Homo faber

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Homo faber (Latin for "Man the Maker") is the concept that human beings are able to control their fate and their environment as a result of the use of tools.

Original phrase[edit]

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

In older anthropological discussions, Homo faber, as the "working man", is confronted with Homo ludens, the "playing man", who is concerned with amusements, humor, and leisure. It is also used in George Kubler's book, The Shape of Time as a reference to individuals who create works of art.[1]

Modern usage[edit]

The classic homo faber suae quisque fortunae was "rediscovered" by humanists in 14th century and was central in the Italian Renaissance.

In the 20th century, Max Scheler and Hannah Arendt made the philosophical concept central again.

Henri Bergson also referred to the concept in 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."

Homo Faber is the title of an influential novel by the Swiss author Max Frisch, published in 1957.

Other contemporary era mentions[edit]

Homo faber can be also used in opposition or juxtaposition to deus faber ("God the Creator"), an archetype of which are the various gods of the forge.

Homo faber is used by Pierre Schaeffer in the Traité des objects 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.

Frisch' book was made into the film Voyager, starring Sam Shepard and Julie Delpy.

Homo Faber was one of the five International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme areas of interaction, before it was replaced with "Human Ingenuity".

The concept of homo faber is referenced in Umberto Eco's "Open Work". Eco 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.

"Homo Faber" is also the title of a short poem by Frank Bidart that is included in his collection Desire (1997).

Homo faber is often placed in juxtaposition to homo adorans, the worshiping man. In other words, under traditional Judeo-Christian philosophy, the ultimate purpose of humankind is to worship God, whereas, under (for example) Marxist or Capitalist ideology, the purpose of humankind was embedded in what he or she can make or produce.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (Kubler 1962, p. 10)


  • Kubler, George (1962). The shape of time : Remarks on the History of Things. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]