Russell and Schlick on Work and Play

The Bertrand Russell Society Bulletin 163:52-60 (2021)
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The concepts of work, labour, leisure, and play have been widely debated by the social sciences. By contrast, most canonical figures in the history of analytic philosophy have written very little, if anything, on the topic. One of the few exceptional discussions of the concept of labour and its history can be found in Bertrand Russell’s popular work from the 1930s, and more specifically his well-known essay ‘In Praise of Idleness’. In the essay, Russell attempts a spirited defence of a specific, qualified proposal for eventual reform: the universal limitation of the working day to four hours. Looming in the background of this proposal is a bolder thesis, namely the view that social progress involves the eventual minimisation (if not the complete elimination) of labour in the sphere of human activity. It is this bolder view that, as I shall show in what follows, Russell at least partly shares with another philosopher whose work shaped the history of analytic philosophy, Moritz Schlick. While Russell's work on the future of leisure and labour was written for a popular audience and widely read, Schlick’s early writings on work and play have not received adequate scholarly attention. Aside from some differences in their scope and details, there are some striking parallels between Russell’s and Schlick’s overall views on the future of work and play.

Author's Profile

Andreas Vrahimis
University of Cyprus


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