Posts tagged virtue
As the great German theologian Josef Pieper argued, for most of history philosophers and theologians treated overwork as a moral failing. The Stoic philosopher Seneca, for example, made a distinction between leisure and idleness; and importantly, people who were “out of breath for no purpose, always busy about nothing” were, in Seneca’s view, guilty of the worst kind of idleness. Because it occupies our time and feels like accomplishment, but actually produces very little and gives us little opportunity to learn about ourselves, this kind of busyness was to be avoided. As Pieper put it, in this vision leisure “is not a Sunday afternoon idyll, but the preserve of freedom, of education and culture, and of that undiminished humanity which views the world as a whole.” This is not to say that work was something to be avoided. Stoics like Seneca saw work as essential, as one of the things that made life meaningful. But in order to become our best selves, they argued, it was also necessary to take the time to reflect on our lives and choices — and that required both time and an “inward calm” that let us see ourselves and the world clearly.