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From La Mettrie's voluptuous machine man to the perverse core of psychology

Jan De Vos (UGent)
(2011) THEORY & PSYCHOLOGY. 21(1). p.67-85
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Abstract
Julien Offray de La Mettrie (1709—1751) solved the problem of Cartesian dualism by denying the res cogitans any substance as such. He thus provided science with a basic paradigm which is still respected today. For La Mettrie, all aspects of the soul have to be considered as aspects of the res extensa: man is a machine. However, the emptying of the res cogito is not without a remainder. A zero level of subjectivity is left behind. This paper argues that it is through this remainder that modern subjectivity is structurally linked to the academic and, moreover, psychological gaze. It is further argued that the paradoxes of this modern stance are what prompt La Mettrie to put forward his voluptuous subject, his attempt to escape the abyss of the zero level of subjectivity. In this way, La Mettrie’s naturalized and scientific hedonism contains the germs of Marquis de Sade’s appropriation of the Enlightenment project. Hence this paper attempts to explore the extent to which La Mettrie’s L’homme machine, a key text in 18th-century materialism, has led to a perverse disposition in the modern psy-sciences.
Keywords
psychoanalysis, psychologization, La Mettrie, Sade, zero level of subjectivity

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Chicago
De Vos, Jan. 2011. “From La Mettrie’s Voluptuous Machine Man to the Perverse Core of Psychology.” Theory & Psychology 21 (1): 67–85.
APA
De Vos, Jan. (2011). From La Mettrie’s voluptuous machine man to the perverse core of psychology. THEORY & PSYCHOLOGY, 21(1), 67–85.
Vancouver
1.
De Vos J. From La Mettrie’s voluptuous machine man to the perverse core of psychology. THEORY & PSYCHOLOGY. 2011;21(1):67–85.
MLA
De Vos, Jan. “From La Mettrie’s Voluptuous Machine Man to the Perverse Core of Psychology.” THEORY & PSYCHOLOGY 21.1 (2011): 67–85. Print.
@article{1148221,
  abstract     = {Julien Offray de La Mettrie (1709---1751) solved the problem of Cartesian dualism by denying the res cogitans any substance as such. He thus provided science with a basic paradigm which is still respected today. For La Mettrie, all aspects of the soul have to be considered as aspects of the res extensa: man is a machine. However, the emptying of the res cogito is not without a remainder. A zero level of subjectivity is left behind. This paper argues that it is through this remainder that modern subjectivity is structurally linked to the academic and, moreover, psychological gaze. It is further argued that the paradoxes of this modern stance are what prompt La Mettrie to put forward his voluptuous subject, his attempt to escape the abyss of the zero level of subjectivity. In this way, La Mettrie{\textquoteright}s naturalized and scientific hedonism contains the germs of Marquis de Sade{\textquoteright}s appropriation of the Enlightenment project. Hence this paper attempts to explore the extent to which La Mettrie{\textquoteright}s L{\textquoteright}homme machine, a key text in 18th-century materialism, has led to a perverse disposition in the modern psy-sciences.},
  author       = {De Vos, Jan},
  issn         = {0959-3543},
  journal      = {THEORY \& PSYCHOLOGY},
  keyword      = {psychoanalysis,psychologization,La Mettrie,Sade,zero level of subjectivity},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {1},
  pages        = {67--85},
  title        = {From La Mettrie's voluptuous machine man to the perverse core of psychology},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0959354309358120},
  volume       = {21},
  year         = {2011},
}

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