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Plants Feel Pain and Might Even See

Nautilus – It’s time to retire the hierarchical classification of living things. By Peter Wohlleben July 21, 2021: “In 2018, a German newspaper asked me if I would be interested in having a conversation with the philosopher Emanuele Coccia, who had just written a book about plants, Die Wurzeln der Welt (published in English as The Life of Plants). I was happy to say yes. The German title of Coccia’s book translates as “The Roots of the World,” and the book really does cover this. It upends our view of the living world, putting plants at the top of the hierarchy with humans down at the bottom. I had been giving a great deal of thought to this myself. Ranking the natural world and scoring species according to their importance or their superiority seemed to me outdated. It distorts our view of nature and makes all the other species around us seem more primitive and somehow unfinished. For some time now, I have not been comfortable with viewing humans as the crown of creation, separating animals into higher and lower life-forms, and treating plants as something on the side, definitively banished to a lower level….There was, however, another problem, Baluška explained. All the research on nerves, the brain, and phenomena such as pain had originally been done on people. All the important biological terminology, therefore, was already taken. This meant it would not be scientifically correct to transfer the definitions to plants that exhibited very similar structures and processes. And so, neurobiology was reserved for animals, which is why a similar periodical for plant research is called Plant Signaling & Behavior and not Plant Neuroscience. I immediately thought that philosophy and biology should be more closely connected, because Coccia’s thoughts on the subject matched those of Baluška…”

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