On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs: Teaching, Writing, Playing, Believing, Lecturing, Philosophizing, Singing, Dancing

On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs: Teaching, Writing, Playing, Believing, Lecturing, Philosophizing, Singing, Dancing

by James V. Schall

Schall cites Charlie Brown, Aristotle, and Samuel Johnson with the same sobriety-the sobriety that sees the truth in what is delightful and even amusing.

Schall contends that singing, dancing, playing, contemplating, and other "use" human activities are not merely forms of escape from more important things-politics, work, social activism, etc.-but an indication of the freedom in and for which men and women were created.

Echoing philosophers such as Josef Pieper, Schall explains how the modern world has inverted the rational order of human affairs, devaluing the activities of leisure and placing an exaggerated emphasis on utilitarian concerns.

Citing Aristotle, Samuel Johnson, Charlie Brown, and New Yorker cartoons with equal sobriety, Schall unfolds a defense of both Being and being, of the radi

  • Language: English
  • Category: Philosophy
  • Rating: 4.07
  • Pages: 189
  • Publish Date: October 1st 2001 by Intercollegiate Studies Institute
  • Isbn10: 1882926633
  • Isbn13: 9781882926633

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Even the way the book is constructed helps to reinforce the author's points about the celebration of that which does not have to be taken seriously, about that which can and should be enjoyed in life, and about the way that we can be too consumed about seeking utilitarian use and not nearly interested enough in questions of pleasure and beauty and ultimate importance. Following this there are chapters on the relationship between truth and one's choice of college (3) and the education of young men and women (4), a subject of importance, to be sure, if one that also involves a good deal of pleasure (hopefully). After another interlude on the Thomist belief in sharing one's knowledge with others (I-2), there is a chapter showing gratitude for teachers the author has never met, largely because he learned about them in books (5) and the importance of order (I-3). After this there are chapters on the teaching of political philosophy (8) and the pleasure of walking about Derby (9), followed by the final interlude on the end of all things (I-5), and two final chapters on essays and letters (10) and why what is useless--namely philosophy--is the best thing about us (11).

Rather, he is showing how life should be lived pleasantly with a mind that's attentive to what is and how these "unserious" things ultimately reveal something about the personality of God. He is advocating for doing things not simply for utilitarian purposes, but to do them for their own sake.

Finding books by accident is truly one of the greatest joys of the reading life and that was certainly the case with James Schall's On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs. Any serious, thoughtful book that sets joy and mirth as one of its principal themes is usually worth reading. Any book that inspires one to meditate on friendship, good books, and joy is a book worth reading.

Hes pretty good when he gets down to it, but he wants space enough to move around the room and gesture with his hands and glance enthusiastically at his listeners. At the same time, reading this book, I wanted to encourage Fr. Schall to get out of the classroom more often.

Late in the book, Schall recommends the work of cartoonist Charles Schulz. In Schalls view, Lucy is not just a famously crabby girl with a crush on her piano-playing neighbor.

Schall, SJ, late a professor of political philosophy at Georgetown, has been about "the truth of what is." In this book of essays, he explores philosophy and its ability to lead us to the highest things as a way of life.

This book would probably be a good tertiary source for advanced undergraduates and graduate students should read this to order prior knowledge.

Schall, S.J., is Professor of Political Philosophy at Georgetown University. Fr. Schall was a member of the Faculty of Institute of Social Sciences, Gregorian University, Rome, from 1964-77, and a member of the Government Department, University of San Francisco, from 1968-77.