Technics and signs: anthropogenesis in Vygotsky, Leroi-Gourhan, and Stiegler

History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 44 (4):1-26 (2022)
  Copy   BIBTEX


This paper reconstructs L.S. Vygotsky’s account of anthropogenesis with respect to the work of anthropologist André Leroi-Gourhan and late philosopher Bernard Stiegler, situating Vygotsky as a forerunner to recent theories that posit cultural scaffolding and niche construction as the main drivers of human cognitive evolution. One might think there is an immediate affinity between Vygotsky and the techno-centric accounts of Leroi-Gourhan and Stiegler. Following Leroi-Gourhan, Stiegler argues that “technics” is the main driver in the anthropogenic development of “reflective consciousness.” Vygotsky likewise claims that “psychological tools” are responsible for the development of uniquely human forms of consciousness. However, closer inspection reveals deep disparities between Vygotsky and the French thinkers. In Stiegler’s philosophical redeployment of Leroi-Gourhan’s anthropology, “reflective” cognition is the product of a prehistorical rupture in which some threshold of technical-cortical complexification is breached. For Vygotsky, on the other hand, the inverse scenario obtains. Technical development initially proceeds in tandem with the complexification of biologically based signaling behavior until the introduction of signs, which then radically restructure the cognitive apparatus. Due to inconsistencies regarding the equivalency of the technical and semiotic in Stiegler and Leroi-Gourhan, I advance a Vygotskian account where anthropogenesis is the result of semiotic rather than technical intervention. This aims to establish Vygotsky’s “Cultural Historical” approach, and the Marxian-dialectical tradition from which he draws, as not only presaging recent naturalistic accounts of development, but offering a relevant theoretical program that may continue to inspire contemporary enculturated accounts of anthropogenesis.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 93,031

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles


Added to PP

44 (#371,746)

6 months
15 (#185,373)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Chris Drain
Dartmouth College

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

The extended mind.Andy Clark & David J. Chalmers - 1998 - Analysis 58 (1):7-19.
Consciousness Explained.Daniel C. Dennett - 1993 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53 (4):905-910.
Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and the Future of Human Intelligence.Andy Clark - 2003 - Oxford University Press. Edited by Alberto Peruzzi.
Sein und Zeit.Martin Heidegger - 1928 - Annalen der Philosophie Und Philosophischen Kritik 7:161-161.

View all 41 references / Add more references