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  1. #1

    Default Physical vs. Mental Labor

    Which do you think is more difficult/exhausting? Do you think that physical labor is looked down upon?

    For me, the mental stuff is a lot more draining. Having worked on my MS degree and as a research assistant for the past two years has been hell. Especially the last couple months where I have been putting in 12+ hour days everyday in front of the computer just to be done by the end of summer. Though, I figured I'd see it through since I made the financial investment and a degree would be something to fall back on.

    I think that I've developed such a disdain for sitting on my ass all day everyday that I may starting working a physical labor job once I'm done with school. Never thought I'd hear myself say this but the oil fields are looking pretty good right about now.


  2. #2
    Senior Member alcea rosea's Avatar
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    Nov 2007


    Quote Originally Posted by DarkCatalyst View Post
    Which do you think is more difficult/exhausting? Do you think that physical labor is looked down upon?
    Mental labor is easier for me and physical labor is more exhausting. But it also depends on the mental labor. Technology does not interest me a bit. If the mental work involves people, then it's interesting.

    Physical labor is definitely looked down upon in my opinion but not by me. I greatly appreciate the people who do physical labor.
    Last edited by alcea rosea; 07-29-2008 at 11:36 AM.

  3. #3


    Overall it depends on the activities. When I was in grad school I could really only put in about an hour or two of good study a day before being drained. If cramming for a final I could do more, but anything after the first hour was much lower quality study. During the same time I could do several hours of physical labor before becoming exhausted. Of course I'm thinking of moving furniture or helping other people move. If I was doing weight lifting or something I'd probably get exhausted pretty quickly.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member Bufo's Avatar
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    Jul 2008


    Some people seem to have a sick tendency to look down upon physical labor. Anyway, both physical and mental labor may lead to exhaustion if you overdo either of them. Personally, I find it good and refreshing to divert. When I get exhausted by thinking too much, I usually switch to recalling what I already learnt. Changing the topic also does good sometimes. If that doesn't seem enough, I do some physical labor, say, washing, necessary shopping, or other chores. The principle is that you exercise a different part of your brain for a different function and leave the exhausted part to rest. I had never been in the habit of sitting in my study for long. But this technique helped use my time most efficiently and I managed to study more than twelve hours a day for a long period of time. Alternating mental and physical labor seems to me essential to maintain a healthy balance without unnecessarily risking a possible quit.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    Nov 2007
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    I'd rather be told to do something with my body than with my mind.
    It's because mental activity is more important to me that I prefer physical labor. A lot of it is so monotonous that I can easily think of something else while I'm doing it. On the other hand, I can't handle the requirements of mental labor. I agonize over feeling like my thoughts are being forced or controlled.
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  6. #6
    Senior Member Works's Avatar
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    May 2008


    I tend to use mental labor to get out of physical labor. How can I apply the most leverage to this situation to achieve the goals I want and work the least?

    That being said, there is something rather satisfying about physical labor that you are proud of. Cutting the grass or building some sort of project can leave you tired, but proud of what you've done.

    I get that same feeling of pride when I labor on something mentally, but not always that feeling of satisfaction. I think it's because the results are less concrete or that mental projects tend to always lead to further projects. Finishing a mental project leads to more mental projects. Once you are done with the chores, you're done for the day.

  7. #7
    Senior Member JustDave's Avatar
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    Jan 2008


    It's about balance. And, that is your problem. By sitting in-front of a computer for 12 hours a day you lack balance between mental and physical work.

    Try (if possible) typing while standing. When I do so it improves my mood and energy level tremendously.

  8. #8


    I HATE every kind of labor, shit. If I'm straining myself mentally, it better be because I'm working towards something I really care about. If I'm straining myself physically, I'll lose all my energy, but at least I can usually day dream while I work. My ideal situation would be 25% physical labor, 25% mental labor, and 50% screw around time.
    "When a resolute young fellow steps up the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find that it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

  9. #9
    Senior Member millerm277's Avatar
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    Feb 2008


    Quote Originally Posted by DarkCatalyst View Post
    Which do you think is more difficult/exhausting? Do you think that physical labor is looked down upon?
    Physical labor, to me is "real work". Maybe it's me, but a long day of doing physical work, is more exhausting than the most difficult day at a desk job. (Possible exception being if it's dealing with problematic people all day).

    I think physical labor is looked down upon, because it's supposedly "unskilled". To me, that's complete BS, and learning to do a lot of finer physical work takes a lot of time and effort. Personally, I respect them far more than office workers.

    For reference, I have a desk job.
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  10. #10


    To the OP: This is where you start getting into dangerous waters qualifying the value of mental vs. physical labor.

    I knew someone (mostl likely XNTP and a bit mentally unstable at that) who said that 'all forms of exploitation are the same' meaning sexual, physical labor, or intellectual labor.

    My answer is that is bullshit and something that I'd expect from a straight male who considers themselves to be a great intellectual.

    If it came down to 'CzeCze, how do you prefer being exploited', in order of preference

    1) Intellectual (Seriously, please, 'exploit' me intellectually. Make me sit behind an air conditioned desk and type all day. I'm sure my brethren being gang raped or wasting away physically in the harsh elements will pity me)
    2) (other) Physical
    3) (dead last, far far far far far away from 1 and 2) Sexual

    In terms of your question, all things being equal intellectual labor ALWAYS ranks higher in society than physical. It's considered harder and your 'contribution' to society as an individual much greater. Elitist.

    The only gray territory is something like 'entertainer', particularly if it's a classical art or considered high-brow or cerebral, like a composer or certain comedians and authors. Or highly trained/skilled sculptors and fine arts folks (--> this is archetypal SP btw)

    But things like singing, acting, those are usually another sphere but default considered 'physical'. The funny thing about being an entertainer, is that even though the reason people want to pursue entertainment careers is to be adored by the public -- as a class entertainers were reviled almost across the board in many societies. The only people who tried to become entertainers were people of loose moral character and questionable intellect -- people born and stuck in lower rungs of society.

    Wait..your question.

    Reverse the above list.

    I prefer

    1) Meaningful intellectual work
    2) Meaningful 'physical' work -- btw, being a bartender or hostess as a fancy restaurant counts as 'physical work'
    3) Meaningful sexua -- oh wait -- wth??? LOL, that didn't work.
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