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Sergio F. Martínez Muñoz
Abstract of "Artifacts as Domesticated Kinds of Practices".
After briefly reviewing arguments pointing to the impossibility of distinguishing in
principle between natural and artifact kinds I suggest that contrary to usual
accounts artifact kinds should be characterized independently of natural kinds.
Artifacts (or at least a sizable diversity of them) can be characterized in terms of
construction behaviors that constitute kinds through processes of domestication of
materials and social relations (organized in practices), processes that in turn enter
into the constitution of more sophisticated artifacts and social
relations. Understanding domestication as niche construction allows for a
generalization of the concept of domestication to encompass most (if not all)
construction behaviors, and thus, modeling the evolution of construction behaviors
is then a way of modeling the most distinctive kinds of artifacts widely accepted as
characterizing human (biological and cultural) evolution.
You do not have to classify and label things in order to perceive what they afford.i
J. J. Gibson
1.Introduction. The thesis that the kindings that matter to natural science can be
characterized as “natural kinds” is widely accepted in philosophy. Several well known
characterizations of the issue focus on the metaphysical problem of characterizing
natural kinds with the aim of using such metaphysical characterization as a basis for
scientific epistemology. (refs) Characterizations of “human” or “social kinds” are
usually presented in contrast to natural kinds (refs). In the philosophy of science
nowadays, however, several discussions stem from the idea that we have to first
characterize natural kinds epistemologically, through the study of actual scientific
classifications, and then use the succesful characterization as constraints in our
metaphysics. (refs) But if, as can be argued, it is not possible to epistemologically
distinguish in principle between natural and artifact kinds, then we should start by
characterizing artifactuality as a first step towards a epistemology of kinding.
In section 2 I review arguments pointing to the impossibility of distinguishing in
principle between natural and artifact kinds. Thus, the usual philosophical account of
artifacts based on this distinction fail. In section 3 I present accounts of artifacts
relating them closely with behaviors (and routines). This way of characterizing
artifacts in order to be productive has to reject the traditional methodological
assumption that cognition and action can be decoupled. In section 4 I point out how
this assumption is behind claims that the way in which artifactuality is characterized
in different disciplines can be oblivious to the way it is characterized in others. In
section 5 I show relevant connections between anthropological theories of material
culture and accounts of artifactuality. In section 6, Niche Construction Theory is
introduced and advantages of understanding domestication within this framework
are pointed out. I suggest that such an account of domestication can be generalized if
we give credit to the idea that domestication involves the cultivation of affordances. In
particular, traditional accounts of tool use and tool making can be understood as
construction behaviors that are domesticated in the processes of conforming to
practices through which such behaviors reproduce and diversify. This provides a
general characterization of artifactuality that can be used to overcome the duality
between cognition and action and should allow for productive comparisons of
artifactuality in different disciplines.
2. Artifacts and natural kinds. Artifacts have not caught philosophers’ attention as
much as natural kinds have. They have, of course, been a topic in metaphysics, where
usually the discussion of artifacts is parasitic on views about natural kinds. A recent
collection of essays on artifacts is Creations of the Mindii ; a book which aims to
showcase the different ways in which philosophers and scientists deal with the topic
of artifacts. For most philosophers, the question of artifacts arises because artifacts
are madeiii, and the process of making them involves intentions, thus artifacts are
mind dependent, setting them up them in contrast to natural kinds.
contributions of psychologists and anthropologists in the same book question this
duality from different perspectives. Two psychologists (Barbara Malt and Steven
Sloman) start their contribution to the anthology with the following sentence: “A
sizeable subfield of cognitive psychology is devoted to how humans categorize entities
in their world, yet there has been little explicit consideration of what it means to
categorize”.v The perspective held at an intuitive level by most lay people —they tell
us— is that when people see an object, such as a table, they look for the
metaphysically real category of objects this particular object belongs to. But if pressed,
most psychologists would probably claim to be agnostic about whether or not there
are objectively defined metaphysically real groupings of artifacts. Rather,
psychologists would be inclined to think that what they mean by ‘artifact kinds’ are
psychological kinds. For Malt and Sloman, the central question about artifacts in
psychology is the question of judging “which psychologically real, if not
metaphysically real, grouping an object belongs to”.vi
Malt and Sloman have been involved in a heated debate in cognitive psychology about
the nature of categorization. Most often, how an artifact is categorized in psychology
means choosing a task and with respect to this task, finding out how a judgment is
made about which grouping it belongs to. But not any grouping will do. As Malt and
Sloman put it: “An almost universal assumption is that the psychologically real
groupings are stable groupings that map directly onto mental representations
constituting ‘concepts’...”vii They think rather that the relevant groupings depend
crucially on the situation at hand. More importantly, they claim that since grouping
artifacts can be associated with different activities, it is very important to select the
methodologies that are appropriate to the different types of categorization.
Categorization, they claim, is not a coherent field of inquiry since it is not possible to
draw a sharp line between categorization and pragmatics. Gibson would agree (as the
epigraph suggests).
In the same book, Dan Sperber questions from a very different perspective the
assumption that one can in principle distinguish between kinds of artifacts and
natural kindsviii. Sperber provides a series of examples of objects that point to a
continuum of artifacts that are made and others that we can say occur naturally. The
boundary between what is made and what occurs naturally cannot be located in the
nature of things. Sperber gives the example of seedless grapes and bananas as
examples supporting the general thesis that domesticated plants and animals have
simultaneously biological, cultural, and artifactual functions. In trying to understand
how these different functions are related, Sperber argues that the common sense
distinction between two different classes of things with respect to the question “What
is it for?” should not be the basis for our ontology.
Sperber, Malt and Sloman question the widespread assumption in metaphysics that
intentions (by themselves) are crucially relevant to the classification of artifacts by
arguing against the idea that classifications in general are independent of the situation
or the task. There are other ways of questioning the central role attributed to
intentions in the classifications of artifacts. Whose intentions and which productive
activities are supposed to determine kind membership? The idea can be thought as
unproblematic if one focuses in artisan products, like the chair made by a carpenter.
But it is far from obvious what are the intentions in question, and how these
intentions relate to the artifact in cases like a car or an airplane. Different intentions
enter into the production of different parts, and the different parts can be used in
different artifacts. Further more, one can argue that whatever the intentions are, they
are not geared to the production of one single exemplar of a car (the car I own, for
example), but rather, to the production of kinds of things (cars, trucks, motorcycles)
that can travel roads and bridges and so on. In other words, the intention of
constructing a car cannot be decoupled from the intention of constructing roads and
bridges, nor it can be decoupled from the expectation of travelling these roads. ix As
Houkes and Vermaas put it, the idea that intentions determine the kind membership
of an artifact hardly fits the complex production processes and organized collective
efforts of even the most common artifacts nowadays in production.x Houkes and
Vermaas are promoters of what is called the Dual Nature program for an ontology of
artifacts. A technical artifact has a physical nature and a functional nature. A good
design provides a good fit between the two natures. Thus, an important task consists
of formulating criteria that any satisfactory account of the ontology of artifacts has to
satisfy. Such criteria should make clear the different contributions of the two natures
in the classification of an artifact.
Promoters of this approach have formulated these criteria in different ways xi and
there is no doubt that they have advanced our understanding of artifacts in a way that
is particularly helpful in engineering.xii A crucial advance of such an approach with
respect to metaphysical theories of artifacts is the recognition that the issue of
classification and kinding are paramount. But to the extent that the dual nature
approach relies on “natural kinds” in order to characterize artifact kinds this approach
ignores accounts of artifactuality that cannot be characterized as decomposable in
terms of “natures”.
Decomposing in terms of natures is not always feasible or
desirable (as the work of Malt and Sloman and Sperber exemplifies and as we see
from a different perspective below).
3. What is an artifact (beyond metaphysics)? The first issue of the journal Artifact
appeared in 2007. It included articles by authors invited to answer the question “what
is an artifact?” from different disciplinary perspectives. Owen F. Smith says in his
contribution that, through the lens of his background as anthropologist, art historian
and new media professor, he can see that the term artifact is understood in different
ways, but he suggests that the most general way of understanding artifacts requires
characterizing them as “change agents”. He quotes Carrollxiii who talks of artifacts as
“support for a task that can radically redefine the task” for which the artifact was
originally developed.
Ken Friedman in his contribution to the same issue emphasizes the behavioral
dimension of artifacts (implicit in Owen´s characterization of artifact).xiv Physical
artifacts —he says— have a behavioral dimension characterized in terms of
affordances and interfaces that are effectuated in practices. Practices for Friedman can
be either of two related things: i) ways in which we organize our working habits and
living patterns around the artifacts we use, xv and ii) behavioral artifacts identifiable as
the result of expertise (in the sense that “an expert physician practices medicine or a
lawyer argues law”.)xvi From this perspective paths between buildings, organizational
structures, organizational memory, the behaviors of actors that constitute the reality
of a performance, but also the craft of an artisan or a scientist are behavioral artifacts
constrained and articulated by practices.
This behavioral dimension of artifacts was also important in early evolutionary
economy and institutional economics. Artifacts were thought to play a a crucial role in
the classification of routines. Routines were introduced and discussed in Nelson and
Winter as fixed patterns of behaviors or actions, but the relation to artifacts, even if
recognized, was not assimilated into the theoretical (evolutionary) model of change.
This led to a dismissal of the role of artifacts and its role in the characterization of
routines. More recently it has been increasingly recognized that the notion of artifact
cannot be dismissed. There have been several attemps to bring artifacts back into the
discussion about routines. D’Adderio, for example, suggests that artifacts and
“artifactual representations” have to be brought to the forefront of the routines
debate.xvii As Cohen points out, one important presupposition that has to be removed
in order for the notion of routine to be more productive in explanations is the
assumption that cognition and action can be decoupled, and thus, that routines cannot
be modeled as simply automatic or non-intelligent patterns of behavior. Cohen
suggests that in order to overcome the immense theoretical inertia of the concept of
routine we should do better to focus on the Deweyan notion of habit.xviii
I fully agree with this suggestion, but instead of using the notion of habit we can use a
concept of practice (as Friedman does) that allows us not only to talk of habits (in
Dewey’s sense) as part and parcel of collective enterprises, but that also allows us to
talk of the complex web of (behavioral) artifacts that constitute scientific enterprises
(laboratories, mathematical theories, and so on). What is crucial is avoiding the split
between cognition and action, a distinctive feature of the traditional concept of
routine. xix
Focusing on practices as the articulation of (behavioral) artifacts also allows us to
incorporate artifacts into an evolutionary model of change. This is not a topic I can
enter here; I just want to point out that (behavioral) artifacts can be seen as products
of the evolution of the human lineage as well as culturally evolving in historical time.
As Sterelny puts it (but with my terminology), there is a coevolution of the cognitive
capacities involved in the classification of behavioral artifacts and their
As we shall see, this close relationship between practices, artifacts and behaviors is
also a key component of non-dualistic approaches to our understanding of
artifactuality in psychology and the social sciences.
4. Back to metaphysics: on the duality of natural kinds and artifacts. There is no
doubt that western scientific thinking, since the scientific revolution at least, has used
as a point of departure for framing methodological questions an opposition between
two kinds of things, passive, material or physical things that constitute and external
world (subject to natural laws) on the one hand, and agents having the capacity to
shape the material things following plans. Such opposition has played an important
role in the organization of scientific inquiry. For example, the belief in a passive
material world allowed the drawing of a sharp line between the way in which
anthropology studies artifacts and the way in which psychology studies them.
Psychologists study phenomena at a level of abstraction that allows such phenomena
to be detached from the (cultural) context in which they take place. Such an
assumption leads to a division of labor in which anthropology describes the content of
human experience while psychology aim to characterize the processes that interpret
such experience.xxii Many critics have pointed out such methodological divide. Even in
1981 Cole worried about this divide and pointed out the important role that the divide
had played in the framing of questions and development of both disciplines.xxiii Of
course there are many different characterizations of such methodological divide.; but
there is no doubt that as Jean Lave puts it in 1988 the source of the divide is a a
positivistic epistemology. xxiv
The important point is that, once this separation between passive matter and active
(human) agents is accepted, the opposition between natural kinds and artifacts as
mind-dependent follows. The separation also justifies thinking of artifacts in
psychology in a way that does not need to be contrasted or compared to the way
artifacts are modeled (theorized about) in anthropology (or in other social sciences).
The pre-supposition is generalizable for claims supporting the view that how we
think of artifactuality in each scientific discipline has to be decided by each discipline
(implicitly) through the choice of methods appropriate to the discipline. The
assumption also leads us to think of artifacts as classifiable in terms of parts and
functions, and abstract from the context or kind of expertise that is associated with
5. Artifactuality as material culture. Taking on board the opposition between
passive artifacts and natural kinds leads to views in Anthropology like that of Gordon
Childe. Childe thought that anthropologists should not attempt to reconstruct past
cultures from the evidence of remains of those cultures. They should rather look for
objective knowledge of the past, and thus all efforts should be
directed to
constructing bridges that lead from such passive artifacts to a theory of the past. Such
bridges should include at crucial junctures universal laws that would allow to draw
conclusions or to test out the theories in question.xxv Towards the third part of the
twentieth century there were several important lines of inquiry trying to overcome
such a methodological framework through reevaluations of materiality designed to
question (in different ways) the idea that materiality is just a passive recipient of
human agency. Overcoming the dichotomy, however, is not easy.
Tim Ingold has claimed that most of these approaches aiming to overcome the
dichotomy between passive matter and agency fail since they continue to think in
terms of incorporeal minds entering into contact with a material world. In a special
issue of the journal Archaeological Dialogues, Ingoldxxvi summarizes his critique of
current studies on material culture. The very notion of material culture —says
Ingold— takes things to be the embodiment of mental representations, static
solidified objects taken out from the “generative flux of the medium” that gave birth to
them. For Ingold, material cultural studies tend to assume that all that is material
resides in physical things. In this issue of Archaeological Dialogs several
anthropologists respond to Ingold’s challenge.
In his response to Ingold, Tilleyxxvii suggests that Ingold does not distinguish between
“brute” materials and their properties on the one hand, and the concept of materiality
that embraces subject-object relations on the other.. Anthropologists, as opposed to
geologists —says Tilley—, are concerned with what stones mean. All materials have
their properties but only some of these materials and their properties are significant
to people. Tilley complains that Ingold does not consider the manner in which
materials affect people’s lives and suggests that Ingold is falling in the old trap of a
simplistic empiricism that considers artifacts in and for, and only in terms of,
In his response Knappettxxviii says that even though artifacts may have material
properties that are not merely “passive” properties, their study should be
subordinated to the role the artifact plays in social relationships. The paper in which
Miller respond to Ingold is called, Plastic age or Stone Age? Miller’s point is that Ingold
seems to be out of date. Our material culture —says Miller— has very little to do with
stone things or other basic materials that might have archaeological interest but little
anthropological interest nowadays.
Now, without denying that material culture in the sense promoted by studies on
material culture is an important anthropological tool, Ingold’s materials play an
explanatory part in an account of artifactuality that goes beyond what social relations
encoded in material things can explain. The patterns of growth that are distinctive of
(kinds of) artifacts cannot be explained simply in terms of structure and function, nor
in terms of social relations alone. What is overlooked can be characterized as a
circulatory system of material culture. Materials have patterns of growth that express
themselves through practices in artifacts and social relations, that in turn enter into the
constitution of more sophisticated artifacts and social relations. Such patterns of
growth embody affordances that co-evolve with cognitive capacities and that in turn
promote the reproduction and diversification of cycles of (kinds of) artifact-tasks.xxix
Domestication and tool making provide good examples of such patterns of growth, as
we will see next.
6. Domestication, tool making and tool use as artifact niche construction.
Darwin’s key argument for the importance of natural selection in his theory of
evolution relied to a great extent on evidence obtained from processes of human
induced variation under Domestication is a topic that has promoted
an interdisciplinary approach to questions such as when and where humans made the
transition from hunting and gathering to herding and farming, and more generally in
models of human evolution. In the last two decades advances in genetics and
paleontology have allowed us to reconstruct in detail the shift from wild to
domesticated species of many plants and animals. The tendency, however, is to focus
on specific questions constrained by the application of specific technological advances
and ignore the implications of these advances for our understanding of domestication
as a whole.xxxi
Most approaches to domestication in anthropology start from the assumption that
domestication involves a relationship between humans and target organisms.
Approaches focusing on relationships between humans and animals tend to bring to
the fore the relation of dominance over all aspects of the reproduction and guided
care of domesticates. Domestication is defined as a product of the intentionality that
leads to the intervention in processes of reproduction, distribution and life cycles of
the target species. A variant of this approach characterizes domestication as the result
of interventions on the life cycle of other species to suit human needs.
If one focus more on the ecological or evolutionary relations between species one is
tempted to consider that instead of thinking in terms of dominance one should think
in terms of relations of mutual benefit between species particularly through enhanced
reproductive fitness. In these approaches there is a tendency to emphasize the
similarities between, for example, the relation that dogs and humans have established
through their evolutionary history and mutualistic relations like those of flowering
plants and bees. One can study domestication from different disciplinary perspectives,
but how can we characterize domestication as a general phenomenon? Niche
construction theory (NCT) seems to offer the most promising approach.
understand domestication as niche construction allows modeling
artifacts as materially entrenched behaviors in practices. Their entrenchment grounds
their classification in kinds of artifacts.
Niche construction, as a “process of organism-driven environmental modification”,
and a study of its consequences in different areas of biology and the human sciences
was initially presented in systematic form in Odling-Smee et al. 2003.xxxii The basic
idea is that niche construction has hitherto neglected the implications for our
understanding of evolutionary processes. Niche construction should not be regarded
as a mere “enforcer” of natural selection but as a major participant in evolution. In
their book, Odling-Smee, Laland and Feldman tell us that niche construction is “the
process whereby organisms, through their metabolism, their activities and their
choices, modify their own and/or each other’s niches.”xxxiii They provide several
examples and comparative argument to show the way in which niche construction can
change the direction, rate and dynamics of the evolutionary process.
What is most relevant for us are the implications of this way of approaching an
explanation of domestication. Recently NCT has been used to explain domestication
and the origin of agriculture. For example, Bruce Smith shows how NCT can be used to
provide fresh understanding of how early humans developed the ability to
significantly alter their environment starting with the initial domestication of plants
and animals.xxxiv At a methodological level, NCT aims to integrate into a single
explanatory model studies on domestication carried out at the level of individual plant
and animal species and research that aims to identify causal “macro” variables like
climate change or distribution of resources that may help explain why human
communities were led to the domestication of dogs, for example.
Domestication is considered one of the key distinctive features of the human lineage.
Tool making is another. There are authors that have suggested that tool making and
domestication are closely related features in human evolution. Pat Shipman has
suggested domestication (of animals) should be seen as an extension of tool
making.xxxv My proposal goes along the same line but in the opposite direction. In an
important sense (that involves the recognition of the importance of the growth of
affordances through the co-evolution of cognitive capacities and niche structured
behavior) tool making should be seen as the domestication of affordances cultivated in a
space where social relations, materials, and cognitive capacities interact and mutually
shape each other.
As in the case of domestication, there is no consensus about what exactly itool-making
is, and how it relates to tool use. The problem starts with the characterization of what
is a tool. The classical view is that the notion of tool refers to any handheld physical
object that is used to make changes to other objects in the environment. A screw is not
a tool, but a screwdriver is a tool. A garden is not a tool but objects we use to tend the
garden are.
This is an unstable view. For example, it is not possible to make a clear distinction
between construction behavior (construction of a nest or a house) and tool use.xxxvi
What can be categorized are tool behaviors or construction behaviors, and such
categorization depends on the pragmatics of the situation. If we want to insist that
tool use or tool making can be categorized on the basis of a definition of what a tool is,
we confront serious problems. If we firmly fix a piece of sandpaper onto a table and
then sands a wooden block, according to the definition we would say that the wooden
block is the tool. If we throw a nut against a stone to break it, what the tool is and the
direction of change that allow us to identify what the tool is (according to the classic
definition) is not clear.
A behavior of tool use should then be categorized as a kind of behavior that is not
different in principle from construction behaviorsxxxvii Thus, domestication and tool
making and tool use can be understood as construction behaviors that modify the
environment in such a way that it has accumulative consequences for further changes,
including cognitive changes. Modeling the evolution of construction behaviors i.e.
artifacts, is then a way of modeling the most distinctive features that are widely
accepted as characterizing human (biological and cultural) evolution.xxxviii
In summary, what we are suggesting is that tool making and tool use should be
understood as special cases of domestication of environmental resources, which allow
for the cultivation of affordances and the entrenchment of cycles of behaviors. Such
cycles of behaviors reproduce and develop through kinds of artifacts. .
J.J. Gibson, The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception (New York: Taylor &
Francis, 1986), p. 134.
E. Margolis & S. Laurence (eds.) Creations of the Mind. Theories of Artifacts and
Their Representation (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).
Standard philosophical theories of action assume action to be constitutively
connected to intentions. I will be assuming in the following that this connection can be
weaken. See for example M. Rowlands, Body Language, Representation in Action
(Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2006) and D. Hutto and E. Myin, Radicalizing Enactivism,
basic Minds without Content, (Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2013).
R. Hilpinen, “Artifact”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (December
2011), at
B. Malt and S. Sloman, “Artifact Categorization: The Good, the Bad, and the
Ugly” in E. Margolis & S. Laurence (eds.) Creations of the Mind. Theories of Artifacts and
Their Representation (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 85-123, on p. 85.
Malt & Sloman, “Artifact Categorization”, p. 85
.Malt & Sloman, “Artifact Categorization”, p. 86.
D. Sperber, “Seedles Grapes: Nature and Culture” in E. Margolis & S. Laurence
(eds.) Creations of the Mind. Theories of Artifacts and Their Representation (New York:
Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 124-137.
Beth Preston questions from different perspectives the assumption that
actions are oriented by plans and proposes that improvisation is a crucial component
of actions. On this basis she provides additional criticisms of intentionalist theories of
action and artifactuality. See A Philosophy of Material Culture: Action, Function and
Mind (New York: Routledge, 2013).
W. Houkes & P. Vermaas, “On What Is Made: Instruments, Products and
Natural Kinds of Artefacts” in M. Franseen, P. Kroes, T. Reydon, and P. Vermaas(eds.),
Artefact Kinds. Ontology and the Human-Made World (New York: Springer, 2014), pp.
See for example W. Houkes & A. Meijers, “The ontology of artifacts: the hard
problem”, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 37:1 (2006), pp. 118–131.
See P. Kroes, “Coherence of Structural and Functional Descriptions of
Technical Artefacts”, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 37:1 (2006), pp. 137–
151. See also U. Krohs & P. Kroes (eds.), Functions in Biological and Artificial Worlds.
Comparative Philosophical Perspectives (Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2009) and M.
Franseen, P. Kroes, T. Reydon, and P. Vermaas (eds.), Artefact Kinds. Ontology and the
Human-Made World (New York: Springer, 2014).
J.M. Carroll, W.A. Kellogg & M.B. Rosson, “The Task Artifact-Cycle”, in J.M.
Carroll (ed.), Designing Interaction, Psychology at the Human-computer Interface
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991) quoted in O.F. Smith, “Object
Artifacts, Image Artifacts and Conceptual Artifacts: Beyond the Object Into the Event”,
Artifact, 1:1 (2007), pp. 4–6 on p. 5.
K. Friedman, “Behavioral Artifacts: What is an Artifact? Or Who Does it?”,
Artifact, 1:1 (2007), pp. 7–11.
Friedman, “Behavioral Artifacts”, p. 8.
Friedman, “Behavioral Artifacts”, p. 8
L. D’Adderio, “Artifacts at the Centre of Routines: performing the material turn
in routines theory”, Journal Of Institutional Economics, 7:2 (2011), pp. 97-230.
M. Cohen,“Reading Dewey: Reflections on the Study of Routine”, Organization
Studies, 28:5 (2007), pp. 773-786
The role of the concept of affordance in avoiding the split will not be
elaborated here. See, for example, A. Chemero, Radical Embodied Cognitive Science
(Massachusetts: MIT Press 2009), chapter 7 in particular.
K. Sterelny, Thought in a Hostile World, (UK: Blackwell, 2003). Section 2.2.
For an elaboration of this way of looking at the role of construction behaviors
(and in particular the way in which construction behaviors entwine heredity,
development and reproduction), see W. Wimsatt & J. R. Griesemer, “Reproducing
Entrenchments to Scaffold Culture: The Central Role of Development in Cultural
Evolution”, in R. Sansom and R. Brandon (eds.), Integrating Evolution and
Development: From Theory to Practice (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007) pp. 227-323. See
also S. Martínez, “Technological Scaffoldings for the Evolution of Culture and
Cognition”, in L. Caporael, R. Griesemer & W. Wimsatt (eds.), Developing Scaffolds in
Evolution, Culture, and Cognition (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2014) pp. 249-263.
Donald Campbell, for example, talks of the difference between anthropology
and psychology as a difference between the humanistic task of recording “all aspects
of a specific cultural instance and the psychological task of the abstractive and
generalizing ‘scientist’ who wants to test the concomitant variation of two isolated
factors across instances in general”. D. T. Campbell, “The mutual methodological
relevance of anthropology and psychology” in F. L. K. Hsu (ed.), Psychological
Anthropology (Illinois: Dorsey Press, 1961), pp. 333–352.
M. Cole, “Society, mind and development”, Houston Symposium IV on
Psychology and Society: the Child and other Cultural Inventions (1981).
J. Lave, Cognition in Practice. Mind, mathematics and culture in everyday life,
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988).
A. Jones, Archaeological Theory and Scientific Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2004) makes a review of this sort of approaches.
T. Ingold, “Materials against materiality”, Archaeological Dialogues, 14:1
(2007), pp. 1–16.
C. Tilley, “Materiality in Materials”, Archaeological Dialogues, 14:1 (2007), pp.
C. Knappett, “Material with Materiality?”, Archaeological Dialogues, 14:1
(2007), pp. 20–23.
For an elaboration of this point see S. F. Martinez and Xiang Huang, , Epistemic
Grounding of Abstraction and their Cognitive Dimension. Philosophy of Science,
vol.78, 3, 2011, pp. 490-511. See also W. Wimsatt & J. Griesemer, “Reproducing
Entrenchments to Scaffold Culture. The Central Role of Development in Cultural
Evolution” in R. Sansom & R. Brandon (eds.), Integrating Evolution and Development:
From Theory to Practice (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007), pp. 227–323. Preston in 2013
proposes an alternative way of approaching the problem of reproducibility that relies
on an analysis of function in material culture. Either approach would be sufficient for
my purposes here.
C. Darwin, The Origin of Species (London: Murray, 1859); C. Darwin, The
Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication, (London: Murray, 1868).
M. A. Zeder, E. Emshwiller, D. Bradley & B. D. Smith (eds.), Documenting
Domestication: New Genetic and Archaeological Paradigms (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 2006).
J. F. Odling-Smee, K. N. Laland & M. W. Feldman (eds.), Niche construction. The
Neglected Process in Evolution, (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2003).
Odling- Smee, Laland and Feldman, Niche construction, p. 419.
B. Smith, “The Ultimate Ecosystem Engineers”, Science, 315:5820 (2007), pp.
1797–1798; B. Smith, “Niche Construction and the Behavioral Context of Plant and
Animal Domestication”, Evolutionary Anthropology, 16:5 (2007), pp. 188–199; B.
Smith, “A cultural Niche Construction of Initial Domestication”, Biological Theory, 6:3
(2012), pp. 260–271.
P. Shipman, “The Animal Connection and Human Evolution”, Current
Anthropology, 51:4 (2010), pp. 519–538.
B. Beck, Animal Tool Behavior: The Use and Manufacture of Tools by Animals
(New York: Garland STPM Press, 1980).
See F. Osiurak, C. Jarry & D. Le Gall, “Grasping the Affordances, Understanding
the Reasoning: Toward a Dialectical Theory of Human Tool Use”, Psychological Review,
117:2 (2010), pp. 517–540. They argue that any definition of tool use as a kind of
behavior is one of convenience since we do not perceive the properties of tools per se,
but what they afford as technical reasoning. I take it that the point is that behaviors
associated with tool use (and more generally with construction behaviors) have to be
understood as part of behavioral-artifact kinds whose categorization depends on
tasks organized in practices.
A third distinctive feature of human evolution in this traditional account is
symbolic thinking. D. Bickerton in Adam’s Tongue: How Humans Made Language, How
Language Made Humans (New York: Hill and Wang, 2010) provides an account of the
evolution of language that fits with the above account of human evolution as evolution
of construction behaviors.