Mind in a Material World

I’m about halfway through Matthew Crawford’s The Case for Working with your Hands.  I picked it up several months ago, but have been out of Singapore for most of the time since buying it.  I am glad I’ve finally gotten to start reading it.  It’s exactly my kind of book… smart, critical, and actually saying something.

Crawford’s book deals with the changing world we live in, a world that disconnects us from the way our devices operate and making us less able to manage and maintain them, even as we become more dependent on them.  He starts out by focusing on the separation of manual and mental work, with the manual work having slowly become devalued over time.  Crawford’s argument is that the manual work that is often looked down on often involves a great deal of mental work, though this is often overlooked when discussing manual labor.  I think it is a very valid point — the mental effort it takes to solve problems and the creativity required to solve them is one of the most important aspects of manual labor of professionals such as auto mechanics, plumbers, electricians, and so forth.  The “automization” of our devices has only served to make these jobs more and more important and valuable in today’s world.

I did not expect it when I bought the book, but I’ve found that The Case for Working with your Hands share something important in common with Mary Midgley’s Science and Poetry.  I read Midgley’s book several years ago, and loved the message of it so much that I bought copies for several friends. Something about it seemed so revolutionary, even as it seemed so obvious / self-evident.  I was really blown away by that book, with its deconstructing of the mind/matter binary, and I find that Crawford’s writing seems to be continuing that process.

It’s always exciting to find a good book, and that is only magnified when you realize that it is continuing a process of recalibrating your thinking that was unexpected initiated by another, seemingly unrelated, book you’d read before.

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