Homo faber refers to questions pertaining to the technological achievements of “man the maker.”
BEAVER DAMS AND TERMITE NESTS
Chimp weapons, birdsong and termite mounds can be viewed as extensions of the animal bodies that made them. Technology has extended the phenotype of man to unprecedented heights. Human technologies differ from animal technologies in their inventiveness, multiplicity and sophistication.
Can language be categorized as an extension of the human phenotype?
Australian Twin Tower Termite Mounds. Phot credit: Roger J. Wendell, whose website www.RogerWendell.com is “Defending 3.8 Billion Years of Organic Evolution.”
The Compact Muon Solenoid at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo source: CERN.
Stone chopping tools from the Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. Photo source: Norwich Castle Museum, UK.
SOURCES FOR HOMO FABER
German Political Philospher [1906-1975]
In a patriotic speech, blind Roman consul Appius Claudius Caecus famously said, “Homo faber suae quisque fortunae” (Each man is smith of his own fortune.).
Max Frisch's 1957 novel Homo faber is an updated version of the Daedalus myth. It explores the limits of engineering and ends very badly for Faber, Frisch’s hubristic protagonist.
Swiss Author [1911-1991]
In The Human Condition, Hannah Arendt (1958: 9) characterizes a “vita activa” comprising “three fundamental human activities: labor, work and action.” For Arendt “animal laborans” is the activity which corresponds:
to the biological process of the human body, whose spontaneous growth, metabolism, and eventual decay are bound to the vital necessities produced and fed into the life process by labor.
Homo faber is the work of our hands which corresponds
to the unnaturalness of human existence, which is not imbedded in, and whose mortality is not compensated by, the species’ ever-recurring life cycle. Work provides an “artificial” world of things, distinctly differently from all natural surroundings… Work and its product, the human artifact, bestow a measure of permanence and durability upon the futility of mortal life and the fleeting character of human time.
Hannah Arendt places the power to act at the core of the human condition. She proposes (1958: 157) that a life without speech or action “is literally dead to the world, it has ceased to be a human life because it is no longer lived among men.” For Arendt (1958: 9) action is:
Arendt, Hannah (1958) The Human Condition. Chicago : University of Chicago Press.
the only activity that goes on directly between men without the intermediary of things or matter, corresponds to the human condition of plurality, to the fact that men, not Man, live on the earth and inhabit the world.
Bruegel, Pieter (1563) Tower of Babel. Oil on wood panel. Kunsthistorisches Museum. Vienna, Austria.