Julien Offray de La Mettrie (Author of Man A Machine)Julien Offray de La Mettrie (December 25, 1709 - November 11, 1751) was a French physician and philosopher, the earliest of the French materialist school from the Enlightenment. He has been claimed as a founder of cognitive science.
He was born at Saint-Malo. After studying theology in the Jansenist schools for some years, he suddenly decided to adopt the profession of medicine. In 1733 he went to Leiden to study under Boerhaave, and in 1742 returned to Paris, where he obtained the appointment of surgeon to the guards. During an attack of fever he made observations on himself with reference to the action of quickened circulation upon thought, which led him to the conclusion that physical phenomena were to be accounted for as the effects of organic changes in the brain and nervous system. This conclusion he worked out in his earliest philosophical work, the Histoire naturelle de lâme (1745). So great was the outcry caused by its publication that La Mettrie was forced to take refuge in Leiden, where he developed his doctrines still more boldly and completely, and with great originality, in LHomme machine (Eng. trans., London, 1750; ed. with introd. and notes, J. Asszat, 1865), and LHomme plante, treatises based upon principles of the most consistently materialistic. The ethics of these principles were worked out in Discours sur le bonheur, La Volupté, and LArt de jouir, in which the end of life is found in the pleasures of the senses, and virtue is reduced to self-love. Atheism is the only means of ensuring the happiness of the world, which has been rendered impossible by the wars brought about by theologians, under the excuse of an inexistent soul. When death comes, the farce is over (la farce est jouée), therefore let us take our pleasure while we can. La Mettrie has been called the Aristippus of modern materialism. So strong was the feeling against him that in 1748 he was compelled to quit the Netherlands for Berlin, where Frederick the Great not only allowed him to practise as a physician, but appointed him court reader. There La Mettrie wrote his major book Discours sur le bonheur (1748), which caused the ban by leading enlightenment thinkers as Voltaire, Diderot, DHolbach. His collected Oeuvres philosophiques appeared after his death in several editions, published in London, Berlin and Amsterdam respectively.
La Mettries celebration of sensual pleasure was said to have resulted in his early death. Those who disagreed with La Mettries philosophy used his death to claim that atheistic sensuality justifiably results in an untimely demise.
The French ambassador Tirconnel was very grateful to La Mettrie for curing him of an illness. A feast was given to celebrate the recovery. It is claimed that La Mettrie wanted to show either his power of gluttony or his strong constitution by devouring a large quantity of pâte aux truffes. As a result, he developed a fever, became delirious, and died.
Frederick the Great gave the funeral oration. He declared, La Mettrie died in the house of Milord Tirconnel, the French plenipotentiary, whom he had restored to life. It seems that the disease, knowing with whom it had to deal, was cunning enough to attack him first by the brain, in order to destroy him the more surely. A violent fever with fierce delirium came on. The invalid was obliged to have recourse to the science of his colleagues, but he failed to find the succor that his own skill had so often afforded as well to himself as to the public. However, in a confidential letter to the Markgräfin von Bayreuth, Frederick wrote, He was merry, a good devil, a good doctor, and a very bad author. By not reading his books, one can be very content. He then mentioned that La Mettrie had indigestion from the pheasant paste. The reason of his early death has never been disclosed. He was survived by a 5 year old daughter and his wife.
La filosofia de Julien Offray de La Mettrie
Julien Offray de La Mettrie Facts
The French physician and philosopher Julien Offrayde La Mettrie is best known for his "Man a Machine," an incisive and witty exposition of his theory of the dependence of mind on body. Intended for the priesthood, he studied humanities at Coutances, rhetoric at Caen, and logic at the College of Plessis in Paris. At 15 he wrote an apologetic work on Jansenism. But this theological interest was short-lived, and in La Mettrie began 2 years of natural philosophy at the College of Harcourt. He received his degree in medicine at Rheims in and for the next 5 years practiced medicine in his native city. In La Mettrie went to Leiden to study with the reknowned philosopher and physician Hermann Boerhaave. Soon La Mettrie was translating Boerhaave's works and adding his own observations—including treatises on venereal disease, vertigo, smallpox, and practical medicine and a six-volume commentary on Boerhaave's writings.
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.
He next went to Leiden to complete his training under the celebrated Dr. Hermann Boerhaave, whose iatromechanist doctrines were to have a decisive influence on his orientation in the philosophical, no less than in the medical, domain. Back in Saint-Malo as a practicing physician, La Mettrie undertook to popularize Boerhaave's teachings by translating into French a number of the latter's principal works.
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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Julien Offray de La Mettrie
He is best known for his work L'homme machine Machine Man. La Mettrie was born at Saint-Malo in Brittany on November 23, , and was the son of a prosperous textile merchant. His initial schooling took place in the colleges of Coutances and Caen. In , La Mettrie entered the College d'Harcourt to study philosophy and natural science, probably graduating around At this time, D'Harcourt was pioneering the teaching of Cartesianism in France. It was under Boerhaave that La Mettrie was influenced to try to bring changes to medical education in France. After his studies at D'Harcourt, La Mettrie decided to take up the profession of medicine.
He completed his training after another year at Leiden under the renowned Hermann Boerhaave, whose influence on him was decisive. From on, La Mettrie practiced medicine in the Saint-Malo district. Toward the end of , however, he left abruptly for Paris and soon thereafter embarked on the adventurous and harried career that lasted until his death. Between and he served as an army doctor in the War of the Austrian Succession. Its author, now regarded by the public as the most daring and dangerous of the Philosophes, was forced to flee again, this time to the court of Frederick II of Prussia, where he was appointed a member of the Royal Academy of Sceiences, as well as reader and physician to the king.
Julien Offroy de La Mettrie , born Dec. La Mettrie obtained a medical degree at Reims, studied medicine in Leiden under Hermann Boerhaave some of whose works he translated into French , and served as surgeon to the French military. A personal illness convinced him that psychic phenomena were directly related to organic changes in the brain and nervous system. The book was burned by the public hangman. He was then forced to leave Holland but was welcomed in Berlin by Frederick the Great , made court reader, and appointed to the academy of science. His collected works, Oeuvres philosophiques , were published in , and selections were edited by Marcelle Tisserand in Julien Offroy de La Mettrie.