Philosophy & Technology

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 243–264 | Cite as

How Stone Tools Shaped Us: Post-Phenomenology and Material Engagement Theory

  • Manjari ChakrabartyEmail author
Research Article


The domain of early hominin stone tool making and tool using abilities has received little scholarly attention in mainstream philosophy of technology. This is despite the fact that archeological evidence of stone tools is widely seen today as a crucial source of information about the evolution of human cognition. There is a considerable archeological literature on the cognitive dimensions of specific hominin technical activities. However, within archeology and the study of human evolution the standard perception is stone tools are mere products of the human mind (or brain or innate cognitive capacities). A number of recent approaches to cognition challenges this simplistic one-way-causal-arrow view and emphasizes instead the functional efficiency of tools or artifacts in transforming and augmenting human (or hominin) cognitive capacities. As a result, the very idea that tools or artifacts are intimately tied to human cognitive processes is fast becoming an alternative within the cognitive sciences and a few allied disciplines. The present study intends to explore its implications for philosophy of technology. The central objective of this paper is to examine the dynamic and intricate tool-mediated activities of the early hominins through the lens of Don Ihde’s post-phenomenological theory of human-technology relations and Lambros Malafouris’ Material Engagement Theory. Highlighting the key points where these two research approaches, despite their subtle nuances, converge and look capable of mutually catalyzing each other, the paper attempts to show why it is important to bring these approaches together for a more refined understanding of the controversial role these stone tools played in human evolution.


Post-phenomenology Material engagement theory Embodiment relations Non-neutrality Quasi-transparency Continuity thesis Stone flaking Prehistoric knapper Oldowan technology 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and Comparative ReligionVisva Bharati (Central University)SantiniketanIndia

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