Philosophy Education in Turku

The teaching of philosophy began for the first time in Finland at the Turku Cathedral School in 1286. The school had two departments, the lower department for general education and the upper one for the education of future priests who studied not only the scholares clerici subjects but also the so called trivium subjects that included latin grammar, rhetorics, and logic.

Teaching philosophy at a higher level began only in the 1640's, when the Academia Aboensis, the first university in Finland, was founded. Two chairs of philosophy were established, one for theoretical philosopy and one for practical philosophy. The first chair, professor logices et poeses, included not only logic and metaphysics, but poetics as well. The latter, professor politices et historiarum, covered the teaching of politics and the history of philosophy and later on also economics and ethics.

After the fire that destroyed large parts of the city in 1827, there was a period of almost one hundred years without higher education in Turku. After Finland gained its independence university level teaching was re-established in Turku, but now it was given in two separate universities: at the Swedish-language university, Åbo Akademi, since 1918 and at the Finnish-language Turun yliopisto (University of Turku) since 1920.

One of the first chairs at the Faculty of Arts was the Chair of Philosophy. The first holder of the Chair was Eino Kaila, who was famous for his studies of logic, the philosophy of science and the theory of knowledge. Kaila acted as professor until 1930. He was succeeded by J.E. Salomaa, who held the chair from 1931 to 1958, and later by Sven Krohn who was professor between 1960 and 1967.

In 1968 the Chair of Philosophy became the Chair of Theoretical Philosophy and Krohn continued to be its holder until 1970. Between 1972 and 1999 the Professor of the Theoretical Philosophy was Risto Hilpinen. During Hilpinen's time the emphasis, both in research and teaching, was on systematic philosophy that covered the applications of philosophical logic, epistemology, the theory of norms, the philosophy of science, ontology and the philosophy of mind, among others.

Nowadays the research in theoretical philosophy is mainly concentrated upon history of philosophy. The professor of theoretical philosophy from 2002 to 2023 was Olli Koistinen.

The Chair of Practical Philosophy was established in 1965. The first holder of the Chair was Juho (Jussi) Tenkku who held it until 1973. During his time the teaching and research of practical philosophy concentrated mainly on the study of classical works of moral and social philosophy. The professorship of practical philosophy was moved from the Faculty of Arts to the Faculty of Social Sciences in 1967 but the Chair of Theoretical Philosophy remained in the Faculty of Arts until 1995.

Since 1976 the Professor of Practical Philosophy has been Juhani Pietarinen who has conducted research into new areas such as bioethics and 'genethics', not forgetting traditional fields of study such as philosophical ethics, theory of values, social philosophy, and political philosophy.

Since 1995 the University of Turku has been a member of the Coimbra Group that consists of Europe's oldest universities such as the ones in Uppsala, Bologna, Cambridge and Oxford. The Department of Philosophy has had connections with some of the member universtities already in the past, for example Professor Hilpinen was a visiting professor at the University of Graz in summer 1995. It is likely that the co-operation with the universities of the Coimbra Group will expand in the future within some joint projects.

Nurmi, M. & Somerkoski, P.: The University of Turku, Turku, 1982
Perälä, T.: Turun yliopisto 1939-1974, Turku, 1977
Rein, T.H.: Filosofin studium vid Åbo Universitet, Helsingfors, 1908