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Should a person always care to work or earn money?

Most people need to work to earn their bread, so to speak. They need to be productive -- and be paid for that -- to survive. However, that's not true in all cases. Perhaps someone has inherited enough money to provide for his life, or he has won the lottery, or a spouse can provide for the two of them. That person still needs a purpose in life to work toward, but must that purpose be productive, in the strict sense of creating material values? Might the person reasonably choose to spend his time studying subjects of interest to him, without any other goal in mind? Might he choose to spend the rest of his life travelling? Or producing art for his own personal satisfaction? Could such a person live a happy, virtuous, and meaningful life?

NathanSmith, 14.06.2013, 20:27
Idea status: completed


NathanSmith, 23.06.2013, 15:38
I've been thinking about this question a lot more, so I wanted to add a little to set a broader context for the question. What I'm particularly interested in is what facts of reality lead to Ayn Rand claiming Purpose to be one of the three cardinal values of the Objectivist ethics (and Productiveness its corresponding virtue). While the obvious one is we need to produce goods to sustain our lives, I think there are psychological reasons why a purpose is important (which still remain even if we don't need to produce goods to live).

So off the top of my head, the only thing that comes to mind is that we need to have values to pursue to make life enjoyable, even if we don’t need to provide financially for ourselves any longer. Without these values to pursue, we may be alive, but there would be no joy. So from this it seems that choosing to be a life-long student, a world traveler, or an isolated artist are values that could give life meaning.

What concerns me then is that this seems to leave the door open to sitting in front of a TV or playing video games for the rest of one’s life as a means of being happy (i.e. pursuing anything one deems valuable). Yet I can’t imagine that could be a joyful and meaningful life for anyone.
RhondaWilson, 03.12.2013, 19:08
This is a question that I think about as well. I hope that Diana will take up this question.

I have come to expand the meaning of productive work to a broad definition. For example, volunteer work, home-making, or unpaid childcare (like caring for grandchildren). Many of these are unpaid but are productive work.

I agree with you, Nathan, that spending 100% of one's time in pursuit of pleasure would leave one empty. At least it would for me.
jack, 31.12.2014, 14:27
I wonder how much of this is hard-wired into human biology. We clearly have hard-wired drives that long precede our ability to rationally conceptualize, and have hard-wired mechanisms (pleasure and pain being two simple examples) that seem to encourage behavior that is generally biologically beneficial to us according to our nature as physically weak, mentally strong, social, mammals. It seems plausible that the apparent human drives to create, to communicate, and to make productive use of our brains is both hard-wired, and when enacted, coupled to a hard-wired sense of well being, regardless of how truly productive any particular such instance comes out being. Not entirely unlike the sense of well being attributed to endorphins or other hormones following a good work out, or a good meal, or good sex, or perhaps reaching that hard-fought goal?

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