Hajo Greif (2022). Likeness-Making and the Evolution of Cognition. Biology & Philosophy 37 (2022): Article 1 (online). Open Access. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10539-021-09830-1.
Abstract: Paleontological evidence suggests that human artefacts with intentional markings might have originated already in the Lower Paleolithic, up to 500.000 years ago and well before the advent of ‘behavioural modernity’. These markings apparently did not serve instrumental, tool-like functions, nor do they appear to be forms of figurative art. Instead, they display abstract geometric patterns that potentially testify to an emerging ability of symbol use. In a variation on Ian Hacking’s speculative account of the possible role of “likeness-making” in the evolution of human cognition and language, this essay explores the central role that the embodied processes of making and the collective practices of using such artefacts might have played in early human cognitive evolution. Two paradigmatic findings of Lower Paleolithic artefacts are discussed as tentative evidence of likenesses acting as material scaffolds in the emergence of symbolic reference-making. They might provide the link between basic abilities of mimesis and imitation and the development of modern language and thought.
Acknowledgements: The (already temporally distant) foundations for this work were laid in my Austrian Science Fund (FWF) grant J3448-G15. A first version of this paper was presented at the 3rd International Avant-Conference 2017 in Lublin, Poland. I thank the organiser, Marcin Trybulec, for encouragement back then, and Peter Gärdenfors, Anton Killin, Kim Sterelny and Jörg Wernecke for helpful comments and practical suggestions later on.