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Jeff NoonanPhilosophy professor Jeff Noonan defends the value of work in a column published this week in the New Statesman.

Work fulfils need to be needed, says philosophy prof

Imagine a world where humans no longer work.

Students would be taught by professor bots, or they could simply play video games all day. Nurse and doctor bots would tend to us when we’re ill and automation would grow our food, design our buildings and create our art.

According to UWindsor philosophy professor Jeff Noonan, such an existence would leave us feeling empty because a world without jobs would undermine the relationships that bring meaning to our lives.

Dr. Noonan makes that proposition in his article in the latest edition of the New Statesman. The British publication has launched a popular philosophy column called Agora moderated by UWindsor alumnus Aaron Wendland.

“It’s an idea I’ve been working on for a while,” said Noonan of his essay on what he calls “post-work.”

“We need to be needed,” Noonan said, calling jobs a form of “self-creative activity.”

Losing the ability to work “would not be a tremendous step on the road to happiness,” Noonan wrote. “As I see it, losing the need for labour altogether would lead to an existential crisis. If we were to substitute work for a life of absolute leisure, we would experience a rapid loss of meaning in our existence, manifested as an inability to care for or value anything.”

Wendland, who cites Noonan as one of the professors who helped him foster a passion for ideas, approached Noonan about writing a column.

Noonan said he was happy to find a medium outside of academia to share his thoughts and lauded the New Statesman for introducing Agora.

“It’s is an attempt to find space in the media outside of the academic world for philosophical material,” he said.

Of his article, Noonan said, “I hope it connects with people more broadly.”

─ Sarah Sacheli