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Chapter 3 Philosophy and Leisure


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Title: Chapter 3 Philosophy and Leisure

Chapter 3 Philosophy and Leisure
Philosophy and Leisure
Donald J. McLean
What Is Philosophy?
  • The word philosophy comes to us from the ancient
    Greeks and means the love of wisdom.
  • Philosophy is important to both the academic
    study of leisure and the delivery of recreation

Five Branches of Philosophy
  • Modern philosophy is associated with five
    branches of inquiry, and each is relevant to both
    leisure researchers and practitioners
  • Metaphysics
  • Epistemology
  • Logic
  • Aesthetics
  • Ethics

Metaphysics and Leisure
  • Metaphysics concerns fundamental questions about
    the nature of reality.
  • In the recreation and leisure literature,
    metaphysical issues have focused on whether
    leisure should be defined as a
  • state of being or
  • state of mind.

Metaphysics Leisure as a State of Being
  • Leisure as a state of being reflects the
    traditional view that leisure depends on the
    judgments of others about whether the activities
    that we do and our living conditions qualify as
  • The ancient Greeks primarily thought of leisure
    as freedom from the necessity of work and
    engagement in ennobling activities such as music
    and philosophy.

Metaphysics Leisure as a State of Mind
  • Leisure as a state of mind reflects the modern
    view that leisure is a subjective, psychological
    state rather than the actual activity that a
    person is doing or her or his life circumstances.
  • If leisure is a state of mind, when a person
    perceives an activity or situation as leisure,
    then it indeed is leisure.

Metaphysics Problems If Leisure Is Viewed Only
as a State of Mind
  • Sylvester argues that the dominant modern view
    of leisure as a state of mind opens the door to
    unacceptable behaviors and circumstances being
    classified as leisure.
  • If leisure is a subjective perception, then
    potentially any activity, including illegal and
    immoral acts, can be classified as leisure.

Metaphysics Problems If Leisure Is Viewed Only
as a State of Being
  • Leisure as a state of being is appropriate when
    activities need to be authentic or reflect real
    achievement such as visiting a historical site or
    competing at a sport.
  • But at times it is better that leisure activity
    simulates reality or achievement, such as by
    providing a subjective perception of risk rather
    than exposing participants to actual danger.

Epistemology and Leisure
  • Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that
    examines knowledge itself.
  • Epistemology deals with questions such as
  • the sources of our knowledge,
  • the types of things that it is possible for us to
    know, and
  • how certain we can be of our knowledge.

Epistemology Empiricism Versus Rationalism
  • Empiricism maintains that knowledge is derived
    from what we observe from senses.
  • Rationalism says that knowledge is generated from
    the ideas created in our minds.

Epistemology Quantitative Versus Qualitative
  • Leisure researchers are divided on whether
    empirical knowledge about leisure should come
    from quantitative data (numbers) or qualitative
    data (words).
  • Both quantitative and qualitative approaches are
    based on the assumption that knowledge about
    leisure should be derived from the collection of
    empirical data.

Epistemology Rationalism and Theoretical
  • Theoretical research is based on applying
    philosophical analysis to ideas and concepts
    relating to recreation and leisure.
  • The classical conception of leisure of the
    ancient Greeks was created from rationalist
    methods or inquiry rather than empirical study of
    leisure behavior.

Epistemology Rationalism and Theoretical
  • Modern scholars such as Josef Pieper have
    continued to advance our understanding of leisure
    and recreation using nonempirical methods of
  • Theoretical research is particularly useful when
    we are dealing with questions concerning leisure
    values, such as whether the expansion of gambling
    opportunities has been beneficial.

Epistemology Empirical and Theoretical Research
  • Understanding complex social phenomena such as
    leisure and recreation requires both theoretical
    or philosophical analysis and empirical
    (quantitative and qualitative) research.
  • Although we may prefer a particular approach to
    understand leisure and recreation, we should be
    wary of excluding other methods of knowing.

Logic and Leisure
  • Logic is the branch of philosophy concerned with
    the principles and structure of reasoning.
  • Logic helps us determine whether our reasons
    properly support the conclusion that we make.

Logic Leisure Research
  • The methods of leisure research, whether
    empirical or theoretical, depend heavily on the
    use of both deductive and inductive inferences to
    generate new knowledge about leisure and
  • Logic plays an important role in leisure research
    by demonstrating that the conclusion researchers
    draw are properly supported.

Logic Leisure Practitioners
  • Leisure practitioners need to use both deductive
    and inductive reasoning to aid their decision
    making in management-related functions such as
    strategic planning, budgeting, and evaluation.
  • Practitioners also need to be able to justify
    their actions and decisions to various
    stakeholder groups by using informal logic and
    critical thinking.

Aesthetics and Leisure
  • Aesthetics is the branch of philosophy that
    examines the nature of beauty in relation to art
    and the natural environment.
  • Issues of aesthetics have played a significant
    role not only in cultural recreation but also in
    outdoor recreation, particularly in regard to
    wilderness areas.

Aesthetics Wilderness
  • Authors such as Nash have noted that Western
    civilizations attitude and treatment of
    wilderness have depended on whether nature is
    regarded as ugly and evil or as divinely
  • Aesthetic values and judgments are important
    factors in the management of wilderness areas and
    have fostered growing interest in environmental

Ethics and Leisure
  • Ethics is the branch of philosophy that focuses
    on the study of moral theories, principles, and
    values and is important to the delivery of
    recreation and leisure services for several
  • Leisure service providers are likely to encounter
    many vexing ethical dilemmas during their
  • Leisure service providers are often put in a
    position of trust when working with vulnerable
  • Leisure service providers are expected to
    exercise a high degree of responsibility and
    provide healthful activities.

Ethics Ancient Greek Philosophy
  • The origin of the Western conception of leisure
    is closely connected to the ethics of the ancient
  • The ancient Greek philosophers framed their
    discussions of ethics in terms of how people
    could best live their lives to find happiness.
  • Plato and Aristotle focused on questions of
    ethics (for optimizing the lifestyle of the
    individual) and politics (for optimizing the
    functioning of the state).

Ethics Platos Theory of Leisure
  • Plato separated good leisure activities from
    bad ones. Only certain types of virtuous
    leisure were allowed, such as controlling
    storytelling and music. He was fearful of
    recreation that excited the emotions.
  • The legacy of Platos political philosophy is
    present in leisure services today Recreational
    programming and activities for youth should
    contribute to positive character development.
  • Platos belief was that leisure and recreation
    are important tools for influencing individuals
    and society.

Ethics Aristotles Philosophy of Leisure
  • Aristotle agreed with Plato that living the ideal
    lifestyle required following habits of living
    that were virtuous.
  • Aristotles concept of leisure was elitist.
    Slaves were not allowed the luxury of leisure
    because their labor was needed to provide for the
    leisure of the free male citizenry.

Ethics Aristotle and Happiness
  • Aristotle believed that happiness results from
    being the best that we can be.
  • The person who has the most rewarding lifestyle
    is the philosopher who is at leisure to develop
    his intellect to its highest capacity.
  • Human fulfillment results from achieving
    excellence from things we choose to do when we
    use our leisure correctly.

Ethics Aristotle and Freedom
  • Freedom is an important element of Aristotles
    concept of virtuous leisure.
  • We should seek freedom from material wants so
    that we can have time for leisure and not be
    enslaved by our work.
  • We should seek intellectual freedom to understand
    why virtuous leisure activities are good.
  • Freedom is the essential characteristic of any
    virtuous leisure activity.

Ethics Contemporary Philosophy of Leisure
  • Modern society is work oriented.
  • The ancient Greeks were work averse. Work was
    only a necessity of life. They valued work
    primarily as a means of obtaining leisure.
  • Modern lifestyles appear to have reversed that
    equation because we tend to define ourselves by
    our work rather than our leisure.

Ethics Webers Analysis of the Work Ethic
  • Webers concept of the work ethic refers to a
    cultural ideal that regards work as the most
    important activity in a persons life.
  • New reverence for work arose from the Protestant
  • It is worknot leisurethat makes life worth
    living, which culturally defines our modern
    conception of the good life.

Ethics Russells Critique of the Work Ethic
  • Preindustrial societies were based on a slave
  • Modern technology created an abundance of goods
    so that everyone could have a leisured lifestyle.
  • Leisure, however, continued to be reserved for
    the upper crust in society and denied to the
    working class.
  • Proposed a work-sharing arrangement to create a
    four-hour workday so that people could pursue
    cultural and intellectual interests.

Ethics Piepers Critique of the Work Ethic
  • We no longer know what leisure is we live in a
    totally work-oriented culture.
  • Liberal arts disciplines such as philosophy are
    treated as a type of intellectual labor, valued
    only for their usefulness for solving practical
  • Knowledge for knowledges sake is devalued by the
    culture of work.
  • Our leisure time is useful if it refreshes us so
    that we can resume our work with renewed vigor.
  • Our worship of work produces a meaningless,
    unsatisfying lifestyle.
  • We live to work well, rather than working so that
    we can live well.

Ethics Veblens Critique of Consumption
  • Veblen defined ostentatious displays of wealth as
    conspicuous consumption. He criticized the
    super rich of his erathe Vanderbilts, Carnegies,
    and Rockefellersas status seekers who used
    wealth amassed from 19th century business empires
    to give themselves an air of nobility.
  • In a consumer culture, success is measured by the
    luxurious and expensive goods that we own, which
    increase our social status.

Ethics Loss of Social Capital
  • According to Putnams analysis, Americans are
    becoming increasingly isolated socially as they
    engage in more solitary leisure.
  • Membership in community organizations dropped
    dramatically at the end of the 20th century.
  • Americans have become less satisfied with their
    lives because they have experienced a decline in
    their social capital.

Ethics Solving Ethical Dilemmas in Leisure
  • Socially responsible leisure service providers
    need to have a macro, or big-picture,
    understanding of the broad social and ethical
    issues that affect the quality of peoples
    leisure lives.
  • But leisure service providers also need to be
    able to apply ethical analysis in micro settings
    when they deal with specific instances of moral

Ethics Three Approaches for Resolving Moral
  1. Consequence-based ethics weighing the
    consequences to maximize the overall good
  2. Duty-based ethics ranking duties and obligations
    to determine what is right
  3. Virtue-based ethics consulting ones conscience
    and personal integrity

Ethics Tanning Bed Case
  • At a multipurpose community recreation center,
    patrons have indicated that they would like the
    recreation center to install tanning beds.
  • The staff considers the possible negative health
  • Patrons are dismayed and even outright hostile
    over the staffs decision to reject the equipment
  • Reflect on the scenario presented in the chapter.
    What are the ethical dilemmas? What is the
    plausible solution?

  • The five branches of philosophy are important to
    both leisure research and leisure service
    provision by helping us to
  • reflect more deeply on questions of how leisure
    and recreation should be defined,
  • understand that our knowledge of leisure and
    recreation derives from both empirical and
    rational sources,
  • (continued)

Summary (continued)
  • make our decision processes in both leisure
    research and leisure service provision more
  • appreciate the significant role that aesthetics
    plays in the experiencing of leisure and the
    provision of leisure services,
  • ethically evaluate societal issues and problems
    relating to leisure and respond in positive ways
    to improve quality of life, and
  • address and resolve the ethical dilemmas that are
    encountered by leisure services providers.