Raymond Tallis' `The Hand: A Philosophical Inquiry Into Human Being' is a genius work of philosophical anthropology. The first of a trilogy I definitely want to complete; it outlines Tallis' thesis that human agency and human selfhood (both distinct from anything experienced by any other animal) developed because of the evolutionarily formed human hand. This is not, Tallis' stresses, just another case of reductionist Biologism, Evolutionary Psychology or Sociobiology popularised most recently by Richard Dawkins and his extension of the Gene-centered view of evolution to a Meme-centered view of sociology. Rather, Tallis attempts to show how humans came to be distinct from all other animals not just be degree but by kind; that humans, as handkind, are utterly unique.
In doing this Tallis offers powerful critiques against those who try and dismiss the significance of Human Being; from Hegelian Marxians to Sociobiologists and from the Romantics to the Postmodernists. He vehemently attacks what he describes as `Arcadian fantasies of a pre-technological past.' (p.333) and argues that the relative merit of technological development that stems from the hand has yet to be determined, but that anti-technological theories offer no valid alternative beyond romanticised myths. Most crucially Tallis hypothesises an optimistic future for Handkind; a refreshing vision of possible hope amidst an intellectual climate of despair and misanthropy.
This book is an excellent celebration of the hand and Handkind.