This book returns to the scene of French Enlightenment materialism as a crucial staging ground for the modern construction of human beings as objects of knowledge. In the broadest sense, it contributes an articulation of the ways in which eighteenth-century authors participate in what Hans Blumenberg has called the “the elementary exertions of the modern age: the mathematizing and the materializing of nature”. Whether the material subjects of the French Enlightenment are ultimately renounced or embraced by those who follow in their wake, this period's intense preoccupation with the objectification and rationalization of matter —in forms ranging from human anatomies to atomic particles— remains fundamental to an understanding of the positioning of the age within the various critical genealogies that have taken the Enlightenment as a point of origin for modernity.
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