I chose ‘leisure’ as the theme for this occasion partly because it's a topic which everyone – anyway, everyone present this afternoon – knows quite a lot about informally from their own experience. I chose it also because philosophy is supposed to be concerned with, among other things, human life and human nature in general, and reflecting about leisure is largely a matter of reflecting about its place in human life as a whole. It is not easy to say what is essential to human beings, because the attributes that seem deeply characteristic of us form such a long list, whereas stating the essence of something is traditionally supposed to be a matter of giving a single pithy fundamental formula. If, however, one is allowed to point to the essential by simply listing typifying characteristics, then the capacity to appreciate leisure and distinguish it from non-leisure must surely count as essential to human beings.This is not to claim, of course, that the concept of leisure is universal to all cultures, nor that if a certain culture lacked this notion it might not all the same get along as well on the whole as we do, who have it. For conceivably that culture might recognise and realise some equally important human capacity whose object figures not at all in our own reflections and deliberate arrangements. We can be quite liberal in forming our list of essentially human capacities as long as we allow that there may be whole peoples, and long stretches of history, in which one or another essentially human capacity goes systematically unrecognised and largely or completely unrealised.
Comment: This text explores the concept of leisure from an Aristotelian perspective - although is notably not simply an exploration of the Aristotelian conception of leisure. Instead, the author uses Aristotle's writing on the subject as a jumping off point from which to consider and reflect upon more modern conceptions and intuitions about the concept, and about our relationship to it as a basic human activity alongside rest, work, and labour. In this sense, the paper offers a discussion which will likely be of interest to those studying any of the aforementioned concepts, as well as leisure itself. Since the concept of leisure is one which has recieved very little attention in contemporary analytic philosophical debates, this essay is especially useful, at the very least, because it serves as an example for what conceptual analysis into the concept might/could look like. It is somewhat verbose and delves quite deeply into conceptual analysis, and therefore might be best reserved for intermediate and advanced contexts - either specialised reading groups or master's level courses, for example.