The man who works recognizes his own product in the World that has actually been transformed by his work: he recognizes himself in it, he sees in it his own human reality, in it he discovers and reveals to others the objective reality of his humanity, of the originally abstract and purely subjective idea he has of himself
The moral significance of work that grapples with material things may lie in the simple fact that such things lie outside the self
Skilled manual labor entails a systematic encounter with the material world, precisely the kind of encounter that gives rise to natural science.
Even on the relatively primitive vintage bikes that were our specialty, some diagnostic situations contain so many variables, and symptoms can be so under-determining of causes, that explicit analytical reasoning comes up short. What is required then is the kind of judgment that arises only from experience; hunches rather than rules. I quickly realized there was more thinking going on in the bike shop than in my previous job at the think tank.
Given the intrinsic richness of manual work—cognitively, socially, and in its broader psychic appeal—the question becomes why it has suffered such a devaluation as a component of education.
When you do the math problems at the back of a chapter in an algebra textbook, you are problem solving. If the chapter is entitled “Systems of two equations with two unknowns,” you know exactly which methods to use. In such a constrained situation, the pertinent context in which to view the problem has already been determined, so there is no effort of interpretation required.
Knowing what kind of problem you have on hand means knowing what features of the situation can be ignored. Even the boundaries of what counts as “the situation” can be ambiguous; making discriminations of pertinence cannot be achieved by the application of rules, and requires the kind of judgment that comes with experience
Somehow, self-realization and freedom always entail buying something new, never conserving something old