Zur Infinitisierung der Automaten: Descartes und Leibniz

In J. Soering & R. Sorgg (eds.), Die Androiden: Zur Poetologie der Automaten. Francfort: P. Lang. pp. p.85-98. (1997)
Daniel Schulthess
Université de Neuchâtel
The article compares Descartes’ and Leibniz’ use of the concept of a machine. For Descartes, the activity of the engineers rises to become the model for the scientific enterprise: one proceeds from the simple and the familiar to explain the complex. In this way one can escape the sheer astonishment about the complexity of the machines and their effects. This mechanical model is extended also to the explanation of the living beings. Also Leibniz regards living beings as machines. The difference between living and inanimate machines is that in the case of the former their parts are machine-like all the way down, to the infinite. Another peculiarity of the living machines is their infinite convolution that allows them to maintain their individual identity over time. The author also points to the self-similar character of the folds.
Keywords Descartes  Leibniz  machines  automats  mechanical philosophy  scientific revolution  complexity
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