Affluent people today spend significant time and money on stress-relief, anti-tension therapies, anxiety cures, and other self-help and self-pampering strategies. Stress and tension are very real in people’s lives. And with their cure now the subject of a major industries, we are all increasingly suggestible to diagnosis of these lifestyle-sicknesses. Treating our anxieties by philosophical thought is certainly rarer than responding with spas and luxuries.1 Indeed, few philosophers have taken our daily stresses seriously since St Thomas Aquinas explained that he felt sure that this problem had a spiritual cause.2 I feel sure that Aquinas was right.


Leisure Activity Philosophical Thought Normal Means Anxiety Cure Total Logic 
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  1. 1.
    For a good philosophical cure for workaholism, see Al Gini The Importance of Being Lazy (New York: Routledge, 2003). For the particular anxieties that concern a person’s social status, together with some traditional philosophical responses,Google Scholar
  2. see Alain de Botton Status Anxiety (London: Pantheon, 2004). And for the various ‘slow’ movements responding to our addiction to speed, efficiency, and the consequent stress,Google Scholar
  3. see Carl Honore In Praise of Slowness: how a worldwide movement is challenging the cult of speed (San Francisco: Harper, 2004).Google Scholar
  4. 2.
    St Thomas Aquinas, trans. Fathers of English Dominican Province Summa Theologiae (New York: Mcgraw Hill, 1963), 2–2, 35, 1.Google Scholar
  5. 3.
    For discussion of the evidence regarding both sides in this debate, see H. G. Koenig, M. E. McCullough, and D. B. Larson Handbook of Religion and Health (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 4.
    For studies of the range of benefits, physical, psychological, and social, that can be received from a good leisure life, see B. L. Driver, Perry Brown and George Peterson (eds) Benefits of Leisure (State College PA: Venture, 1991).Google Scholar
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    For a fascinating history of the concept of leisure, see Sebastian de Grazia Of Time, Work, and Leisure (New York: Twentieth Century Fund, 1962).Google Scholar
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    Johan Huizinga Homo Ludens (Boston: Beacon, 1971).Google Scholar
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    Josef Pieper Leisure: the basis of culture (Southbend IN: St Augustine’s Press, 1998).Google Scholar
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    I build here on the distinguished attempt by Elizabeth Telfer to develop, as well as defend, an Aristotelian view of leisure, see Elizabeth Telfer ‘Leisure’ in Moral Philosophy and Contemporary Problems (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).Google Scholar
  11. I have opted for ‘reflective leisure’ rather than ‘serious leisure’, partly because the latter is used and used in a different sense by Robert Stebbins Amateurs, Professionals, and Serious Leisure (Montreal: McGill University Press, 1992). By ‘serious leisure’ Stebbins means voluntary, amateur, and hobbyist pursuits, as opposed to such ‘casual leisure’ activities as watching TV, visiting shopping malls, and so on. While my account implicitly rejects Stebbins’ view, it is no part of my argument to deny the seriousness of the important activities he opposes to casual leisure — however, many of them are not particularly playful or reflective.Google Scholar
  12. 10.
    James Schall On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs (Wilmington DE: ISI, 2001) also tries to justify a change of mind and heart here, basing his appeal on literary and theological insights.Google Scholar
  13. 11.
    See John Kelly and Geoffrey Godbey Sociology of Leisure (State College PA: Ventura, 1992);Google Scholar
  14. Geoffrey Godbey Leisure in Your Life (State College PA: Venture, 2003);Google Scholar
  15. John Robinson and Geoffrey Godbey Time for Life: the surprising way Americans use their time (University Park PA: Pennsylvania University Press, 1997);Google Scholar
  16. Gerald Fain ‘Moral Leisure’ in Gerald Fain (ed.) Leisure and Ethics (Reston Virginia: American Association for Leisure and Recreation, 1991).Google Scholar
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    Bertrand Russell In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays (London: Routledge, 1994). Also, see Paul Western ‘More Praise for Idleness’, Philosophy Now, Oct/Nov 2000.Google Scholar
  18. 14.
    Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi Flow: the psychology of optimal experience (New York: Harper and Row, 1990).Google Scholar

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© Hayden Ramsay 2005

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  • Hayden Ramsay

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