Campus Life St. John's College Santa Fe

Meeting Matthew Crawford, Reading Marx, and Sleeping atop Santa Fe

By A.J. Peters

Well, it’s starting to feel like seminar-paper season again. I spent most of my weekend alternating between writing at my makeshift standing desk, reading at the kitchen table next to a kettle of PG Tips, and occasionally running up to campus for the Liberal Arts Conference. I’m trying to work out the fetishism of commodities in Marx’s Das Kapital, but more on that to come. The real excitement of the weekend for me was to listen to Matthew Crawford’s lecture, Attention as a Cultural Problem. I read his book Shop Class as Soulcraft last fall, after I started doing a little work on my 1981 Tercel. Reading it, I was thrilled by the way he mixed anecdotes and intuition with Heidegger and Aristotle. I’ve always loved problem solving, especially if it involves dirt under my fingernails and sweat on my brow, and his book somehow wrapped up all that passion into something rigorous and (mostly) intellectually cohesive.  I know there are some who will have been a little frustrated with the Q&A at the lecture, but I find his honesty pretty refreshing. There were a few times when he responded with nothing more than, “Yeah, that’s a good point. I’m not sure.” But I’m still working to convince myself that his thinking doesn’t require an appeal to nostalgia. To anyone else who was there: what are your thoughts on the form of his argument? Does it stand without some sort of romanticism? I’m especially interested in the attempt to distinguish video games from traditional, physical games.

After the lecture, I made a quick jaunt up the mountains behind the school to test out some new backpacking gear. We slept overlooking Santa Fe, and hiked out the next morning to a cup of coffee and a breakfast burrito at Downtown Sub. How’s that for roughing it?

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