By Lee Trepanier, August 31, 2009 in Pedagogy and Teaching
Part of the impetus to institutionalize education is that we are heirs to a long and deep intellectual tradition. We are often rightly proud of this tradition, even when there are aspects of it that we are opposed to, but we must learn it anew in the form of a tradition handed down to us. Unlike other animals, with their instinctual knowledge, we humans must learn from the beginning. This tradition therefore has to be classified and organized to make the learning of it more effective and efficient. Although this is required for learning, it can also lead to a fossilization of our knowledge where we can know a tradition but not truly learn it. We see this happen in the great intellectual revolutions in the West, where medieval philosophy, becoming petrified and overly self-enclosed, is replaced with the Enlightenment and its then-contemporary concerns of tolerance, representation, and commerce. As we should guard against the over-institutionalization of university life, we should also be wary of the fossilization of our tradition.
These are the obstacles that confront us in reclaiming the life of leisure and, more specifically, any attempt to renew a Christian philosophy. For Pieper during his time, Christian philosophy was not a tradition known but not learned: it was not a collection of doctrines, dogma, and ready-made answers (although these things have a role in the Christian life). Christian philosophy was a specific reality rooted in a specific culture—a culture that was characterized by leisure. What we see in Pieper is an attempt at cultural renewal that blows away the fossilization and institutionalization of learning and challenges the marketplace and state in defining what it means to be human. Pieper, in essence, is calling us to renew the world as it is: to readjust our relationship to reality so we know how to live the life of leisure. It is simply to see the world both liberally and philosophically, such that we can participate in the divine wisdom of reality, a participation starting in wonder and ending in hope.