Why Not Both?

For some, the distinction between craftsmanship and deep thinking represents a false dichotomy (as a logician might say).

Matthew B. Crawford earned his Ph.D. in political philosophy from the University of Chicago but failed to find a job as an academic and ultimately landed a position at a think tank. Unhappy with the work, he quit and became a mechanic in Virginia, using online tutorials to learn how to weld and make motorcycle parts.

He has also continued to write and has published books about his career transition. One of his books, “Shop Class as Soulcraft,” is devoted to debunking the notion that manual trades are mindless. “The division between knowledge work and manual work is kind of dubious, because there is so much thinking that goes on in skilled trades,” Mr. Crawford said.

As for the payoff, Mr. Crawford rejects the idea that philosophers cannot figure out how to earn a living.

“It’s obviously kind of a reductive approach to think of your course of study in college as merely a means to a paycheck,” Mr. Crawford said, suggesting the study of things like happiness can be enriching in ways that are hard to measure. “And nobody goes into philosophy because they think it’s going to make them rich.”


Unknown said...

Yay, one of my favorite programs is “Ultimate Restoration”(PBS), which highlights the accomplishments of the mechanical revolution , pipe organs, steam yachts, trains, the KC firetruck …….. I am in awe of the skilled craftsmen, and, yes, they were men, and what they accomplished without the technology of today. Sometimes I get a bit teary at the relaunch of some of these wonders, and I am more than a little alarmed at the loss, as these big brains die off.

Texan99 said...

Same here: I love watching "This Old House" and shows like "Overhauled," in part to watch craftsmen who know exactly what they're doing. Need to pull out a staircase and replace it with a different one? No problem. Want to move that firewall back so we can fit a bigger engine under the hood? We know exactly how to do that. I can barely follow their explanations of how it's done. Hardly thoughtless. Contrast that with the usual clueless college student who gets in front of a camera.

David Foster said...

Re the role of philosophy, or lack of same: the late Dr Michael Hammer, a highly-regarded management consultant, argued that the best academic preparation for the future executive would be *both* a STEM major *and* a rigorous humanities program....the specific subjects don't matter, as long as they are rigorous. Possible pairings: electrical engineering and philosophy. Mechanical engineering and medieval history. Aeronautical engineering and theology.


Dr Hammer also felt that the undergraduate business major was pretty useless.

Gringo said...

Dr Hammer also felt that the undergraduate business major was pretty useless.

I am reminded of a classroom experience from my undergrad days. I was an engineering major taking a multidisciplinary course from an engineering prof. One week we had a "Land Use Game" which we played with some business students. I ended up doing the numbers for my team. The business students asked me if I was an accounting major. As I had never had an accounting class in my life, I decided that business courses couldn't be that challenging.

A rigorous humanities program combined with a STEM program sounds like a good idea for me. The criteria of rigor would eliminate most of the humanities courses these days, where it appears that the criteria for passing the course is to parrot the "critical studies"/PC/lefty drivel the prof hands you.

Though as an undergrad, I would probably not have taken to such a program. I had developed a loathing for writing assignments, as a consequence of not liking the "junior literary critic" model that high school English classes imposed on me. One reason I chose engineering was so that I wouldn't have to write. To my chagrin, I found out that Senior Lab required a lot of writing. A professional needs to write clearly and concisely.

Philosophy might have been an alternative for me. Less writing perhaps than an English or History course.

Gringo said...

A further point re craftsmen and STEM. My father had a STEM postgraduate degree and was also a skilled carpenter. Our house was full of his woodwork- cabinets, floors, wood-paneled walls.

douglas said...

Architecture used to be that sort of education. I lived in the shop, and my favorite class was philosophy. I don't think it's that anymore, now that it's so digital, and so degraded by the effects of modernism and po-mo. Even just a few years ago, we were asking them to write, but they were terrible at it, and the response seems to be too simply ask for less of it. Pity.