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Work and being: a hermeneutical study

Mei, Todd S. (2007) Work and being: a hermeneutical study. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94524) (KAR id:94524)


The problematic dilemma motivating my thesis is how the contemporary understanding of work fails to regard human production as anything more than a necessary activity. This manifests in various ways, most predominantly in terms of utilitarian conceptions about the purpose of work and how it uses nature as the raw material for human ends. After an analysis that identifies the philosophical foundations of the contemporary attitude in Enlightenment suppositions and Marx's philosophy of work, I develop an alternative conception of work that discloses its ontological, as opposed to instrumental, nature. Following the hermeneutics of Martin Heidegger and Paul Ricoeur, I show how this ontological constitution suggests that work is more appropriately defined as a thanking activity—i.e., giving thanks to being itself. This is because thanking is fundamentally related to the reflective, or thinking, capacity of human being that inevitably seeks to understand life in relation to an interpretation of the meaning of being. To interpret is, in this respect, a manner of giving thanks to being. Hence, I argue that work's thanking aspect is most evident in terms of how it metaphorically discloses an interpretation of the meaning of being through its artefacts and structures that are integrated into the whole of human doing and thinking. This extends to even the most literal aspects of necessity concerned with biological and economic sustenance. With respect to the historical conception of the relation between work and thinking, that is generally understood as the division between vita activa and vita contemplativa, my thesis shows how these two modes of being are united within a broader, ontological description of human activity since these modes require and mutually develop one another. A prime instance of this concerns the area of human vocation which I focus on in my concluding chapter. I contend that vocation is an actualisation of interpretive horizons of meaning. It is, in short, the praxical and poetical realisation of theoretical interpretation.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Carrette, Jeremy R.
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94524
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: work, human production, purpose of work
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 25 May 2023 16:01 UTC
Last Modified: 25 May 2023 16:02 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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