An Emancipatory Philosophy of Work and Sleep, #2–The Fallacy of Bordered Work and Sleep.

By Robert Hanna

“Mr Sisyphus-Head On His Way To Work” (Reykjavik, Iceland) (Author’s photograph, 2019)

Sleep, you say, is the image of death; for my part I say that it is the image of life. (Pascal, 1995: p. 333)


This essay will be posted in three installments.


#1 The New Wheel of Ixion: Work, Sleep, and The Mechanization of Everyday Life

The REFERENCES will be included in the third installment.

You can also download and read or share a .pdf of the complete text of the essay HERE.


II. The Fallacy of Bordered Work and Sleep

There’s a fundamental fallacy in classical and contemporary theorizing, and also in our everyday thinking, about work and sleep, that has, not merely unfortunately but even tragically, been widely implemented in our early modern and now late modern classical liberal and contemporary neoliberal individual and social-institutional practices of working and sleeping. This fallacy says that there is a sharp, dichotomous, and mutually exclusive boundary between work and nonwork, and between sleep and nonsleep. I’ll call this The Fallacy of Bordered Work and Sleep.

Corresponding to The Fallacy of Bordered Work and Sleep, it is generally but fallaciously believed that the concept and practices of work or being-at-work must be black-vs.-white contradictory to the concept and practices of leisure, play, relaxation, and rest.

Similarly, as part-and-parcel of the same package of fallacies, it is equally generally but also equally fallaciously believed that the concept and practices of sleep or being-asleep, and its passivity, insensibility, and unconsciousness, must be black-vs.-white contradictory to the concept and practices of being-awake, and its activity, alertness, and lucidity.

Vivid dreaming, especially lucid dreaming, as well as the Medieval idea of the incubus and the succubus — ghostly sexual visitors in the night — and the Freudian psychoanalytic idea of dreamwork, have of course long raised a serious problem for the fallacious being-asleep/passive vs. being-awake/active dichotomy. But very few philosophers, and perhaps even more surprisingly, very few philosophers of mind, have ever paid any attention to these fundamental counterexamples to it, even those with a strong interest in Freud and psychoanalysis.

In direct opposition to and refutation of The Fallacy of Bordered Work and Sleep, what I’m saying is that as a matter of objective fact work and nonwork, and sleep and nonsleep, both as concepts and also as real-world practices that are central in our rational but also “human, all-too-human” condition as rational human animals, not only can be but also should be continuously related to one another, rendered complementary, and then smoothly integrated with one another, by means of the radical concepts and practices of

(i) lifework, which, as per the above and in a nutshell, what you would freely choose to do for your entire working life, if liberated from financial worries, worries about social status, slavework-worries, domestic work worries, and basic-needs work worries, and

(ii) lifesleep, which, in a nutshell, is how you would freely choose to integrate your natural periods of wakefulness and restfulness or sleep, especially including

(iia) dreaming and

(iib) your contemplative, meditative, or other activities when you’re in The Zone,

with your lifework and with the rest of your life.

The notion of lifesleep is inspired by Blaise Pascal’s deep insight about the nature of sleep: namely, that sleep is inherently “the image of life” and inherently not “the image of death” (Pascal, 1995: p. 333).


Mr Nemo, W, X, Y, & Z, Monday 1 August 2022

Against Professional Philosophy is a sub-project of the online mega-project Philosophy Without Borders, which is home-based on Patreon here.

Please consider becoming a patron!



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Mr Nemo

Mr Nemo

Formerly Captain Nemo. A not-so-very-angry, but still unemployed, full-time philosopher-nobody.