Saturday, August 10, 2013

In his classic book Leisure: The Basis of Culture, philosopher Josef Pieper notes that “leisure in Greek is skole, and in Latin scola, the English ‘school’.... ‘School’ does not, properly speaking, mean school, but leisure.” He goes on to say that the Greeks did not have a unique word for the more utilitarian notion of work: instead of saying, as we do now, that “we live to work,” they said “we are unleisurely in order to have leisure.”

Leon Wieseltier praised the tradition of the liberal arts, which were founded on leisure and contemplation. He told the graduates of Brandeis that the new “information era” came with dangerous consequences:
In the digital universe, knowledge is reduced to the status of information. Who will any longer remember that knowledge is to information as art is to kitsch—that information is the most inferior kind of knowledge, because it is the most external? A great Jewish thinker of the early Middle Ages wondered why God, if he wanted us to know the truth about everything, did not simply tell us the truth about everything. His wise answer was that if we were merely told what we need to know, we would not, strictly speaking, know it. Knowledge can be acquired only over time and only by method.
Wieseltier concludes by saying: “Perhaps culture is now the counterculture.”
--Gergory Wolfe