Writer, philosopher and business coach, Esa Saarinen is also Professor Emeritus at Aalto University and a well-known contributor to Finnish public debates on a wide range of topics.
Saarinen took his PhD at the University of Helsinki in 1977 at the age of 24, making him one of the youngest people ever to have defended a doctoral thesis in Finland at the time. His thesis concerned logic and the philosophy of language. Following the publication in 1980 of Punk-Akatemia (Punk Academy), a joint venture with author Jan Blomsted, Esa Saarinen gained the moniker “Dr Punk”. He held a number of posts, including acting professor, at Helsinki University’s Department of Philosophy until his departure in 1999.
His Terässinfonia (Steel symphony), written in 1981 with legendary cultural figure M. A. Numminen, his essay collections Epäihmisen ääni (Non-human voice) and Erektio Albertinkadulla (An erection on Albertinkatu) gained cult status along with his album titled Filosofia (Philosophy). Saarinen is known for his many eye-catching media and other public appearances. His Imagologies: Media Philosophy from 1994, written in collaboration with co-author Mark C. Taylor, is his best known work internationally. Saarinen has published widely in many areas of philosophy and his Länsimaisen filosofian historia huipulta huipulle Sokrateesta Marxiin (A history of western philosophy, from high point to high point, from Socrates to Marx) remains a seminal work.
In the private sector, Esa Saarinen has worked as a management consultant and coach, providing his services to leading Finnish brands like Nokia and Marimekko. He is also a popular public speaker, having given countless seminars to senior business leaders and other staff both in Finland and abroad since the publication in 1990 of Muutostekijä (Driving change), written with Ensio Miettinen, a captain of industry and fellow philosopher. Since 1995, people from all walks of life have come together for Saarinen’s week-long residential seminar Pafos, run a total of 53 times to date, to consider their own understanding of the meaning of life.
Saarinen is one of the best-known lecturers and public speakers in Finland. Seats at his philosophy lectures have been highly sought-after since the 1980s. His 1990s lecture series titled Onnistumisen psykologia ja filosofia (The psychology and philosophy of success), delivered jointly with the psychologist Kirsti Lonka, was an immense success, drawing full audiences to Helsinki University’s Great Hall. Saarinen’s pedagogical achievements have been recognised with the Eino Kaila prize, presented by the University of Helsinki.
Saarinen has long enjoyed a close professional association with engineering as a scientific discipline and in 2001, he was appointed professor of systems sciences, applied philosophy and creative problem solving at what is now Helsinki’s Aalto University. His course titled Philosophy and systems thinking proved hugely popular and has so far attracted more than 6,000 attendees. Recordings of these sessions have attracted more than a million viewings. Saarinen recently retired from his position at Aalto University.
He is married to Pipsa Pallasvesa, and the couple have twin sons together.
Photo: Katja Tähjä