||A Brief Review of
Gardening: Cultivating Wisdom (Philosophy for Everyone Series).
Dan O’Brien, editor.
Paperback: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.
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Reviewed by Chris Smith.
As one of the newest volumes in their eclectic “Philosophy for Everyone” series (a intriguing concept of itself, as the publisher seems not only to target an audience of everyone, but also to tackle a list of topics that covers just about everything), Wiley has offered us a delightful volume on the topic of gardening. Although the series is titled as philosophy, and although there is indeed much here to spur philosophical reflection, this volume also offers as much on the history of gardening (and the history of thinking about gardening) as it does on philosophy of gardening. Aptly subtitled, Cultivating Wisdom, this superb volume covers much ground from exploring “the virtues of gardening” to the role of gardens and gardening in the work of philosophers both ancient (Plato and Epicurus) and modern (David Hume). One of my favorite essays in the collection was Gary Shapiro’s piece on “The Philosophy of Central Park,” an aesthetic argument that “what are variously called gardens, parks, earthworks, or perhaps most generally land art should be acknowledged once again as major forms of art” (149). Such an argument is not unfamiliar to me, as our art editor, Brent Aldrich, has often made similar arguments in these pages (most recently in this review). However, I was delighted to find that Shapiro takes as his case study, Central Park, the quintessential urban park, and forms a poignant and convincing argument around the features of the place. Helene Gammack’s essay on “Food Glorious Food” and Michael Moss’s essay on “Brussels Sprouts and Empire” were also among the highlights of this fine volume. If you garden, this volume will undoubtedly provide much food for thought as you work the land; if you don’t, this volume may just provide some convincing evidence that would compel you to give it a go. Either way, it is an engaging and enjoyable read, and readers of the ERB will certainly want to stay tuned for future volumes in this diverse – and apparently all-encompassing – series!