The Android and the Machine: Materialism, Mechanicism, and Industrialism in the Early and Late Modern Ages


The trope of the “man-machine” and its material manifestation–the mechanical android–have seemingly been able to focus forcefully and effortlessly across early-modern and modern periods such diverse issues as the matter/spirit dualism, anxieties about the mechanical nature of the human body and soul, and rapid industrialization. This essay explores the man-machine’s allegorical powers and its traversing of distinct periods in the history of technology by analyzing the journey that Enlightenment and other automata took from their origins in the ancient period through the Cold War. I suggest that our ideas about the relationship between mechanistic philosophy and mechanical artisanship correlate with our methodological and epistemic commitments, such as intellectual history, Marxist social history, or internalism and externalism, and also with our political positions about how people relate to, and govern, each other.

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