|Hans Haacke (source)|
In a famous critique, the British philosopher, Gilbert Ryle described René Descartes’ mind-body dualism as committed to a “ghost in the machine.” Descartes claimed that the mind is a non-physical substance that somehow controls the body and lives on after it’s death. Ryle was not convinced, and he lampoons the Frenchman for these supernatural beliefs. But the critique is only half right, because Descartes was also instrumental in pushing for the then controversial view that bodies are machines, and it was a small step from a mechanical view of bodies to a mechanical view of minds. Descartes interest in machines ran deep, and he even dabbled in the construction of automata. Toward the end of his life, it is said that he used clock parts to construct an automaton resembling a young girl, which he referred to as his daughter and hefted around in a suitcase. According to legend, it was discovered by sailors, while Descartes was en route to Sweden, and they were so horrified by the like-like movements of this mechanical child that they cast her into the sea. Whether true or not, one can credit Descartes as a pioneer in the effort to explain human behavior in mechanical terms. A century later, this idea was taken up by the physician-philosopher, Julien la Mettrie, who penned L’Homme Machine, arguing that human beings are machines and nothing more.
|The automaton in Philippe Parreno’s The Writer (source)|
The relationship between mind, bodies, and machines has also been a theme in art. This is the theme of an exhibition at the New Museum, which is closing in ten days. The show is admittedly a bit of a mess. It is an unholy amalgam of pop, op, and outsider art, that always seems to be chasing a few feet behind it’s theme. It’s not always obvious why certain works are included in a show that concerns the human-machine relationship (Vasarely is surely a stretch), and some of the included works are, well, bad. I won’t name names….Read the rest on Prinz’ new website.
|A Paolozzi still (source)|
Posted to Artbouillon by Jesse Prinz
Read the rest on Prinz’ new website.