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Despite their conceptual allergy to vegetal life, philosophers have used germination, growth, blossoming, fruition, reproduction, and decay as illustrations of abstract concepts; mentioned plants in passing as the natural backdrops for dialogues, letters, and other compositions; spun elaborate allegories out of flowers, trees, and even grass; and recommended appropriate medicinal, dietary, and aesthetic approaches to select species of plants.
In The Philosopher's Plant, Michael Marder illuminates the vegetal centerpieces and hidden kernels that have powered theoretical discourse for centuries. Choosing twelve botanical specimens that correspond to twelve significant philosophers, he recasts the development of philosophy through the evolution of human and plant relations. A philosophical history for the postmetaphysical age, The Philosopher's Plant reclaims the organic heritage of human thought. With the help of vegetal images, examples, and metaphors, The Philosopher's Plant clears a path through philosophy's tangled roots and dense undergrowth, opening up the discipline to all readers.
Prologue: Herbarium Philosophicum
Part I: Ancient Plant-Souls
1. Plato's Plane Tree
2. Aristotle's Wheat
3. Plotinus' Anonymous "Great Plant"
Part II. Medieval Plant-Instruments
4. Augustine's Pears
5. Avicenna's Celery
6. Maimonides' Palm Tree
Part III. Modern Plant-Images
7. Leibniz's Blades of Grass
8. Kant's Tulip
9. Hegel's Grapes
Part IV: Postmodern Plant-Subjects
10. Heidegger's Apple Tree
11. Derrida's Sunflowers
12. Irigaray's Water Lily
Michael Marder is IKERBASQUE Research Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of the Basque Country, UPV-EHU, Vitoria-Gasteiz. He is the author of The Event of the Thing: Derrida's Post-Deconstructive Realism; Groundless Existence: The Political Ontology of Carl Schmitt; Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life; Phenomena -- Critique -- Logos: The Project of Critical Phenomenology; and the forthcoming Pyropolitics: When the World Is Ablaze.
Mathilde Roussel is a French artist and sculptor who has taught and exhibited widely in the United States.
"From the conversation of Socrates and Phaedrus in the shade of the plane tree to Irigaray's meditation on the water lily, The Philosopher's Plant takes us outside city walls, across gardens of letters and vegetables, grassy slopes and vineyards, to the dimly lit sources of philosophy's vitality. With distinctive depth and clarity, Marder reminds us that, far from walled in, the human community communes with nature and is itself inhabited by nature."
– Claudia Baracchi, Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca
"The Philosopher's Plant is an original contribution to a concept which for too long has been marginalized. As the only contemporary philosopher working on plants from a deconstructive and weak-thought perspective, Marder provides not only another contribution to the philosophical concept of plants in general, but also adds onto his own work."
– Santiago Zabala, ICREA/University of Barcelona
"The Philosopher's Plant is a genuine pleasure to read and one of the most innovative books I have encountered in some time. Marder's argument is that contemporary scientific research into how plants communicate, interact with, and possibly even perceive the environment should be enriched by an engagement with how the Western philosophical tradition has already thought and continues thinking the problem of plant life for human being-in-the-world."
– William Egginton, Johns Hopkins University
"The Philosopher's Plant is an alluring immersion in phytophilia, exploring the thought of philosophers from Plato to Irigaray by way of their intimate reflections on plant life. Not only do we learn much that is subtle and profound about plants but we come to see the work of these thinkers in refreshing new lights. Humor and wit alternate with penetrating philosophical insight in this bouquet of delights."
– Edward S. Casey, SUNY at Stony Brook, author of The World at a Glance and The World on Edge
"One must give Michael Marder credit for combining the deconstruction of our traditional metaphysics with a focus on the plant world. He invites us to perceive and consider again the presence and the potential of our living environment, the thoughtless use of which has damaged both our life and our culture."
– Luce Irigaray