a philosphy of gardens

I’ve just finished David E. Cooper’s A Philosophy of Gardens, a short, dense book–though readable as far as philosophy goes. In it he tries to figure out what it is about gardens that make them matter to us. After propping up some points for discussion, he proceeds to demolish them, one by one, as being misguided or simplistic. Some of these ideas he jettisons: gardens are important because they are art, gardens are important because they represent nature, and gardens are important because they represent a fusion of both art and nature. Mr. Negative. See if I invite him to a party.

But he takes those and other ideas to come up a synthesis at the end, that gardens represent some sort of epiphany. He begins his conclusion with a “Modest Proposal:”

…The Garden exemplifies the co-dependence of human creative activity and nature… (P. 142)

Then he expands it further:

If The Garden exemplifies or embodies co-dependence, then, this cannot simply be that between human endeavor and nature, but a further, “more mysterious” relation. (P. 143)

…and finally concludes:

[G]ardening or cultivation…[is] a practice which, engaged in with an appropriate sensibility–engaged in “thinkingly,” as Heidegger would say–embodies more saliently than any other practice the truth of the relation between human beings, their world, and the “ground” from which the “gift” of this world comes. (P. 160)

On his way to the final conclusion he brings in Zen notions of the world, so that this “gift” that he speaks of isn’t necessarily some Western, “God-given” theological construction, but a more universal sense of our place in the cosmos.

Take a look at the book if you’re was in the mood to step into some metaphysical goo…

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