Man a Machine and Man a Plant by Julien Offray de La MettrieThe first modern translation of the complete texts of La Mettries pioneering LHomme machine and LHomme plante, first published in 1747 and 1748, respectively, this volume also includes translations of the advertisement and dedication to LHomme machine. Justin Leibers introduction illuminates the radical thinking and advocacy of the passionate La Mettrie and provides cogent analysis of La Mettries relationship to such important philosophical figures as Descartes, Malebranche, and Locke, and of his lasting influence on the development of materialism, cognitive studies, linguistics, and other areas of intellectual inquiry.
The Stand Up Philosophers
Note: This is one of a series of posts adapted from my new book, Darwin Day in America. You can find other posts in the series here. A key point of my book Darwin Day in America is that materialism did not begin or end with Charles Darwin. Those causes include everything from raw meat to heredity. Raw meat makes animals fierce, and it would have the same effect on man. This is so true that the English who eat meat red and bloody, and not as well done as ours, seem to share more or less in the savagery due to this kind of good.
It is not enough for a wise man to study nature and truth; he should dare state truth for the benefit of the few who are willing and able to think. As for the rest, who are voluntarily slaves of prejudice, they can no more attain truth, than frogs can fly. The first and older system is materialism; the second is spiritualism. The metaphysicians who have hinted that matter may well be endowed with the faculty of thought have perhaps not reasoned ill. For there is in this case a certain advantage in their inadequate way of expressing their meaning. In truth, to ask whether matter can think, without considering it otherwise than in itself, is like asking whether matter can tell time. It may be foreseen that we shall avoid this reef upon which Locke had the bad luck to shipwreck.
La Mettrie admired this idea of Descartes, but disagreed with its formula being that only animals were without souls, he thought Descartes mistaken as he says:. After such an important discovery, which implies so much wisdom, how can we, without ingratitude, pardon all his errors. Then finally, Machine Man was published at the end , but dated at with two further edition in the same year. This was a work of philosophy that unleashed widespread controversy at the time. The controversy came from the main premise of the work being the reformulating of the Cartesian animal-machine idea to man himself.
Categories of Philosophy
Man a Machine French: L'homme Machine is a work of materialist philosophy by the 18th-century French physician and philosopher Julien Offray de La Mettrie , first published in He denies existence of the soul as a substance separate from matter :.
As an enlightenment-era materialist, Julien Offray de la Mettrie believed that a physiological understanding of the body held more insights into the universe than philosophical musings about the soul ever could. After careful anatomical study, La Mettrie boldly concluded in Man a Machine that the entirety of nature is composed of one substance, varied among organisms. Each human being is a machine, like every other part of the natural world, driven by instinct and experience. Rightly anticipating a negative reaction from the public, La Mettrie published his ideas anonymously. A glance into science fiction reveals why materialism is so unnerving. Any spiritual definition of the soul is lost if we, like the rest of the universe, are purely matter-driven machines.