Philosophical ethics focuses on basic questions about value and normativity. It systematically investigates what is good and why, and what is right or wrong. It also asks metaethical questions about what it is to be good or right, the meaning of moral language, the nature of moral thought, and how we can come to know moral truths, if there are any. Applied ethics makes use of normative and metaethical views to address practical questions in various areas, such as medicine, artificial intelligence, environmental issues, treatment of animals, and personal relationships.
Social and political philosophy focuses on fundamental questions about what makes societies good. It addresses conceptual issues about the meaning of justice, equality, citizenship, and democracy, as well as the nature of power and political institutions. It asks normative questions about the justification of political authority, the rights and responsibilities of persons and groups, distribution of goods, the grounds of social criticism, and proper responses to injustice and wrongdoing. It also investigates these issues on a global scale, such as the meaning of global justice, global inequality and the possibilities and nature of a cosmopolitan political order.
The philosophy of social science investigates the foundational, conceptual, and methodological questions related to scientific research on people and society. What makes a social scientific explanation good? How should different forms of collective action be conceptualized? How should scientific theories and evidence inform democratic decision-making to achieve social progress and sustainability? Our ambition is to do philosophy that is genuinely relevant for the practice of social research. Practical Philosophy also hosts the Centre for Philosophy of Social Science.
Several research seminars are organised by practical philosophy and the other philosophy disciplines. The seminars are open to everyone, although pre-registration is sometimes needed for participating in web-based seminars. The Perspectives on Science (POS) seminar takes place on Mondays. The Moral and Political Philosophy seminar (MPP) convenes on Wednesdays,
The philosophy disciplines of the University of Helsinki (practical philosophy, theoretical philosophy and philosophy, taught in Swedish) meet the highest international standards. In 2020 the philosophy disciplines ranked 28th place in the QS ranking of universities worldwide. This means that philosophy at the University of Helsinki is one of Finland’s leading academic disciplines and ranks sixth among philosophy units at universities in non-English speaking countries.
Practical philosophy has several ongoing research projects. The content of each project is described in detail on the project websites and the University’s research project database. Some project names are only in Finnish.
Making data speak: Towards a philosophy of data-driven social science 01/09/2023 → 31/08/2027. Academy of Finland. Leader: Jaakko Kuorikoski
The breakages and renewal of algoritmic systems 01/09/2022 → 30/09/2025. Academy of Finland. Practical Philosophy Co-PI: Pekka Mäkelä
Cognition in social interaction - Toward a mechanistic integration of the cognitive and social sciences 01/08/2021 → 31/12/2024. Kone Foundation. Leader: Tuukka Kaidesoja
HARMAA: Indirect Philosophy as a Form of Resistance – How to Reinforce Individual Agency in the “Post-Truth” Era? 1.6.2023 → 2025. Kone Foundation. Leader: Erika Ruonakoski
Economics as Serviceable Social Knowledge, 2021-25. Leader: Uskali Mäki
Ethical Risks and Responsibility of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence. 1.9.2020-31.8.2024. Leader: Pekka Mäkelä.
Some of the project names are only in Finnish.
The aim of studies in practical philosophy is to train students in philosophical analysis and argumentation regarding questions of values, human action and society, and develop skills in applying philosophical reasoning in a wide range of societal and professional contexts.
As of 2017, the University of Helsinki offers joint Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes for all philosophy students, but the degree requirements and titles of practical philosophy differ from those of theoretical philosophy. The Faculty of Arts coordinates the Bachelor’s Programme in Philosophy and the Faculty of Social Sciences is responsible for the Master’s Programme in Philosophy. The major subject of philosophy students at the Faculty of Social Sciences is practical philosophy, and they graduate as Bachelor or Master of Social Sciences degree holders.
Philosophy students also have a vibrant association, Dilemma .
Practical philosophical research in Helsinki contributes to the public and the local community in various ways. Engagement with such various actors in turn provides us with the opportunity and motivation to further reflect on and strengthen the societal relevance of our knowledge and expertise. We do public engagement for instance through
Practical philosophy graduates are employed in a wide range of positions in the public as well as the private sector. Many work as researchers and teachers at universities, research institutes, in secondary education and other educational institutions. Practical philosophers are also employed as administrators, communication specialists, consultants and publishers.
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