The Enlightenment Cyborg

The Enlightenment Cyborg: A History of Communications and Control in the Human Machine, 1660-1830

ALLISON MURI
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442684904
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  • Book Info
    The Enlightenment Cyborg
    Book Description:

    The Enlightenment Cyborgestablishes a dialogue between eighteenth-century studies and cyborg art and theory, and makes a significant and original contribution to both of these fields of inquiry.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8490-4
    Subjects: Sociology, Technology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-31)

    This book is best begun with a caveat: there is no such thing as the Enlightenment cyborg.

    To imagine the twentieth-century cybernetic organism in terms of a period encompassing the years 1660 to 1830 could seem anachronistic to say the least. From any perspective the man-machine of the Enlightenment, a relatively short-lived figure in early modern philosophy and medicine, bears no resemblance to the physical reconstruction of the human form possible today, or to the imagined monsters of flesh, metal, and electronic circuitry featured in science fiction and film. The cyborg as a living organism modified by technology coincides with...

  5. 2 Matter, Mechanism, and the Soul
    (pp. 32-85)

    What makes humans something more than material lumps put in motion by mere energy? How does our embodiment mesh with that aethereal something that makes us more than the sum of our parts? If humans are the product of purely material processes, where does God fit in, and free will, and morality? What of the immortal soul? These were the inconvenient problems with the mechanistic construct of the manmachine through the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. They were unanswerable, debated at length, and never ultimately resolved. But even if the man-machine seemed a terribly limited description of humans endowed with...

  6. 3 Some Contexts for Human Machines and the Body Politics: Early Modern / Postmodern Government and Feedback
    (pp. 86-116)

    Wisdom, memory, judgment, reason, morality, all these aspects of the soul or mind or identity were as vital to the earliest investigations of the man-machine as they are to cyborg literature and theory today. How does the body’s material ‘equipment’ determine will, actions, or mental health? How does materially formed consciousness create the intangible combination of behaviours, intelligence, imagination, and morality or spirituality that comprises an individual self? We might be able to agree generally that the human body is a mechanical object, with the arms and legs as levers and pulleys, the heart and lungs as pumps, the circulatory...

  7. 4 The Man-Machine: Communications, Circulations, and Commerce
    (pp. 117-165)

    Cartesian mechanistic philosophy alone could not provide an answer to the problem of what made matter move, or how that motion was governed. Norbert Wiener’s steering mechanism in the mind was material, prone to dysfunction, and reprogrammable through human intelligence (psychoanalysis) and man-made cybernetic mechanisms. More recently, when Steven Pinker wrote of the mind as being like the Apollo spacecraft,¹ he emphasized that it may be steered by body systems alone (several Apollo flights were ‘unmanned’). The body in this analogy is self-powered and self-controlled through complex communications of the central and peripheral nervous systems via such feedback mechanisms as...

  8. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  9. 5 The Woman-Machine: Techno-lust and Techno-reproduction
    (pp. 166-225)

    If the man-machine was characterized as a self-motive thinking machine animated by aethereal or something akin to electrical fluid and regulated by systems of communication between brain and body, was the woman-machine an identical being? Is it possible to identify a gendered precursor to the female cyborg in the mechanistic discourse of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries? Was the female engine of the eighteenth century a baby machine or a sex machine, with the womb a mechanistic locale of conception in contrast to the brain as mechanism of conception in the man-machine? Such an interpretation would seem to support the...

  10. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  11. 6 Cyborg Conceptions: Bodies, Texts, and the Future of Human Spirit
    (pp. 226-254)

    In 1817 Mary Shelley wrote the story of what might be the first cyborg in literature: a nameless ‘monster,’ created out of fragments from charnel houses, the dissecting room, and slaughterhouses, and animated into life by galvanic current. Drawing on themes of the Biblical Eden, the Fall, and the myth of Prometheus punished for giving the knowledge of the gods to humans on earth, Shelley’s novel is a moral tale of dangerous knowledge: the ambiguous morality in Victor Frankenstein’s attempt to ‘unnaturally’ create a human being is in part framed by the disparity between his obsessive knowledge of science and...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 255-272)
  13. References
    (pp. 273-294)
  14. Illustration Credits
    (pp. 295-296)
  15. Index
    (pp. 297-308)