<history of philosophy, biography> French physician and philosopher (1709-1751) who offered a materialistic account of human nature. Rejecting Cartesian dualism, La Mettrie explained mental activity by reference to physiology in Histoire naturelle de l'íme (Natural History of the Soul) (1745) and then explained physiology in purely mechanistic terms in his L'homme machine (Man a Machine) (1747). On this view, human conduct inevitably flows from physical causes, leaving no grounds for free will or moral responsibility. The Cartesians were correct when they regarded all animal behavior as emerging from soulless machines, La Mettrie maintained, but the same explanation will also account for human behavior. Recommended Reading: Julien Offray de La Mettrie, Machine Man and Other Writings, ed. by Ann Thomson (Cambridge, 1996).
[A Dictionary of Philosophical Terms and Names]
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