Happy #WisdomWednesday! We are excited to share this week’s title from our Classics of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Library. Man a Machine is a view point on materialistic philosophy by French philosopher and physician Julien Offray De La Mettrie. Get this beautiful edition for your library today, only a limited supply left in stock!

Julien Offray De La Mettrie, respected French physician of his time, created a scandal in the mid-eighteenth century based on his viewpoints of materialistic philosophy. Humans though a highly complex living machine, behave automatically according to La Mettrie. He notes that physical phenomena, consciousness, emotion, will, memory, and moral sense are ultimately determined by physical mechanistic factors.

La Mettrie held that the contrasts between humans and other mammals are simply a matter of varying brain structures: “Man is not moulded from a costlier clay; nature has used but one dough, and has merely varied the leaven.”

When Man a Machine was published in 1748 in Leiden it created quite the stir due to the fact that this was a time of intellectual verve and the application of reason to all facets of life. This work was so outspoken to some that it caused La Mettrie to have to flee the country. This was the second time he had to flee due to his writings on materialistic philosophy; the first was after he had published The Natural History of the Soul in 1745. He eventually found refuge in Berlin from his friend Frederick II of Prussia, becoming the court reader and physician to the king.

La Mettrie’s work had an impact on behavioral science, creating a footing for behaviorist psychology as well as modern materialism.

(Gryphon Editions Classics of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences Library, 1993)


Julien Offray De La Mettrie (1709-1751)

La Mettrie

La Mettrie was born December 25th, 1709 in Saint-Malo France, and later died on November 11th, 1751 in Berlin. He was an esteemed physician and philosopher. He started out studying medicine and getting his medical degree at Reims under the instruction of Hermann Boerhaave. La Mettrie later became a surgeon in the French Military. During this time La Mettrie published the work “The Natural History of the Soul” in 1745 where he first expounded his thoughts on materialistic philosophy. This was condemned by the parliament in Paris, thus causing him to flee, where he ended up in Holland. This caused great ridicule of the French medical profession. La Mettrie simply created new enemies only four years later when he then published “Man a Machine” in 1748, thus causing him to flee again. Though his published works at the time were met with mockery and scorn La Mettrie’s understanding of psychic phenomena created an important basis for modern materialism.


To learn more about Le Mettrie and other famous philosophers visit the Encyclopedia Britannica website. If you are interested in learning more about this book and others in our Classics of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences Library click here!



Encyclopedia Britannica (2017). Julien Offroy de La Mettrie: French Physician and Philosopher. Retrieved from

Gryphon Editions (1993) Classics of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences Library: Man a Machine. Delran, New Jersey: Gryphon Editions.


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