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Esa Saarinen

Born July 27, 1953, Hyvinkää.

Master of Arts, 1975, Licentiate of Philosophy, 1976 and Doctor of Philosophy (Theoretical Philosophy), University of Helsinki, 1978
Docent teacher, Theoretical Philosophy, 1978-

Professor, University of Technology, with responsibility for Applied Philosophy and Creative Problem-solving, 2002- (tenured 2008-)

Occasional teacher in Philosophy, Assistant and Senior Assistant, University of Helsinki, 1973–1999
Acting Professor of Theoretical Philosophy, University of Helsinki, 1982, 1992–1993
Research Assistant to Professor Jaakko Hintikka, 1975–1979

Managing Director and Board Member, Muutostehdas Ltd, 1989-
Board Member, Ensto Ltd, 1990-
Chair of the Board, Nostetuotanto Ltd, 1997-

External Member, Nobel Laureate Edmund S. Phelp’s Center on Capitalism and Society, Columbia University, New York, 2011-

Publications and other Academic Activities

Systems Intelligence Research Group, co-director with Professor Raimo P. Hämäläinen

University of Helsinki’s Eino Kaila Prize for University Teaching, 1990
Pro Me Naiset (’We Women’) medal, 1993
Knight of the White Rose of Finland, 1995
Sotainvalidien Veljesliitto (War veterans’ association) medal, 1997
University of Helsinki Bronze Medal, 1998
Iron Cross, Finnish Central Chamber of Commerce, 2003
Team Academician, Jyväskylä University of Applied Science’s Team Academy, 2003
Estonian Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana, Third Class, 2014
Lifetime Award for Positivity, 2014

Written by Esa Saarinen (Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta, ed.)
Translated by John Calton

The “Conductor of the Thinking Orchestra”

Esa Saarinen lives by the maxim “Better thinking generates better life”. He defended his thesis at the age of 24 at the University of Helsinki. He was a student of Professors Oiva Ketonen and Jaakko Hintikka and was further inspired, during his study years by Professor Erik Tawaststjerna’s lectures on Sibelius and the cultural influence of University alumni such as Johan Ludvig Runeberg, Johan Vilhelm Snellman and Professors Eino Kaila and Georg Henrik von Wright.

Esa Saarinen’s lectures were legendary at the University of Helsinki, filling the largest lecture halls to capacity. When he moved in 2001 to Helsinki University of Technology (later Aalto University) to become the first Philosophy Professor of that institution, the profile of the lectures became even more elevated. Saarinen’s personal and experiential lectures on applied philosophy of life established themselves as part of the culture of the Otaniemi campus, home to many of Finland’s best technologists.

With video recordings of Saarinen’s lectures, the philosopher’s ideas have spread far beyond the University. The number of YouTube hits for the lectures rapidly exceeded 100,000.

Saarinen’s lecturing style is colourful and emotive. He steers away from traditional blueprints combining images from popular culture with learning, examples from personal experience and humour. His aim is to enhance the listener’s own way of thinking. Strikingly, the focus of the lecture is not on its objective content but on the process that emerges in the participants as individuals. Whilst lecturing, Saarinen aims to be “the conductor of thinking” rather than a “solo artist”.

In his lectures Saarinen likes to push the limits of language and to use expression such as “upscale register”, “tender and dynamic moment of meeting” or “007 philosophy”. In his Finnish lectures, Saarinen often employs unusual expressions understandable to all, but almost impossible to translate without the loss of some of the nuance. latistuksen mankeli (‘the mangle for flattening life’), kukoistuskatse (‘glance for making the other flourish’), uomakipitys (‘scuttling within the confines of the riverbanks ’).



Esa Saarinen at the public defence of his doctoral thesis in 1977. In the photograph are Professor Jaakko Hintikka, Professor Ilkka Niiniluoto and Esa Saarinen.​
Esa Saarinen at the public defence of his doctoral thesis in 1977. In the photograph are Professor Jaakko Hintikka, Professor Ilkka Niiniluoto and Esa Saarinen.​


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