Monday, August 24, 2009

The garden of Linnaeus

In a certain sense the world around us has an objective existence. I mean, the world as such is there and would exist as it is, even if we human beings would not be a part of it and would not exist at all. Plants and animals would live, procreate themselves and die as they do now without us being there. Animal species would come and go. Mountains would rise and disappear. Volcanoes would still throw ashes in the air. Rivers would fill the seas and the water would come back on the land as rain.
On the other hand, for us human beings the world around us cannot be objective in that sense. We cannot see the world as such but we must see what we see always as something special. We divide what we see in animals and things. Animals are birds, mammals, insects, reptiles, fishes. Mammals are dogs, cats, lions and elephants. And so on. That we classify the world around us is not only so for animals but for everything we see around us. It is true that sometimes our distinctions are vague, maybe confusing, and it also happens that later we find it better to change them. Then also our world changes. Sometimes a bit, sometimes a lot. Perhaps it was a small change that mammals appeared not to be fishes but mammals. A big change was that the earth appeared not to be the centre of the world but a planet that circles around the sun instead of the other way around. Because for us the world around us is never as such but always in a certain way, namely the way we have classified it, the world is subjective for us. And because it is we, human beings, who classify the world, the world is in this sense a man made construction.
One person who has much contributed to our world view and has made a construction of the living world is Carolus Linnaeus. It is also he who “moved” whales from the realm of fishes to the realm of mammals. After 250 years his classification is still in use, although it has been improved here and there. Especially Linnaeus’ classification of plants is well-known and if we talk about Linnaeus it is the first thing that comes into our thoughts. Is it not wonderful then to walk in the Linnéträdgården, the “Garden of Linnaeus” in Uppsala in Sweden, where he worked and studied plants, because it is a place where has been worked on the construction of our world?

1 comment:

Luzdeana said...

I've enjoyed your entry, Henk. The world is always and luckily so amazing because our view of it is different for each of us, and even changing. This is specially important for the existence of art. What would we do without the power of the imagination to produce a whole new vision of the world (or a part of it) in each creation.
Have you visited the Garden of Linnaeus in Sweden? If so, I'd love to see the photos you must have.