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For Pieper, the study of tradition is anything but antiquarian. He begins with a consideration of tradition in a changing world and is well aware of the need to confront the all-too-common perception that “tradition” is nowadays irrelevant. On the basis of his profound knowledge of the Western philosophical tradition from Plato and Aristotle through Augustine, Boethius, Thomas Aquinas, and Descartes, to modern Existentialism and Marxism, Pieper is able to highlight the values established – and challenged – down through the centuries. He sees the need to re-examine these values, to rid them of the false interpretations and misunderstandings that threaten to consign them to oblivion. He attempts to restate them in language which, in fact, not only reflects the clarity of his mind but also expresses his conviction that these values, freshly examined and understood, provide a sound basis for healthy living and for our survival against the dangers that pose a serious threat to the very existence of Western civilization. He illustrates these values by examining the contrast between an exponent of them, like Socrates, and an opportunist, like the Sophist Protagoras; between the man of principle and the nihilistic pragmatist.
The book consists of a mixture of articles and speeches, produced by a man who, though often wooed by the academy, was not concerned with achieving personal status as an academic professor. He insisted, for the most part, in combining purely academic teaching with the education of teachers in teacher-training colleges. He would not be removed from close contact with “learners,” and he remained a “learner” himself – from tradition.
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Josef Pieper was among the greatest Thomist philosophers of the 20th century, and author of several dozen works in philosophy and theology.
Translator Dan Farrelly’s studies began in Melbourne with a three-year course in scholastic philosophy, followed by a four-year BA course in German and French at Melbourne University. Next he did a four-year Theology course in Frankfurt am Main and finally a Doctorate in the Philosophy Institute in Strasbourg. He lectured for 25 years in the German Department at University College Dublin. He has published four monographs on Goethe. Since 1998 he has also translated plays by Goethe, Büchner, and Wedekind. With St Augustine’s Press he has already translated the following books of Josef Pieper: The Silence of Goethe, The Platonic Myths, and The Christian Idea of Man.
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