The Less Glamorous Virtue Of Attentiveness

The mechanic and the doctor deal with failure every day, even if they are expert… This is because the things they fix are not of their own making, and are therefore never known in a comprehensive or absolute way. This experience of failure tempers the conceit of mastery; the doctor and the mechanic have daily intercourse with the world as something independent, and a vivid awareness of the difference between self and nonself. Fixing things may be the cure for narcissism…

…in diagnosing and fixing things made by others (this may be Volkswagon, God, or Natural Selection), one is confronted with obscurities, and must remain constantly open to the signs by which they revel themselves. This openness is incompatible with self-absorption; to maintain it we have to fight our tendency to get anchored in snap judgements. This is easier said then done.

Because the stochastic arts diagnose and fix things that are variable, complex, and not of our own making, and therefore not fully knowable, they require a certain disposition toward the thing you are trying to fix. This disposition is at once cognitive and moral. Getting it right demands that you be attentive in the way of a conversation rather than assertive in the way of a demonstration. I believe the mechanical arts have a special significance for our time because they cultivate not creativity, but the less glamorous virtue of attentiveness. (p. 82)

— Matthew B. Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work


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