Julien Offray de La Mettrie was one of the earliest French Enlightenment materialists. Exiled from France after publishing a book (A Natural History of the Soul) arguing that psychical phenomena could be explained by examining bodily processes, he wrote L'Homme Machine, the most radical thesis of biological mechanism produced by a French Enlightenment thinker at the time. Translated as Man A Machine or Machine Man, the book is both, following Descartes, a genuine attempt to explain bodily and mental processes on the model of machines and a deliberately provocative work, a polemic that closes, something like Lucretius' On the Nature of Things, by drawing ethical consequences from universal mechanism. The authority to discuss ethics or philosophical anthropology, he argues, belongs exclusively to physiologists.
Edited and Translated by Ann Thomson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
de La Mettrie, Julien Offray, “Man a Machine,” Legacies of the Enlightenment, accessed March 5, 2024, http://enlightenmentlegacies.org/items/show/82.