Humans, more than any other species, have been altering their paths of development by creating new material forms and by opening up to new possibilities of material engagement. That is, we become constituted through making and using technologies that shape our minds and extend our bodies. We make things which in turn make us. This ongoing dialectic has long been recognised from a deep-time perspective. It also seems natural in the present in view of the ways new materialities and digital (...) ecologies increasingly envelop our everyday life and thinking. Still the basic idea that humans and things are co-constituted continues to challenge us, raising important questions about the place and meaning of materiality and technical change in human life and evolution. This paper bridging perspectives from postphenomenology and Material Engagement Theory is trying to attain better understanding about these matters. Our emphasis falls specifically on the human predisposition for technological embodiment and creativity. We re-approach the notion Homo faber in a way that, on the one hand, retains the power and value of this notion to signify the primacy of making or creative material engagement in human life and evolution and, on the other hand, reclaims the notion from any misleading connotations of human exceptionalism. In particular, our use of the term Homo faber refers to the special place that this ability has in the evolution and development of our species. The difference that makes the difference is not just the fact that we make things. The difference that makes the difference is the recursive effect that the things that we make and our skills of making seem to have on human becoming. We argue that we are Homo faber not just because we make things but also because we are made by them. (shrink)
Material Engagement Theory, which forms the focus of this special issue, is a relatively new development within cognitive archaeology and anthropology, but one that has important implications for many adjacent fields of research in phenomenology and the cognitive sciences. In How Things Shape the Mind I offered a detail exposition of the major working hypotheses and the vision of mind that it embodies. Here, introducing this special issue, more than just presenting a broad overview of MET, I seek to enrich (...) and extend that vision and discuss its application to the study of mind and matter. I begin by laying out the philosophical roots, theoretical context and intellectual kinship of MET. Then I offer a basic outline of this theoretical framework focusing on the notions of thinging and metaplasticity. In the last part I am using the example of pottery making to illustrate how MET can be used to inform empirical research and how it might complement new research in phenomenology and embodied cognitive science. (shrink)
Humans are organisms of a creative sort. We make new things that scaffold the ecology of our minds, shape the boundaries of our thinking and form new ways to engage and make sense of the world. That is, we are creative ‘thingers’. This paper adopts the perspective of Material Engagement Theory and introduces the notion ‘thinging’ to articulate and draw attention to the kind of cognitive life instantiated in acts of thinking and feeling with, through and about things. I will (...) focus more specifically on Creativethinging, or creative material engagement, exploring the importance of thinging for understanding our species unique capacity for inventiveness. (shrink)
I agree with Vaesen that it is a mistake to discard tool use as a hallmark of human cognition. I contend, nonetheless, that tools are not simply external markers of a distinctive human mental architecture. Rather, they actively and meaningfully participate in the process by which hominin brains and bodies make up their sapient minds.
Introduction to the special issue in Pragmatics & Cognition focused on creativity, cognition, and material culture. With contributions from Maurice Bloch, Chris Gosden, Tim Ingold, John Kirsh, Carl Knappett & Sander van der Leeuw, Lambros Malafouris, Frédéric Vallée-Tourangeau, Kevin Warwick, and Tom Wynn and Frederick L. Coolidge.
This article develops a framework for analysing how digital software and models become mediums for creative imagination in architectural design. To understand the hermeneutics of these relationships, we develop key concepts from Material Engagement Theory (MET) and Postphenomenology (PP). To push these frameworks into the realm of digital design, we develop the concept of Digital Materiality. Digital Materiality describes the way successive layers of mathematics, code, and software come to mediate enactive perception, and the possibilities of creative material engagement actualised (...) in work with software. Just as molecular materials come to transform action with material objects, so digital materiality comes to enable and transform creative practices with computers. Digital architectural design form a new space for ongoing enactive discovery and creativity through manipulation of digital models and their underlying software environments. By shifting relationships within their digital models, architects can direct their attention, intention, and imagination towards widely different aspects of the model. Here, creative imagination becomes a fundamentally situated activity where mind emerges through dynamic interaction between a variety of embodied, material, and cultural domains. (shrink)
Bullot & Reber (B&R) begin asking if the study of the mind's inner life can provide a foundation for a science of art. Clearly there are many epistemological problems involved in the study of the cognitive and affective basis of art appreciation. I argue that context is key. I also propose that as long as the continues to be perceived as an intracranial phenomenon, little progress can be made. Mind and art are one.