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Work and Play Essay

“I have called ‘play’ either as a holiday designed to make us ‘work’ better when it is over or merely as ‘work’ of another sort” (Oakeshott). In his article Work and Play, Michael Oakeshott goes into detail about human’s desire for pleasure. Oakeshott explain that in order to achieve that “true happiness” we must work for it, even though “playing” is involved in the process of reaching this happiness as well. Work is defined by Oakeshott as the effort to utilize and take advantage of the resources given to us on Earth.

“‘Work’ is a continuous and toilsome activity, unavoidable in creatures moved by wants, in which the natural world is made to supply satisfaction for those wants” (Oakeshott). He describes work as being a successful path to get to the fulfillment we desire as humans, the satisfaction we need. With this in mind, Oakeshott makes a good point in stating that happiness and fulfillment can not be achieved with out work or effort. We must use our intellect to perform work to the best of our ability, this way we can assure that the outcome of our work will fulfill our desires and “make us happy”.

Another mean to accomplish and fulfill our desires is by “playing”. “‘Play,’ in short, stands for something that is neither ‘work’ nor ‘rest’” (Oakeshott). What Oakeshott mean by this is that in a larger scale, the word “play” could stand for an activity that demands a skill that is not necessary to obtain something or to create something out of it. But unlike working, playing does not bring frustration along with satisfaction, it only brings satisfaction. There are two types of philosophers: a materialist and a non-materialist.

Michael Oakeshott can be categorized as a materialist. First of all, a materialist is someone that believes that a “material world” is all there is, and everything comes from “the active intellect”. This believes were also shared by Descartes, Aristotle, and even Thomas Aquinas. They believe that matter is the only substance, unlike those who believe that there is more than matter: “the uncaused cause”. Augustine and Plato, non-materialists, believed that everything proceeds from a higher spiritual being, the uncaused cause.

In the view of a non-materialist, things that have a much deeper meaning will bring you happiness. For example, instead of working for yourself, working for others and helping other will bring more fulfillments into your life. According to materialists believes and teachings, working for your own satisfaction is the only way to achieve happiness; it is the material thing that matter. I agree with both materialists and non-materialists way of thinking. I do not think either one of the extremes will bring true happiness and fulfillment.

I completely agree with Oakeshott description of work. I do believe that if someone does not work nothing will come out of it, or that someone is not going to achieve anything. I also agree with Plato and Augustine’s teachings about the divine spiritual illumination. I truly believe that there is such thing as an uncaused cause, and since I am Catholic, I believe that that uncaused cause is God. With that said, just because I believe in God, does not mean that God is going to protect me and eliminate everything that does not bring me happiness.

God only provides us with the necessary resources that we can utilize make something out of them that will truly fulfill us. Oakeshott makes some good points in his article Work and Play about the methods to accomplish satisfaction. There are two pathways, according to Oakeshott, to be able to reach fulfillment which are: work and play. I agree with his point of view, but I do not necessarily believe that work and play are the reason behind true happiness, there is more than that: the uncaused cause.


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