Immanuel Kant claimed that human are the only animals with an existential need for work. Without work, we would simply be bored to death because work provides our lives with content (Kant  1902- :471). One thing we can??™t deny, work is a fundamental part in a human life. Everybody needs to work, and surely there??™ll be a certain amount of people who enjoy and find passion in theirs. But in contrast, there??™ll be people who endure boredom, or suffer stress from their work, people that will try the best to get through their work days. So what make the difference between these people It??™s the matter of the meaning of their work, whether they find their work meaningful; therefore find the passion in it. If they can??™t, then work will be extremely boring, soon become a heavy burden. According to Lars Svendsen (2008, p.30), this is the crucial point Kant overlooked when he made his claim.
So, what makes work a fundamental part of human life, apart from the essential need of feeding themselves One reasonable explanation suggested by Lars Svendsen (2008, p.31):??? The need for meaning is a fundamental human need, and work is one of the primary sources of such meaning???. It also states that:??? Work without meaning, on the other hand, can be akin to torture???.
Remember when I was a little kid, I read a lot of cowboy comics. The comic tells the story about criminals that reflect the point I??™m trying to make. When criminals go to jail, they have to serve time, sitting around doing nothing, it??™s considered a cruel punishment. But back in the day in the Wild West, the inmates have to work for a whole day. The wardens just gather them around in the yard and make them smash rocks, and those smashed rock will be disposed at the end of the day. To them, that kind of meaningless labour is even a harder punishment, as they look forward to the end of a day every day, when they can return to their cell. To make a contrast with this story, I??™ll give another example, with the exact same situation, about the inmates??™ life in correction facilities nowadays illustrated through the famous TV series Prison Break. In the correction facility, there??™s a unit calls Prison Industry( P.I), where a group of chosen inmates get extra time outside their cell to do the maintenances for a certain hour per week. They get paid almost nothing (18cents/ hour), but they would do everything, from killing each other, to bribing the officer to get a spot in P.I. So, what??™s the difference between these two stories that would lead to complete opposite behaviours The second group of inmates, they work with a PURPOSE, which they can somehow benefit from the work they do, compare to the meaningless labour of the first example. Clearly, the meaning and purpose of your work do make a big difference.
As for my personal experience, I found that the boredom of meaningless work is equal to the boredom of idleness. I started to work at my dad??™s furniture factory a year ago where we make sofa and sofa table. When I first came in, I only did 1 task, assemble the parts of some kind of machine. I kept doing that task for 2 weeks without any understanding what is it for, and to me, that was 2 long weeks. My only motivation that time was knowing that I??™m making money, and I was really close from quitting the job. Luckily, I got to do some other tasks of making a sofa on the third week, since I my skill have been improved. And after the first month, I have full understanding of how everything work, how every small single task contribute to the completion of a sofa. And for me, it makes things a lot easier, since I know exactly what I??™m doing, and I can also switch between the tasks. Needless to say, I??™m quite enjoying my job at the factory right now.
So in conclusion, work is an existential need for human, it is true. Through work, people earn income to feed themselves, also prove their self-worth and value in the society. But on the other hand, finding the true meaning, the purpose of their work, is as important, as it create joy and passion that motivate them. Otherwise, work will just be another heavy burden that people have to bear in their life.
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Svendsen, L 2008, Work, Acumen, Stocksfield UK.