Why Gardens and Why Not-Gardening

Leszek Kolakowski once came up with some pretty good satires on some of the fashionable philosophical Isms of the late 20th century.

How would the Isms rationalize a dislike of gardening?


Marxist Theory: Capitalists try to corrupt the minds of the toiling masses and to poison them with their reactionary ‘values.’ They want to ‘convince’ workers that gardening is a great ‘pleasure’ and thereby keep them busy in their leisure time and prevent them from carrying out the proletarian revolution. Besides, they want to make them believe that with their miserable plot of land they are really ‘owners’ and not wage earners and in this way win them over to the side of the owners in the class struggle. To garden is therefore to participate in the great plot aiming at the ideological deception of the masses. Do not garden! Q.E.D.

He also targeted psychoanalysis, existentialism and structuralism, as well as:

Analytical Philosophy: In spite of many attempts, no satisfactory definitions of ‘garden’ and of ‘gardening’ have been found; all existing definitions leave a large area of uncertainty about what belongs where. We simply do not know what exactly a garden and gardening are. To use these concepts is therefore intellectually irresponsible, and actually to garden would be even more so. Thou shalt not garden. Q.E.D.

I suppose this quintet (Marxism, psychoanalysis, existentialism, structuralism, and analytical philosophy) at one time pretty much defined the scope of advanced thinking. Note the absence of Darwinism.

But why do people like gardens, if not gardening? Why do the most desirable cities have gardens, squares, parks, golf courses, treed avenues, and all the other many attempts to bring in some natural landscape?

I think this is where Darwinism trounces that quintet: it is because people have a natural wish to see and live in something like the kind of landscapes in which we evolved.

h/t Normblog


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