A Philosophy of Vegetal Life

Michael Marder. Foreword by Gianni Vattimo and Santiago Zabala

Columbia University Press


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Pub Date: February 2013

ISBN: 9780231161251

248 Pages

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248 Pages

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A Philosophy of Vegetal Life

Michael Marder. Foreword by Gianni Vattimo and Santiago Zabala

Columbia University Press

The margins of philosophy are populated by non-human, non-animal living beings, including plants. While contemporary philosophers tend to refrain from raising ontological and ethical concerns with vegetal life, Michael Marder puts this life at the forefront of the current deconstruction of metaphysics. He identifies the existential features of plant behavior and the vegetal heritage of human thought so as to affirm the potential of vegetation to resist the logic of totalization and to exceed the narrow confines of instrumentality. Reconstructing the life of plants "after metaphysics," Marder focuses on their unique temporality, freedom, and material knowledge or wisdom. In his formulation, "plant-thinking" is the non-cognitive, non-ideational, and non-imagistic mode of thinking proper to plants, as much as the process of bringing human thought itself back to its roots and rendering it plantlike.

For too long has the human mind been limited by thinking like a machine. Mechanistic thought has allowed humans to unleash violence on other species, both animals and plants. Plant-Thinking will help plants, but, even more importantly, it will help humans by understanding the sanctity and continuity of life and our place in the Earth Family.

Vandana Shiva, activist and ecofeminist

Recent advances in plant sciences reveal plants are sensitive organisms capable of rich sensory and communicative activities, based on complex and integrated signaling that allows for surprisingly sophisticated forms of behavior. Marder offers philosophical perspective on this paradigm shift with important consequences for theoretical philosophy, ethics, and politics.

František Baluška, Friedrich Wilhelms-Universität Bonn (Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät)

Marder argues that recent advances in animal ethics, for all their virtues, are often blind to the blinkered instrumentality of our understanding of plants. Re-thinking that relation opens the vegetal world to a thinking encounter few thought possible (or necessary), one that puts plants in a wholly different light yet also offers new resources for dismantling our deeply rooted metaphysical legacy. This is a remarkable book—original, daring, and timely.

David Wood, Vanderbilt University

A striking and unique contribution.

Elaine P. Miller, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Philosophy, Miami University

A superbly presented seminal work.... Highly recommended.

Midwest Book Review

Profoundly original


We owe Marder...a great debt for widening the contemporary philosophical discussion of life and ethics, taking it into the plant kingdom.

Jeffrey T. Nealon, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

Michael Marder's book Plant-Thinking is a timely contribution to the project of expanding ethical considerations to non-human beings.... This is a strong contribution to the post-metaphysical project.

Canadian Philosophical Review


Bangalore Review

Anyone can find something of note or amusement here.

Publishers Weekly
Foreword by Gianni Vattimo and Santiago Zabala
Introduction: To Encounter the Plants . . .
Part I. Vegetal Anti-Metaphysics
1. The Soul of the Plant
2. The Body of the Plant
Part II. Vegetal Existentiality
3. The Time of Plants
4. The Freedom of Plants
5. The Wisdom of Plants
Epilogue: The Ethical Offshoots of Plant-Thinking
Works Cited

Read the introduction to Plant-Thinking (to view in full screen, click on icon in bottom right-hand corner)

Web Features:

SHORTLIST – 2014 Findlay Book Prize for Best Book of Metaphysics Published between 2010-13, the Metaphysical Society of America

About the Author

Gianni Vattimo is emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of Turin and a former member of the European Parliament. His most recent Columbia University Press books include A Farewell to Truth (2011); Hermeneutic Communism: From Heidegger to Marx (with Santiago Zabala, 2011); The Responsibility of the Philosopher (2010); and Art's Claim to Truth (2008), all translated into several languages.