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Reading Together: Shop Class as Soulcraft

February 16, 2023 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm MST

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For our first installment of the “Reading Together” series, we’ll look at Matthew B. Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work (2009).  This book speaks to a variety of concerns raised by community members, in a text that is at once philosophically rigorous and readily accessible.

Among the questions addressed:

  • How do we encounter the world, and ourselves, through our work, and especially through manual work?
  • How does the work we do shape our character, both as individuals, and as members of a democratic community?
  • What are the relevant differences—cognitive, epistemic, and moral—between work that engages with tangible external things, and work that trades mostly in abstractions?

About the Author

Our author is a professional motorcycle mechanic, with a Ph.D. in political philosophy, who reads Aristotle in the original Greek, and who draws on all these facets of his own experience and expertise in his work.

Read-In Structure

Our plan is to break the book into two parts, discussing the first half (through chapter 4) in the first week, and the second half the following week.  If we find ourselves needing more time to fully dive into the details, we might decide as a group to add an extra week.  Because this is a reading group, all attendees should read the relevant chapters prior to each session, so that we’re all (figuratively and literally) on the same page, and the depth and richness of the book can structure our conversation.  We’ll be posting a few thoughts and questions, which you can use to guide your reading, here in early February.


When & Where

This philosophy read-in gathering led by David Nowakowski will take place in the Conference Center for two consecutive weeks in Reeder’s Alley on Thursday, Feb. 16th & 23rd from 6pm-8pm.

Workshop Details

Dates: Thursday, Feb. 16th & 23rd
Time: 6pm – 8pm MT
Where: 101 Reeder’s Alley (Conference Center)

Registration Info

RSVP: Scroll down to RSVP…
Cost: Free (Donations Welcome)
Other: Hot tea provided 

Shop Class for Soulcraft is available at Montana Book Co. (Merlin Read-In group participants receive 10% — just let the front desk know when at checkout!).  You can also purchase the book online in digital or print format.  

Our take on written word and great conversation.

Exploring classic & contemporary ideas by reading together

There is a special kind of deep, focused learning that can only happen through close, careful engagement with the written word—and particularly, with the written words and arguments of thoughtful, rigorous thinkers.  To foster that engagement in a friendly, collaborative setting, we’re launching a new philosophy series, “Reading Together,” which will focus on close reading of philosophical books, both classic and contemporary.  Throughout the series, we’ll be interested both in the specific arguments that various philosophers make, and their implications for our lives, and also in developing the skills and habits of reading in a specifically philosophical way. Here, this means that we’ll focus on:

  • Understanding the argument(s).  An argument is not simply in idea, a claim, or a belief.  It’s certainly not just what someone “feels.”  An argument is a sustained, interconnected chain of reasoning, which draws careful conclusions from axioms, principles, and evidence.  We’ll practice the skill of analyzing and responding to philosophical argument, in a rich and robust way.
  • Opening ourselves up to change and transformation.  As our author says in another book, the art of philosophical conversation is a “moral accomplishment, because to be good at this kind of conversation you have to love the truth more than you love your own current state of understanding.”  That is, it involves a genuine desire to be changed for the better by the encounter: to have our own mistakes, prejudices, and false beliefs held up for scrutiny so that we can come to a deeper, more robust understanding of the world as it really is, and then (re)structure our lives such that we respond more appropriately.  This is a hard thing to do, one that most of us will struggle with sometimes.  Nonetheless, by joining in this kind of philosophical reading and conversation, we’re committing to it as an ideal, and committing to helping each other to achieve it together, insofar as possible.

So in our reading, and our conversation together, we’ll work together, first to understand the author’s arguments on their own terms, as deeply and charitably as possible, and then to consider the implications of those arguments for our own lives.

Read-In Facilitator

David Nowakowski is as a philosopher and educator in the Helena area whose professional work is dedicated to helping people of all ages and backgrounds access, understand, and apply the traditions of ancient philosophy to their own lives.  David began studying ancient philosophies and classical languages in 2001, and has continued ever since.  A scholar of the philosophical traditions of the ancient Mediterranean (Greece, Rome, and North Africa) and of the Indian subcontinent, reading Sanskrit, Latin, and classical Greek, he earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University in 2014.  His work has appeared in a variety of scholarly journals, including Philosophy East & WestAsian Philosophy, and the Journal of Indian Philosophy, as well as in presentations to academic audiences at Harvard, Columbia University, the University of Toronto, Yale-NUS College in Singapore, and elsewhere. 

After half a decade teaching at liberal arts colleges in the northeast, David chose to leave the academy in order to focus his energies on the transformative value of these ancient philosophical and spiritual traditions in his own life and practice, and on building new systems of education and community learning that will make this rich heritage alive and available to others.


Make a Donation Here

Our philosophy shorts and other activities are FREE to the community. While donations are never expected, they are always appreciated and help to keep programs like these going. Your tax-deductible donations help to cover honorariums, logistics, materials, implementation, resource archiving, and more! For those facing more challenging financial circumstances, we ask that you please try to “pay it forward” with acts of kindness for your neighbors and community.


February 16, 2023
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Event Categories:
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Reeder’s Alley Interpretive & Convention Center
101 Reeder's Alley
Helena, MT 59601 United States
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Marisa Diaz-Waian
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