Meaningful Work

Mike W. Martin

in Meaningful Work

Published in print March 2000 | ISBN: 9780195133257
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199848706 | DOI:

Series: Practical and Professional Ethics

Meaningful Work

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This chapter discusses questions about human nature and motivation that underlie most of the topics in subsequent chapters. Is self-regard the only human motive, or are we genuinely capable of being motivated by moral ideals? If we are capable of concern for ideals, is it realistic to expect ideals to play an extensive role in our work, beyond death-bed gestures for example? Are there perhaps reasons for restricting personal ideals to private life? The discussion begins by contrasting two sharply opposing views, articulated by Adam Smith and Albert Schweitzer, concerning how personal values relate to work. Ideals contribute to choices of professions, whether directly as with Schweitzer or more indirectly. Frequently a profession awakens, augments, and unfolds patterns of caring already present in personal life. Inherently meaningful work is, by definition, rich in intrinsic satisfactions from goods internal to the work. Sociologist Robert Bellah and his colleagues distinguished three conceptions of work — as a job, a career, and a calling or vocation. This chapter also examines the relationship between professional ethics and economics.

Keywords: Adam Smith; Albert Schweitzer; professional ethics; economics; personal ideals; work; human nature; motivation; vocation; private life

Chapter.  10087 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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