Re: [OPE-L] Anthropogenisis

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Tue Nov 21 2006 - 15:01:03 EST

> But Marx is NOT proposing any substantive theory of
> anthropogenesis or of human nature here, nor is he defining
> the anthropological specificity of humans in terms of human
> labour.


That did not stop Anton Pannekoek from treading where Marx did
not roam, though.

Anton Pannekoek, in 1944, also --like Engels -- did not "imply
that labour is the *only* ingredient which distinguishes
humans from non-humans".

Pannekoek lists 3 prime characteristics which distinguish humans
from other animals:  1) abstract thinking 2) speech 3) human-
made tools (see "Summary" below).

I'm not sure if this was an enlightened, progressive perspective
in 1944.  But, from the standpoint of 21st Century science it
seems very assertive and out-of-date.

In solidarity, Jerry


Anton Pannekoek 1944

A Study in the Origin of Man


First published: by the Amsterdam Academy of Sciences; signed by Ant.
Pannekoek Sc. D., Professor, University of Amsterdam.

There are three characteristics, which, to a great extent, distinguish man
from the animals; abstract thinking by means of conceptions, speech, and
the use of tools fashioned by himself. The problem of anthropogenesis is
to find out how, from the small traces of analogous properties in animals,
these qualitatively entirely different human characteristics could

Animals too make use of dead objects to suit their own purposes, but only
man shapes them into tools according to a conscious plan. The tool in the
human hand performs the same function as the bodily organ of the animal.
The grasping hand was a necessary condition for the manipulating of tools
and this was inherited from the arboreal life of man's ancestors. Social
life was another condition for the use of tools, because only in
communities could it be preserved and knowledge about it thus be
transferred to the next generation. Because the tool is a separate and
dead object it can easily be replaced when damaged, interchanged for a
better one, and differentiated into a multiplicity of forms for various
uses. It can be improved upon continually by new inventions, thus raising
man into increasing superiority above the animals.

Animals too have consciousness and a certain intelligence. The stimulus of
bodily needs and sense impressions induce direct action as a response. In
man this direct connection is broken; the impressions are collected in the
mind, and afterwards action comes spontaneously. Thinking follows a
detour, or rather many detours which must be compared; numbers of images
interpose between impressions and actions, forming chains of ideas that
are objects of observation by our own consciousness, and take the
character of abstract concepts. In the brain the distinction between man
and animal appears only as a quantitative difference; the brain-weight of
man (for the same body size) is four times larger than with the
anthropoids, and so is the surface of the cortex. Whether the frontal
lobes, usually considered as the organ of abstract reasoning, are
relatively larger in man is uncertain.

Animals utter sounds of emotion, which in social groups serve as signals
of warning and communication. In man these sounds are words, auditory
symbols conventionally designating quite different things, names for
objects and actions. They constitute a language, a perfect and complicated
apparatus of intercourse serving for co-ordination of action. Speech is an
organ of community that can only originate and exist in a community, as a
condition of collaborate activity and fight; it embodies and preserves the
ever increasing mass of knowledge. It can only exist with a certain
faculty for thinking; on the other hand human thinking would not be
possible without speech. Concepts can be formed and retained only by
expressing them in names and words; conscious thinking is always speaking
with one self by means of words.

The use of tools was an important factor in the origin of human thinking.
The tool interposes itself between organism and outer world, between
stimulus and action. It compels action, and hence thinking, to make a
detour, from the sense impression via the tool to the object. Because
there are many tools there are many detours, and a choice must be made
after following out all of them in the mind before acting. The separation
between the construction of the tool beforehand and its use afterwards
produces a separation in the mental processes and makes theoretical
thinking a distinctive activity. The tool objectivates the previously
instinctive action, and by the visible results of its working awakens
consciousness of the concept of causality. Speech too was greatly induced
by the use of tools. Since a tool was alternatively object and part of the
subject it struck the attention first of all as a separate object; and by
its importance for labour and life some sound, accompanying action which
involved its use, became attached to it. These dependencies are shown by
the anatomical fact that in the cortex the speech centre is formed only in
that hemisphere which innervates and directs the hand holding the tools.
For most people this is the left hemisphere, whereas for left-handed
people it is the right hemisphere.

Because these three special human characteristics are all dependent on one
another they could develop only together. This they did from mere traces,
each in common growth mutually strengthening the others, and each by its
small increment inducing increases in the others, the whole of the process
being supported by the previous growth of the brain. The first impulse
came from a change of life conditions that made man's ancestors
inhabitants of the plains with an erect posture. Then, in some hundreds of
thousands of years, with extreme slowness at first, and afterwards more
and more rapidly, the use of tools, the faculty of speech, and abstract
thinking developed. The previous development of the animals, because the
changes in bodily organs depend on biological processes, took place
extremely slowly, and always by the formation of new species. The rapid
development of this one species Homo Sapiens was possible because the
early interchangeable and artificial tools had replaced the bodily organs
and could be improved increasingly rapidly by the struggle for life. Thus
man became master of the earth, and his rising put an end to the
development of the animal kingdom. In the last part of his rise, some
thousands of years ago, the invention of writing, adding visible and
lasting symbols to the passing sounds of spoken language, marks the
beginning of civilization. It produced theoretical science as a basis for
a continuous technical progress, which is now nearly about to unite all
mankind into one self-controlling community.

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