Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Arne Naess and Ecosophy T

Arne Naess was born in 1912 and appointed to the chair of philosophy at the University of Oslo in his late twenties. He is considered as the founder of Deep Ecology as a branch of Environmental Philosophy, and it is known that he was influenced by the philosophies of Spinoza, Gandhi's Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism.

As a pioneering environmental philosopher, Naess was concerned with an idea of self-realization which promotes the well-being of all human and nonhuman existence through a non-anthropocentric view, and the interconnectedness of all life forms on an ontological plane. Self-realization is fundamental in Naess' approach, for he defended the idea that any view come forth from fundamental is necessarily a philosophical view.

Naess was a highly active mountaineer, for he saw this as part of his lifestyle and connection with natural world. He is also known with his eclectic, diverse range of views, which were often reflected in his ecophilosophy project of international humanitarian activities.

As a Deep Ecologist, Naess made a distinction between shallow and deep ecology. His argument was that Deep Ecology's task is to ask "deeper questions" such as the idea of self, the idea of symbiosis, and consciousness whereas a shallow environmentalist would occupy himself with technical socio-economic issues that reflect an absence of philosophy.

In terms of asking "deeper questions," Naess refers to his particular interpretation of Deep Ecology, which is Ecosophy T ~ ecospohy as the combination of eco and the Greek word sophos (wisdom), hence invoking a definition we may call ecological wisdom. As part of this articulation, Naess' philosophical sense of Deep Ecology can be seen in his own normative system, as it is presented by Deep Ecologist Warwick Fox (1995, p.103-4):

N1: Self-realization!
H1: The higher the Self-realization attained by anyone, the broader and deeper the identification with others
H2: The higher the level of Self-realization attained by anyone, the more its further increase depends upon the Self-realization of others.
H3: Complete Self-realization of anyone depends on that of all.
N2: Self-realization for all living beings!
H4: Diversity of life increases Self-realization potentials.
N3: Diversity of life!
H5: Complexity of life increases Self-realization potentials.
N4: Complexity!
H6: Life resources of the Earth are limited.
H7: Symbiosis maximizes Self-realization potentails under conditions of limited resources.
N5: Symbiosis!


Reference: Warwick Fox (1995). Toward a Transpersonal Ecology: Developing New Foundations for Environmentalism. Devon: Resurgence Book; p.103


  1. Thanks Ugur, I don't know much about Naess so now I know a little bit more. The trouble I always have one some forms of 'self-awareness' and 'self-realization' tend to tie up with some form of narcissism i.e. I am so in tune with the cosmos that the cosmos is in tune with me. Why does nature give a fig about what any of us think? Now, I presume Naess is precisely trying to disavow this type of thinking so I was wondering if you could tell me in more detail how he goes about the potential danger of such self-aggrandizment?

  2. I'll second that...

    Spot on!

    Neil Turnbull

  3. Short of speaking to the man yourself, H1 onward should answer that question for you. I can thouroughly reccomend hisbnook: 'Ecology, Community and Lifestyle'. A masterpeice.