Do people really enjoy their jobs? We're misled into believing that the typical workplace needs to be a
part of social structure. I think surveys are misleading. For instance if a survey was taken asking
people if they liked their jobs. They're only able to answer that with the perspective they have at that
moment. A more accurate way to ask that question would be to ask them do they prefer working or
Is there a social need for work? Aren't these questions philosophers should be asking? I don't think
we need work for social structure. People would rather go to clubs or to a park, and just hang out with
friends. I believe life should be lived seeking real knowledge, and nurturing friendship. By real
knowledge I mean where the mind naturally leads one to think, as in Aristotle or Plato. Even
seemingly the best jobs are kind of mundane.
As to your first group of questions... first, surveys have gotten pretty sophisticated these days. But the
question I like to ask people is, "If you won the lottery (or something equivalent happened), would you
keep living the way you're living, and doing what you're doing?" The answer to that, I believe, is a
reasonable indication of whether someone likes their job, or life situation, or whatever (yes, I would).
At the worst, it stimulates thought about one's situation... even if the person rationalizes that they
enjoy their job. I think that putting it concretely this way is better, perhaps, than asking the abstract
and misinterpretable question of whether they "like" their job... which they might at some given
moment, or might believe they would most of the time, etc., even if they don't at that particular
moment. Or whatever.
As to your next group of questions... hard to answer without your defining "work" more clearly. The
societies which have the most leisure time for the most people are, believe it or not, the
hunter-gatherer societies: small groups living off the land growing minimal crops (according to a study
I've seen... which I do not have the citation for, sorry). But nonetheless, everyone in such a society
"works" in some sense of that word, otherwise how would people eat, have shelter, raise children,
etc.? But would you really want to live in such a society? Think about it: death by infection, disease,
accident; the necessity of restricting life to the village; the necessity to conform to the group norms;
living with basically zero technology, just what you make (by working?) by hand. But again, it depends
on what you mean by "work". Doing something necessary for survival? Doing something you don't
want to do in order to survive? Is doing something you dowant to do in order to survive "work"?
So here's a rough classification for you.
1) If you spend most of your life doing what's necessary for survival and not enjoying what you're
doing, then you are not happy... but you may be making others happy. Is that good? I think we could
argue that most of humanity lives this way... not much different from how animals live, when you get
right down to it, is it?
2) If you spend most of your life doing what's necessary for survival and not caring about it, I guess
you're ok... but you've given up, I'd say.
3) What if you work part-time, and spend most of your life doing things notnecessary for survival,
which you enjoy? You're poor but happy... at least if you can find something you really enjoy. Of
course if being poor makes you unhappy, you've got problems with this strategy.
4) But the best is when you can spend your time doing something you enjoy, whether or not it's
necessary for survival, andget paid for it. Now these are the happy people, aren't they. And very few.
After all, first you have to determine what it is you reallywant to do... not something vague like
"nurture friendship". What doesthat mean, anyway? Be a therapist? Pay people to like you? Tell
everyone how wonderful they are? Just sort of sit around and chat the days away? What, exactly?
As for the "best" jobs being "mundane"... well, that's in your viewpoint, isn't it. I'd say sitting around all
day in desultory conversation is pretty mundane, myself. I know several (yes, offhand I can think of
5-10 whom I know personally) people, at this point in my life, who absolutely lovetheir work; who, if
they won the lottery, would keep doing just exactly what they're doing; maybe buy a better stereo, or
whatever, but not change anything basic in their lives. Not that I'm against seeking knowledge, no not
at all... but even that's a pretty vague kind of description, isn't it. Just how, precisely,do you want to
go about "seeking" knowledge? I'd think about that. Then plot a strategy to be able to do it and get
paid for it... lab work, research, theory... you need lotsof education for that kind of thing.
Steven Ravett Brown