Practical philosophy

Practical philosophy addresses fundamental questions regarding human action and society: How should we live? How should society be organized? How should we study society? These questions are treated within three main subdisciplines: ethics, social and political philosophy and philosophy of social science. At the University of Helsinki these questions are approached from many different theoretical and methodological perspectives.
Research profile


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

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.

Philosophy of social science

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.

Research seminars

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,

Research projects

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.

Ongoing research projects

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.

Recently finished projects

Some of the project names are only in Finnish.

Study opportunities in practical philosophy

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 .

Degree programmes
Community relations and public engagement

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

  • interdisciplinary research collaboration at the University of Helsinki, for example with
  • collaborations with researchers in Finland and abroad, including for example at the University of California, Berkeley, University of Tartu, Tallinn University of Technology, Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, University of Iceland, University of Copenhagen.
  • providing philosophical expertise for various types of invited events, such as in schools, within public administration, participating in expert groups and diverse forms of consultancy.
  • training philosophy teachers for high schools, cooperation with secondary education teachers organisations like FETO, and providing teaching materials for secondary education
  • involvement in events with the general public, for instance through writing and appearing in local, national and global media, debating topical societal issues, public talks, lectures and blogs.

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.


For information about our other researchers, please see our research portal

Discipline coordinator: Senior University Lecturer Kristian Klockars

Director for Master's Programme in Philosophy: Professor Antti Kauppinen

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Contact information

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PO Box 24 (Unioninkatu 40)

00014 University of Helsinki

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