In his essay “In Praise of Idleness”, Bertrand Russell states his opinion of today’s society’s values: “immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous”. Initially, I found myself disagreeing completely with Russell’s opinion, but as he continued his explanation, I began to see the negative aspects of our society’s view of the importance of work.

Russell explains his opinion of the evils of placing too much emphasis on work by illustrating the positive effects of leisure and idleness. He points out how all of our lives’s social aspects rely on these virtues. He writes, “from [our] leisure that [we] derive whatever happiness [we] may enjoy”. His writing focuses on how what we do outside of work is what gives us our values, exentuates who we are, and – in short – gives us everything which makes us human.

Initially, Russell’s statement of the harm of “the belief that work is virtuous” struck me as untrue. The society in which I have been raised has repeated the importance of work and preached the necessity to base my life on finding the best job possible. There has never been an emphasis placed on leisure and being idle. Yet, once I read Russell’s point of view I realized there is no aspect of work which can give us true happiness. In order to truly achieve in our lives and become our true selves, we need to “use leisure intelligently”. We need to shift our focus from earning the most money as possible to utilizing each bit of our time to find a way to embrace idleness.

Molly Werts

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