A tool is everything that has the feature of being useful, according to opinions expressed within the field of philosophy. For anthropology, the tool constitutes a fundamental item of material culture in any human society. The utility of the tool is of necessity defined in a dual manner: at the objective level, as utility with a purpose in view; at the subjective level, utility for someone who, in general, specifies the purpose or objective to be attained and the tool acts as the means or instrument to achieve this. As such, it can easily be considered that the tool is per se devoid of value, and only possesses a secondary value, with which it is endowed due to a purpose external to and independent of itself and it is difficult to recognise any form of independence of autonomy with regard to the user or the purpose specified for it.
It is not so, and never really has been so. The tool was never a mere inert instrument devoid of meaning, made by humans to satisfy their goals and achieve their humanity, although it certainly is in part. Indeed on the contrary, the tool has also shaped the humans we have become throughout time, as well as, in addition to this, always being linked to the creation of meaning. That is, the tool has never been inert and silent and humans live immersed in a world with a set of objects endowed with meaning. According to Leroi-Gourhan, the author who has perhaps gone furthest in clarifying the role of craftsmanship in the evolution which resulted in the Homo Sapiens Sapiens species which we currently are, the distancing expressed both in the separation of the tool with regard to the hand, and the separation of the word with regard to the object, is also expressed in the distancing which society has assumed regarding its zoological group. Furthermore, according to that author, all human evolution is aimed at placing to one side that which corresponds to specific adaptation in the rest of the animal kingdom. In this perspective, humans who manufacture tools are less well adapted than other living beings, and are able to be so precisely to the extent that they adapt nature to themselves. This adaptation is expressed through language itself, without which it would be impossible to have the experience we do of being in the world which, correctly, appears to us as a fruit of the transformation of the real carried out by it. In this regard, Leroi-Gourhan tells us that if the most flagrant material fact is undoubtedly the freeing of the tool, it is certainly the case that the fundamental fact is the freeing of the verb, to possess a singular property made use of by humans, which is the possibility of locating their memory outside themselves, within the social organism. Or that is, if the tool to some extent exteriorises human ability in some way, not just limiting itself to extending it, but rather creating an autonomy where tools attain an extreme state of sophistication and indeed autonomy with regard to their users, as is the case with the computer. Language has arisen as the super-tool which stores and processes the collective memory indispensable for the building of these very tools. It is as if the tool were to "speak" and if language was, as it indeed is, a fundamental tool in the transformation of nature and the animal in humans.
In fact we know nowadays that the stone tools, the lithic industry, was already present, at least amongst the Australopithecine, who had still not definitively adopted an upright posture and even less acquired language such as we consider it in present-day human beings. Our pre-human ancestors were equally constructed by the tools they made. In our making them, they were also made by them in equal measure. The hominids were becoming the humans which we are today just as the tool, used to act upon natural phenomena in such a way as to satisfy needs, has been transformed from a technical means into the technical environment in which we nowadays find ourselves immersed to the point of it having become omnipresent. This means that our relationship with reality is technically mediated in such a manner that is impossible to avoid or ignore.
We can verify that some animal species, namely primates, occasionally make use of objects which they collect from within their environment (wood sticks, for example) to use as tools. However, this only superficially appears to be use of real tools. A tool is only considered as such if it itself was the result of a transformation from a naturally functioning object based on the purpose it is used for, and that is the radical difference between the most bumbling Palaeolithic coup-de-poing from the stick which some monkeys use to collect some insects to put in their den to serve as part of their daily diet. The tool is not only artificial in itself, but also its subsequent usage, which in time serves to transform the natural environment into an artificial environment. And it is this sense that we cannot oppose the human body, as something natural, against the tool, as being absolute artificiality, and that the use of tools, from which have sprung abundant evidence concerning the times in which human beings such as ourselves nowadays did not exist, is not to be correlated to our own humanity, but rather it is humanity which is inextricably linked to their use and coexists alongside them. In other words, the humanity of the beings that we are is also ensured by craftsmanship and the tool does not constitute a mere extension or a simple prosthesis of a person who already was fully and definitively formed. It is the case that the tool autonomised its function relative to the body, the animalness, in such a way that what we do with it is something which our own body would be incapable of doing by itself. It is for this reason that the tool has not limited itself to universally enlarging the capacity of the body, but rather this has evolved in such a way that henceforth the body has entirely depended on it as a condition of its own survival. It is just that we have become independent of nature in the exact same manner in which we have become dependent on the super-tool which is the technical environment itself. It has formed our second nature, or, rather, our ecological niche, which we have created by ourselves. And as such we cannot forego it without putting our existence into question. Our ancestors from Vale do Côa knew this well: that we are no freer from our own dependencies than they were from theirs. And in this regard, we have also discovered that we along with them are one and the same humanity.