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Click on the cover image above to read some pages of this book! Why do gardens matter so much and mean so much to people?

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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. Not only is this a fascinating subject in its own right, it also provides a reminder that the subject-matter of aesthetics is broader than the fine arts; that ethics is not just about moral issues but about 'the good life'; and that environmental philosophy should not focus only on 'wilderness' to the exclusion of the humanly shaped environment.

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David Cooper identifies garden appreciation as a special human phenomenon distinct from both from the appreciation of art and the appreciation of nature. He explores the importance of various 'garden-practices' and shows how not only gardening itself, but activities to which the garden especially lends itself, including social and meditative activities, contribute to the good life.

A Philosophy of Gardens

And he distinguishes the many kinds of meanings that gardens may have, from representation of nature to emotional expression, from historical significance to symbolization of a spiritual relationship to the world. Building on the familiar observation that, among human beings' creations, the garden is peculiarly dependent on the co-operation of nature, Cooper argues that the garden matters as an epiphany of an intimate co-dependence between human creative activity in the world and the 'mystery' that allows there to be a world for them at all.

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. His conclusions will surprise most readers, even those who love gardens or enjoy gardening, as he concludes that gardening is a practice that, if engaged in with an appropriate sensibility, embodies more saliently that any other practice the truth of the relation between human beings and their world.

Cooper's thoughtful and engaging book is indeed A Philosophy of Gardens - his rather unique and stimulating way of conceptualizing how, carefully reflected upon, gardening practices and appreciation can engender an epiphany of sorts on the mysteries of existence. Cooper argues a strong case for placing gardening at the centre of any "good" or ethical life Source Organic. We strive to use organic gardening techniques and products, including compost and fertilizers.

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Your tax-deductible donation made to LARB by pm, December 31, will be doubled thanks to an anonymous donor. With only a few exceptions — Jane Austen, Voltaire, Emily Dickinson — the 11 literary figures are not among those that first come to mind as writers who have been inspired by gardens.

Austen, Marcel Proust, George Orwell, Dickinson, and Friedrich Nietzsche cannot often have kept company within the covers of a single book. No explanation is given for this selection, and the portraits are discrete, with no attempt, until the final page, to compare and contrast the writers discussed.

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Philosophy in the Garden by Damon Young, reviewed by John Clark for thinkingardens | thinkinGardens

In the case of others, the gardens they refer to can hardly have inspired their ideas, since these had already been formed. It is especially difficult to understand the inclusion of Jean-Paul Sartre. Other essays provide charming portraits of the musings of Proust and the novelist Colette on flowers, bonsai trees, or shrubs.

These are not, however, examples of writers being inspired by gardens but, at most, by objects that might be found in gardens. It is, then, to the essays on the dirty finger-nailed figures — Austen, Dickinson, Orwell, Voltaire, and Leonard Woolf — to which readers interested in the engagement of writers with gardens will mainly attend.