Appeared in Spring/Summer 1996, Vol. XXII, Nos. 1, 2
As St. Thomas Aquinas explains, play by nature belongs to a category of goods that are pursued for their own sake, as ends in themselves rather than as means to an end. Inherently meaningful and delightful activities such as play or contemplation are free or “liberal” in the sense that they serve no other immediate purpose or utilitarian goal beyond the natural enjoyment that accompanies these pursuits. they occur during leisure or “free” time when one is relieved of the necessity of servile tasks-the work required to keep the body healthy and alive by providing basic needs such as food, fuel, shelter, and clothing. In other words, we work in order to play; the end of the active life is the contemplative life; the servile arts care for the physical health and well-being of humans so that their spirits, minds, and hearts are free to delight in liberal activities such as play and wisdom, friendship and love, beauty and sports.
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