Esa Saarinen
Humanist of the day

Esa Saarinen

Esa Saarinen is a philosopher, a writer, company trainer, media figure, colourful public intellectual and Professor at Aalto University. He is the husband of “the Queen”, as he likes to say, with reference to his “Special Lady”, Pipsa Pallasvesa, “father of twins”, and “an ordinary bloke from Hyvinkää”. He sees it as his calling to promote a better life through philosophy as applied to everyday life, and seeks to enhance broad, imaginative, human and unbridled independent thinking in his audience.

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

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.

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Reading Esa Saarinen’s book Erektio Albertinkadulla (‘Erection in Albert Square’), in 1988 Industrialist Ensio Miettinen phoned Esa and suggested collaboration. The founder of the Ensto Group was clearly impressed by what he read: “The implications of your book for business are revolutionary.” A partnership emerged, leading to the book Muutostekijä (‘Change Maker’, 1990) and marking a turning point in Saarinen’s attempts to apply philosophy to practical everyday living.

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“Even more important than new knowledge is the movement of thought.” This mantra, often heard in Esa Saarinen’s lectures, underlines the philosopher’s aim to create environments where participants can think for themselves. Like Socrates, Saarinen doesn’t offer ready-made learning content. His approach to philosophy builds on human capabilities and the resources which everyone has within them as part of their shared human endowment.

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