Josef Pieper’s views during the neo-Thomistic movement.
There are some authors who make you think, “I could read this guy, and just this guy, for the rest of my life. He’d bring me to greater and greater levels of wisdom and understanding.”
For me, the German philosopher Josef Pieper (1904–1997) is such a writer. He wrote in the Scholastic vein and was squarely within the Catholic neo-Thomistic movement of the mid-twentieth century.
A modernist might think, “How can a person steeped in Thomas Aquinas be relevant? Aquinas lived in the thirteenth-century, which was at least 50 years before Netflix.”
Pieper wrote for that kind of person.
Pieper, like Aquinas, was concerned about the truth: statements that correspond as closely as possible to reality. Truth is relevant to every age, including the modern one, contrary claims of our postmodernist friends notwithstanding.
Granted, it’s necessary for the reader to take those truths and apply them to her life, to put them into the current cultural milieu. That’s not always easy, but the truths themselves are always relevant.
Fortunately, Pieper himself often put those truths into a modern context for his readers.
In his late twenties, he was fascinated by social problems and began to pursue studies in law and sociology, but it was the era of Nazi Germany. Such studies were, ahem, frowned upon.
So in 1934, he returned to his pursuit of Thomistic philosophy, but with the goal to make it comprehensible (relevant) to the modern person and social problems.
“Thick little books.” That’s how Hans Urs von Balthasar described Pieper’s works.
You can’t get through a Pieper book quickly any more than you can fly through poetry, or run through an art museum, or gulp fine wine. All such things are possible, … Read the rest