International Journal of Applied Philosophy

Volume 36, Issue 2, Fall 2022

Lee Clarke
Pages 145-164

Converting the Manicheans
A Philosophical Reinvigoration of Work

The paper identifies a view of work that has become prominent in recent years: The view in question is that work is “split” into two main forms: “manual” and “intellectual.” These two forms of work are seen socially as being completely opposed to one another and stereotypes abound on both sides about the people who do them. The paper calls this view “The Manichean View of Work” after the Ancient Persian religion. It is argued that this view is based on an erroneous philosophical position of dualism, a split between mind and body, that derives from the Greeks and was formalised by such thinkers as Ibn Sina and Rene Descartes, which has filtered down into all of Western society. A new, more inclusive definition of work is offered, along with criticisms of the “Manichean View.” Lastly, as a counter to the Western view, an argument based on Zen Buddhist philosophy, which views manual work positively, is given before some practical ways by which the split can be healed as a conclusion.