Item description for In Defense of Philosophy: Classical Wisdom Stands Up to Modern Challenges by Josef Pieper...
Overview This book is an engagement between a great modern philosopher defending classical philosophy against an army of challengers to the very notion of philosophy as classically conceived. It is written very much in the spirit of the "scholastic disputations" in the medieval universities, which produced the great Summas: a mutual search for truth, a philosophical laboratory, a careful winnowing of each objection.
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Josef Pieper (1904-1997) was professor of philosophical anthropology at the University of Münster/Germany; he was a member of several academies and received numerous awards and distinctions, among them the International Balzan Prize for outstanding achievements in the field of humanities.
Pieper is among the most widely read philosophers of the 20th century. The main focus of his thought is the overcoming of cultural forms of secular totalitarianism and of its philosophical foundations through a rehabilitation of the Christian concept of man that is related to experience and action. Plato and Thomas Aquinas in particular were the inspiring sources of a constructive criticism of contemporary culture.
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In Defense of Serious Thought and Ultimate Questions May 20, 2008
Josef Pieper's book titled IN DEFENSE OF PHILOSOPHY is a book that readers should carefully consider. Pieper wrote this book to give philosophical meaning to life. He was clear that in a society that admires technology and "practical wisdom" as opposed to those who think and comtemplate about abstract realities such as good vs. evil, ethics, justice, etc. needs to reconsider these issues. This book reminds readers what it means to be truly civilized.
Pieper dealt with the supposed opposition between science and philosophy. Pieper has no obvious "ax to grind" with the contributions of modern science and techonology. Pieper was clear that science and technology have made life easier and more convenient. Pieper's arguement was with "conventional wisdom" which dimissed philosophy as useless. Pieper aggressively defended philosophical inquiry re ontological, metaphysical, and theological issues and questions. Pieper remarked that one who knew truth and could separate honesty from formlessness and lack of a priori thinking (logic, common sense and a starting point).
Pieper argued that while science and teachnology could teach and inform, such could not answer all questions and especially ultimate questions. Pieper cited such thinkers such as Plato (427-347 BC),obviously Aristotle (384-322 BC), St. Augustine (354-430 AD), and especially St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). Readers need not agree with these men, but Pieper made effective use of their thinking to illustrate that ontology(being) and metaphysics were not only useful but crucial for civilized living and behavior.
Pieper showed that such philosophical speculation dealt with Man's quest for living. Pieper argued that being included science to understand physical reality, but he also showed that concepts as good, evil, justice, ethics, etc. have as much reality as science and physical reality. Pieper was clear that pure philosophy could teach men to be more civilized, more reflective, and more human. Pieper, being a Catholic, then examined theology. One need not agree with Catholic philosophy and theology to appreciate this aspect of the book. All Pieper tried to convey was that such questions were crucial for living a more humane life. In other words, religious convictions can lead to compassion, mercy, justice, etc. This is not to omit that terrible wrong has been committed in the name of religion(s), but quite often other serious religious people have been around to condemn these wrongs. Pieper excused those who may be agnostic (not sure of a Supreme Being or a hereafter) as long as they were honest in reflection of their doubt. However, Pieper aggressively critisized the militant atheists whose militancy equalled or exceeded the passion of religious zealots. Pieper's view was that a religious view of a starting point or Supreme Being had the advantage of some point of origin. Pieper was also clear that such thought could not be precise, but such thinking could be reasonable and clear.
This reviewer has some minor (very minor)criticisms of this book. Pieper could have made the historical arguement that science, mathematics, and technology originated in philosophical studies especially among the Ancient Greeks. In other words, those who are so impressed with science and technology and dismiss philosophy should know that the origins of the sciences, mathematics, and technology began as pure philosophy. Pieper could have profitted by mention of St. Anselm (1035-1109)whose writing emphasized that the Catholic Faith had to be based not only on revelation and faith but also the rigorous use of reason and logical thinking. Mention could have also been made of the scientific acheivements of Catholic Scholatics and authorities. A good example is Pope Sylveter II (999-1002) who invented the first or one of the first mechanical clocks. Pieper could have mentioned Roger Bacon (1214-1294)who some historians credit with developing the scienctific method and did original work in astronomy and optics. Further mention could have been made re St. Albertus Magnus (c.1193-1280) who wanted to study "everything created." Pieper should have mentioned St. Albertus Magnus' work in mineralogy, biology, astronomy, other physical sciences, etc. Readers should know that these men were Catholic monks and frairs who, in their religious convictions, tried to investigate what they thought was God's Creation. In other words, men who dealt with pure philosophy were historically important in scientific achievements.
Pieper's book is highly recommended. Again, those who accept science and technology while dismissing philosophical speculation could learn from this book. As this reviewer mentioned elsewhere, "...a society based on national defense and full employment is better suited to an insect colony rather than a human/humane society." Pieper's book is a reminder of what it means to be truly human and civilized.
Excellent Philosophy Intro and Pieper stepping stone May 26, 2003
A good introduction and jumping off point to Pieper's philosophy and philosophy in general. Reading this book first might make his other works (like Virtues of the Human Heart, Abuse of Language Abuse of Power, and Leisure the Basis of Culture) more palitable. Pieper, here, describes what philosophy is - its likeness to poetry; why it should be done - freedom can not exist without it; and where philosophy stands in relationship to the exact sciences and religion. Pieper, with great detail, also lays Sartre flat, and critisizes Jaspers and Heidegger to the degree that they fail to recognize their own religiosity and how this contridicts their views of what a philosopher is -- throwing their own words in thier face, so to speak. Great reading.
This book might read something like a simple methodology; much more comprensible than "Living the Truth" which is quite a book, a definite methodology, but difficult reading.
A must for any student of philosophy. Apr 28, 2000
In this excellent little book (120 pages), Josef Pieper shows why philosophy is essential to human life. Pieper states his thesis at the beginning of the book: "to engage in philosophy means to reflect on the totality of things we encounter, in view of their ultimate reasons; and philosophy, thus understood, is a meaningful, even necessary endeavor, with which man, the spiritual being, cannot dispense." Pieper concludes this chapter by responding to four objections to the thesis: (1) it answering a philosophical question even possible? (2) what does it really mean to encounter something? (3) what about modern sciences? (4) what good is philosophy since it doesn't have a practical end?
In the rest of the book, Pieper shows how the ability to philosophize is different from studying philosophy in a classroom. He shows how philosophy is related to art and to religion. He then discusses the axiom: "philosophy alone is free," and how philosophy is a loving meditation on truth.
In the final chapters, Pieper enters into discussion with modern philosophers (e.g., Heidegger and Jaspers) who affirm that a religious believer cannot be a philosophy and shows the errors of this view in light of the ancient concept of philosophy found in Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas.