Homo faber  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Homo faber (Latin for "Man the Smith" or "Man the Maker"; in reference to the biological name for man, "Homo sapiens" meaning "man the wise") is a concept articulated by Hannah Arendt and Max Scheler. It refers to humans as controlling the environment through tools. Henri Bergson also referred to it in The Creative Evolution (1907), defining intelligence, in its original sense, as the "faculty to create artificial objects, in particular tools to make tools, and to indefinitely variate its makings."

In Latin literature, Appius Claudius Caecus uses this term in his Sententiæ, referring to ability of man to control his destiny and what surrounds him: Homo faber suae quisque fortunae (“Every man is the artifex of his destiny”).

Karl Marx refers to this concept using the quote by Benjamin Franklin about "man as the tool-making animal" in his Das Kapital.

In anthropology, Homo faber (as "the working man") is confronted with "Homo ludens" (the "playing man," who is concerned with amusements, humor and leisure).

It can be also used in opposition or juxtaposition to "deus faber" (god the creator, the making god), an archetype of which are the various gods of the forge.

Homo faber is used by Pierre Schaeffer in the Traité des objets musicaux as the man creator of music, which uses its brute experience, an instinctive practice in music creation; Concluding that the Homo faber aways precedes the Homo sapiens in the process of creation.

Homo Faber is the title of an influential novel by the Swiss author Max Frisch, published in 1957. The book was made into the film Voyager, starring Sam Shepard and Julie Delpy.

The concept of Homo faber is referenced in Umberto Eco's Open Work: he refutes its negative connotation and instead argues that Homo faber is a manifestation of man's innate being in nature. Use of Homo faber in this negative light is argued by Eco to represent the alienation from and objectification of nature.


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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Homo faber" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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