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Aristotle to Aquinas to Pieper: Leisure Solves Nothing. That's What Makes it Counter-Conduct

In the tradition that runs from Aristotle through Aquinas to Josef Pieper, leisure is not a solution to anything, but an alternative way of being in the world. In Pieper’s formulation, leisure “runs at right angles” to the practical pursuits of work and achievement.
Leisure and Liberality | Elizabeth C. Corey
Conservative commentators have long bemoaned the proliferation of “studies” fields in the . . . .

The gnostic (the modern, the left-hemispheric) wants solutions to everything. The anti-gnostic (the non-modern (whether pre-modern or post-modern), the right-hemispheric) wants to exist in full reality, which always evades solutions. At best, life in the metaxy is one of mystery and progress. We can improve by moving closer to full reality, but we can't find solutions because that assumes there are static truths and answers. The metaxy will foil solutions every time.

A solution is nothing less than a final answer. We might call it a "final solution," so everyone knows how damning such pursuits are, but the phrase is redundant.

The right hemisphere knows (intuits, perhaps) that there are no solutions and that full reality requires us to put aside practical pursuits and ambitions. Leisure abandons solutions and takes a break from pursuit and achievement.

It is a form of counter-conduct.

Leisured contemplation, however, requires setting aside everyday priorities. The idea is decidedly anti-modern and, in some respects, even anti-human: We engage in contemplation only insofar as there is a “divine element” within us, as Aristotle writes in the Nicomachean Ethics. It asks that we suspend attempts to improve the self and the world. As essayist Agnes Repplier observed in 1893, leisure is a “special form of activity, employing all our faculties . . . it is from his leisure that [a person] constructs the true fabric of self.” This countercultural activity may issue in an entirely new self-understanding, offering exhortations, even commands: Don’t be slaves to the world’s current standards of value! Pursue insight, live differently, make meaningful art, and build healthy local cultures! Resist becoming part of the world of total work!

[A] religious assumption lies deep within the notion of leisure itself. Something about leisure is divine, for Aristotle, or “festal,” to use Pieper’s term: It is a celebration of beauty, goodness, and the possibility of eternal life. In understanding leisure this way, we are invited to turn away for a time from our own insistent desires and our own self-imposed projects. We are free to cultivate that wonderful disponibilité to experience, an openness and availability that encourage us to “take interest” in the world and in the lives of others. This kind of affirmation may indeed be countercultural. But it is never, ever, boring.