The garden of philosophical thought
Photo credit: Baltimore Sun/Algerina Perna
Can these pansies feel the cold?
Most gardeners say they garden for the contemplative nature of the activity - this despite its back-breaking chores.
In an attempt to satisfy the thoughtful side of gardening, let me refer you to a column in the New York Times by Jeff McMahon, a philosophy professor at Rutgers, who wrote earlier this month on the moral consequences of eating meat.
His post on a Times blog called Opinionator drew such a response that he felt compelled to write a reply and in that reply he addressed one of the objections made - that a completely herbivore human race would be too large to be fed by what we could possible grow and, beside, don't plants suffer, too?
It seems like a silly argument, but McMahan takes it up in his response and I will share it here.
Gardeners are often at the front of the vegan/vegetarian debate with those who like their steak and chicken, so it is worth reading both McMahan's original piece and the response.
But if you don't have time, here is the part about all those suffering plants.
What about the suffering of plants? Again a brief response: plants don’t suffer, though they do respond to stimuli in ways that some have mistaken for a pain response. What was rather shocking about the repeated invocation of suffering in plants is that it occasioned no reflections on what the moral implications would be if plants really did suffer. The commentators’ gesture toward the alleged suffering of plants seemed no more than a rhetorical move in their attack on my argument. But if one became convinced, as some of the commentators appear to be, that plants are conscious, feel pain, and experience suffering, that ought to prompt serious reconsideration of the permissibility of countless practices that we have always assumed to be benign. If you really believed that plants suffer, would you continue to think that it’s perfectly acceptable to mow your grass?