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Philosophy Speaker Series

Every year, Laurier’s Department of Philosophy hosts a speaker series that explores different questions, theories and topics. Each session is hosted by a Laurier faculty member or guest speaker. All sessions are open to the public. Students, staff and community members are all welcome. 

Time: 3:30 p.m. - 5 p.m.

Location: DAWB 2-101


October 26, 2018 - Jeff Noonan (University of Windsor)

"The Materialist Work Ethic: Labour and Meaningful Lives from the Luddites to the Present"


Since at least the 1960’s, economists and sociologists have worried and warned, but also hoped, that technological development would eliminate the need for work.  A world without work now forms the imaginary of technotopians of both the left and right.  Anyone who does not uncritically embrace the goal of life as leisure is denounced as a dangerous opponent of fun and progress, fearful Luddites who cannot free their attachment to the Biblical curse of labour.   But the Luddites themselves were not opposed to technology; they were opposed to bosses who introduced machinery without regard to its consequences for the quality of the product and the ability of workers to earn a living.  They were, in my terms, opponents of the life-blind use of technology and proponents of the life-value of labour.       

The Luddites themselves are a historical footnote.  Whatever the normative underpinnings of their struggle, they did try to stop mechanization by smashing the machines.   Marx recognised the dignity of their struggle, but also its futility.  Would it be any less futile to defend the life-value of labour today against the wholesale elimination of work, should that become possible?  It would seem so.  Hartmut Rosa notes in his history of the technological acceleration of modern life that every labour and time saving technology has initially been opposed as a threat to society and culture, and not a single one has ever been stopped.  Still, at the risk of presenting a philosophy of futility, I will argue that the real problem with work is not that we still have to do it, but that most forms of it are alienated.   Work itself is (and should remain) an essential component of meaningful human life.  Work is both the primary means of realizing our cognitive, creative, and caring life-capacities.  It is how we respond to others needs, and thus the means by which we make ourselves valued and valuable members of our societies.  Finally, work, when it is non-alienated, forces us to work on ourselves, challenging us to overcome our limitations and grow cognitively and practically.  It is thus a primary impetus towards learning and development.  All work and no play might make us dull, but all play and now work would, I fear, make us insipid and life meaningless.   

Upcoming Speakers

  • Nov.16, 2018: Chris Wass (PhD candidate, University of Waterloo)
  • Jan. 18, 2019: Rebekah Johnston (Wilfrid Laurier University)
  • Feb. 15, 2019: Phil Bériault  (PhD candidate, University of Waterloo)
  • March 22, 2019: Maya Goldenberg (University of Guelph)