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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index L > Julien Offray de La Mettrie Quotes

Julien Offray de La Mettrie
(1709 - 1751)

French physician and philosopher.

Science Quotes by Julien Offray de La Mettrie (3 quotes)

Break the chains of your prejudices and take up the torch of experience, and you will honour nature in the way she deserves, instead of drawing derogatory conclusions from the ignorance in which she has left you. Simply open your eyes and ignore what you cannot understand, and you will see that a labourer whose mind and knowledge extend no further than the edges of his furrow is no different essentially from the greatest genius, as would have been proved by dissecting the brains of Descartes and Newton; you will be convinced that the imbecile or the idiot are animals in human form, in the same way as the clever ape is a little man in another form; and that, since everything depends absolutely on differences in organisation, a well-constructed animal who has learnt astronomy can predict an eclipse, as he can predict recovery or death when his genius and good eyesight have benefited from some time at the school of Hippocrates and at patients' bedsides.
— Julien Offray de La Mettrie
Machine Man (1747), in Ann Thomson (ed.), Machine Man and Other Writings (1996), 38.
Science quotes on:  |  Ape (39)  |  Astronomy (175)  |  Death (270)  |  Renι Descartes (43)  |  Eclipse (16)  |  Experience (268)  |  Genius (186)  |  Hippocrates (49)  |  Idiot (14)  |  Ignorance (190)  |  Imbecile (4)  |  Knowledge (1128)  |  Mind (544)  |  Nature (1029)  |  Sir Isaac Newton (258)  |  Patient (116)  |  Prejudice (58)  |  Recovery (18)

Let him who so wishes take pleasure in boring us with all the wonders of nature: let one spend his life observing insects, another counting the tiny bones in the hearing membrane of certain fish, even in measuring, if you will, how far a flea can jump, not to mention so many other wretched objects of study; for myself, who am curious only about philosophy, who am sorry only not to be able to extend its horizons, active nature will always be my sole point of view; I love to see it from afar, in its breadth and its entirety, and not in specifics or in little details, which, although to some extent necessary in all the sciences, are generally the mark of little genius among those who devote themselves to them.
— Julien Offray de La Mettrie
'L'Homme Plante', in Oeuvres Philosophiques de La Mettrie (1796), Vol. 2, 70-1. Jacques Roger, The Life Sciences in Eighteenth-Century French Thought, edited by Keith R. Benson and trans. Robert Ellrich (1997), 377.
Science quotes on:  |  Bone (57)  |  Ear (21)  |  Flea (8)  |  Genius (186)  |  Insect (57)  |  Measurement (148)  |  Nature (1029)  |  Observation (418)  |  Philosophy (213)

We can see that there is only one substance in the universe and that man is the most perfect one. He is to the ape and the cleverest animals what Huygens's planetary clock is to one of Julien Leroy's watches. If it took more instruments, more cogs, more springs to show or tell the time, if it took Vaucanson more artistry to make his flautist than his duck, he would have needed even more to make a speaking machine, which can no longer be considered impossible, particularly at the hands of a new Prometheus. Thus, in the same way, nature needed more artistry and machinery to construct and maintain a machine which could continue for a whole century to tell all the beats of the heart and the mind; for we cannot tell the time from the pulse, it is at least the barometer of heat and liveliness, from which we can judge the nature of the soul.
— Julien Offray de La Mettrie
Machine Man (1747), in Ann Thomson (ed.), Machine Man and Other Writings (1996), 33-4.
Science quotes on:  |  Ape (39)  |  Clever (14)  |  Heart (110)  |  Christiaan Huygens (8)  |  Machine (133)  |  Man (345)  |  Prometheus (5)  |  Pulse (8)  |  Soul (139)  |  Universe (563)  |  Watch (39)


Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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