The Sunday Magazine

Matthew Crawford

Matthew Crawford decries the distraction we inflict on ourselves with our screens, apps, texts, games and email.
Matthew Crawford (Source: Penguin Random House Canada)

Matthew Crawford had unquestioned academic bonafides. He had a PhD in political philosophy and had been leading a well-known think tank for several months. But it was a life that felt intellectually arid and pointless. He quit the think tank and started his own motorcycle repair business, and was mentally recharged by work that felt cognitively challenging and intellectually nourishing. His journey to becoming a sort of philosopher mechanic led him to write Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work, a best selling book at once grimy, elegant and erudite.

Mr. Crawford has just published his second book, The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction. And he continues to use earthy language and quotidian experience to address some of the biggest questions of philosophy. . .the nature of free will. . .the relationship of the self to the world. . .what it means to live a good, satisfying, ethical life. . .what it means to be human. 

Students around the world were particularly dependent on their mobile phones, compared to other devices such as computers and MP3 players. (iStock)
He looks at a world in which people are distracted by our screens, apps, texts, games and email to the point where their smartphones and iPads really ARE their surroundings. Where people are robbed of the dignity of work and independent thought. 

Where we're so captivated and infantilized by technology, mass media, advertising and our devices that we've been pulled away from the work of becoming ourselves. He finds repair for the soul and the self in the world of tactile things. . .moving parts and physical forces. . .sounds, smells and sharp edges. 

Matthew Crawford is both a motorcycle mechanic and a senior fellow at University of Virginia Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, and the Sunday Times of London has called him "one of the most influential thinkers of our time." 


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