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Religions 2019, 10(1), 65; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10010065

Without Why: Useless Plants in Daoism and Christianity

Theology and Religious Studies, University of San Francisco, 2130 Fulton St., San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
Received: 13 December 2018 / Revised: 18 January 2019 / Accepted: 18 January 2019 / Published: 20 January 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Verdant: Knowing Plants, Planted Relations, Religion in Place)
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Abstract

This article focuses on three examples of religious considerations of plants, with specific attention to the uselessness of plants. Drawing on Christian and Daoist sources, the examples include the following: (1) the lilies of the field described by Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke; (2) the useless tree of Zhuangzi; and (3) Martin Heidegger’s reading of a mystic poet influenced by Meister Eckhart, Angelus Silesius, for whom a rose blooms “without why,” which resonates with Heidegger’s deconstruction (Destruktion) of the history of metaphysics and his interpretation of uselessness in Zhuangzi. Each of those examples involves non-anthropocentric engagements with the uselessness of plants, which is not to say that they are completely free of the anthropocentrically scaled perspectives that assimilate uselessness into the logistics of agricultural societies. In contrast to ethical theories of the intrinsic value (biocentrism) or systemic value (ecocentrism) of plants, these Christian and Daoist perspectives converge with ecological deconstruction in suggesting that ethical encounters with plants emerge through attention to their uselessness. A viable response to planetary emergency can emerge with the radical passivity of effortless action, which is a careless care that finds solidarity with the carefree ways of plants. View Full-Text
Keywords: contemplation; deconstruction; Meister Eckhart; Heidegger; Timothy Morton; passivity; Angelus Silesius; value; Zhuangzi contemplation; deconstruction; Meister Eckhart; Heidegger; Timothy Morton; passivity; Angelus Silesius; value; Zhuangzi
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Mickey, S. Without Why: Useless Plants in Daoism and Christianity. Religions 2019, 10, 65.

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