The Need to Move Beyond Homo Faber

Philosophy Now 106:13-15 (2015)

Authors
Maria daVenza Tillmanns
University of California, San Diego
Abstract
The thinking employed by Homo faber, Latin for ‘Tool Wo/Man,’ and a concept articulated by Hannah Arendt and Max Scheler referring to humans as controlling the environment through tools, is instrumental in nature. Know-how is applied to the environment as one would apply a tool, in order to control it. In contrast, thinking that looks at how to engage the whole for the sake of solving a problem, is the thinking employed by Homo Cognoscens (a term I invented), referring to the Examining/Inquiring Wo/Man, from the Latin cognosco, which means ‘I inquire/examine.’ In my essay, I show why it is important to move beyond the limited thinking of Homo faber. Homo faber in some sense still views itself at the center of the universe and capable of controlling it. S/he lives in a geocentric worldview. Homo cognoscens has a heliocentric worldview. Homo cognoscens understands that the world is interconnected and that we do not control the universe literally or figuratively no matter how advanced our knowledge. Instrumental thinking also does not lend itself to developing self-knowledge, for it doesn’t involve awareness of the thinking that goes into solving problems “out there.” It simply applies reason for the purpose of solving problems. We tend to reason things through, but rarely to think through our reasoning. Yet, we live in an interconnected world and we are interconnected with the world we live in. Our thinking reflects our interconnectedness and we have to be able to view it critically and self-critically. Homo cognoscens restores our relationship with the world and other people. Homo faber has gone too far in its instrumental thinking and destroyed relationship in the process. Everything has become instrumental. To move beyond Homo faber is to evolve to Homo cognoscens and understand how we are intrinsically connected to the world we depend on and need to engage it, rather than assume we can control it at all cost.
Keywords Applied Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0961-5970
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