What is the essence of work? To begin, we could think of the essence of work as a putting of time into something. One could put time into physical work, and sweat and toil, but it could be said that one might put time into watching a bad movie; getting through it was work. One could also put time into a work of text. From here, how could we really dive into the essence of work? How could we arrive at an epistemology or ontology, or a formulation of work?
To be a bit more specific, the essence of work could be assembly. The manual worker could be said to assemble his work. The one who builds a door assembles the tools necessary and the components of the door. In the same manner, one also assembles a work of text or a work of art. The task of the philosopher is that of assembly, namely that of concepts and abstractions.
Heidegger said that the work of art is a bringing forth or an unconcealment of aletheia, the Greek word for truth. Work could also be said to be a bringing forth, as is inherent in the work of art, but we are speaking of work per se, in itself, as a process.
The process of work is a passing through and bringing forth, and the end result is a brought forth or unconcealed, and we can speak of the final product through Aristotle’s four causes: material cause, formal cause, efficient cause, and final cause.
The essence of work lies in its passing through and bringing forth, and this we call labor. The manual worker puts time in assembling his work, in passing through the assembly and bringing forth the end result, which is the fruit of his labor — the brought forth or unconcealed. To work through a concept is to put time in assembling the particulars and universals, passing through them, and bringing forth the truth of the exercise. In example, to work through a math problem, one assembles the particulars (the numbers of the problem, equations, fractions, etc.) and the universals (the concept of the numbers, equations, fractions, etc.), passes through them (the act of solving the problem), and brings forth the truth of the exercise (the correct answer to the problem).
And so, we have a formulation for the process of work:
Essence of work = putting time in + assembly + passing through + bringing forth the truth of the exercise, and this amounts to labor.
We can think of this process of work applied to higher fields such as epistemology. One puts work into ascertaining what knowledge is and how it is obtained, that is, assembling the particulars (particular knowledge of a subject, an instance of epistemic methodology) and the universals (the concept of knowledge and methodology), passing through them (applying epistemology), and bringing forth truth — knowledge in this case, the brought forth.
And so as we can see, the epistemology of work is contained in the above formulation of the process, and the essence of work — its ontological application, is labor. Time is spent assembling particulars and universals, passing through them, and bringing forth the truth of the brought forth — the result of the exercise, and thus we have a metaphysics of work and a more arduous understanding of its process.