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The Hand

A Philosophical Inquiry into Human Being

Raymond Tallis


What are the origins of human difference? The Hand, which is the first part of a bold philosophical inquiry into the nature of the difference between human beings and other animals, argues that it is the result of a complex sequence of events which began several million years ago with the evolution of the human hand.

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1 Grasping the Hand
1.1 Preliminary Grapplings
1.2 The Manipulative Hand
1.3 The Knowing Hand
1.4 The Communicative Hand
1.5 From Prehension to Apprehension
Part I Brachio-Chiral
2 The Armed Hand
2.1 Two Fingers to Over-digitisation
2.2 The Genius of Reaching
2.3 Mechanism and Agency
3 The Talking Hand
3.1 Introduction: The Sign-making Animal
3.2 Gesturing
3.3 Clapping and Other Hand Shouting
3.4 Handsome
4 Hand Talking to Hand
4.1 Manucaption
4.2 The Dialogue of the Left Hand with the Right
4.3 The Interlocutors
4.4 The Hand Talking to its Self or the Self
5 The Playful Hand
5.1 Introduction
5.2 The Carnal Hand
5.3 Hand Games
5.4 Post-script: Handy (like)
Part II Chiro-Digital
6 One-finger Exercises
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Thumb
6.3 Index
6.4 Middle
6.5 Ring
6.6 Little
7 Polydactylic Exercises
7.1 Introduction: The Ordeal of Precision
7.2 Two Fingers
7.3 Three Fingers
7.4 Four Fingers
7.5 Five Fingers
7.6 Ten Fingers
8 Abstract Digits
8.1 Introduction and Disclaimer
8.2 The Number Sense: From Magnitudes to Digits
8.3 Digits and Digits
8.4 Units: From Counting to Measurement
8.5 The Unreasonable Power of the Precision of Abstract Digits
9The Tool of Tools
9.1 Prologue: The Self-shaping Hand
9.2 Tool-using, Tool-making and the Tool of Tools
9.3 Tools and the Origin of Human Culture
9.4 Eolith and SuperCray
9.5 Tools and Language
9.6 Brain, Tools and Language
9.7 Beyond Biology and Biologism
9.8 Epilogue: Handicraft
Appendix: Karl Marx and the Collectivisation of
Human Consciousness in Tools
Part III Towards Chiro-Philosophy
10 Getting and Grip on the Conscious Human Agent
10.1 Recapitulation
10.2 The Dawn of the Conscious Human Agent
10.3 From Biology to Philosophical Anthropology
11 Waving Farewell to the Hand
11.1 Introduction
11.2 The Paradox of Handyman: (1) Part of
and Separate from Nature
11.3 The Paradox of the Handyman: (2) Subject to and Yet Manipulating Nature's Laws
11.4 The Balance Sheet: (1) Knowledge. Does the Hand Grasp the Truth?
11.5 The Balance Sheet: (2) Moral and Spiritual
11.6 Handing On
11.7 A Last Wave Farewell

About the Author

Raymond Tallis is Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Manchester and Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. Over the last 15 years he has published extensively outside the field of medicine. There have been three books which mount a critique of post-structuralist theory: Not Saussure: A Critique of Post-saussurean Literary Theory (Macmillan, 2nd edn, 1995), In Defence of Realism (Arnold & University of Nebraska Press, 2nd edn, 1998) and Theorrhoea and After (Macmillan, 1998). He has also published four books in the philosophy of mind: The Explicit Animal: A Defence of Human Consciousness (Macmillan, 1991), The Pursuit of Mind (co-edited with Howard Robinson, Carcanet, 1991), Psycho Electronics (Ferrington, 1994) and On the Edge of Certainty and Other Essays (Macmillan, 1999). Further books include Newton's Sleep: The Two Cultures and the Two Kingdoms (Macmillan, 1995), Enemies of Hope: A Critique of Contemporary Pessimism (Macmillan, 1997) and A Conversation with Martin Heidegger (Macmillan (Palgrave), 2002). An anthology of his theoretical writing - The Raymond Tallis Reader, edited by Michael Grant - was published by Macmillan (Palgrave) in 2000. He was awarded the degree of Doctor of Letters (hon causa) at the University of Hull in 1997 for his non-medical writings and the degree of Doctor of Letters (hon causa) at the University of Manchester in 2003 for 'contributions to literary theory and our understanding of human consciousness’. The Knowing Animal is the final volume in the trilogy of books for EUP which began with The Hand and continued with I Am.


Compellingly interesting … An extraordinary achievement.
- Michael Grant, editor of The Raymond Tallis Reader
It's hard to imagine any other book that could tell us so much about ourselves.
Tallis conjures up a challenging and endlessly fascinating way of thinking about ourselves that should act as a signpost for the future where we might learn once again to glimpse, as our forebears did, the wonder - and mystery - of ourselves.
Raymond Tallis is a man unusual in modern medicine. His career has been devoted to caring for, studying, and advancing the health of older people in society. But while working as a Professor of Geriatric medicine at the University of Manchester, he has developed a parallel career - as a philosopher, critic, poet and novelist - largely unknown to his clinical brotherhood and sisterhood. Indeed, important though his medical work has been, it is likely that his philosophy, and especially his philosophical anthropology will leave a particularly indelible mark on human affairs.
- Richard Horton
One of the most intriguing figures in the current intellectual scene.