Is Productivity a Virtue or Vice?

Why do we care so much for productivity?

One of the insane points of modern society:

We are so hyper-focused on productivity (for the sake of it).

But why? What are the downsides to this line of thinking, and life philosophy?

The protestant work ethic

The basic notion of the ‘protestant work ethic’:

If you’re not working and making money and spreading the glory of God, you are sinning, and you are thus a despicable human being.

And this is the funny thing: most of us are no longer religious, yet we still have this protestant work ethic embedded within ourselves.

For example a lot of my American friends (who aren’t religious) follow this line of thinking. They don’t go to church or believe in God, yet they still follow Christian-Protestant morals/ethics:

  1. Be humble
  2. Work hard (industriousness seen as a virtue)
  3. Strive to make a lot of money “honestly”, yet don’t be overly extravagant with your spending behaviors.
  4. Don’t show off too much, yet you are permitted to buy some nice things for yourself.

Now, are these ethics we desire to follow? Are these ethics good for humanity?

Why is productivity seen as a virtue?

Productivity is generally seen as a virtue because of American-British notions of utilitarianism:

To maximally benefit the most peoples is the highest good.

This means the individual is only a means in order of empowering the maximum number of human beings. This means the individual isn’t the end goal; humanity as a whole is the goal.

But the question is:

Is improving the happiness of everyone by 10% more important than increasing the happiness of a small percentage of people by 1000%?

Empower a few.

My personal belief:

Perhaps to maximally benefit humanity, we actually must maximally-empower a small number of individuals, leaders, and brazen individuals.

What is society’s goal?

For example when we have a society “run by committee”, we just get a lot of (slightly above-average) mediocre individuals. The word ‘mediocre’ actually just means “middle” (although it has a negative connotation in modern times).

Do we want a society of lots of middle-class “average” people, or a society of a small number of great individuals?

Then comes the question:

Is it possible to have a society of LOTS of great individuals?

Tough to say. I think every individual (no matter how rich or poor) has the potential to become great, but very rarely do great individuals come into existence. Why? Perhaps it is the “general leveling-down of mankind” which prevents a few great individuals to come into existence.

Your life’s task is to maximize your own personal greatness

abstract pick

I will refrain from getting too much into this rabbit-hole of critiquing ‘society’. I think more effective is this:Let us become hyper-focused onto ourselves, and make it our own personal life’s task to mould ourselves into the most epic individual (whatever that looks like to you).

How to maximize you

clouds bright

What are practical strategies in terms of maximizing your own personal greatness? Some ideas:

  1. Creative isolation: Hyper-ignoring of the outside world. Focusing on building your own inner-world.
  2. Brazen thinking and living: Ruthless self-experimentation of how you live. Constantly tweaking your own lifestyle, to create the optimal conditions of your personal thriving.
  3. Valuing yourself above others: This sounds evil, but I think this is one of the most ‘selfless’ things you can do. Focus on building yourself into a great individual, then naturally let your hyper-abundance spill unto others.



Philosophy by KIM

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