Perhaps there's value in a bit of idleness

Idleness: A Philosophical Essay

O’Connor, Brian. Princeton, 2018
203p index, 9780691167527 $24.95, 9781400889617

Idleness: A Philosophical Essay book cover

In the West, the dogged pursuit of a worthy goal or ambitious striving for a career seems like what one is destined to do. For Marx, the importance of making things is implicit in human nature; for Kant, rationally motivated hard work is an obligation for autonomous rational beings. O’Connor (University College Dublin) questions these assumptions and gives one reason to reexamine whether the idle life might be a good life after all. He does not so much argue for idleness, though this would have been fruitful and thought provoking in itself, as critique of Western philosophers’ arguments against the idle life. Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Hegel (among many others)—innovative and creative critics of the status quo though they were—argued that living a life of idleness is something to be avoided. O’Connor lays out a meticulous case against anti-idleness, shining light on assumptions most people rarely question. The relationships between idleness and respect, work, boredom, play, and freedom are all considered. This is a refreshing look at a topic rarely even allowed into the conversation about what it is to have a good life.

Summing Up: Essential. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers.
Reviewer: P. Jenkins, Marywood University
Subject: Humanities – Philosophy
Choice Issue: Feb 2019