Pieper: Philosophy, Strangled

A government may well say: ‘In order to carry out our five-year plan, we need physicists trained in these particular branches of their science, men who will help put us ahead of other countries’; or, ‘We need medical research students to discover a more efficient cure for the flu.’ Something of this kind may be said or done without violating the essential nature of the sciences in question. But: ‘At the moment we need philosophers to…’ – well, what? There is of course only one conclusion— ‘to elaborate, defend and demonstrate the following ideology’ – it is only possible to talk or write in such terms if philosophy is being strangled to death at the very same moment. Exactly the same thing would be true if someone in authority were to say: ‘At the moment, we need some poets to… ‘ – well, and ‘to what?’ And again, there is only one possible answer: to prove (as the saying goes) the pen mightier than the sword in the service of some idea dictated by the state. And that, obviously, is the death of poetry. The moment such a thing happened, poetry would cease to be poetry, and philosophy would cease to be philosophy.

But this is not to say that there is no sort of connection between the fulfillment of the ‘common good’ and the philosophy taught in a country! Only the relationship can never be established or regulated from the point of view of the general good: when a thing contains its own end, or is an end in itself, it can never be made to serve as a means to any other end – just as no one can love someone ‘in order that’.

– Josef Pieper, in his essay ‘The Philosophical Act’


Pieper: The Soul of Leisure

The soul of leisure, it can be said, lies in ‘celebration’. Celebration is the point at which the three elements of leisure come to a focus: relaxation, effortlessness, and superiority of ‘active leisure’ to all functions.

But if celebration is the core of leisure, then leisure can only be made possible and justifiable on the same basis as the celebration of a festival. That basis is divine worship.

– Josef Pieper, in his essay ‘Leisure: The Basis of Culture’

Scruton: Not Just Puritan Bigotry

“The old morality, which told us that selling the body is incompatible with giving the self, touched on a truth. Sexual feeling is not a sensation that can be turned on and off at will: it is a tribute from one self to another and – at its height – an incandescent revelation of what you are. To treat it as a commodity, that can be bought and sold like any other, is to damage both present self and future other. The condemnation of prostitution was not just puritan bigotry; it was a recognition of a profound truth, which is that you and your body are not two things but one, and by selling the body you harden the soul. And that which is true of prostitution is true of pornography too. It is not a tribute to human beauty but a desecration of it.”

– Roger Scruton, Beauty (pp. 275-276)

Wolfe: Sincere, But Sheer, Literature

“There were five standard tests for a scientific hypothesis. Had anyone observed the phenomenon – in this case, Evolution – as it occurred and recorded it? Could other scientists replicate it? Could any of them come up with a set of facts that, if true, would contradict the theory (Karl Popper’s ‘falsifiability’ test)? Could scientists make predictions based on it? Did it illuminate hitherto unknown or baffling areas of science? In the case of Evolution… well… no… no… no.. no… and no.

In other words, there was no scientific way to test it. Like every other cosmogony, it was a serious and sincere story meant to satisfy man’s endless curiosity about where he came from and how he came to be so different from the animals around him. But it was still a story. It was not evidence. In short, it was sincere, but sheer, literature.”

– Tom Wolfe, The Kingdom of Speech (pp. 27-28)