STONE project.

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5 Experience, Tools and Thoughts

The bond that can be established with material is an intimate one. Over and over again artists and craftsmen will use surprisingly similar expressions. They say that a material ‘speaks’ to them, or even that a specific stone or other material seems to ‘choose’ them. Frequently craftsmen say that they are able to ‘think’ like their material.


Head Carver Perumal Sthapti refining the facial details of a Hindu goddess in black granite.  Ganapati Sthapati workshop, Mamallalapuram, IndiaHead Carver Perumal Sthapti refining the facial details of a Hindu goddess in black granite.   A mason in the York Minster Cathedral Workshop carves an intricate architectural restoration stone in locally quarried limestone. York, England


The extremely practical world of the craftsman is alive with residual animistic qualities. The craftsman recognizes that within him there is a listener who hears the message and then responds. People are cautioned against reading inappropriate emotions into an inanimate world, but what is inappropriate?  The link with material is so intense that to describe it as neutral stuff seems inaccurate.  Very similar phrases keep appearing, probably because there is an exact experience that cannot be accurately portrayed in mechanistic terms.

There has always been difficulty in deciding exactly what ‘mind’ is. For the functioning craftsman it may not matter. Even when mind is not defined it is able to steer the results.  The craftsman proceeds with an unacknowledged assumption that whatever is at work, it is something broader than what can be encompassed by how the word is commonly used. Perhaps there is a hint of Panpsychism here; the school of thought that proposes that ‘mind’ may be found in areas that are usually considered to be insensate or inanimate.

The themes raised by STONE project seem to be right in the middle of questions about the interaction of tool, craftsman, and material.  A project that focuses on tool use (like STONE project) inevitably has to consider intention and subtleties of use.  If we include the related issue of tactility (another area of interest identified in STONE project) it unites all the issues of input and information gathering.   And if we want to look at tacit skills (again an issue in STONE project) we have to explore whether awareness as it is commonly understood is required for effective action. Culture may be the supreme tacit construction, but a subset of this immense subject is the world of tools, skill, craft and education.  Some aspect of tool use appears in any part of nature that is used and not just observed.

There is still much to be explored in the relationship between tools and thought.  Many thinkers have considered and concluded that place has an effect on thought. If this is so then action must have even more influence on thought than does place, and also offers a wider means of egress. Tools shape thoughts not unlike material by creating a morphic space within which the imagination can work. Tools are also a means of focus.  All forms of focus are amplifications and intensifications. Tools both amplify and condense, often at the same time.  They concentrate energy into a smaller area to expand its reach.

If specific tools function within specific forms it is likely that some things can only happen under the influence of these character-transferring tools. Tools shape the world, but they also give shape to our experience much like a belief system. This can be seen in action. Because the computer’s effects on human beings has happened over such a short time its effects can be seen more clearly than if it had taken generations. A computer is just a tool.  We can take computers to be representative of what tools do in general.  Tools do more than just shape our thoughts; they shape the very process of thinking.

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