The Working Life Essay

1958 words - 8 pages

The belief that work is morally good is the definition of work ethic provided by The American Heritage Dictionary. Work can mean different things to different people. Usually, when we first think of a word and its meaning, we look at its definition. When defining what is morally good, one must remain open to past societal meanings of what was considered moral. Work ethic has developed and changed through different cultures over centuries. Historians and philosophers have developed great insights and theories pertaining specifically to the meaning of work ethic and its meaningfulness in today's modern employment, while some have praised it and some have cursed it. Which leads us to the question, do workers today have a calling or are they simply doing their jobs?

From ancient times to the early Middle Ages, hard work did not get you into heaven, demonstrate your moral goodness, endear you to your neighbors, or promise insight into the meaning of your life. During that time, a poet and farmer named Hesiod observed that "envy and strife" motivated people to work and that strife is good for morals. By fourth century, historian Xenophon wrote that work was the price that people had to pay for the goods of life. But Aristotle believed that work done for profit could be its own curse. He thought that property, in regards to land and slaves, not work, was the basis of a person's livelihood. He distinguished between work done to produce things for use in the household and work done for commercial gain. He said that household work, done to produce the things we need to stay alive is natural and finite, because humans' needs are finite.

Those who believe they should spend their lives working at getting or not losing money are, according to Aristotle, "intent on living only, and not upon living well." People who are consumed with getting wealth use everything as a means of wealth. Furthermore, people who work for wealth are never satisfied, because the things that they want and the work that they do to get it are never ending.

Work takes on greater importance in a society where people believe that they can master the material world and shape their own destinies, and less where they believe that they can not. An Ancient Greek philosopher said that the only stability in the world was within one's mind or soul, where ideas were secure from the unending changes that took place in the material world. In Ancient Greece, philosophers believed that a person's thoughts and ideas were more important than that person's work and that work in the material world lacked permanence. For the ancient Greeks, the status of particular occupations depended on the degree of freedom a person had, the perceived moral integrity of the occupation, and the amount of mental and physical work it required. Today we tend to feel that working in an office is better than working in a coal mine, regardless of which worker makes more money. Our language...

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