“Coccia views vegetative life not as an inert chemical dream from which we humans have woken up, but as the continuing basis of our ability to reason. The seed is a form of reason because, like the DNA it contains, it carries with it the potential for analysis and a plan of action. The root is a form of reason because it is analogous to the brain. Moving from Platonic, through the medieval, and then to contemporary ideas that guide research on plant intelligence, Coccia finally wants us to imagine roots providing networked subterranean communication, analogous to a nervous system. This allows the Earth to receive information about the cosmos—an image that echoes Daoist ideas of the planet as a living being.

More surprisingly, Coccia posits the flower as the most exemplary form of reason. Giving a strangely practical definition for someone with a philosophical bent, he describes reason as the ability to form matter. In this context the flower becomes an emblem of a side of reason that is neglected in modern rational thought: its role as attractor. The flower, which is able to communicate with “insects, dogs, humans,” represents a type of thought that invests “in the sphere of appearances . . . in order to put different beings in touch with one another.” ”

Ania Soliman reviews Emanuele Coccia
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