Josef Pieper

Kids in Defense of the Culture

The shock troops against Conservatism, Inc. have arrived. Witness the rise of the groypers. These cowboys sent people ducking beneath barstools the moment they set a spurred boot in the Culture War saloon. It has been amusing, to say the least, but not everyone is laughing. Some have even warned that the pale rider of [...]

A Thomist’s Perspective on the Church in Crisis

Editor’s note: in this far-ranging and prophetic interview with Crisis Magazine, Josef Pieper discusses the vocations crisis, the failure of catechesis, liberation theology, feminism, and something very much like the Benedict Option. The interview originally appeared in the March 1990 print edition of Crisis. It has been edited for brevity. Crisis: Some people claim that St. Thomas is [...]

A Crisis of Curiositas

“Whenever I feel bad,” Binx Bolling confesses, “I go to the library and read controversial periodicals.” Walker Percy’s professional moviegoer hasn’t concluded whether he’s a liberal or a conservative; nevertheless, he confesses to being “enlivened by the hatred which one bears the other.” Binx, who fancies himself as being on an existential “search,” is plagued [...]

A Primer on Politics and Prudence

The political scene is drawing toward the center of our national consciousness (if it ever left) as Democratic presidential debates take place and the 2020 election nears. As this process happens, faithful Catholics need sound ways to think about candidates, policies, and the landscape in general. Josef Pieper, a great twentieth-century philosopher, provides a broad [...]

A Remedy for the Abuse of Language

The line between medicine and poison is a fine one. The same drug can cure when administered by an expert and harm, if not kill, when misapplied. Some drugs always cause harm, but are consumed for some apparent benefit; they, too, are pseudo-medicinal. This is true for souls as much as it is for bodies. [...]

Professors Don’t Teach If Students Don’t Learn the Truth

Discussing St. Thomas Aquinas’s love of teaching, Josef Pieper writes: Teaching does not consist in a man’s making public talks on the results of his meditations, even if he does so ex cathedra before a large audience. Teaching in the real sense takes place only when the hearer is reached—not by dint of some personal [...]

Modern Blindness: Failure to See What Is Real and True

Aristotle says that sight is the most philosophical sense. Of the five senses, it most resembles our capacity to know. We naturally desire both to see and to know. Indeed, knowing is an intellectual seeing. Of course, “I see” can mean “I understand.” Plato calls the highest kind of knowing noesis, typically translated into English [...]

St. John Paul II Is More Relevant Than Ever

An informative, comprehensive, well-written, and persuasive book, The Splendor of Marriage was published by Angelico Press to mark the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae (1968). In a culminating chapter, Richard Spinello lays out the argument of Humanae Vitae and makes it clear why the document is so central to Catholic doctrine [...]

Why We Feast: A Matter of Life and Death

“I have come that you may have life and have it to the fullest.”  (John 10:10) “The glory of God is man fully alive.”  ∼ St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies The Church tells us that we exist for the purpose of giving glory to God. We see that happening most directly in the liturgy of the [...]

The Forgotten Act of Leisure

As the new school year commences, it may be worthwhile to examine the role which leisure plays in our lives. Although we all value our vacation time and enjoy moments of relaxation, leisure in its truest form seems to be a forgotten practice in this day and age. To begin, when an attempt is made [...]

The Humanities Won’t Save You!

I was recently asked by a student group at my university to participate in a panel discussion about the humanities. Having been asked the rather loaded question, “why are the humanities needed more now than ever?,” the panelists were expected to defend the humanities, presumably against some charges or enemies that are particularly contemporary. But [...]

Joy and the Whole Truth about Man

The reality of joy provides, I think, the most obvious refutation of the ideology of materialism—the attempt to reduce human beings and human lives to the body, to matter and its effects. For joy is proper not to the body, but to the spirit. It is the soul that is joyful or joyless, not the [...]

Why Birthdays Should Be Celebrated

September 11th was my 64th birthday. Yes, 9/11, but we’ll leave that for another time. What I want to explain here is why for most of my life I found birthdays and most occasions for celebration meaningless and maddening, and why that’s no longer true. After drifting away from the Church in my late teens, I was [...]

Why Can’t Americans Enjoy Life?

Modern American society promises to make life so much easier. No longer do most people have to labor long and hard to make ends meet. Americans should have plenty of time to enjoy their leisure. But many don’t take this time. They have a problem with leisure. According to a report commissioned by Project: Time Off, the [...]

The Christmas Triad: Christ, Church, Eucharist

As a cradle Catholic long accustomed to the rituals and feasts of faith, the earliest memories I have coincide, most happily, with membership in what the comedian Lenny Bruce used to call the only the Church. And so there was never a time when Christmas was not an occasion for sheer wonderment and joy, an [...]

The Decline of the West

According to the German Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper, the "wisdom of the West" expresses the sum total of what man “ought to” be. This wisdom was then discredited and rejected in the Modern era, and so is largely unavailable to post-modern man, who bobs along in the wake of Modernism, which has largely discredited itself. Here [...]

Well-Being vs. Well-Feeling: On Defining True Happiness

In the twenty years since the publication of Deal Hudson’s marvelous book Happiness and the Limits of Satisfaction, the eclipse of Greek and Christian ideas about happiness by the pursuit of pleasure, of “well-feeling” rather than “well-being,” has only advanced. This movement has been deepened and accelerated by my colleagues in the social and behavioral [...]

Why Catholics Needn’t Celebrate New Year’s Day

On Friday, January 1, the secular world will observe “New Year’s Day.” The Catholic world will not, for two reasons. One is that we have a genuine religious feast day to observe, in celebration of Mary, the Mother of God. The second is that Catholics don’t find much use in celebrating the chronological movement from [...]

The Proper Way to Celebrate Holidays

According to a Nielsen survey conducted a few years ago, the 5th and 7th biggest beer-drinking holidays in America are Christmas and Easter respectively. That year, Americans consumed 59,393,752 cases of beer at Christmas and 53,458,630 cases on Easter. I find this strange because Christmas and Easter are the two seminal feasts on the Christian calendar, yet [...]

Sunday: The Foundation of Personal and Family Peace

Voltaire, eighteenth-century French philosopher and well-known attacker of Catholicism, once wrote, “If you want to kill Christianity, you must abolish Sunday.” Where the Sabbath rest and worship is forgotten, a weak to nonexistent practice of Christianity can almost inevitably be found. Conversely, those who take their spiritual life seriously know that Sunday is the key [...]

The Courageous Witness of Bl. Franz Jagerstatter

The time was 1941, the war then raging across Europe had entered its third terrible year, and a young Catholic philosopher by the name of Josef Pieper had just brought out a book, a lovely little thing of less than sixty pages, called A Brief Reader on the Virtues of the Human Heart. Amazingly enough, [...]

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