essay 1 work and the good life

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This essay involves a synthesizing of the various essays and ideas from our discussion of work and its connection to living a good life. There are specific instructions below for each paragraph. After those instructions, there are some suggestions and requirements.

First paragraph

Identify and briefly discuss (1) one example from Crawford’s essay of a way which the abstract writing job job inhibited or devalued knowledge or achievement and (2) one example of a way in which work in the motorcycle repair shop did involve a robust exercise knowledge or achievement. Crawford discusses several examples of each—you need only identify and describe one of each.

Second paragraph

Assess Crawford’s two jobs from the perspective of each of the three major theories of human well-being. While they would each likely agree that Crawford’s office job was bad and his motorcycle repair job was good, they would give a different reason for this assessment. So for each of the three theories (ethical hedonism, desire satisfaction theory, and objectivism), re-state what the theory is (how does it define human well-being) and then how it would evaluate Crawford’s well-being in these two jobs. You do not need to make this really detailed: a well-written couple of sentences for each theory should suffice to provide sufficient explanation.

Third paragraph

Now, explain briefly Kraut’s conception of human flourishing. Then on page 143, Kraut discusses several occupations: doctor, poet, cook, and actress. Pick two of these and identify and describe two ways in which our human power is exercised in the doing of the work (so pick two occupations and discuss two ways in which human powers are exercised in each job). Be sure to state which powers you’re discussing and how they’re exercised.

Fourth paragraph

Relate these two examples to Richard Kraut’s idea about human flourishing.

First, explain how the office work example failed to allow for a significant exercise of at least two human powers and explain which human powers are involved.

Second, explain how the manual work example did involve a robust exercise of those same human powers so that they involved real flourishing.

Note: Kraut specifically discusses the idea of work and its connection to human flourishing in the excerpt. See pages 142-143. (Note those pages are not where you will find his conception of human flourishing—that is given on page 137.) Keep in mind that good work is not good because it leads to human flourishing. Rather, it is intrinsically good for us because the exercise of certain human powers required for such work constitutes or is a component of our flourishing.)

Note: you do not need to relate the same human powers to the bad and good examples. For example, you could discuss the cognitive and social powers in relation to the good example and the cognitive and sensory powers in relation to the bad example.

2: Work and meaning

Fifth paragraph

Apply Gregory Pence’s classification of work to Crawford’s two jobs by answering these questions. What three categories of work does Pence suggest? What are some main characteristics of each of the three categories? How would Pence view Crawford’s two jobs and explain why he would classify them in this way.

Sixth paragraph

Recall Susan Wolf’s conception of a feeling of fulfillment: it’s a feeling that occurs when we are engaged in a project or activity that we believe is valuable and worth doing. Why were Crawford’s jobs fulfilling? What about the abstract writing job would make it an unfulfilling job (mention two features of the job)? What about the motorcycle repair job would make lead one to have a sense of fulfillment in doing it (mention two features of the job)?


  • Please do not add either an introductory or concluding paragraph. Part of the reason for asking you to write the assignment with the specified paragraphs is to make grading more efficient.
  • Once you’ve written your responses to the individual questions within each paragraph, revise each paragraph so that they flow well and form cohesive and comprehensible paragraphs rather than disjointed sentences. The paragraph should be able to “stand by itself” if it were read by someone who didn’t have access to any of the other paragraphs you wrote or assignment description itself. Then goal is that someone who did not know what you were being asked to write about could read and understand your essay easily.
  • Then make sure to include transitions between your paragraphs. For example, you could introduce paragraph three by saying something like “Matthew Crawford, in his discussion of motorcycle repair, expresses thoughts about the value of work that touches on some of the points made by Pence and Veltman …”
  • For any quotations or references, cite the page number (of the original pagination if there is one–not the pdf page) in parenthesis at the end of the sentence. For example, “Crawford says that blah blah (5).” Since the author is obvious and there’s only one essay by Crawford, you don’t need to include the name of the essay.
  • You may not use or consult any other source outside the essay referred to in the instructions for the assignment.
  • Write complete sentences and paragraphs. Do not write lists or bullet point outlines.
  • Make the effort to make sure that what you say makes sense rather than trying to say as little as possible.

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