Original Research

Hominisation and humanisation: a perspective from the sociology of technics

Ernst Wolff
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 2, No 2 | a276 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v2i2.276 | © 2006 Ernst Wolff | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 March 2016 | Published: 11 April 2006

About the author(s)

Ernst Wolff, Department of Philosophy, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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This essay will present a few challenges to a new Humanism from the perspective of the sociology of technics. For this purpose Humanism will be described as an effort to intervene in the process of human formation or hominisation. In order to intervene an understanding of this process is needed. Hominisation starts in the Palaeolithic era: technics, religion, language and the human being mutually give birth to one another. Reference will be made especially to the work of Leroi-Gourhan and Girard to analyse this point. Hominisation, however, is a continuous process and has not come to an end. The most recent phase of our hominisation is the industrial revolution: Western modernisation seems to be the future of global humanity. But industrialisation spreads unevenly, leading to a varied network of the human conditions, of advantages and disadvantages. A critical assessment of Africa’s position in the global politics of technics will lead to a description of inhuman conditions as part of the network of industrialisation. The scale and extent of misery tolerated and produced by this era of hominisation could be considered as a possible springboard from where to reflect on a contemporary global Humanism even after the ‘death of God’ in modernity. But to what extent does modernisation allow intervention in the process of industrial hominisation in order to give it the quality of humanization? Aspects of theories on multiple or alternative modernities are considered. A suggestion to the kind of humanist orientation solicited by the inhuman condition of misery is presented with reference to Nussbaum’s capabilities theory. Finding the content of a new Humanism is, however, only a beginning of a new humanization. The technical conditions for the possibility of a new Humanism and of its transmission are reflected on. In conclusion, on the basis of the preceding analyses, five technics-orientated tasks for a new Humanism will be identified.


New humanism; sociology of technics; hominisation; Paleolithic era; cultural history; ethology; network formation; modernisation; Africa; capabilities theory; globalisation; homogenisation


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