What does anthropogenetic mean

Marx ‘monkey

On the anthropological interpretation of human work and its criticism from an anthropogenetic point of view

Article by Jens Brockmeier in Forum Kritische Psychologie 11 (1983).

Download: FKP_11_Jens_Brockmeier

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Extended version of a lecture given on December 9, 1982 at the Hildesheim University of Applied Sciences.


Perhaps the basic anthropological question "What is a person?" Has already lost a good part of its intimidating effect if it is first rephrased into the question "What is a person not?" So you can stick to the obvious and answer: " He's not an animal - if only for the sake of definition! ”This freed oneself from the heavy weight of Shakespeare's dialogues, but by no means from all problems. For although everyone naturally believes they have a certain conception of animals in contrast to humans, the exact scientific delimitation gives up some difficulties. Without a clear understanding of this difference, however, any scientifically founded anthropological statement must stand on shaky feet.

But don't worry! I do not want to try to present a list of possible analytical-classificatory delimitation features. Rather, I would like to discuss a certain approach to this problem, which, to summarize in advance, aims to understand anthropological questions primarily anthropogenetically. What does that mean? This means that the answers to the question of what man is (which, within the framework of traditional philosophy, anthropology, the "doctrine of man" was concerned with) must first be sought where man is what it is, has become, that is, in its natural and social historical genesis. Anthropogenesis thus describes the process of phylogenetic, that is, phylogenetic-biological, and the process of the socio-historical emergence and development of man, but only until the point in time at which we can say: Man now exists as a social one Being, as an economic and political subject. So anthropogenesis actually only includes the prehistory of man. It ends where the person is to a certain extent released into society, in the individual life story, perhaps comparable to confirmation or communion, or, more profanely, the school or university degree.

To approach anthropological questions from an anthropogenetic point of view means to first get involved with the results of the individual sciences that are thematically familiar with here. This is probably less because they want to take into account the old wisdom of philosophy that the essence of a thing is best revealed by examining its past, but mainly because the respective internal systematics of their problem area suggests a historical-genetic approach . Investigations into psychology and history, biology and economics, cultural studies and neurophysiology have turned anthropology into an anachronism today, which understands itself as the doctrine of people "in themselves", regardless of their ecological, social and historical context .

In doing so, however, it must be taken into account that in many of these individual sciences there are certain anthropological assumptions that shape their respective problem views from the outset. In some traditional human and life sciences, for example, there is no scientific problem of the difference between humans and animals. Classical behavioristic psychology, for example, assumes a difference between different levels of complexity of stimulus-response relationships. Newer cognitive psychological approaches only see quantitative gradations in the compression and transmission of information, and for many neurophysiologists the boundary between humans and animals is indicated by a certain increase in the degree of cerebralization.

Nevertheless, not least the special cultural and social achievements of humans leave no doubt about their qualitative peculiarities compared to other living beings. But what is the reason for this peculiarity? 'In the spirit of the human being, in his consciousness, in his uniquely rational being!' - that was the classic idealistic answer to this question. But among other things, the results of historical sciences such as paleontology and archeology have contributed to the fact that this is usually viewed differently today. In many places (especially in these disciplines) it seems undisputed that humans do not have a certain spiritual quality or an intellectual disposition that gives the reason for the development of their unique genre-specifics. The reason for his difference to the animal is not to be seen in his consciousness or in his highly developed social communication systems, but in his peculiar way of organizing his life process objectively, him in the material confrontation with nature, its increasing mastery and appropriation in to develop the social work process by oneself, and gradually to change one's inner nature through the change of the “external nature”.

That in the beginning there was not the "idea" and certainly not the "word", but the material "deed", we can prove today not only by a far-sighted (but at the same time daring) poet's word, but also by manifold empirical facts. If one wants to explain the undoubtedly only human abilities, e.g. for cultural production, not according to the model of the Pentecost events of biblical historiography, but explain them, i.e. justify them genetically, one can only start from the fact that man is not like animals merely adapts, is not only a purely natural product, but that he adapts himself and this more and more dominantly in his history - adapts to nature itself, i.e. produces the internal and external conditions of his life himself. "One can distinguish people from animals through consciousness, through religion, through whatever else one wants," write Marx and Engels in the "Deutsche Ideologie". “They themselves begin to differ from animals as soon as they begin to produce their own food, a step that is conditioned by their physical organization. By producing their food, people indirectly produce their material life themselves. "(21)

This realization, which today is hardly ever seriously questioned by many scientists who think or know little of Marx, is not only remarkable in view of the fact that it comes from two very young men - Marx, for example, was just 27 . It is above all when one considers the very sparse status of early historical and behavioral research and discoveries at the time - 1845. Even a Marxist, if he thinks in terms of the history of science, will admit that such a view could be anything but undisputed at a time when Rousseau's idea of ​​a natural man, endowed with all his present-day characteristics, begins at a historical zero point and through use his mind gradually inventing what characterizes the modern world was a widely held doctrine.

On the other hand, there can hardly be a question today about the great importance of work in the process of anthropogenesis, which spans hundreds of thousands of generations, but certainly about what is meant by work, by human production. There is by no means agreement here. After all, the spider also produces its web, ants keep lice, milk them and thus produce their food, and we know of wild chimpanzees that they fish termites with wooden sticks and eat them. So how is the remark made by the two young men in 1845 about production as a generic characteristic of humans to be understood?


We know that when we talk about production, we mean tool-mediated work. Even more. Man produces with work equipment specially manufactured for this purpose. He is a »toolmaking animal«, as Marx quotes Franklin in 'Capital', and it is primarily his tools and implements whose development can be used to trace the historical development of man. "It is not what is done, but how, with what tools, what distinguishes the economic epochs." (194/5)

If, however, we want to take tool use and tool manufacture as a hard indicator of the existence of specifically human production, we must expect some objections here too. With the present state of ethology and animal psychology, it is easy to refer to significant cases of not only tool use but also tool making in higher mammals. The experiments that Wolfgang Köhler carried out with chimpanzees at the beginning of this century have become very well known and have been repeated and varied many times since then. These experiments, which Köhler reports in his book 'Intelligence Testing on Great Apes', mostly follow the pattern of simple detour attempts: In order to achieve a goal that cannot be reached directly, e.g. a banana lying outside the cage, the chimpanzee must use a means and pull the fruit out with a stick, for example. In doing so, objective functional relationships are taken into account and changed through the targeted use of resources, which goes beyond the level of purely instinctive reaction and cannot be explained by referring to merely "perceptual orientation behavior" (Holzkamp 1973, 102). In addition, Köhler's chimpanzee Sultan was able to make even complicated tools himself. Köhler reports:

“In a further experiment, more toolmaking is required of Sultan. (17.6.) In addition to a pipe with a wide opening, he has a narrow wooden board that is just too wide to be inserted into the opening. - Sultan takes the wooden board and tries to stick it into the pipe; this is not a mistake; The different shapes of wood and cane would also force people to try things out, because the relationship between the thicknesses of the two is not simply clear; when that doesn't work, he bites open the pipe at the mouth and breaks a long splinter sideways out of the wall, apparently at first because the pipe wall was in the way of the wood penetrating ("good mistake"). But as soon as the splinter came into being, he immediately tries to insert it into the still intact mouth of the pipe: a surprising twist which would have to lead to a solution if the splinter were not also a little too wide. Sultan reaches for the wooden board again, but now works it with his teeth, right at one end from the two edges towards the middle, so that the disturbing width is reduced. When he has bitten off the (very hard) wood for a while, he tries to see whether the board now fits into the intact opening of the pipe and continues to work - here one must speak of `` real work '' - until the wood is around 2 cm deep into the opening. Now he wants to bring the target with the assembled tool, but the 2 cm is not enough, and the pipe keeps falling from the top of the wood. - Sultan is now apparently tired of biting wood; he prefers to sharpen the pipe splinter at one end and really soon brings it so far that it gets stuck firmly in the unbroken pipe end and the double stick is ready for use. "(Köhler 1973, 95)

Regardless of whether one follows Koehler's gestalt psychological interpretation and sees the behavior of the chimpanzee as acting out of "insight" into the "field structure of the overall solution", or whether, with Leontjew, for example, one recognizes intellectual abilities in the behavior of the monkey can develop against the background of species-specific and individual experiences and to a certain extent represent the upper limit in the psychological development of the animal (Leontjew 1973, 180-189) - one can at least agree with Köhler where he notes:

"This anthropoid does not emerge from the rest of the animal kingdom alone with all sorts of morphological and, in the narrower sense, physiological factors, and into the proximity of the human races, it also exhibits that form of behavior that is considered specifically human." (191)

So we notice: if we take only the "form of behavior" toolmaking or tool-mediated work behavior as an anthropological generic characteristic, we get into trouble. Let us assume, through thought experiments, that in a variation of this experiment, instead of the chimpanzee, Wolfgang Köhler himself would have been locked in the cage. It is probable that Kohler, perhaps after an initial protest and reference to his position as head of the research station, at the latest when he felt hungry, would have acted like the chimpanzee Sultan in order to get hold of the banana. It does not even have to be determined what differences in speed and design would have been found in the two test candidates. So where is the difference between Sultan and Wolfgang Köhler, between ape and human, if you look for him in your work behavior?

It seems as if we now have to reconsider what we have just declared to be obsolete as an explanation of what is specifically human: consciousness. For although apes and humans do the same thing in our experiment, it seems seriously impossible to deny that humans do this consciously. Animal intelligence, to use Leontiev's word, is at best a pre-form of human consciousness which, as the highest stage of development of the psychic, is reserved for human beings alone.

Only, he really acts systematically, he anticipates what he wants in advance in his mind - so he does not need to hurry in our thought experiment and only act when he gets hungry, because he "knows" what to do is - while the ape at most arrives at a kind of "sudden insight" (Koehler).

This view that it is the ability to anticipate ideally that characterizes what is special about human work is in fact mostly held. Incidentally, also from Koehler1, but also by many Marxist-oriented scholars. Can you refer to Marx's famous sentence in 'Capital' about labor in the form "in which it belongs exclusively to man":

"A spider," it says, "performs operations that resemble those of the weaver, and a bee puts many human builders to shame by building its wax cells. But what distinguishes the worst builder from the best bee from the outset is that he built the cell in his head before building it in wax. At the end of the work process, a result comes out which at the beginning of the process was already in the mind of the worker, that is, already ideally present. "(193)

If, following on from this remark, we want to assume the essence of man in his work and the essence of human work in the conscious ability to mentally anticipate the result, we arrive at an interpretation of the work that is in fact in a whole anthropological in a certain sense: we then proceed from a determination of work by a certain characteristic of the person, precisely his consciousness. We thus assume the work process, including its material result, as an alienation, an emanation of the consciousness which is peculiar to man as a natural spiritual disposition "in itself".

Because where else should consciousness come from? From work, productive sensual practice, but not exactly. For this is just the development of the spiritual idea that precedes it, like the "idea" of "deed" (with the only difference to the formulation of this "idea" in classical idealistic philosophy as "absolute spirit" or God's plan of creation that the consciousness here should be that of the working individual). The goal, the telos, of production is not objectively given here, e.g. in God's design for creation, but rather subjectively through the individual anticipation of the individual subject. In philosophy, this model of goal setting is therefore also called subjective teleology. The central feature of this anthropological interpretation of the work can be seen in it.

We note, of course, that this anthropological concept of work takes a different position than the statement from the 'German Ideology' quoted at the beginning, according to which people distinguish 'themselves' from animals not through their consciousness, but through their production .And it is difficult to believe that what Marx and Engels again and again later emphasized as the starting point of their materialist program, namely - according to the 'German Ideology' - the "real individuals, their actions and their material living conditions, both those found." how those generated by one's own action ”(20) are to be replaced by an anthropological formulation, precisely in the determination of human labor, according to which a moment of labor, the subjective objective, taken for the whole, according to which the existence of a plan is taken in the head for the essence of production.

Read carefully, however, the 'German Ideology' does not claim work as the essential generic characteristic of humans in contrast to animals (and certainly not the model of the subjective teleology of work), but rather a process brought about by work, which here is characterized as one of human self-differentiation: "They themselves begin to differ from animals as soon as they begin to produce their own food." Obviously, it is not about the human being and about certain properties and characteristics that are attributed to him as abstract anthropological statements, but about the concept of a development process in which the human being emerges as a human being in the first place. More precisely: in which he begins to develop. So it is not yet human, but no longer an animal either.

Strictly speaking, it's not about a real, developed human being, but about an ape. For an anthropomorphic great ape as an intermediate link between animal evolution and socio-historical development did indeed imagine Marx and Engels at the time as the type that stood at the beginning of the actual human process, anthropogenesis. This view, for which Engels' later work "The Part of Labor in the Incarnation of the Ape" stands, corresponded to the general pre-historical and evolutionary biology doctrine since about the middle of the 19th century. This allowed paleontology to evaluate all its findings and fossil finds until the middle of the 20th century under the paradigm that there was a direct evolutionary connection between the ancient great apes and "homo sapiens". Only after the »Revolution of Australopithecus« (Leroi-Gourhan), which was triggered by the sensational Australopithecus finds in the 50s and 60s of this century, which completely opposed this model of the Incarnation, did paleontology raise the question of the missing links between anthropoids and humans finally a thing of the past.

But not the fact that anthropogenetic research today assumes that in the natural history of higher mammals the evolution of the pongid branch, i.e. the 'ape-like' branch, differed from the evolution of the hominid branch, i.e. the 'human-like' branch more than 10 million years ago had split off, and that already at the time of natural history hominization, i.e. the biological incarnation, the species differences between the ancestors of today's apes and those of today's humans were probably greater than the differences between today's humans, i.e. "homo sapiens", and its direct predecessors from the "homo erectus" group (to which, for example, the Heidelberg man belongs), are of interest here. It is not the inevitable historical limitations of the scientific research in the 19th century that are important in our context, but rather Marx's fundamental approach to the anthropogenetic definition of human labor. Let us first take a closer look at this and relate it to our current knowledge in order to then shed light on the importance of the 'bee example' from 'Capital'.

By addressing the problem of the determination of man's essence through human production, but understanding this as a historical process of development, he also assumed the basic principles of materialistic developmental thought for the process of the incarnation. The first principle of the materialistic theory of development is based on the knowledge that nothing comes from nothing. A material development process can be understood solely from its concrete material requirements. Consciousness, as the most highly developed form of the self-movement of matter, can only be explained materialistically on the basis of presuppositions which precede it as sensual-practical reality. The epistemological short version of materialistic thinking is therefore: The unity of the world is based on its materiality and can only be understood from here in all its inner differentiation. What defines the peculiarity of a person in the world can therefore be explained from the conditions of his practical action - and not his practical action from the determination of his particularity. “As individuals express their lives,” it says in the “German Ideology” in the same place, “that is how they are. So what they are coincides with their production, both with what they produce and with how they produce. What the individuals are, then, depends on the material conditions of their production. "(21)

But what and how did they produce the individuals in the process of hominization who showed the first human characteristics? And how must one imagine him, Marx the prehistoric ape, when he was just beginning to distinguish himself from animals? Mind you: still being an animal himself, but already producing the first beginnings of the difference to the biological world and the germs of the emergence of the socio-historical process in the course of which he finally became the 'indirect producer of his own life'.


The actually "human phase" of hominization, as it appears to us to be reconstructable through early history research and palaeontology, began relatively late, namely about 2 million years ago. Relatively late, if you put them in relation to their natural history, which began around 40 million years ago, the evolution of the hominids, which is also called their "subhuman phase". Evolution is to be understood here simply from a biological point of view, as a constant increase in the complexity of a certain form (cf. Groiss). They created the biotic prerequisites for the actual anthropogenesis, such as bipedia and upright gait, short face, the freeing of the hands, corresponding morphological-anatomical changes, etc. In the biological-anthropological point of view, therefore, the beginning of human development is also set earlier, while for early historians who take primarily the development of tool behavior into account as a criterion of the incarnation, anthropogenesis only begins where the first reliable stone tools and implements have been dated. This is the case at the beginning of the Pleistocene, the Ice Age, around 1.8 million years ago.

The anthropological problem of determining the actual incarnation arises from the fact that both biological and natural history and social development take place simultaneously. In a sense, they overlap. Biological evolution is by no means overridden by the fact that certain hominid-like creatures of the Ramapithecus type "began" sporadically to use non-organic aids for food acquisition as early as 10 million years ago. And also not because of the fact that several million years later hominids of the Australipithecus type began to manufacture certain aids for sporadic use themselves. As is well known, biological evolution is not overridden even today. But due to the gradual sporadic use of tools, which initially hardly developed for a long time, other factors slowly began to affect development. In contrast to the natural history, these were now "self-produced" by the hominids, although at the beginning they had a barely noticeable effect. What is decisive for anthropogenesis, however, is that much later, after a phase that some anthropologists call the animal-human transition field ‘3, the hominid and humane moments came more and more into the foreground compared to the still existing pongid moments and finally became solely development-determining.

For the first hominids, whom Marx also had in mind, albeit in the optics of the 19th century, the use of tools and the manufacture of tools were only one aspect and especially a subordinate one in the complex process of their adaptation to the environment, which in many respects is hardly qualitative of their pongid contemporaries. Nevertheless, we encounter the first approaches of a new developmental dynamic, the full development of which should one day allow the hominids to partially reverse the process of biological adaptation to the environment; so they no longer had to adapt to the adverse demands of external nature alone, but could also transform them according to their needs, i.e. adapt nature to itself.

The Australopithecus is the first hominid with whom we can safely assume the first forms of tool production. In a sense, it completes the transition from the animal-human transition field to the "human phase" of hominization. According to a (not entirely unproblematic, but pictorial) zoological characterization of Leroi-Gourhans, at the point at which Australopithecus appears, “the tool appears almost as an anatomical consequence, as the only way out for a being that is in his hand and in his teeth stands completely unarmed and whose brain is organized in a way that enables it to perform complex manual operations ”(120).

According to a suggestion by Herrmann, the various Australopithecus groups are to be grouped together from a prehistoric-anthropological point of view to form a homo species, which he calls "homo simius", i.e. the type of ape-men. He also suggests in terms of definition what we can assume based on the presumed external appearance and tool behavior of these early hominids, and what Marx may have thought of: their similarity to today's great apes.

However, the following must be restricted immediately: Even the use and production of stone tools by the early Australopithecus ape-men is a peculiarity that has not yet been observed in the great apes living today. For this reason alone, we can assume that the Old Stone Age, which began with stone tool production, is already a genuinely hominid phase of development. In it, primarily rubble stones with simple and coarse, but targeted cuts were processed so that they could be used as hitting, scratching, cutting and scraping tools for various uses in the acquisition of food, but also for attack and defense. These "pebble tools" represent the first stage in the development of the later hand ax cultures. However, it is quite possible that the actual Stone Age was preceded by a phase lasting several million years, in which initially only wooden tools and implements from other people easily ceased machining materials were used. Some paleontologists call it a "bone-tooth-horn industry." The very first types of tools will probably have been produced from these materials, which are certainly easier to work than stone. The anthropologist Dart has located accumulations of partially processed mammalian bones at the sites where australopithecines were found. Among other things, these were put together to form strange constructions. There were devices that were created by inserting fragments of bone into long bones.

If we imagine such devices, there is no doubt a certain technical similarity to the tools made by the chimpanzee Sultan. And so we can feel encouraged to set up Koehler's test cage again in a thought experiment at the exit of the 'animal-human transition field'. The assumption is that one of the first Australopithecus ape-men would have behaved similarly to Sultan, that is, that the level of his operative and cognitive confrontation with nature could have corresponded to that of the ape-man whom Marx saw as the being that, nevertheless, still himself Animal, just begins to differentiate itself from the animal, in that it pushes a self-made means between itself and nature, so it begins to convey its metabolic process objectively. With this, however, as Marx wrote in Capital, a process begins in which man finally confronts nature itself as a natural power.


Despite the outcome of this thought experiment, we of course know that there are nevertheless considerable differences between the tool behavior of the chimpanzee and the Australopithecus ape-man (which died out about 800,000 years ago) on the one hand, and that of "homo sapiens" on the other. And we also know about the limits of their comparability. However, this knowledge is not accessible from the point of view of Koehler's experimental type, as we can see from our thought-experimental variations of the same. On the contrary, especially when it comes to the investigation of tool manufacture, the specifics of human and animal tool behavior cannot be grasped here because only one single individual work act can ever come into view in the Koehler cage. But it characterizes the "peculiarity of the human-social way of gaining life, that if one only looks at human individuals, it is not recognizable" (Holzkamp 1979, 7). The human peculiarity can only be deduced from the peculiarity of their social community. The wit of this human species, as well as that of the ape and that of Australopithecus, can be learned from Marx, but it is precisely not revealed in the consideration of a single, moreover individual moment, that of the movement of the generic overall context in which the process the conflict with nature takes place, is isolated. This makes sense precisely in the fact that in this perspective we could not even distinguish a modern human from an ape or an ape-human. In order to be able to specify a difference at all, if one restricts oneself to this analytically isolating, i.e. abstract perspective, in order to save man from a blurring of boundaries vis-à-vis the animal kingdom, all that remains is the assumption of consciousness as an abstract-anthropological disposition of man . In this way precisely what is to be explained in its specifics from the material life process of the species is presupposed in order to be able to explain the specifics of the material life process.

But how does the fundamental peculiarity of the life process of a species become clear? It can only be understood if we separate ourselves from the ahistorical and individualizing scheme and take a closer look at the temporal and social context of a population, its inner coherence, when we examine the forms of transmission and transmission of the individual experiences made in the life process. That means we have to turn to the specific forms of reproduction of a species and their experiences.

What do you mean with that? The concept of reproduction means first of all that every development is not just a change, but also a preservation of the old. In that which is newly created, its prerequisites arise again at the same time, which become conditions not only of its new existence, but also conditions for a possible further development. Real development, however, is only possible when the requirements of the new, i.e. the old, do not simply arise again unchanged, i.e. are reproduced identically. Rather, the change, variation of the old, is a condition for any real further development. If the development results resulting from a change in the old preconditions now serve as new preconditions for further development and thus for their own further transformation, one could speak of extended reproduction.

This term encompasses both sides of a development process. Something stays the same in that it changes. It gains identity through its change. A Keuner story by Bertolt Brecht points to the existence of these processes even in our everyday lives, in which Mr. K., a rare developmental being, reacted as follows to the remark of an acquaintance who had not been seen for a long time that he had not changed at all : "'Oh!" Said Mr K. and turned pale. "

So it is not the single, individual moment of a species, but its reproduction, its context of movement in time, through which its specificity can be understood. Let us therefore now turn to the forms of development of reproduction, whereby we are particularly interested in the development of consciousness, whose connection with material production is still open. Let us first ask ourselves what forms of conveying and handing down of information, what types of reproduction of experience can exist in living beings?


First, of course, the genetic transfer of experience.Through them, "information of functional importance" (M. Eigen) that has been accumulated in evolutionary history is conveyed identically to the offspring generation through the genetic make-up; Changes only take place here due to 'errors' in inheritance, which only take effect within a very long period of time. Even with very primitive organisms, however, a psychological level of information processing also develops. From a biological point of view, the genetically fixed information leaves a kind of leeway for certain properties. Within a more or less broad "reaction norm", special features can develop, depending on the individual or population-specific environmental conditions. One then speaks of the "modification" of properties, that is, of individually acquired adaptations which all members of a population can acquire at the same time, but which, in the case of higher organisms, can also be acquired by individual individuals. This "adaptive modification" of the behavior of higher vertebrates based on the experiences of the individual is what we call learning.

With the emergence of the ability to achieve further psychological gain of information in the environmental debate beyond the species-specific fixed general experience, an essential step towards the gain of information is marked, which takes place solely through the mechanisms of biological evolution. In highly developed birds and mammals we find a form of learning that makes it possible not only to cognitively utilize one's own experiences of success and failure, but also those of other, possibly more experienced individuals. This learning by imitation is based on a flow of information from one individual to another. It is the prerequisite for the formation of traditions that can arise when the generation sequence enables a certain social contact also between children and parents. This is another important step. For now learned behaviors can be passed on from one generation to the other and the possibility arises that experiences can be reproduced in a non-genetic way.

Such a handing down of knowledge learned across generations and its acquisition by imitating each individual in the social association corresponds to that type of experience reproduction that we can observe in our great apes, but which we can also assume in the early ape-men from the time of Australopithecus. Köhler already reported certain new behaviors, such as drinking from the tap, which a chimpanzee brought up in his anthropoid station, spread "like a fashion" among the other monkeys in a short time. The field observations made by Japanese naturalists on macaques about the practice of a young female to wash earthy potatoes in a stream before eating are well known, which quickly became a tradition throughout the population. And the ethologist Jane van Lawick-Goodall, who lived among wild chimpanzees for years, reports on many surprising population-specific characteristics of the animals, which obviously represent regional traditions.

Nevertheless, all forms of animal tradition formation are subject to certain insurmountable limits. Because the passing on of experiences is always linked to direct interactive social contact. The formation of tradition is therefore closely linked to kinship lines and thus remains relatively limited, without being able to extend beyond the local distribution areas of the population or intraspecific "subcultures". Animal experience reproduction in traditions is also quite unstable. It often only develops when there is corresponding pressure to adapt (e.g. climatic or geographical type) due to special environmental conditions. If the special ecological conditions change, the tradition disappears again. Since the storage and transfer of information is tied solely to individual biological carriers, it also dissolves with these. With the death of the population, to address an extreme, but evolutionarily extremely relevant example, all experiences once made are also destroyed.

We can therefore state that within the framework of animal information storage, which goes beyond the genetic make-up, a "functional system" can be built up from a psychological point of view. This, however, has not yet found expression in an additional, material experience structure that remains after the death of the individual living beings. So it is not primarily a functional barrier that characterizes the animal level of experience reproduction in great apes, but a structural lack of the only experience memory that they have at their disposal.4 It is characteristic of the occasional production of aids that is possible on its own, which is also called ad-hoc tool production, that the chimpanzee Sultan, for example, learned from the above-mentioned Köhler experiment individually from his complicated tool trade, i.e. in the same situation the next time build a similar tool again, then probably more quickly and nimbly. However, if he has achieved the fruit in each case, i.e. if his tool trade has fulfilled its immediate purpose, it loses all meaning for him as a means of work. He throws it away and "forgets" it. Neither he nor his conspecifics would ever "recognize" it in its meaning as a tool, if they did not encounter it in the direct situational frame of reference, cage-tool.5 So it does not become "the constant carrier of a certain operation" (Leontjew 1973, 208), but ultimately serves as a kind of direct organ compensation in the acquisition of food. In this respect, the ape tool behavior, despite its similarity in extreme experimental situations to the human tool, in contrast to the latter, does not break the limits of a specialization of organismic needs. Completely dominated by the current purpose, the means does not have any material independence that outlasts the individual work act as a 'tool for certain operations' nor as a bearer of a certain psychological 'meaning'.


The decisive step towards the creation of a specifically human non-biological way of reproducing experiences takes place when the tool is given a new kind of permanence. It becomes a material store of experience, the materiality of which, however, is not subject to the laws governing the development and decay of organic matter. The emergence of this new permanence of the work equipment goes hand in hand with a far-reaching change in tool behavior. The relationship between means and end, which, as we have seen in our chimpanzees, was clearly dominated by the end, is now reversed. The auxiliary construction, which was originally only updated for reaching a certain fruit, becomes a means for the creation of other fruits as well, yes, ultimately even a means for the pursuit of completely different purposes. In this way it can become possible that even through the mere existence of the remedy, external facts now also appear to be actually attainable, which previously would hardly have been taken into account. So the means itself sets new ends.

How can one imagine such a development mechanism? Let's take an ax, a simple stone ax, for example, which, in its construction principle, is quite comparable to the aid of the chimpanzee Sultan, created by combining two materials, wood and stone. The requirements to be able to build such a device may seem low to us. In fact, it took several millions of years before the hominids were able to imagine the functions of its use as well as the functions of its production in practice.

It makes perfect sense to speak of a practical imagination, which may at first sound like a paradox, because we cannot yet assume a theoretical, 'intellectual' imagination. It is precisely the practical process of the sensual and objective examination of the environment from which the first cognitive abstractions, the first categories of the understanding, distort. Leroi-Gourhan (123-125) even ascribes a "technical consciousness" to the australopithecines of the early 'pebble' cultures. Her technical skills must have been extremely simple, and corresponded pretty well to what little we know of her brain. Nevertheless, their early technicality embodied a certain inner coherence that was functional to their real possibilities and does not go into anything in that picture, according to which an individual ape-man, deeply surprised by himself and the world, suddenly finds a sharp stone in his hand and with it now wild and starts knocking around awkwardly and thus discovers the first hand ax. On the other hand, we cannot simply measure their cognitive-practical possibilities against those of later hominids or even against ours. We should rather see it as a "zoological fact" than to apply to it the scheme of creative thinking, which would also be completely inappropriate in view of the countless thousands of years in which the "industry" of Australopithecus reproduced itself almost identically.

The concept of a practical faculty of imagination, which seeks to grasp the connection between the objective-sensible and the intellectual and spiritual, only sounds strange if one negates this connection and thus starts from the lack of presuppositions of the ideal, i.e. the primacy of consciousness. "All practical people," Goethe scoffed at this attempt at separation, "seek to make the world right for themselves; all thinkers want them to be right in their head. They may watch how far everyone succeeds. "

In order to clarify the genesis of the first intellectual categories from the practical imagination, which should have corresponded to the handling of the first work tools, let us think again of our ax: When using it, Leontjew (1973, 208) clearly explained, » it not only corresponds to the goal of a practical action, but also reflects the properties of the object of work to which the action is directed. The cut of an ax thus infallibly tests the hardness of the material from which the work in question is made. Its objective properties are practically analyzed and generalized according to characteristics that are objectively given in the tool itself. The tool [insofar as it is seen in the social context of reproduction; J.B.] thus becomes, as it were, the carrier of the first, genuine, conscious and reasonable abstraction, the first conscious and reasonable generalization. "

It is true that the emergence and generalization of abstractions of the mind - once assuming the biological prerequisites as given - also presupposes the existence of developed social cooperative relationships and linguistic communication relationships. Even if we do not deal with them in detail here, it must not be forgotten that their development is an essential prerequisite for human existence. Although its development is by no means completely congruent with that of the material tools of work, ultimately it also depends in its human-specific development on the state of the nature of the confrontation, i.e. on the development of the internal organization of the social work process and its objective means, which Engels once called denoted the real means of development of man.

So if we consider the objective means of labor here as the means of reproduction specific to man, if we see them historically, we can say that the production realized with them is always richer and truer than any planning, however detailed it may be Can be completed (cf. Rüben, 23), because the ability for intellectual planning, for conscious anticipation, is only developed in and through the work and the experiences made in it. It is true that the movement of this 'intellectual moment' of the work process can in later epochs of human history, under the conditions of the developed division of labor, detach itself from the practical, objective process and become independent into particular consciousness phenomena. In prehistory and early history, these were peculiar mythical-rational hybrid forms in which people began to visualize nature and their struggle against it (cf. Brockmeier 1979). The basic cognitive structures of meaning of the consciousness of a certain historical epoch, however, ultimately remain dependent on the effective social working conditions and the level of development of the internal organization of the work process itself ultimately determines all other conditions of social life:

»It is general lighting in which all other colors are immersed and which modifies their particularity. It is a special ether that determines the specific weight of all existence that stands out in it. "(27)

So in order to be able to measure the practical imagination that is necessary for the production of a stone ax, and that it represents itself objectively, we must completely free ourselves from any anthropological interpretation of the work and its idealistic assumption of an original, anticipatory consciousness. The ax was not preceded by the idea of ​​an ax, but rather the practical experience gained through long handling of hand axes, sticks and bones, that e.g. the strength of the blow depends essentially on the length of the arm and the size of the stone, but that both are in turn in one must have a corresponding size and weight ratio to one another; In addition, the two materials must be connected to one another by a third one, which of course is not found, but also manufactured like the shaft and hitting stone, and must be appropriate to the specific conditions to which the ax is exposed.6 Later on, the first attempts to drill through the hammer in painstaking detailed work, which, however, again makes considerably higher demands, we only think of the construction of a drill for the hard hammer stones.

It is now conceivable that the first of these primitive and yet so complicated stone axes were initially only used in the search for tubers or plants on the hard ground of the interglacial period, from which the first fossil finds of these tools come. It is conceivable that after innumerable repairs they were gradually improved, that the striking stone took on sharper or more pointed edges, and that leather instead of vegetable tissue was used for fastening to the shaft at some point. It is also conceivable that the ax, which has been improved in this way, no longer only appeared to be usable for its original purpose, but also for other purposes: for felling and processing trees that could be used to build more stable housing, for faster and more precise processing of other stone tools , e.g. for grinding grain, etc., etc. So we see how a means originally created perhaps only for a specific purpose now appears to be usable for generalized purposes, yes, even for completely new, previously unimaginable perspectives of improving the For example, digging deeper holes in the frozen ground to safely store supplies, or even hunting for larger and more dangerous animals using throwing axes: the work equipment marks out almost new horizons of purpose.

The new experiences gained during their realization in turn expand the practical imagination, and thus new specializations become conceivable on a basis that has been reproduced in an expanded manner, e.g. a special ax for working wood (perhaps for the first, primitive dugout canoes), for special types of stone, special hunting and defense axes ... Once objectified, the new manufacturing and use experiences can be appropriated again by new generations and serve as the basis for their own development. A completely new, non-biological development dynamic arises.


The decisive prerequisite for this is obviously the transition from ad hoc tool production to tool production, which is itself only one element in the chain of material reproduction of the species. This means that the re-use of successful work equipment by other individuals has been given a solid functional basis and thus its inclusion in the traditional social context becomes independent of the “arbitrariness” of intersubjective consensus building. It becomes a material necessity for society's survival.

In this way, the tool can be preserved as a means of work (i.e. as a means of the social work process) by the social association and at the same time its purposes can be generalized even further, new experiences can be incorporated and it can be imitated and reproduced as a successful model.7 It has thus finally stepped out of an individual context of use.It is precisely in this change of function from the individual production of resources to the social production and use of resources and the associated new social quality of the community (cf. Holzkamp 1983, Chapters 5.2 and 5.3) that the essential difference to the tool behavior of the ape primates emerges. The human means of work is a "social object" from the outset (Leontjew 1973, 209). The skills and experience of its inventors, users and improvers, repairers and changers, and even those who keep them and guards, have flowed into it and have become super-individual. As materialized knowledge that the whole species has acquired in its previous history, the tools represent a secondary store of experience that is also vital for people. Only dependent on their primary store of experience, the genomic information of their genetic makeup, could humans no longer reproduce. In addition to the natural historical prerequisites of their learning and cognitive performance, they created a 'social information store', which soon even surpassed the central nervous system in its storage capacity (Schurig 1976, 317).

So we can rightly speak of the fact that with the reversal of ends and means, a new, non-biological developmental dynamic is set free, which does not override natural historical evolution, but which increasingly overlaps it and ultimately becomes the only determining factor. Of course, this is by no means the case with our first Australopithecus ape-humans. The tool-mediated forms of confrontation with nature were probably just one moment among many others for the Austroalopithecines, which was not even the dominant factor in comparison to collecting or hunting. Nevertheless, we have a sure criterion for the fact that Australopithecus, who appears almost like an animal-human transitional being, was the first protagonist of the process of self-differentiation between humans and animals, which is addressed in the quoted sentence from the 'German Ideology'. From the time when the first reliable fossil tool discoveries date (the oldest known "culture" is the so-called Oldowan, which was located in 2 to 3 million year old layers of rubble on Lake Turkana in East Africa), one continues , through a large number of finds, approximately reconstructable (albeit non-linear) chain of development of tools from the time of Australopithecus through those of "homo erectus" and "homo s. neanderthalensis" to "homo s. sapiens", whose first representative suggests first appeared around 60 to 40,000 years ago. The development process of production and its socio-organizational dimension that can be demonstrated in this way suggests that it is precisely here, in the specific development type of the extended reproduction of socially acquired experiences in an additional material experience structure, that the essential generic characteristic of the human being is to be seen.

Against the background of this conception of the 'human being' as a certain developmental being unique in the realm of the living, we have to limit the time frame from which we can say with Marx that people "indirectly produce their material life themselves" constrict. The epoch of actual anthroposociogenesis, in which, according to Herrmann, work begins to shape people, lies between 800,000 and 350,000 / 250,000 years B.C.E. This is the epoch in which historians date the formation of the cultures of the developed Oldowan, Abbevillien and Acheuléen. It is characterized by the first use of fire and the spread of the 'human' hominids over the subtropical and temperate zones of the earth, which we now, after the extinction of "homo simius", in the type of "homo erectus", the primitive man , to encounter. Although work has now become the basis of existence, it has not yet completely overcome its first elementary forms. Nevertheless, a qualitatively new factor in production is developing here, which is a central prerequisite for the full development of the specifically societal reproductive dynamics: For the first time, devices are being manufactured that are specifically used to manufacture other work devices. This is a skill that great apes are hardly able to develop even under experimental conditions, but never in the wild.

But even at this stage it is not yet the type of tool-mediated reproduction of his metabolic process with nature that is characteristic of the developed human being that determines the overall development. The ecological system relationships are still changing faster than humans can develop their work skills. It is still the evolutionary process of phylogenesis that determines what happens and not the effect of social laws. The formation of the first elements for this must therefore still be understood biologically in its effect on hominid evolution, namely as a mutant with a selective advantage. And so the specifically social nature of the human being, which developed here, cannot be explained without its evolutionary, i.e. natural history, becoming.

The change in dominance in the dialectical reciprocal relationship between biological and socio-historical regularities obviously only takes place when the reversal of the end-means relationship has also become the determining form of the production of a community. Only when the means of work have become both socially produced products and socially produced prerequisites for the reproductive process can we assume that the development dynamics produced by man have finally reshaped their natural historical basis. Only now, when the means of work have become the socially determining means of reproduction, does the community really reproduce itself from self-produced conditions. Marx therefore distinguished these conditions from the "historical presuppositions" of a historical process which belong to the "history of its formation". The inner conditions of reproduction are also natural historical presuppositions of the community, but they are "now as results of its own realization, reality, as posited by it - not as conditions of its origin, but as results of its existence" (Grundrisse, 364; cf. . Damerow et al., 239/40 and 256).

The time in which the social tool production becomes the unequivocally determining factor of the genre development is the epoch of the emergence of primitive society (approx. 40,000 to 20,000 years B.C.). " From now on, the work process develops faster and faster than the changes in the natural environment. This is finally overlaid by the social production in our times as if by a "second nature" and just as objectively transformed as the natural-historical type of evolution by the social dynamics of reproduction. Anthropogenesis is now over. The process of distinguishing between humans and animals is complete. The further phases in the development of human reproductive dynamics no longer lead to a qualitatively new or different differentiation between humans and non-human living beings, but above all to a type of self-differentiation that is completely new compared to natural history and also compared to anthropogenesis: that of humans of people on a socio-economic basis.


Against the background of our knowledge of the development in anthropogenesis, let us finally return to our starting point and once again raise the anthropological question of the difference between humans and animals, once again on the basis of experiments of the Köhler type. Let us remember the behavior of the chimpanzee Sultan. Undoubtedly, the aid through which the chimpanzee was able to reach the banana has a certain 'meaning' for him.9 It corresponds to the meanings of orientation that certain conditions in the natural environment of animals can gain. This type of meaning ’signals’ to the animal what relevance the issue in question has for its own organismic life support. Such orientation meanings can also be learned, as we can follow in the formation of animal traditions.

From Koehler's experiments, however, it was now recognizable that for the chimpanzee the significance of the stick construction as an aid is only updated in the immediate situational context "banana - being locked in the cage". In addition, it is indistinguishable from one's own organismic needs and the activities that are triggered by them. The meaning unit “banana” and “trying to get to the banana somehow” are identical. It forms the fundamental, behavior-determining structure of meaning in which the aid meaning of the stick construction is only a subordinate, dependent element. The stick does not acquire an independent meaning.

With humans this is now changing. We can tell from a little something in our first thought experiment, in which we imagined Koehler himself in the test cage: He waits first. He does this, apart from reasons of self-respect, not least because he "knows" the meaning that the potential stick construction has in the event that he has to take a serious interest in the banana. But what kind of "knowledge" is this? While even for the most evolved mammals possible tools do not have an object meaning that is detached from the current need and situation context, and can at best be acquired in the short term through individual experience, it is a specific of humans that for them orientation meanings represent the objective and psychological independence of work equipment meanings be able to win.

The psychological independence of these meanings and their independence from a unique and individual purpose is related to the character of the tools as objective storage of experience and as specifically human means of reproduction. In order to visualize this connection more precisely, let us think again of our stone ax. Its importance as a tool for generalized purposes is objectified in it. It exists even before, for example, a certain young hominid uses a stone ax for the first time, which he may have inherited from an old hominid. Because this legacy consists not only of a strange stone attached to a stick, but of course also includes the importance of the ax as a specific tool. The simple object 'ax' also represents socially created possibilities for action, which are all the more clear the further the social division of labor and, accordingly, the specialization of tools is developed. With the expanded reproduction of the tools, not only they themselves, but also their meanings and the socially acquired structures of activity gained with them are reproduced in an expanded manner.

The meanings refer to activity structures in a double sense: to use activities and to manufacturing activities. In terms of its use, the ax embodies a number of possible hitting actions, from chopping wood to spousal murder. In its manufacturing aspect, it also refers to the materials and processes that went into its own manufacture. The meanings of work equipment refer to a multitude of other meanings and overlapping meanings, so that multi-layered, almost unlimited social fields of meaning arise. The "image of the world" arises in people's representational structures (Leontjew 1982).

If we visualize the material knowledge and ability given in the mean meanings and the references to other objective contexts of meaning given with them, then it becomes clear what it is with the ability of "intellectual planning" and "ideal anticipation" of a toolmaker, for example has on itself. It then turns out to be primarily the ability to sound out the possibilities contained in the objective meanings of the given, successful work equipment, to, to a certain extent, open up and realize its practical horizon of possibilities. The subjective purpose is always preceded by a historically grown framework of material prerequisites. If this is excluded from consideration and only the individual, isolated work act is considered, then the work of a toolmaker itself (or precisely) appears as a symbol of "subjective teleology", although there is nothing less eeological than his actual doing.

As we have seen, however, this appearance disappears immediately when we take the standpoint of the material reproduction of the respective community. So from the standpoint of social and not that of individual labor, the reality of which is solely that of an abstraction. The appearance of being able to make statements about the nature of work on the basis of experiments such as the one described then disappears. But it is precisely such an anthropological interpretation of human labor that one makes the quoted "example of bees" by Marx as the basis for determining the essence of the social production process. Every toolmaker has an exact idea of ​​the result of his work and every builder is well advised if he has a plan of the building to be built at the latest when it comes to excavating the construction pit. However, to speak with Peter Ruben, the existence of an idea and a blueprint in one's head is a necessary but by no means a sufficient determination of the work being developed. Anyone who has not only read his sentence with the “example of bees” but also considers the theoretical framework of the whole “capital” must deny that Marx in particular should have seen the essence of labor in "subjective teleology". At the end of Volume 3, Marx himself addresses the very mistake that results from "a confusion and identification of the social production process with the simple labor process, such as an abnormally isolated person would have to do without any social aid" (890).

Thus Marx does not differ from Köhler's experimental view (and the corresponding approach to the anthropology of the "abnormally isolated man") in that he does not use any analytical cross-sectional models; because his “bee example” is to be understood as such a historically vertical cross-sectional model to characterize the simple work process. But he differs in that he uses these models in the dialectical context of a historical-genetic theory, the object of which is the forms of movement in society as a consequence of its material mode of reproduction. With Marx, work is therefore anything but an 'anthropological category', just as there is no 'anthropology' of the social nature of man and his essential forces, which is independent of the actual development processes of nature, society and consciousness think would be.


1 H. Aebli, who assesses Köhler Gestalt psychology from the point of view of action-theoretical cognitive psychology, writes: “Köhler examines, so to speak, the rational core of action, the perceiving and thinking structuring of the situation. The rest are appendages and not worth investigating. This is the basic attitude of mind psychology that prevailed in Europe from Herbart until the Second World War. What counts are the processes of consciousness in which the whole of reality is reflected. The rest, e.g. the correct action, follows automatically as soon as the context is seen correctly. "(Aebli p.38)

2 »The biological incarnation, i.e. the separation of the hominid line from the Pongids and the psycho-physical incarnation with the emergence of consciousness ... are different problems. Between them there is also a considerable developmental span in time, which is expressed in the terms 'subhuman phase' and 'human phase' or in the terms 'hominid' as a synonym for anthropological-biological characteristics and 'human' as a summary of psychological and socio-historical processes generalized. "(Schurig 1976, p.89)

3 The term animal-human transition field (TMÜ) describes »the period of development in hominid evolution, where on the one hand pongid characteristics still dominate at the beginning, but a system of hominid characteristics is already established and determines the further evolution, as well as the smooth transition up to one Mosaic of psycho-physical characteristics, so that the overall character is judged as a balance between hominid and human characteristics. "(Schurig 1976, p.81)

4 Chimpanzees evidently have brain powers that are not fully exploited under natural living conditions, but are clearly revealed under experimental conditions.Above all in intensive learning relationships with people, they are capable of cognitive performance that they never develop in the wild and which usually reverse again soon after the specific learning situation has ended. Phylogenetically, this can either be explained as stagnation, whereby the chimpanzees remained on the psycho-physical stage of development during the separation of Pongids and hominids, but their mental potencies indicate the possibilities of cognitive development in hominization. Or it is a question of a span in evolution between psychic abilities that are already possible but not yet enforced by the selection pressure, the overall development of which has only slowed down compared to the hominid evolution.

5 Here a particular problem of ethological experiments of this kind becomes clear, which should only be pointed out here in passing. Achievements like those of the Koehler monkeys are of course predetermined by the experimenter and his consciously chosen objective equipment of the experimental conditions. The experiment arrangement mostly already represents the (human) experimenter's objectified expectation of a "sensible" or "reasonable" behavior of the (animal) test candidate.

6 Even for the manufacture of a hand ax according to the Levallois technique, a chain of actions is to be assumed that, from the raw stone piece to the finished tool, "comprised three or more different sequences of operations and up to several hundred individual operations." With regard to mental activity, a higher level can be deduced from this than before. The mental coordination, steering and control associated with manual activity [led to] differentiated and precise ideas about the form of the object and the relationships between the members of the cycle, and thus probably at the same time [to] an increase and differentiation of the terms and the connections between them. "(Gramsch, 119)

7 Schurig points out that the emergence of tool behavior solely in the sense of the production of objective work equipment itself remains abstract again if it is not seen in connection with the level of development of the inner social differentiation of primates and hominids. “It is difficult to understand how the early hominids are supposed to have acquired the ability to materially change their environment if they do not already have a generalized social experience of the instrumental use of objects or conspecifics. Numerous behavioral observations have shown that even in animal primates, the social environment takes precedence over the events of the ecological environment in functional importance. (1976, 205/6)

8 Herrmann calls the period between the epoch of "anthroposociogenesis" and the "emergence of primitive society" the "epoch of socio-economic formation" (35 0000/25 0000 to 3 0000/20000 before today). A detailed scheme for the periodization of hominid evolution can be found in Ullrich, pp.55-57.

9 On the concept of meaning - cf. detailed Holzkamp 1973, chap. 5.l ... as well as 1983, chap. 5.2.


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