"WE ARE 'UNLEISURELY' IN ORDER TO HAVE LEISURE"-ARISTOTLE-. . . . But isn't this subordination of work to leisure a rejection of the claims of the world of "total work"? Is a life of "total work" a truly human one, or is it a question of what i t should mean to be human?

a.- "But the Gods, taking pity on mankind, born to work, laid down the succession of recurring Feasts to restore them from their fatigue, and gave them the Muses, and Apollo their leader, and Dionysus, as companions in their Feasts, so that nourishing themselves in festive companionship with the Gods, they should again stand upright and erect." Plato

b.- So many practical tasks!. . .but ". . .faced with reorganizing our intellectual and moral and spiritual assests. . . demands a defense of leisure."

II.- "Intellectual work" and "intellectual worker"

By reason of the "modern ideal of work". . . .the whole field of intellectual activity, not excepting the province of philosophical culture, has been overwhelmed by the modern ideal of work and is at the mercy of its totalitarian claims.

  1. - The contemplative tradition: "Our soul is passive and receptive. . .To contemplate. . .means to open one's eyes receptively to whatever offers itself to one's vision, and the things seen enter into us, so to speak, without calling for any effort or strain on our part to possess them. . .This is the way we become sensorially aware of a thing.
  2. - Is there such a thing as a purely receptive attitude of mind in which we become aware of immaterial reality and invisible relationships? Is there such a thing as pure 'intellectual contemplation'? In antiquity the answer given was always yes. . . . . . . . .in modern philosophy, for the most part, the answer given is no.

The Greeks - Aristotle no less than Plato - as well as the great medieval thinkers, held that not only physical, sensuous perception, but equally man's spiritual and intellectual knowledge, included an element of pure, receptive contemplation. Reaso ning is the power of discursive logical thought, of searching and of examination, of abstraction, of definition and drawing conclusions. Intellectus is the name of the understanding insofaras it is the capacity of simplex intuitus, of that simple vision to which truth offers itself like a landscape to the eye.. "The mode of discursive thought is accompanied and impregnated by an effortless awareness, the contemplative vision of the intellectus, which is not active but passiv e, or rather receptive, the activity of the soul in which it conceives that which it sees. The ancients regarded intellectus as being already beyond the sphere alloted to man. And yet it belonged to man, though in one sense superhuman; the pure ly human by itself could not satiate man's powers of comprehension, for man, of his very nature, reaches out beyond the sphere of the human. "Although the knowledge which is most characteristic of the human soul occurs in the mode of ratio, never theless there is in it a sort of participation in the simple knowledge which is proper to higher beings, of whom it is therefore said that they possess the faculty of spiritual vision."(1) . . . .this is the capacity to apprehend the spiritual in the same manner that our eye apprehends light or our ear sound. and is the noblest mode of human life. But knowledge in philosophy is directed upon the whole of being and begins with an intellectual intuition of "being, as such" rooted in the sense of t ouch.

The essence of knowledge does not consist in the effort for which it calls, but in grasping existing things and in unveiling reality. Moreover, just as the highest form of virtue knows nothing of difficulty, so too the highest form of knowledge comes to man like a gift - the sudden illumination, a stroke of genius, true contemplation; it comes effortlessly and without trouble. . . . . .to know means to reach the reality of existing things. . . It is more than "intellectual work."(2)

For Aquinas the conception of sacrifice is not concerned with the suffering involved qua suffering, it is not primarily concerned with the toil and the worry and with the difficulty, but with salvation, with the fulness of being, and thus ultim ately with the fullness of happiness. "The end and the norm of discipline is happiness."(3)

Pieper goes on to say: "Man seems to mistrust everything that is effortless; he can only enjoy, with a good conscience, what he has acquired wilh toil and trouble; he refuses to have anything as a gift."

and yet, life itself is a gift! This reduction of knowledge to work inplies . . .that the effort which knowledge requires is a criterion of its truth.

III.- But the most fundamental question is metaphysical. What are the liberal arts? Aquinas gives this definition: "Only those arts are called liberal or free which are concerned with knowledge; those which are concerned with utilitarian ends that a re attailned through activity, however, are called servile."(4) "I know well," Newman says, "that knowledge may resolve itself into an art, and seminate in a mechanical process and in tangible fruit; but it may also fall back upon that Reason, which inf orms it, and resolve itself into Philosophy. For in one case it is called Useful Knowledge, and in the other Liberal."(5) The liberal arts, then, include all forms of human activity which are an end in themselves; the servile arts are those whic h have an end beyond themselves, and more precisely an end which consists in a utilitarian result attainable in practice, a practicable result.

This, then, is the question: Is there a sphere of human activity that does not need to be justified by some practical change in the world around us rather than within us. A functionary is trained. Training is defined as being concerned with so me one side or aspect of man, with regard to some special subjects. Education concerns the whole man; an educated man is a man with a point of view from which he takes in the whole world. He is concerned with the true, the good and the beautiful insofaras these can be understood, loved and tasted respectively.

The question is whether the world, defined as the world of work, is exhaustively defined; can man develop to the full as a functionary and a "worker" and nothing else; can a full human existence be contained within an exclusisvely workaday existence?< /P>

"I have never bothered or asked," Goethe said to Friedrich Soret in 1830, "in what way I was useful to society as a whole; I contented myself with expressing what I recognized as good and true. That has certainly been useful in a wide circle; but that was not the aim; it was the necessary result."

In the Middle Ages the same view prevailed. "It is necessary for the perfection of human society, that there should be men who devote their lives to contemplation."(6)

IV.- Sloth (acedia) and the incapacity to leisure:

The "worker" is characterized by an extreme tension of the powers of action, a rediness to suffer in vacuo unrelated to anything, and complete absorption in the social organism, itself rationally planned to utilitarian ends.. . . .In this conte xt leisure becomes another word for laziness, idleness or sloth. . . .For Aquinas Acedia (sloth) was the incapacity to enjoy leisure and it was held to be the source of restlessness, and the ultimate cause of "work for work's sake."

A restlessness issuing from a lack of will to action is itself at the bottom of a fanatical and suicidal urge to work.

Acedia, for Aquinas, signifies a man renouncing the claim implicit in his human dignity. He does not want to be as God wants him to be, and that ultimately means that he does not wish to be what he really, fundamentally, is.. It is a "despairing refu sal to be oneself."(7)

Sadness overwhelms him when he is confronted with the divine goodness immanent in himself.

The contrary of acedia is man's happy and cheerful affirmation of his own being, his acquiescence in the world and in God - which is to say love.. . .This is at an infinite distance from the "fanatical worker." Acedia is an offense against the peace of the mind in God."(8)

Acedia is a vitia capitalia, i.e. a fault from which other faults follow "naturally." There is that restlessness that makes leisure impossible. Then too leisure is only possible when a man is at one with himself, when he acquies ces in his own being, whereas the essence of Acedia is the refusal to acquiesce in one's own being. Idleness and the incapacity for leisure correspond withn one another. Leisure is the contrary of both. This restlessness and despair are t he twin children of acedia. Finally, idleness so far from being synonymous with leisure, is an inner disposition rendering leisure impossible.

Leisure is not the ilnevitable result of spare time, a holiday, a week-end or a vacation. It is a condition of the soul and as such utterly contrary to the ideal of "worker" in each and every one of the three aspects under which it was analysed: 1)wo rk as activity, 2)as toil, 3)as a social function.

1) Leisure implies, in the first place, an attitude of non-activity, of inward calm, of silence; it means not being "busy," but letting things happen. Leisure is a form of that silence which is the prerequisite of the apprehens ion of reality. . .It is the soul's power to answer to the reality of the world left undisturbed. Leisure implies a certain serenity flowing from our recognition of the mysterious nature of the universe and the courage to be content to let things take their course. . . .This is a virtuous idleness which lets God and the world and things go, and gives them time. . .and to remain open to everything.

2) Compared with the exclusive ideal of work as toil, leisure appears in its character as an attitude of contemplative "celebration." It is possible only on the premise that man consents to his own true nature and abides in concord with the mea ning of the universe. It draws its vitality from affirmation.. It is like the tranquil silence of lovers, which is lived in witness to an intense immanent activity.

3) Leisure stands opposed to the exclusive ideal of work qua social function.. The pause can be made for the sake of work. Leisure does not exist for the sake of work. It is of a higher order than the world of work. The justification of leisurte ar e not that the funcitonary should function faultlessly and without a breakdown, but that the functionary should continue to be a man. . . He should retain the faculty of grasping the world as a whole and realizing his full potentialities as an entity mean t to reach Wholeness. Like the gift for contemplative absorption in the things that are, and like the capacity of the spirit to soar in festive celebration, the power to know leisure is the power to overstep the boundaries of the workaday world and reach out to superhuman, life-giving existential forces that refresh and renew us before we turn back to our daily work.

Finally, Aristotle says of leisure: "A man will live thus, not to the extent that he is a man, but to the extent that a divine principle dwells within him."(9)

V.- The influence of the ideal of leisure - ". . . . .is it possible, from now on, to maintain and defend, or even to reconquer, the right and claims of lesiure, in face of the claims of "total labour" that are invading every sphere of life?

Excursus on "Proletariat" - and "Deproletarianization"

1.- Don't the terms "employee" used in reference to teachers, and "customers" or "clients" in reference to students, imply that the gulf between an educated class which is free to pursue knowledge as an end in itsellf, and the proletarian who knows not hing beyond the spare time which is barely sufficient for him to renew his strength for his daily work - this gulf is in fact necessarily deepened and widened, leaving the academic community on the impoverished side

along with the wage earner?

2.- In my opinion everything must be done, on the one hand to obliterate a contrast of this kind between the classes, but on the other hand it is quite wrong, and indeed foolish, to attempt to achieve that aim by looking for social unity in what is the purely terminological reduction of the educated stratum to proletarian level, instead of the real abolition of the proletariat. Note the following: a) a proletarian and a poor man are not the same, and b)Proletarianism cannot obviously be overcome by mak ing everyone proletarian.

The proletarian is the man who is fettered to the process of work. To be fettered to work means to be bound to this vast utilitarian process in which our needs are satisfied, and, what is more, tied to such an extent that the life of the working ma n is wholly consumed in it. . . . .

The causes may be: the lack of property with life being lived on the exclusive basis of the person's power to work. . . .or due to the coercion of a totalitarian state. . . .or by an inner impoverishment of the individual whose life is completely fille d by his work. . . . he can no longer act significantly outside his work, and perhaps can no longer even conceive of such a thing.

These three forms mutually attract one another and in so doing intensify each other. The "total-work" State needs the spiritually impoverished, one-track mind of the "functionary". . . .proletarianism, thus understood, is perhaps a symptomatic state o f mind common to all levels of society. . . .A spiritual immunization against the seductive appeal and the power of totalitarian forms must be sought.

VI.-artes liberales and artes serviles -

In antiquity the essence of the artes serviles consisted in their being directed to the satisfaction of a need through activity. Proletarianism would involve the limitation of human existence to the sphere of these artes serviles - whet her this limitation were occasioned by lack of property, State compulsion, or spiritual impoverishment. By the same token, "deproletarianizing" would mean: enlarging the scope of life beyond the confines of merely useful servile work, and limiting the sp here of servile work to the advantage of the liberal arts. This goal requires three things: giving the wage-earner the opportunity to save and acquire property, limiting the power of the state, and overcoming the inner impoverishment of the individua l caused when the process of production itself is understood and proclaimed as the activity that gives meaning to human existence. . . .It must be recognized that there is a real distinction between useful activity on the one hand, the sense and purpo se of which is not in itself, and on the other hand the liberal arts which cannot be put at the disposal of useful ends. Take, for example, the distinction between the terms: honorariium and wage. The liberal arts receive an honorarium, while servile wo rk receives a wage. The concept of honorarium implies that an incommensurability exists between performance and recompense, and that the performance cannot "really" be recompensed. . . .A social doctrine steeped in the tradition of Christian Europe would not only hold firmly to the distinction between an honorarium and a wage, it would not only hesitate to regard every reward as a wage; it would go further and would even maintain that there is no such thing as a recompense for a thing done which did not retain in some degree the character of an honorarium, for even "servile" work cannot be entirely equated with the material recompense because it is a "human" action, so that it always retains something incommensurable with the recompense.

Note the irony Stalin's public statement that the worker must be paid according to the work done and not according to his needs," while Pius XI writes: ". . .in the first place the worker has the right to a wage sufficient to support himself and his fa mily. Pius is attempting to extend the character of "liberal art" deep ;down into every human action, even the humblest servile work.

Proudhon on Sunday - "On one day in the week servants regained the dignity of human beings, and stood again on a level with their massters. . . . .Discussion about work and wages, organization and industry, which is so rife at present ought, it seems to me, to start with the study of a law which would have as its basis a theory of rest.."

"Deproletarianization" and the opening of the realm of leisure: If the essence of "proletarian" is the fact of being fettered to the process of work, then the central problem of liberating men from this condition lies in making a whole field of signif icant activity available and open to the working man - of activity which is not "work"; in other words: in making the sphere of real leisure available to him.. . . .The provision of an external opportunity for leisure is not enough; it can only be fruit ful if the man himself is capable of leisure and can, as we say, "occupy his leisure."That is the principal point: with what kind of activity is man to occupy his leisure."(10)





  1. - What does Aristotle mean when he writes: "We are 'unleisurely' in order to have leisure"?
  2. - Is there sucha thing as a purely receptive attitude of mind in which we become aware of immaterial reality (such as the true, the good and the beautiful?)
  3. -Is it possible that among our highest moments of intellectual awareness we experience an activity that comes effortlessly and without trouble? Can the human mind read and accept reality in moments of effortless and joyous awareness? Must all val ids thought be laborious?
  4. - Is effort always the criterion of truth?
  5. - What does Pieper mean by the distinction between the "servile arts" on the one hand, and the "liberal arts" on the other?
  6. - Is there a valid distinction between training and education? an you apply this distinction, if valid, to what is presently called education?
  7. - What does Aquinas mean by "acedia" or sloth? What does he mean by leisure?
  8. -What does Pieper mean by the word "proletarianization" and what are the three forms of it that he believes are present on the contemporary American cultural scene?
  9. - Give your interpretation of the distinction between the meaning of Stalin's words as opposed to Pius XII's words at the end of this reading.

(1)Quest. disp. de veritate, 15, 1.

(2)Leisure: The Basis of Culture, Josef Pieper, Ignatian Press, 1992, p.32

(3)Summa Theologica, I-II, 141, 5, ad1.

(4)Commentary on the Metaphysics, I,3.

(5)Idea of a University, Newman, V.6.

(6)Commentary of Proverbs.

(7)Sickness unto Death, pp. 74ff.

(8)Summa Theologica, II-II, 35, 3, ad 1.

(9)Nicomachean Ethics, 10, 7 (1177b).

(10)Aristotle, Politics, 8, 3 (1337 b).