Recovering Leisure: Otium as the Basis of Education

Givanni Ildefonso

Recovering Leisure: Otium as the Basis of Education
Ildefonso, Givanni
Thesis Advisor(s):
Hansen, David
Ph.D., Teachers College
Philosophy and Education
Persistent URL:
This study examines the educational benefits of what the ancients called otium: the time and freedom from overt action that allows people to think about the world and their reasons for being. While leisure is not a new concept in philosophy of education, it is one to which not enough people pay attention. In the very few instances in which scholars have recently argued that leisure should make its way into our contemporary conversations on education, the argument, in my view, falls short due to the fact that the concept of leisure is still not well understood. This study seeks to demonstrate and illustrate the value of the ancient concept of leisure (otium) in an effort to show its significance for education today. It begins by offering a portrait of leisure, anchoring the discussion in the figure of Socrates, especially in Plato's Phaedo. This discussion is further expanded by Seneca's account of leisure in On the Shortness of Life. An extension of this portraiture follows by making direct liaisons with education, as the themes of the art of living and culture emerge. A full consideration of leisure in education continues by turning to the concepts of philosophy and contemplation. An examination of Yves R. Simon's definition of teaching as an "overflow of contemplation" provides a final consideration that leads to conclude that otium, as the ancient ideal of leisure, will benefit students, teachers, and society in general, by allowing us to recover a fundamental experience of human flourishing that finds its source in our time for education.
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Suggested Citation:
Givanni Ildefonso, , Recovering Leisure: Otium as the Basis of Education, Columbia University Academic Commons, .

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