Exercises in the Elements

978-1-58731-231-1; 978-1-58731-232-8
Cloth $28 and Paper $18
192 pages, 5½" x 8½"', preface, notes, bibliographical notes, index

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Exercises in the Elements

Essays – Speeches – Notes

Pieper, Josef

This title, which at first sight seems curious, shows Pieper’s philosophical work as rooted in the basics. He takes his inspiration from Plato – and his Socrates – and Thomas Aquinas. With them, he is interested in philosophy as pure theory, the theoretical being precisely the non-practical. The philosophizer wants to know what all existence is fundamentally about, what “reality” “really” means. With Plato, Pieper eschews the use of language to convince an audience of anything which is not the truth. If Plato was opposed to the sophists – among them the politicians – Pieper is likewise opposed to discourse that leads to the “use” of philosophy to bolster a totalitarian regime or any political or economic system.

A fundamental issue for Pieper is “createdness.” He sees this as the fundamental truth of our being – all being – and the fundamental virtue we can practice is the striving to live according to our perception of real truth in any given situation. The strength and attraction of Pieper’s writing is its direct and intuitive character which is independent of abstract systematization. He advocates staying in touch with the “real” as we experience it deep within ourselves. Openness to the totality of being – in no matter what context being reveals itself – and the affirmation of all that is founded in this totality are central pillars of all his thinking. Given the “simplicity” of this stance, it is no surprise that much of it is communicated – and successfully – through his gift for illustration by anecdote. Like Plato, this philosopher is a story-teller and, like him, very readable.

Table of Contents


What Does Interpretation Mean?

Theology and Pseudo-Theology

The Faith of Socrates

Createdness. Elements of a Fundamental Concept

Sartre’s Proof of God’s Existence

The Blind Spot

Agendo patimus esse

Sign and Symbol as the Language of Christian Faith

“Thought has its Beginnings”

Gifts of the Greeks

Knowledge and Freedom

Freedom and Pornography

Philosophy and the Common Weal

The Intrinsic Split in all Earthly Rule

The Contemporary Relevance of the Cardinal Virtues

What Does Happiness Mean? Fulfilment in Vision

Manic Depressive

On Music

Music and Silence

C’est l’amour qui chante


Horizon of the Concept of Silence

It Is One Thing, by One’s Own Deliberate Act . . .

“Sacred” Language

Preliminary Reflection on the Theme of Celibacy

The Altar: Table and Sacrificial Stone

Testimony of Faith?

Ready-made Formal Templates?

“Post-Resurrection” View?

“Jesus, our Brother”?

Bibliographical Notes