Is It Painful to Think

Is It Painful to Think: Conversations with Arne Naess

David Rothenberg
Copyright Date: 1993
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 232
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttspr2
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  • Book Info
    Is It Painful to Think
    Book Description:

    “Watching a good mind at work is a privilege. Watching a good mind at play is a joy. Is It Painful to Think? shows both sides of Arne Naess, a philosopher who is making a real difference in the planet’s course.” --Bill McKibben

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8466-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. PREFACE: WHY TRUST THE PAIN?
    (pp. xi-xii)
    David Rothenberg
  4. INTRODUCTION: FROM SCIENCE TO THE SELF
    (pp. xiii-xxiv)

    In central Norway there is a mountain, Hallingskarvet, a large, long ridge like a huge loaf of bread. Imagine that it rose too fast in the oven, making a sharp cliff on the southern side of the crust. Beneath this precipice stands a tiny hut, at the place called Tvergastein. The rain pelts the cottage walls, and I am sitting inside by the tiny wood stove with Arne Naess, listening to the story of his life.

    The basic facts of the man’s career are clear enough: After a period of study in Paris, Vienna, and Berkeley, he becomes, at age...

  5. I: CHILDHOOD AND THE DISTANCE
    (pp. 1-20)

    DR: There is one thing I remember most from stories of your childhood. You have said you were immediately attracted to tiny, tiny things in nature. You would go out and look at small living things and gravitate toward them.

    AN: Yes. Sure. In chemistry, when I was a boy, it was enough for me to fancy what was going on when one or two drops were put into another liquid, and when I then read about other experiments in the book, I had these drops in mind, colors and so on.

    DR: What did you see inside the drops?...

  6. II: THE MIND AND THE CIRCLE
    (pp. 21-40)

    DR: You went to Austria because it seemed to have enough mountains. And, yet, you found yourself right away a member of the Vienna Circle, the most influential group of philosophers in the early part of this century. How did this happen?

    AN: I found even when I was twenty-one that I could go anywhere in any university, straight into any kind of room. By chance and luck, I went straight into the graduate seminar of the logical positivists with Moritz Schlick, Rudolf Carnap, Friedrich Waismann, Herbert Feigl, and others. They all worked under the shadow of Ludwig Wittgenstein.

    DR:...

  7. III: RATS IN CALIFORNIA
    (pp. 41-56)

    DR: So how did you happen to head for California?

    AN: Well, California was always, in my mind, something like aneventyr—this word is difficult to translate.

    DR: Somewhere in between a fairy tale and an adventure.

    AN: Yes. So in 1938, I decided to go there with my wife for the first time, to look at the mountains and the desert. We went there, and it turned out that some people already knew of my thesis on behaviorism. So I entered the university, as usual, like a tempest, storming the gates. I got acquainted with E. C. Tolman,...

  8. IV: THE CABIN OF CROSSED STONES
    (pp. 57-82)

    DR: So when did you build this place?

    AN: It was in 1937, fulfilling a dream that came to me when I was ten or eleven, when I climbed up here for the first time. At the top of Hallingskarvet, I felt it was a terrible thing to go down. The only dignified way of life would be to remain on the mountain, not to descend.

    DR: Why is that more dignified?

    AN: Because from here you have a proper perspective on the human being. The mountain is a symbol of the wide and deep perspective.

    DR: You wanted to...

  9. V: INSPIRATION AND POSSIBILITY
    (pp. 83-101)

    DR: You often speak of Peter Wessel Zapffe in almost reverential terms, naming him as a mentor of sorts. What is the nature of the effect he has had on you?

    AN: I was only a schoolboy when we first climbed together, and he understood that I was already on my way into deep waters in philosophy. He had been practicing law and came back to Oslo to study literature. His own philosophy came out in the tales he told me. I remember his story about the death of one of the best Norwegian climbers, Asbjørn Gunneng. Zapffe went to...

  10. VI: RESIST TOTALITY!
    (pp. 102-125)

    DR: How did the coming of World War II affect your contemplative life?

    AN: Well, I would say that when the war came, it revealed me as I am. I was at Tvergastein, and I went all the way down to the grocery at Ustaoset about the seventh or eighth of September 1939. I found it indecent to ask if war had broken out. So I just looked at people and listened to what they talked about and I understood that there was another world war.

    As you know, nothing much happened here until the next year when Hitler went...

  11. VII: DEFINING THE DEEP
    (pp. 126-151)

    DR: OK, now to the deep ecology movement. How did you get involved? How did you come to be called the originator of this movement?

    AN: Well, this question is very flattering, and I won’t stop you immediately. I may have coined the terminology, and the distinction of a deep/shallow ecological movement, but the originator in time is, of course, Rachel Carson. Although I had lived in nature all my life, I didn’t hear of her until 1967. I was in the desert in the United States, and my student and friend Jon Wetlesen said, “There is something happening. There...

  12. VIII: SEEING THE WORLD ANEW
    (pp. 152-168)

    DR: You often say that you’re not so much concerned with environmental ethics— how we should behave in regard to nature — as you are interested in describing the world in a new way. You often use the word “gestalt” to suggest the new way. What do you mean?

    AN: In order to have more people engaged actively and joyfully in the ecological movement, one should not talk about duties very often, because it is clear from the history of humankind that duties do not play a great role for most people most times, whereas what people like to do and...

  13. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  14. IX: ON THIN ICE
    (pp. 169-188)

    AN: We have not enough about my family . . .

    DR: Well, let’s go back. Your brothers?

    AN: In the thirties, my brother Erling made it big in the tanker business, and in shipping, whaling, and other things. He was interested in me as a younger brother in a very nice way, completely respecting my decision to go into philosophy, but at the same time, highly skeptical about how I could support myself being a philosopher. I was skeptical as well. Erling was completely willing and able to get me into business. He would say, “You could even climb...

  15. EPILOGUE: A WALK IN THE WORLD OF JOY
    (pp. 189-192)

    When Arne Naess got hold of these manuscript pages, he took out his red pen and set to work. Hardly any paragraph escaped unscathed. “That’s not what I meant!” he cried.

    “This you must qualify—it will be misunderstood.” No one should be offended by the text. No blatant or crass statement should remain. Arne proceeded to try to turn the conversations into fodder for philosophical articles, each point introduced with utmost care, every assertion qualified and refined until it would make sense only to those well versed in the terminology, deep inside the structures of the thinker’s mind.

    Well,...

  16. SELECTED WORKS BY ARNE NAESS
    (pp. 193-196)
  17. WORKS ABOUT OR INFLUENCED BY ARNE NAESS
    (pp. 197-200)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 201-204)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 205-205)