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Work is Meaningful if There are Good Reasons to do it: A Revisionary Conceptual Analysis of 'Meaningful Work'

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  • Jens Jørund Tyssedal
Meaningful work is an important ideal, but it seems hard to give an adequate account of meaningful work. In this article, I conduct a revisionary conceptual analysis of ‘meaningful work’, i.e. a conceptual analysis that aims at finding a better and more useful way to use this term. I argue for a distinction between cases where work itself is meaningful and cases where other sources of meaning are found at work. The term ‘meaningful work’ is most useful for the former cases. I then argue for the reasons account of what makes work itself meaningful: work is meaningful if (and to the extent that) there are good reasons to do it. I compare this to established accounts of meaningful work, such as subjective meaningfulness, self-realization, alienation, the unity of conception and execution, autonomy, social contribution, and Veltman’s four-dimensional account. None of these capture the distinct concern that the concept ‘meaningful work’ should capture, or they do so less well than the reasons account. This also shows that work can be meaningful regardless of whether it is good in other respects, such as in inherent interest or opportunities for self-realization.
Translated title of the contributionArbejde er meningsfuldt hvis der er gode grunde til at udføre det: En revisjonær koncept-analyse af "meningsfuldt arbejde"
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Pages (from-to)533-544
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023

    Research areas

  • Meaning in life, Meaningful work, Reasons account, Revisionary conceptual analysis

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