“Man-Machines and Embodiment: From Cartesian Physiology to Claude Bernard’s ‘Living Machine’”

In Justin E. H. Smith (ed.), Embodiment, Oxford Philosophical Concepts. Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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Abstract

A common and enduring early modern intuition is that materialists reduce organisms in general and human beings in particular to automata. Wasn’t a famous book of the time entitled L’Homme-Machine? In fact, the machine is employed as an analogy, and there was a specifically materialist form of embodiment, in which the body is not reduced to an inanimate machine, but is conceived as an affective, flesh-and-blood entity. We discuss how mechanist and vitalist models of organism exist in a more complementary relation than hitherto imagined, with conceptions of embodiment resulting from experimental physiology. From La Mettrie to Bernard, mechanism, body and embodiment are constantly overlapping, modifying and overdetermining one another; embodiment came to be scientifically addressed under the successive figures of vie organique and then milieu intérieur, thereby overcoming the often lamented divide between scientific image and living experience.

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Charles T. Wolfe
Université de Toulouse Jean-Jaurès

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References found in this work

Descartes on Thinking with the Body.Amelie Oksenberg Rorty - 1992 - In John Cottingham (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Descartes. Cambridge University Press.
Spongy Brains and Material Memories.John Sutton - 2007 - In Mary Floyd-Wilson & Garrett Sullivan (eds.), Embodiment and Environment in Early Modern England. Palgrave.
The Body and the Brain.John Sutton - 2000 - In S. Gaukroger, J. Schuster & J. Sutton (eds.), Descartes' Natural Philosophy. Routledge. pp. 697--722.
Descartes and the Dissolution of Life.Barnaby R. Hutchins - 2016 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 54 (2):155-173.

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