is the mark of "absolute activity" (which Goethe said "makes one bankrupt, in the end"); the hard quality of not-being-able-to-receive; a stoniness of heart, that will not brook any resistance — as expressed once, most radically, in the following terrifying statement: "Every action makes sense, even criminal acts … all passivity is senseless."“
The Goethe quote is from his Maximen und Reflexionen, ed. Günther Müller (Stuttgart, 1943), no. 1415. The other quote is from Hermann Rauschning's Conversations with Hitler (Gespräche mit Hitler, 1940).
Source: Leisure, the Basis of Culture (1948), Leisure, the Basis of Culture, p. 14
„To experience and live out a harmony with the world, in a manner quite different from that of everyday life — this, we have said, is the meaning of "festival." But no more intense harmony with the world can be thought of than that of "Praise of God," the worship of the Creator of this world. Now, as I have often experienced, this statement is often received with a mixture of discomfort and various other feelings, but its truth cannot be denied. The most festive festival that can be celebrated is religious worship or "cult," and there is no festival that does not get its life from such worship or does not actually derive its origin from this. There is no worship "without the gods," whether it be mardi gras or a wedding.“
Source: Leisure, the Basis of Culture (1948), Leisure, the Basis of Culture, pp. 50–51
„How does the philosophical question differ from the non-philosophical question? To philosophize means, we said, to direct one's view toward the totality of the world. So is that a philosophical question (and that alone) which has for its explicit and formal theme the sum-total of all existing things? No! What is peculiar and distinctive about a philosophical question is that it cannot be posed, considered, or answered (so far at least as an answer is possible) without "God and the world" also coming into consideration, that is, the whole of what exists.“
Since "the answers of the special sciences" do not reach "the horizon of total reality", they are given "without having to speak at the same time of 'God and the world.'" (p. 96)
Source: Leisure, the Basis of Culture (1948), The Philosophical Act, p. 95
„Against the exclusiveness of the paradigm of work as activity, first of all, there is leisure as "non-activity" — an inner absence of preoccupation, a calm, an ability to let things go, to be quiet.
Leisure is a form of that stillness that is the necessary preparation for accepting reality; only the person who is still can hear, and whoever is not still, cannot hear. […] Leisure is the disposition of receptive understanding, of contemplative beholding, and immersion — in the real.“
Source: Leisure, the Basis of Culture (1948), Leisure, the Basis of Culture, p. 31
„Not only the Greeks in general — Aristotle no less than Plato — but the great medieval thinkers as well, all held that there was an element of purely receptive "looking," not only in self-perception but also in intellectual knowing or, as Heraclitus said, "Listening-in to the being of things."
The medievals distinguished between the intellect as ratio and the intellect as intellectus. Ratio is the power of discursive thought, of searching and re-searching, abstracting, refining, and concluding [cf. Latin dis-currere, "to run to and fro"], whereas intellectus refers to the ability of "simply looking" (simplex intuitus), to which the truth presents itself as a landscape presents itself to the eye.“
Source: Leisure, the Basis of Culture (1948), Leisure, the Basis of Culture, p. 11
„What happens when our eye sees a rose? What do we do when that happens? Our mind does something, to be sure, in the mere fact of taking in the object, grasping its color, its shape, and so on. We have to be awake and active. But all the same, it is a "relaxed" looking, so long as we are merely looking at it and not observing or studying it, counting or measuring its various features. Such observation would not be a "relaxed" action; it would be what Ernst Jünger termed an "act of aggression." But simply looking at something, gazing at it, "taking it in," is merely to open our eyes to receive the things that present themselves to us, that come to us without any need for "effort" on our part to "possess" them.“
Source: Leisure, the Basis of Culture (1948), Leisure, the Basis of Culture, p. 9
The Ernst Jünger quote is from Blätter und Steine (Hamburg, 1934), p. 202.
„"None of the gods philosophizes," Plato has Diotima say in the Symposium : "nor do fools; for that is what is so bad about ignorance — that you think you know enough." "Who, then, O Diotima, I asked, are the philosophers, since they are neither those who know nor those who don't know?" Then she answered me: "It's so obvious, Socrates, that a child could understand: the philosophers are the ones in between." This "in-between" is the realm of the truly human. It is truly human, on the one hand, not to understand (as God), and on the other hand, not to become hardened; not to include oneself in the supposedly completely illuminated world of day-to-day life.“
Source: Leisure, the Basis of Culture (1948), The Philosophical Act, p. 109
„Leisure stands in a perpendicular position with respect to the working process — in just the same way as the "simple gaze" of intellectus does not consist in the "duration" (so to speak) of ratios working-out process, but instead cuts through it at the perpendicular (the ancients compared the ratio with time, the intellectus with the "always now" of eternity).“
Source: Leisure, the Basis of Culture (1948), Leisure, the Basis of Culture, p. 34
„In leisure — not only there, but certainly there, if anywhere — the truly human is rescued and preserved precisely because the area of the "just human" is left behind over and over again — and this is not brought about through the application of extreme efforts but rather as with a kind of "moving away" (and this "moving" is of course more difficult than the extreme, active effort; it is "more difficult" because it is less at one's own disposal; the condition of utmost exertion is more easily to be realized than the condition of relaxation and detachment, even though the latter is effortless: this is the paradox that reigns over the attainment of leisure, which is at once a human and superhuman condition). As Aristotle said of it: "man cannot live this way insofar as he is man, but only insofar as something divine dwells in him."“
Nichomachean Ethics X, 7 (1177b27–28)
Source: Leisure, the Basis of Culture (1948), Leisure, the Basis of Culture, p. 36
„Now it is not our purpose here to condemn this world, from the standpoint of some "holiday-world" of philosophy. No words need be wasted on saying that this work-a-day world is very much with us, that in it the foundations of our physical existence are secured, without which no one can philosophize at all! Nevertheless, let us also recall, that among the voices which fill the workplace and the markets ("How do you get this or that item of daily existence?" "Where do you get that?" etc.) — in the midst of all these voices suddenly one calls above the rest: "Why is there anything at all, and not nothing?" — asking that age-old question, which Heidegger called the basic question of all metaphysics! Must we explicitly state how unfathomable this philosopher's question is, in comparison with that everyday world of needs and purposefulness? If such a question as this were asked, without introduction or interpretation, in the company of those people of efficiency and success, wouldn't the questioner be considered rather … mad?“
Source: Leisure, the Basis of Culture (1948), The Philosophical Act, pp. 66—67