Books: Best of 2017

Hans Ulrich Obrist

Philosopher Emanuele Coccia’s newest book La vie des plantes (The Life of Plants) (Rivages, 2016) is an illuminating reflection on the nature of plants. Coccia, who studied at an agricultural college as an adolescent, argues that plants have been neglected in philosophy since the division of knowledge into the humanities and sciences. For Coccia, the significance of these organisms is twofold: Plants, as producers of oxygen, sustain life on the planet; yet as the only living organism that can transform solar energy into mass, they also give form to life. “The seed is a force able to draw forth incredible forms from matter,” Coccia said in an interview. “But at that point, reason is no longer just a human or animal faculty; it’s a cosmic force.”

Plants, according to Coccia, are not a separate kingdom, but a multifarious presence that links earth and sky, human and animal. They are

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