Retirement, as we think of it, goes like this. A person has a right, or maybe a duty, but at least a choice, to retire at a certain age, and between the government, his or her employers, and their own diligence, should have a pension to live on for the rest of their days.
What Is It
Many of us look forward to retirement, that time in life when we stop working for a living. But what exactly is retirement and why do we retire? Does retirement always mean an end to work, or can it sometimes just mean a shift to a different kind of work? Ought we retire for purely selfish reasons, such as to give ourselves more leisure time? Or ought we retire for the public good, to give younger people greater opportunities for employment? In an age when people are living longer and technology is displacing more and more workers, how should our attitudes about retirement change? The Philosophers coax John Perry out of radio retirement to ask about all the work he's been getting done since stepping away from the mic.
Is retirement the best thing that can happen to us? Or is retirement a capitalist ploy to rotate expensive and experienced workers out of the workforce? Ken, Josh, and Debra explore this question with guest and former co-host John Perry, who has retired on three occasions from different positions. John first explains why he retired from working as a philosophy professor at Stanford University, though he still spends a lot of time reading and writing about philosophy now.
After a break, our hosts explore whether retirement is a good thing. Josh points out that the current system of retirement lends itself to a “useful-only-while-working mindset.” John agrees, glad that philosophy professors, by contrast, can contribute and still “be useful” to their field after retirement.
Josh proposes one possible purpose of retirement: to reflect on life and perhaps make up for one’s mistakes. A listener asks whether the choice to transition from a full-time job to a part-time job before retirement is a good one. In response, John shares his own experience of “gradual retirement.”
In the final segment, Josh asks John for advice on how to make the most of retirement. John recalls advice that he gave his freshmen students at Stanford: to make choices based on their own beliefs and desires and to find what they care about. Retirement affords us a similar opportunity, says John: to be free of the responsibilities that we had during our careers and to rediscover and do what we love.
- Roving Philosophical Report (Seek to 2:56): Liza Veale chats with Darrel and Gene about how they save for retirement and whose responsibility it is to save for retirement: the individual’s, the government’s, employers’, or some combination of all three.
- 60-Second Philosopher (Seek to 46:24): Ian Shoales discusses our expectations of leisure activities and how some people never retire.