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Plants as Persons: A Philosophical Botany

Plants as Persons: A Philosophical Botany
Matthew Hall
State University New York Press
Publication Date: 

paper, 235 pp., $24.95

If you are someone who thought philosophy began and ended with Aristotle and Socrates, then this book will be an eye opener. It doesn’t quite go as far as saying plants are actually human, but it challenges you to respect the moral dimensions of plants.

Taking the stance that we are aware of harming nature, the author uses a historical understanding of Greek philosophy, Christian tradition, Hindu and Buddhist texts, animism, and other sources to examine how plants have been thought of and used through the ages. He cites the symbiotic relationship between leguminous plants and bacteria as a good example of plants using communication to increase uptake. Alleopathic interaction (e.g., wherein walnut tree roots exude a compound discouraging growth of other plants near it) is another form of rhizomatic communication. That plants share many capacities and capabilities with other organisms is at the cutting edge of science.

Hence, we have a very real interest in encouraging diverse and healthy ecological communities. This book explains that plants are active, self-directed, and even intelligent. Hall puts forward the view that nature is a communion of subjective, collaborative beings, organizing and experiencing their environment.

— Adele Kleine, volunteer, Chicago Botanic Garden