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P e ac e

in

Toil

how the cross redeems earthly work

By Samuel Ching

T

here is no doubt that modern society is fixated on the idea of work. College students preoccupy themselves with job applications during corporate recruiting season, and instantly move on to their new careers after graduation. At Ivy League schools like Dartmouth, graduates often gravitate towards industries such as consulting and finance, notoriously known for long work weeks.i Clearly, humans spend a lot of time doing work. But people seem to devote little attention to what work actually is or what it is for. All work has a desired goal or “end.” Financial compensation is a common example, but some ends may be more abstract. Whatever these ends may be, they are invariably tied to a particular worldview – the set of beliefs that guide and frame one’s thoughts. It informs fundamental questions about meaning, morality, origin, and destiny.ii All worldviews answer three basic questions: what our lives’ purpose should be, why our lives do not correspond to their intended purpose, and

maxim - “live according to Nature.”vi This means that the Stoics viewed one’s alignment to reason as the path to the virtuous and happy life.vii Due to the Stoic emphasis on individual self-determination as a pathway to happiness, there has been a recent revival of interest in Stoicism. In the modern, secular age, Stoicism is advertised as a way to “champion your creativity, facilitate your workflow, and improve your overall state of mind and life.”viii Larry Wallace, a writer for Aeon Magazine, claimed that “indifference really is a power, selectively applied, and living in such a way is not only eminently possible, with a conscious adoption of certain attitudes, but facilitates a freer, more expansive, more adventurous mode of living.”ix Indeed, many of the classical practitioners of Stoicism – individuals such as the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Roman philosopher Seneca – offered deeply practical and helpful advice in their writings. They espoused mental discipline and preached that one wields complete control over his own happiness.x

While secular philosophies have attempted to answer them, only a Christian framework can produce a coherent, holistic, and practical understanding of work. how we can realize this purpose.iii Work can be best understood by answering these three questions. While secular philosophies have attempted to answer them, only a Christian framework can produce a coherent, holistic, and practical understanding of work. It is impossible to understand the secular approach to work without understanding naturalism. Naturalism rejects the existence of incorporeal beings – all matter, including the soul and spiritual beings, is material.iv This implies that nature contains adequate explanations for all events. Applied naturalism, then, can manifest itself in many forms, but this article will focus on two common applications of naturalism – Stoicism and Materialism.v Both arrive at entirely different conclusions regarding the nature of work, but are rooted in a common philosophy. The naturalistic Stoics hold to the following

34 • The Dartmouth Apologia • Spring 2016 ]

Given modern society’s emphasis on autonomy, it is no surprise that this advice significantly influences the way some approach work. Taken to its logical conclusion, however, Stoicism fails to answer how individuals can achieve their ultimate end. When analyzing the motivating force behind Stoicism, understanding the pinnacle of achievement in a Stoic worldview is important. To the Stoics, it is attaining the position of “Stoic sage.” The sage is “a person who had attained moral and intellectual perfection,” and would not experience “passionate” emotions such as “fear, envy… impassionate sexual attachments, or passionate love of anything whatsoever.”xi While this detached approach to life may seem orderly and rational, the Stoic view appears to be elitist and unrealistic - try as they might, not all humans are able to attain this state of

Apologia Spring 2016  

Volume 10, Issue 2

Apologia Spring 2016  

Volume 10, Issue 2

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