And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus. Col. 3:17
The whole day now acquires an order and a discipline gained by winning this unity of the day. This order and discipline must be sought and found in the morning prayer. It will stand the test at work. Prayer offered in early morning is decisive for the day. The wasted time we are ashamed of, the temptations we succumb to, the weakness and discouragement in our work, the disorder and lack of discipline in our thinking and in our dealings with other people- all these very frequently have their cause in our neglect of morning prayer. The ordering and scheduling of our time will become more secure when it comes from prayer. The temptations of the working day will be overcome by this breakthrough to God. The decisions that are demanded by our work will become simpler and easier when they are made not in fear of other people, but solely before the face of God. “Whatever you do, do it from your hearts, as done for the Lord and not done for human beings” (Col. 3:23). Even routine mechanical work will be performed more patiently when it comes from the knowledge of God and God’s command. Our strength and energy for work increase when we have asked God to give us the strength we need for our daily work.
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together, emphasis mine.
“Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.” ~ Marco Rubio
Marco Rubio’s recent comments have had some traffic since the most recent (39th?!) Republican presidential debate. (The scrutiny you receive as a presidential candidate is only one of the perks of running for office). The response on social media was as you might expect. The omniscient fact-checker gods flew in with their pronouncements on the Truth of how much philosophers really make. We also saw a host of articles written in defense of the learning of philosophy at the university level. Again, nothing surprising there. What did surprise me was the either/or nature of the debate on vocational vs. academic training. Either you think we need more vocational training in the manual trades or you think that philosophy is a study worthy of time, effort, and money. I smell a false dichotomy.
I’m qualified to address this because I have enthusiastically worked in the manual trades while pursing the liberal arts education that I wish began for me in high school. I have aspirations for pursuing pastoral ministry (when I grow up), and I have come to think that my apprenticeship as a carpenter has broadened and enriched my life experience for the kind of work that I’ll be doing. Manual competence changes the way we see and act in our world.
Probably the most surprising component of the manifold responses to the debate was the use of Matthew Crawford to support the study of philosophy. Indeed, Crawford does encourage young people to consider studying philosophy at the university level. However, Crawford, a philosopher-turned-motorcycle-mechanic, wrote his first book taking a jab at the dichotomy of “brain jobs” vs “manual jobs”. I’m thinking Plato and Aristotle wouldn’t have bought the distinction either.
I’m making no arguments about which field offers more pay because -to be frank -I don’t really care. If you’ve got the money to spend on a philosophy degree, have at it. Philosophy is wonderful. It’s a way of life. I do wish that the philosophers would take more strides, like Crawford, to encourage people to pursue the manual trades as a meaningful way to learn the world and as a means of attaining wisdom. Philosophers would better serve themselves in working to erase the popular stigma against philosophy by creating widespread interest in the history of ideas and the life of the mind. As Gracy Olmstead helpfully suggested, how about philosopher-welders?