For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"A Natural Law of Human Labor"

by Murphy, James Bernard (1994)


A blindness to the intrinsic and irreducible good of human work pervades the Thomistic tradition. Unfortunately, this blindness is not an easily-corrected oversight; rather it is the consequence of fundamental doctrines of human activity and practical reason. The denial that work is a basic good-that is, that work is a fundamental opportunity for human flourishing -is explicit in Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Germain Grisez, and John Finnis. Although the Grisez and Finnis restatement of natural law theory is often criticized for not being authentically Thomistic, in their neglect of human labor Grisez and Finnis are, if anything, too Thomistic.

Key Passage

There is a curious and disturbing similarity between the view of human labor found in the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition and that found in the contemporary orthodoxy of neoclassical economics. Modern economic theory defines labor as a disagreeable drudgery ("a disutility") undertaken solely to gain pleasure from the paycheck. In both orthodoxies, work is a mere instrument whose value lies in what it produces, either the product or the pay. (p.74)


Natural Law, Human Flourishing, Aristotle, Thomistic, Thomas Aquinas, History Of Ideas, Practical Reason


Religious Views on Work, On Aristotle

Links to Reference



How to contribute.