Volume 11, Issue 1, Fall 2006
Material Vicissitudes and Technical Wonders
The Ambiguous Figure of Automaton in Aristotle’s Metaphysics of Sexual Difference
In Aristotle’s physics and biology, matter’s capacity for spontaneous, opaque, chance deviation is named by automaton and marked with a feminine sign, while at the same time these mysterious motions are articulated, rendered knowable and predictable via the figure of ta automata, the automatic puppets. This paper traces how automaton functions in the Aristotelian text as a symptomatic crossing-point, an uncanny and chiasmatic figure in which materiality and logos, phusis, and technē, death and life, masculine and feminine, are intertwined and articulated. Automaton permits a mastery of generative materiality for teleological metaphysics, but also works to unsettle teleology’s systematic and unifying aspirations.