Arne Næss, philosopher and mountaineer, dead at 96

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Arne Naess, a longtime and world-renowned philosophy professor at the University of Oslo, died on January 12 after a lifetime of advocating that all people should retain a playful streak. He often carried around a stuffed animal, and claimed he never really grew up himself.

Arne Naess taking a rare rickshaw through Oslo as part of an environment stunt. PHOTO via Wikimedia Common

Naess died just two weeks short of his 97th birthday. He remained playful to the end, even venturing off recently in a hot-air balloon. He kept up his mountain climbing well into his 80s.

Naess was born in 1912 and became the youngest professor at the University of Oslo at an age of just 27. He was known for playful stunts, like the time he climbed out the window of his office in a university high-rise and scaled the wall over to an adjoining office instead of simply walking down the hall.

Many knew him best for his numerous books and textbooks on philosophy. He was a leader in the ecology movement and an enthusiastic spokesman for non-violence and environmental protection issues.

In 1950 and 1964 he led mountain climbing expeditions to Tirich Mir in Pakistan. He introduced the technique of using bolts in mountain climbing to Norway after World War II. His nephew Arne Naess Jr followed in the elder Naess’ footsteps to become a well-known mountain climber himself.

Naess was hailed as a source of inspiration by people like philosopher Jostein Gaarder, who wrote Sophie’s World, and publisher Erling Kagge, who conquered Mt Everest. Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre called Naess “the rock of spiritual life” in Norway who was well known far beyond Norway’s borders.