Life's Philosophy

Life's Philosophy: Reason and Feeling in a Deeper World

Arne Naess
with Per Ingvar Haukeland
Translated by Roland Huntford
with a foreword by Bill McKibben
an introduction by Harold Glasser
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 216
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Life's Philosophy
    Book Description:

    Now available in English for the first time, Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess's meditation on the art of living is an exhortation to preserve the environment and biodiversity. As Naess approaches his ninetieth year, he offers a bright and bold perspective on the power of feelings to move us away from ecological and cultural degradation toward sound, future-focused policy and action. Naess acknowledges the powerlessness of the intellect without the heart, and, like Thoreau before him, he rejects the Cartesian notion of mind-body separation. He advocates instead for the integration of reason and emotion--a combination Naess believes will inspire us to make changes for the better. Playful and serious, this is a guidebook for finding our way on a planet wrecked by the harmful effects of consumption, population growth, commodification, technology, and globalization. It is sure to mobilize today's philosophers, environmentalists, policy makers, and the general public into seeking--with whole hearts rather than with superficial motives--more effective and timelier solutions. Naess's style is reflective and anecdotal as he shares stories and details from his rich and long life. With characteristic goodwill, wit, and wisdom, he denounces our unsustainable actions while simultaneously demonstrating the unsurpassed wonder, beauty, and possibility our world offers, and ultimately shows us that there is always reason for hope, that everyone is a potential ally in our fight for the future.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-3639-8
    Subjects: Philosophy, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    Bill McKibben

    A book by the title Life’s Philosophy would normally be fair game for ridicule. It sounds just a tad egoistic—what’s the Norse for “chutzpah”? But in this case the author is first of all an actual card-carrying philosopher, indeed one of great renown, and he has lived an actual life, one that by every indication has verged on the splendid. And so in this case the title turns out to be the utter opposite of pretentious, as is the book—in fact, they lack pretense almost entirely, as if written in some altogether forgotten language where arrogance is not...

    (pp. xi-xii)
    Arne Naess
    (pp. xiii-xxxiv)
    Harold Glasser

    For many who feel an affinity with life, the Earth, once ever bountiful, is now increasingly checkered with wounds and despair. In the midst of unprecedented economic growth, a general pauperization and homogenization of both culture and nature abound. We are smack in the middle of our planet’s sixth great extinction crisis, and this time we are the perpetrators. There is no simple, single cause. Since at least the age of the Sumerians, humans have brought about large-scale abuse of the Earth and each other. The rate of change, the magnitude, and the complexity of our present situation, however, are...

  6. 1 Life Seen as an Open Landscape
    (pp. 1-19)

    Confronting life can be quite brutal. We are flung into it at birth, then flung further in “encounters” that can be everything from the vile to the sublime. There is something fundamentally unjust in the way we are hurled into life. Some people suffer from their first breath to their last, while others seem to float in sublime felicity all the way. But one need not reject life on that account. There is enough pleasure and satisfaction to give life meaning for the majority.

    To live is like traveling through a landscape with both easy and broken terrain, light and...

  7. 2 How Do You Feel Yourself and the World?
    (pp. 20-50)

    Someone has just come on a visit, bringing mail with him. I found a card from a friend on which was written, “How do you feel yourself and the world?”

    The question was well put. Today people need to concentrate more on feeling the world. It ought to be natural to ask the question my friend asked. Why not! Because emotions have such a low status in our society, people say, “This is how I see the world,” or “This is how I understand the world.” They do not say, “This is how I feel myself and my situation.” Emotions...

  8. 3 On Imagination, Research—and Petty Rationality
    (pp. 51-73)

    If we survey the philosophical landscape, we see an inner relation between what I will now call the philosophy of emotion and the different components of a philosophical conspectus or system—logic, general methodology, cognitive theory, ontology, value theory, descriptive ethics, prescriptive ethics, philosophy of science, political philosophy, social philosophy, and aesthetics.

    In Western philosophy human beings are primarily seen as cognitive creatures. Thought has a unique position in the life of Homo sapiens. In philosophy we have been far more impressed by our highly developed knowledge than by our standards and quality of emotional life. Theory of knowledge and...

  9. 4 Reason and Feeling Are Interactive
    (pp. 74-91)

    My attitude to Spinoza resembles that which I have toward Gandhi—taking account of both his writings and his life. The stories about Spinoza are just as uplifting in regard to his character as the tales of Gandhi’s life. Both inspire confidence because, in part, not only did they produce words, but they acted out their philosophy of life.

    My aim is to demonstrate how Spinoza’s view of things may offer some fundamental pointers in constructing a philosophy of life adapted to our own age. I do not look upon his Ethics as a “gospel” of mankind and the world,...

  10. 5 A Feeling for All Living Beings
    (pp. 92-116)

    During a climb on a difficult section of a mountain, two friends enter into a discussion of the aims and means of the enterprise. Bad weather seems to be threatening. One wants to turn back, the other to continue.

    Peter: I feel that it is the right thing to turn back. I feel that something is not quite right here.

    Elsa: What on earth makes you feel that way? I don’t feel like that. And the aim of our expedition is the same as before. It can be a great experience for us to reach the summit together.

    Peter: Well,...

  11. 6 How Does Our Emotional Life Mature?
    (pp. 117-138)

    The word maturing is well suited to the subject on which I now want to concentrate. My point of departure lies in situations where I consider my own or someone else’s reactions immature. For example: “It was immature to become so angry over something so insignificant” or “It was immature not to react unequivocally against what he said” or “It was immature of you to get married” or “It was immature of you to put children into the world” and so on.

    To characterize an attitude or an action as mature is something that we do much more rarely. Might...

  12. 7 You Can Learn Properly Only What Engages Your Feelings
    (pp. 139-159)

    Norway is a country with a special need for promoting an upbringing and education that benefits emotional maturing. Why? We have great material wealth on account of our natural resources, and we no longer have any great, burning political conflicts. We have unusually rich opportunities to ask what we want to do with our lives. We can follow impulses and cultivate values that most people in the world can only dream about. And in fact we can afford to say to schoolchildren and university students, “If there is something that particularly attracts you, you may concentrate on that in particular...

  13. 8 The Art of Living: To Do Little Things in a Big Way
    (pp. 160-180)

    I feel justified not only in accepting life but in paying homage to it. However, as long as human beings cannot manage to abolish torture and even the more extreme kinds of poverty, there is a hollow ring when those, like me, who are not afflicted by such things talk about the silver lining, about life’s many opportunities for happiness, or about how grateful “we” ought to be. For tens of thousands of people, their only wish is to die.

    I do not believe that human nature blocks the means of abolishing torture and extreme poverty. If we examine the...