Ludwig Noiré – a forgotten classic of activity theory



In two lectures of 1935 (quoted as A.N. Leont’ev 2006a, 2006c), Leontiev draws on the “Hartig law“ in order to explain his understanding of the development of word meanings. Further investigation of what it is about with this “law” leads to the German philosophical author Ludwig Noiré (1829-1889) and his book The Tool and its Relevance to the Developmental History of Humanity, published in 1880 (Russian translation in 1925). Thorough reading reveals that Leontiev not only adopted from Noiré the analogy of the development of word meanings with the development of tools, which is based upon the “law of alteration in the use of tools,” but rather that his entire approach was deeply influenced by Noiré’s original conceptions and their focus on the principle of activity. Hence the question arises why Noiré (whom G.V. Plekhanov, in his Basic Problems of Marxism, even celebrated as a crypto-Marxist) has neither in 1935 nor in later texts ever been mentioned by Leontiev.

General Information

Keywords: speech and language, the origins of language, Hartig’s law, communication, connections between language and activity, industrial tools, development of industrial power in a community context, development of word meanings, Marxism, Ludwig Noiré

Article type: scientific article

For citation: Keiler P. Ludwig Noiré – a forgotten classic of activity theory [Elektronnyi resurs]. Tätigkeitstheorie: E-Journal for Activity Theoretical Research in Germany, 2010. no. 2, pp. 43–66.

Information About the Authors

Peter Keiler, Doctor of Psychology, Professor, Sub-Department of Psychology, Department of Educational Sciences and Psychology, Free University of Berlin, Berlin, Germany, e-mail:



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