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I took the picture above some years ago: the Nile somewhere between Luxor and Aswan.

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ARNE NAESS

OF BOOKS AND PEOPLEPosted by Tore Nordenstam Thursday, January 15 2009 15:24:55

Arne Naess, the nestor of Norwegian philosophers, died on January 12, 2009.

He was appointed to the chair of philosophy (at that time the only philosophy post in the country) at the University of Oslo in 1939, at the age of 27, and left it in 1970. He remained very active indeed for another three decades or so, with a particular interest in environmental problems (ecosophy, deep ecology).

His little book on objective argumentation – translated into English as Communication and argument. Elements of applied semantics was first published in Norwegian in 1941 and has been used again and again in the compulsory first year courses (the examen philosophicum) in all the faculties and universities in Norway.

Arne Naess was a versatile and open-minded thinker with broad interests. He started out as a logical empiricist, and became one of the leading figures of the environment movement in the last decades of the 20th century. In-between, he published books on Mahatma Ghandi’s thinking, the history of philosophy (including Chinese and Indian philosophy), epistemology, philosophy of science, and so on. He even wrote an introduction to Sanskrit for philosophers. The table of contents of The selected works of Arne Naess (10 volumes, Springer 2005) gives a good idea of the terrain covered by this philosopher. 

For those of you who are willing to expose yourselves to a bit of Norwegian I can recommend a short biography of Arne Naess – in the form of a comic book! (Jeg, Arne Næss. Et tegnet liv, Kagge Forlag, Oslo 2001, 2005). The picture above is taken from the cover of that book.

P.S. A long time ago I wrote a concise critical survey of Naess’ contributions to epistemology and philosophy of science, which is included in a paper on Norwegian philosophy of science (co-authored by Hans Skjervheim). The paper is available here: http://torenordenstam.se/phil/phil.pdf

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