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CITO seminar: Meaningful Work and Hermeneutics

Wednesday December 9th, 2020 at 16.30 GMT

Todd Mei

Todd Mei is founder of the public philosophy and consultation organization Philosophy2u. He calls himself a `public philosopher’. It involves adapting abstract concepts and ideas from philosophy and employing them to frame new ways of understanding work as meaningful and virtuous beyond obligatory, functional or mere utilitarian views.


Meaningful work is the idea that work holds an important role in the flourishing of societies and individuals. While there are many debates about what meaningful work is and whether we should take it seriously, this talk will focus on what I call the work-flourishing gap (WFG). Because work is a physical activity, there tends to be controversy as to how it can participate in those kinds of intellectual and imaginative activities we tend to associate with self-actualisation and flourishing. I will discuss how Paul Ricoeur’s hermeneutical theory of action (based on speech acts) can help dissolve the WFG by demonstrating how the activity of work bears features of linguistic meaning. This linguistic claim enables us to see work as more than just a bare physical phenomenon; it is communicative in the broad sense of being assertoric (locutionary), conventional (illocutionary), and transformative (perlocutionary). I will conclude with a reflection on some practical examples.

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