10 November 2006

Broadie on Pieper

One might wonder whether Broadie is entirely fair to Pieper (sc. his Leisure the Basis of Culture). As I mentioned, she writes that his essay:

...while often penetrating, ties leisure so closely to the sacred and the sacramental that there may seem not to be enough of a topic left over for non-religious philosophical reflection.
In a footnote to this sentence she adds:
One does not have to be a non-believer to find off-putting such assertions as: "leisure ... is not possible unless it has a durable and consequently living link with the cultus, with divine worship" (p. xiv), and "When separated from worship, leisure becomes toilsome and work becomes inhuman" (p. 54). Pieper also, following Aristotle, focuses too exclusively on intellectual and contemplative activities. A conception of leisure that leaves no room for sport is defective, to put it mildly. One-sided, too, is Pieper's tendency to characterize leisure as a state of mind: a kind of serenity and receptiveness.
A small point: I'm not sure what sort of an objection it is, to say that a view is "off-putting". Pieper, I believe, regards himself as putting forward an 'anthropological' or broadly sociological view, which is either true or false.

A larger point: because his view is 'anthropological', it misrepresents his view to say, as Broadie does, that he links leisure to the 'sacred' or 'sacramental'. As Pieper explains in the sentences immediately after the one that Broadie quotes (on p. xiv), by 'worship' or 'cultus' he means "something more than religion":
The word 'cult' in English is used exclusively, or almost exclusively, in a derivative sense. But here it is something else than that, and something more than, religion. It really means fulfilling the ritual of public sacrifice. That is a notion which contemporary "modern" man associates almost exclusively and unconsciously with uncivilized, primitive peoples and with classical antiquity. For that very reason it is of the first importance to see that cultus, now as in the distant past, is the primary source of man's freedom, independence, and immunity within society. Suppress that last sphere of freedom, and freedom itself, and all our liberties, will in the end vanish into thin air.
And then Pieper is quite clear that his notion of leisure, which he thinks finds its protective home within cultus, is a very rich one, including within its scope "all our gifts and qualities" as understood in a certain way:
Cultus, in the sense in which it is used above, is the quintessence of all the natural goods of the world and of those gifts and qualities which, while belonging to man, lie beyond the immediate sphere of his needs and wants. All that is good in this sense, all man's gifts and faculties, are not necessarily useful in a practical way; though there is no denying that they belong to a truly human life, not strictly speaking necessary, even though he could not do without them.
Presumably 'sport' would be included in cultus so understood. Indeed I think that Pieper, well familiar with the "rituals of public sacrifice" in antiquity, would never have thought of denying that.

And then Pieper does not "focus too exclusively" on theoria, as if he identifies leisure with theoria, as Broadie's language suggests. He rather says that theoria, or what he prefers to call "the philosophical act", is something that is "in the inner circle" of leisure and which is preserved by leisure.
Among the bona non utilia sed honesta which are at home in the realm of freedom, in its innermost circle indeed, is philosophy, the philosophical act, which must be understood in the traditional sense of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, and as they understood it.
So his thesis is of a two-fold inclusion and dependency: "the philosophical act" finds its home within leisure, broadly construed, and leisure is preserved within cultus, broadly construed:
In the last resort pure theory, philosophical theoria, entirely free from practical considerations and interference--and that is what theory is--can only be preserved and realized within the sphere of leisure, and leisure, in its turn, is free because of its relation to worship, to cultus.
And then, furthermore, he does not "characterize leisure as a state of mind". What he says is that someone who practices or who has practiced the "philosophical act", as he calls it, as a consequence acquires, in all domains of his life, a certain attitude of attention, wonder, and reverence, "a contemplative attention to things, in which man begins to see how worthy of veneration they really are."

But all of this is straightforwardly stated simply in his "Preface to the English Edition".

In retrospect I want to say: it's not clear that Broadie gets Pieper right in any respect.