The Philosopher’s Plant: An Intellectual Herbarium

Michael Marder, drawings by Mathilde Roussel. Columbia Univ, $24.95 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-231-16903-5
In this charming, if far-fetched, book Marder (Phenomena-Critique-Logos: The Project of Critical Phenomenology) asserts that philosophy has not properly examined philosophy from the perspective of botanical life, endeavoring to rectify this with a ludic stroll through the “botany of philosophy.” Each chapter focuses on one of 12 canonical figures of Western philosophy, from Plato to Luce Irigaray, and dissects any minute allusion to flora as a proper synecdoche for the thinker’s entire philosophical project. For example, Leibniz’s claim that no two blades of grass are identical and each has its role in the perfection of the universe is embellished through theoretical legerdemain to make an argument that each plant possesses an indispensable and unique interpretation of the world. Marder draws conclusions from this anthropomorphizing slippage in various ways: plants have feelings, plants have thoughts, and (therefore) plants have rights to not be subjected to violence or murder. Sympathetic readers will find this a provocative delight. Others more skeptically inclined may still enjoy the accessible romp through the garden of ideas, and may even come away with a perspective slightly greener than what they began with. Those entirely in line with Marder are likely rare flowers, but anyone can find something of note or amusement here. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/08/2014
Release date: 11/01/2014
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Hardcover - 288 pages - 978-0-231-16902-8
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