A Philosophy of Gardens

A Philosophy of Gardens

A Philosophy of Gardens

A Philosophy of Gardens

Synopsis

Why do gardens matter so much and mean so much to people? That is the intriguing question to which David Cooper seeks an answer in this book. Given the enthusiasm for gardens in human civilization ancient and modern, Eastern and Western, it is surprising that the question has been so long neglected by modern philosophy. Now at last there is a philosophy of gardens. David Cooper identifies garden appreciation as a special human phenomenon distinct from both from the appreciation of art and the appreciation of nature. He discusses the contribution of gardening and other garden-related pursuits to "the good life." And he distinguishes the many kinds of meanings that gardens may have, from their representation of nature to their spiritual significance. A Philosophy of Gardens will open up this subject to students and scholars of aesthetics, ethics, and cultural and environmental studies, and to anyone with a reflective interest in things horticultural.

Excerpt

The volume of philosophical writings about gardens in recent years is modest—so modest that their authors typically begin, as I am now doing, by remarking on the relative neglect of the garden by modern philosophy. This neglect partly explains why the title of my book starts with the indefinite article. In the absence of a substantial literature, there simply does not exist, within the philosophical community, a shared perception of a 'discipline'—the philosophy of gardens—replete with well-defined 'problems', 'methods', and 'research programmes'. One may speak of, and write about, the philosophy of mind—or of science or of art—but not, in an analogous way, of the philosophy of gardens. People who buy a book called The Philosophy of Mind expect from it an introduction to a discipline. The Philosophy of Gardens would be a fraudulent title: for here there is no discipline as yet to be introduced to.

In the next section, I say something about the extent of, and reasons for, this relative neglect of gardens. For the moment, and in order to help locate my main theme, I remark only that this neglect is prima facie surprising. For one thing, gardens surely invite many questions of the kind posed by contemporary philosophers of art: conceptual ones ('What is a garden?'); ontological ones ('Is a garden simply a complex physical object?'); normative ones ('What makes a garden successful or “great”?')—and so on. Replace 'garden' by 'artwork' in those questions, and they become very familiar ones indeed. Perhaps, though, this is one reason for the relative philosophical neglect of gardens. The questions are too close to familiar ones to inspire fresh philosophical attention. By all means, if you will, illustrate the conceptual and other problems that preoccupy modern . . .

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