Course on work – chapter 1: Work between myths and beliefs
I. Work, a terrible necessity
A. Work is opposed to leisure
The Greeks distinguished ponos fromergon.
Ponos concerned all activities that required labor, a certain drudgery of work, due to the contact with the material considered as degrading. While theergon, that is to say the work, concerned all the arts.
The Greek culture favored leisure, rather than work. Designated by the word scholé, leisure did not have the same meaning as today. It was not an entertainment, but a state of availability and peace. According to Aristotle, in theNicomachean Ethics, this state allowed for philosophical reflection and intellectual development.
Roman antiquity attached as much importance to leisure as did the Greeks. This opposition to work can be seen in the very terms used: otium, leisure, has as its opposite negotium, commerce. Rome also distinguished between labor andopus. Labor – which gave laborious – is indeed an arduous activity;opus designates creative activity. Working is therefore a painful activity.
The ideal advocated at that time was to avoid work and devote oneself entirely to leisure. This explains in part why the citizen has since sought to free himself from this work.
I. B. Slavery as a means of freeing oneself from work
A. Work allows men to survive and progress
B. The vocation to work