Prof. MacDougall Writes:
By the late eighteenth century automata had moved from courtly settings to more public markets, theaters, and squares–not unlike Enlightenment ideas. Automata served, Schaffer says, as "both arguments and entertainments," and they could hardly be avoided as metaphors or models in debates on "the puzzles of good government--of the world by the deity, of the state by the prince, of the workshop by the master, and of the body by spirit." For obvious reasons, automata made handy illustrations of materialist philosophies. Clockwork imitations of nature made it possible to imagine nature as a machine.
Much of this article is refers to historian Simon Schaffer's article on "Enlightenment Automata" in the book The Sciences in Enlightened Europe
Here's the link to MacDougall's post on automata.