Philosophy in Finland 1200-1850


Published in Ajatuksen kulku, suomalaiset filosofit maailmalla - maailman filosofit Suomessa. Tankens vägar, finländska filosofer i världen - världsfilosofer i Finland.

Trains of thought, finnish philosophers in the world - the world´s philosophers in Finland.  (Toimittaja, redaktör Inkeri Pitkäranta.)

Finnish National Library, 2004. Kansalliskirjaston Gallerian julkaisuja 6. /Nationalbibliotekets Galleri; publication nr 6./National Library Gallery publications 6.

Vesa Oittinen

Philosophy in Finland 1200–1850


In all probability, there was some teaching in philosophy at the Cathedral School in Turku, which was founded in the 1280’s, and from the 14th century onwards a major part of the holders of higher ecclesiastical duties in Finland were Parisian magistri, so that they must have studied and even taught Scholastic philosophy. Among the fragments of medieval manuscripts used in Finland many works have been found representing different trends of Scholasticism. However, the material does not allow one – at least not hitherto – to identify Schoolmen of specifically Finnish origin. The first known Finns with an acquaintance in philosophy can be found among the Humanists and Reformers of the 16th century, such as Michael Agricola (1510–57), the founder of literary Finnish, who studied at Wittenberg under Luther’s and Melanchthon’s supervision. In his library, which mirrors the interests and spirit of Northern Renaissance humanism, may be found works of Aristotle and Diogenes.

At Wittenberg, too, Marcus Henrici Helsingius defended his dissertation De rationali humanis anima metaphysicae propositiones (1593), and thus he seems to be the first identifiable Finn who wrote expressly on philosophical matters. From the the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries several other Finns are known to have defended their theses on philosophical subjects. Somewhat arbitrarily, depending on how to define a “philosopher”, could Sigfrid Aronius Forsius (ca. 1550–1624), the royal astronomer under Gustavus Adolphus, be seen as the first Finnish professional philosopher; his book Physica (finished in 1611 and not printed until much later) is a product of Renaissance natural philosophy typical for its epoch, in which e.g. the influence of Paracelsus can be discerned.

The founding of the first Finnish university, the Academy of Turku (in Swedish Åbo, in Latin Aboa) was decisive in the institutional establishment of philosophy in Finland, for the university had from the beginning two professorial chairs, the one on logics and metaphysics (that is, theoretical philosophy), the other on practical philosophy, which, however, included moral and history, too. The dominating trend during the whole 17th century was Neo-Aristotelianism, that is, a Protestant scholasticism, whose authorities were to be found mainly from North German universities. The Academy of Turku was founded above all to serve the purposes of the education for the needs of the emerging Great Power of Sweden; the main intention was not to practise independent scientific research or to encourage new ideas, but to produce priests and officials for the State. This, of course, leaved its mark even to the study of philosophy, which was viewed as a subordinate discipline compared with theology. A book characteristic for the official intentions was e. g. Enevaldus Svenonius’s Gymnasium capiendae rationis humanae, a text-book published in 1662 which contained of “excercitions” leading to the right use of philosophical argumentation needed in the study of theology.

True, Descartes had died in Stockholm in 1650, in the immediate vicinity of the Academy, as one could say, but his influence remained insignificant, despite the fact that after the “Cartesian controversies” in Sweden the king Charles XI issued in 1689 a degree stipulating a libertas philosophandi in certain limits. The majority of the professors of the initial period of the Turku Academy had studied in the Netherlands, where the influence of Descartes’s philosophy was at its strongest, so it is beyond doubt that Cartesianism was known in Turku already at an early stage. This “new” philosophy was commented in many publications of the period, but usually criticizing it from the standpoint of traditional views. So the Bishop Johannes Gezelius commented in his extensive survey of “philosophical sciences”, Encyclopaedia synoptica (1672), the famous Cartesian dictum Cogito ergo sum, saying that it could not be valid as a first principle, becauswe it presupposed the yet more general principle “He, who thinks, exists” and is, thus, only a secondary proposition.

Typically enough, the opposition against the protestant Neo-Scholasticism became first discernible amongst the physicians and medicinians, not among the professional philosophers. The first dissertations which openly defended Cartesian ideas were published by Peter Hahn, physices professor from 1683 to 1718. For example, in Discursus physiologicus de sensibus hominis (1690, probably written by the respondent A. Lundius) there was made, following Descartes, a sharp distinction between mind and body and the body was examined as a purely physiological mechanism. The illustrations of this dissertation consisted of pictures redrawn from Descartes’s Optica. The interest to Francis Bacon, too, grew towards the end of the Swedish Great Power period.

Maybe the greatest achievements of the 17th century academic Finnish philosophy were in the field of logics. Already the first professor of theoretical philosophy, the Swede Nicolaus Nycopensis, published from the 1640’s onwards numerous dissertations on logic. But the best known Finnish logician of this period was Andreas Thuronius, born in 1632 in Hämeenkyrö, who by the recommendation of the powerful chancellor of the Academy, Count Per Brahe, was appointed to logices et metaphysices professor in 1657. His main work is Institutiones logicae (1654), a book of 850 pages and a considerable prestation in the circumstances of the age. It does not, however, boast with originality, since it treats logics mainly in the Aristotelian and Ramistic spirit. Later (1664) it was followed with a pendant, Compendium metaphysicum, which dealt with the second part of the domain of the professorship. In addition, Thuronius seems to have been an esteemed lecturer and he got the honorary title of a disputator subtilis. He died young, only 32 years old, but his work in logic was continued by Jacobus Flachsenius, who even he published an extensive book (over 1.000 pages), Compendium logicum, completed in 1678. Flachsenius knew Descartes, but was of the opinion that Gassendi already had succeeded in refuting him.

In the field of the practical philosophy the most important personality in the initial phase of the Academy was Michael Wexionius (later raised to the nobility as Gyllenstolpe), a diligent writer whose philosophical works were mainly on ethics and politics. He relied on the Aristotelian tradition and Melanchthon, but was influenced by Hugo Grotius, too. The Collegium ethicum (1649, new edition 1655) can be seen as his main work in the field of moral philosophy; here he follows the well-known old tradition in seeing the happines, eudaimonia, as the supreme virtue and in general defining virtue as choosing the middle way between extremes. In political philosophy the main work of Wexionius was Politica praecepta (1647, new rewritten edition 1657), where he tried to apply his political theories to the contemporary affairs of the Swedish state. According to him, a limited monarchy was the best form of constitution and there are two kinds of subjects: immediate, that is those who were directly the subjects of the King, and the mediate subjects, which in the first instance were tenants of the aristocracy. There is an anecdote that this theory of Wexionius irritated the King Charles X Gustavus so much that he threw the book on the wall.


18th century: Wolffianism and Utilism

The Great Northern War, in which Sweden lost its status as an European power, interrupted for some years the activities of the Academy of Turku. When the study and teaching of philosophy again started in 1722, its character was clearly changed. The Neo-Aristotelianism and rigid submission to Protestant orthodoxy of the previous century had even otherwise been heading a crisis, and when the political constellations changed, new tendencies from Central Europe set rapidly through in Finnish philosophy. Decisive was, above all, the influence of Christian Wolff (1679–1754) of Halle and Marburg, so that Wolffianism put its mark on the philosophy in Turku Academy during the entire first half of the eighteenth century. Wolff himself is often depicted as a follower of Leibniz, but this is not a very accurate characterization. His philosophy was a Rationalism in the Enlightenment mood, viewing philosophy as a form of science, so that it is even possible to call Wolffianism an early form of scientism. Despite of its prosy “mathematic” form of exposition, Wolffianism was the fashionable philosophy of its epoch in Germany, Northern countries and even in Russia, where Peter the Great tried, although with no success, to get Wolff to head the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences.

Of the Finnish Wolffians, the most interesting personality is without doubt Johan Welin, who in 1732 become the adjunctus (that is, the adjoint) to the philosophical faculty. Three years later Welin applied for the professorship of theoretical philosophy when the previous holder of the chair, Johan Haartman was dead, and wrote a dissertation, De nexu et connubio logicae cum mathesi (1735), written altogether in Wolffian spirit and often citing him. But Welin was already brought to disrepute as a radical, and the chair was given to another applicant. As the circumstances in Finland thus had proven to be too narrow, Welin left for a long journey abroad – first to Marburg, where he from 1737 on studied under the supervision of the maestro himself, Wolff. Hearing that the professorship in Turku had again become vacant, he applied for a second time and had now a letter of recommendation from the famous Wolff to the Chancellor of the Turku Academy, Count Creutz. That struck home and Welin was appointed as a professor in Turku. But he did not return to Finland. On a leave of absence, he went to London (1740–1741) and then to Paris, where he 1744 dead accidentally in a fire. Only recently there has been research on Welin’s travels in Europe, which has shown that he had interesting contacts with many known scholars, e.g. in the Royal Society of London, the first Finnish member of which he was elected.

If Welin was a genial, but short-lived falling star in the history of Finnish wolffianism, so the best representant of the normal paradigma of the doctrine was possibly Cal Mesterton, borin 1715 in Gothenburg in a family of Scottish origin. After disputing, in 1745, on the theme De principii rationis sufficientis he got the chair left by Welin, and during his career as a Turku professor he supervised almost a hundred dissertations in the fields of logics, ontology, psychology and natural theology, all these being typical Wolffian divisions. Mesterton seems, however, have been influenced even by the Lund philosopher Anders Rydelius, who was a representative of a kind of rationalist metaphysics independent of Wolff. According to Mesterton, the metaphysics gives the most general definitions of the Being and is thus the first of the sciences; the business of philosophy is to show the grounds for the possibility of the existence of things – that is, their ratio sufficiens. All this is most orthodox Wolffianism. The elementary text books of philosophy Mesterton published, such as Ontologia seu philosophia prima (1766) or Logica contracta (1763) follow Wolff’s divisions, too. Mesterton expounded even the so-called natural theology; it was just in this field the Enlightenment character of Wolffianism was clear to discern, as the theologia naturalis pretended a rational knowledge of God which was independent of the revelation.

In 1767 Mesterton was followed as professor of logics and metaphysics by Jakob Haartman, the son of aforementioned Johan Haartman (the university scholars were at this time often recruited from “academic families” whose members could in several generations have the chairs of a certain branch). During his short time as philosophy professor – in 1770 he went over to the theological faculty and was appointed in 1776 Bishop of Turku – Haartman contentred with lecturing on logics, ontology and philosophy on the basis of the compendia of the well-known Swedish Wolffian Nils Wallerius. After Haartman, the Wolffian tradition was continued by Wilhelm Nääf (professor of logics in 1770–1779) and Olof Schalberg (professor in 1779–1804), who did not add anything new; in his last years Schalberg, who had lectured three decades relying invariably on the same Wolffian compendia, was already regarded as an anachronism.

As to practical philosophy, Algot Scarin, professor from the re-opening of the Academy in 1722 to 1761, cannot be left unmentioned. True, Scarin’s interests lay mainly in the field of history, but he lectured on morals and natural as well as political law, too. For Scarin, the most important authority in social philosophy was Samuel Pufendorf (1632–1694). It was not accidentally this German theoretician of natural and political law was very influential in Sweden long into the 18th century, as there were political reasons to this. In the so-called Era of Freedom, that is in mid-18th century when power was in the hands of the estates of the Diet and royal sovereignty cut into a minimum, the theories of Pufendorf were often pleaded to justify the existing Constitution. According to Pufendorf, the commonwealth was based on an agreement between the government and the subjects, and its constitution needed not obligately be monarchistic. When Scarin started his lectures on political philosophy for the academical year 1729/1730, he referred just to this new form of government which in Sweden had replaced the previous absolute monarchy, presupposing thus that the relationship between royal power and freedom had to be interpreted in a new way. Scarin was followed in the office by Johan Bilmark (professor from 1761 to his death 1801), who published the greatest amount of dissertations in the whole history of the Turku Academy, as much as 232. Most of them were, however, historical, and in political philosophy Bilmark, like his precedessor, followed Pufendorf.

Wolffianism lost its positions everywhere in the 1750’s. In Germany and in Nordic countries it was replaced by an empirism and common sense philosophy of English origin – such thinkers as John Locke, David Hume, Adam Ferguson became now well-known in the Continent as well as in Sweden. The influence of French Enlightenment philosophy, on the other side, seems at least in Sweden have been restricted to court circles. The new empiristic philoosphy, which supplanted Wolffianism, was in itself rather eclectic, but an important distinguishing mark of the new philosophy was, that it was pursuede not only in academies and among scholars, as Wolffianism and the earlier systems, but was directed to a wider public; in Germany it was thus deservedly called Popularphilosophie. Immanuel Kant described this change which was happening in his own times by saying, that the old philosophy (or better, the old way of philosophizing) was understood in sensu scholastico, while the new philosophy had to be taken in sensu cosmico, “in the sense of a world citizen”. This change of paradigma in philosophical thought reflected, above all, the transition of the Enlightenment culture into a new phase, in which the ideas of Enlightenment reached wider layers of the society and the first forms of modern public life were born.

In the 1750’s, this change was not yet discernible in the small world of the Turku Academy, but the first blow against Wolffianism in Sweden was, however, given by a man of Finnish origin, Peter Forsskål (1732–1763). After initial studies in Upsala under the celebrated Linnaeus, he went in 1752 to Göttingen where he published in 1756 an interesting and remarkable dissertation Dubia de principiis philosophiae recentioris, presided by the known theologian and orientalist J. D. Michaelis. The “recent philosophy”, whose grounds Forsskål is scrutinizing, is of course the doctrine of the Wolff school. This doctrine rests on two pillars, which are the principle of contradiction and the principle of sufficient reason. According to Forsskål, neither of these principles is primary nor gives the apodictic certainty claimed by the Wolffians. His argumentation departs from a radical empiricism: although it might be true that we cannot doubt the principlke of contradiction, it does nor follow, that this principle really should be true, but only that it to my mind is true. Here Forsskål seems to have gone even further in skepticism than David Hume.

With his dissertation, Forsskål challenged the Wolffians of his homeland and seems to have irritated especially the influential professor of philosophy in Upsala, Nils Wallerius. But even a bigger scandal was to come. Back in Sweden, Forsskål tried first in vain to publish a dissertation on citizen’s right written in Latin. This was refused, because it was deemed that its ideas were incompatible with the politics of the then hegemonic “Party of the Hats”, that is the aristocratic fraction of the Diet. The irascible Forsskål then translated his dissertation into Swedish and published it with the title Tankar om Borgerliga Friheten (Thoughts on the Liberty of the Citizens, 1759). He criticized the power-use of the Swedish Estates and put forth on the basis of his own theory of liberty a demand on unlimited freedom of speech. The booklet was, of course, immediately confiscated and Forsskål, having no more perspectives for an academic career in his native country, left for Denmark, where he soon was to partake in an exploration to Southern Arabia. The hardships of the journey were too much for Forsskål, who died in Yemen in 1763.

Just as in the previous century Cartesianism was introduced into the academic world by others than philosophers proper, so even Wolffianism was criticized in the early 1700’s from an empiristic point of view initially among the historians and natural scientists. Already in Wolff’s lifetime his philosophical system has a concurrent in the more eclectic and pro-empiristic tendency of Christian Thomasius. There were parallel phenomena in the Nordic countries and Finland, too. Recently the researchers have stressed especially the role of Henrik Hassel, who was the eloquentiae professor in Turku from 1728 on. Hassel, who performed the duties of his office almost half a century, published 125 dissertations and had a considerable influence on the Academy matters. Already Porthan stated in his funebral oration on Hassel, that he deliberately strove to cut down the influence of Wolffianism. To be sure, it is difficult to exactly define Hassel’s own philosophical position, as he seems to have let the respondents to write rather independently the dissertations which he presided, but one can notice, for example, the dissertation defended in 1732 by Nicolaus Tammelin, De fabulis philosophorum, which was rather hearty in defending empirism. The writer stressed, depending on Bacon, the significance of empirical research as the basis of science and rebuffed metaphysics as a mere philosophical fabulation.

Hassel’s example was followed by the professor of physics (from 1738 on), later Bishop of Turku (from 1749 on) Johan Browallius, who vindicated experimental natural sciencves and evern in political theory relied on Locke. In the same manner the follower of Browallius, Karl Fredrik Mennander (physices professor 1746, Bishop of Turku 1757, Archbishop of Upsala 1775) criticized his inaugural lection Aristoteles for having confunded physics and metaphysics. Both Browallius and Mennander were zealous supporters of the “Hat Party” and the anti-royal constitution of the Era of Liberty – Browallius is especially remembered for his pro memoria where he stressed that even the idea that the Estates could make a wrong decision should be punished as inimical to the Constitution – and the empirism and experimental science they supported were an integral part of the essentially mercantilistic ideology of this party. The task of science was seen in securing economic advantages for the country. This utilitarian point of view was stressed in the Academy of Turku stronger than in other universities of the Swedish realm – typically, the professorship in poetry was abolished in 1747 and replaced with a chair of economy, which was regarded as more beneficious for the country. No wonder that the period approximately from the 1740’s to 1760’s was by later historians called “The Epoch of Utility”.


The Era of Porthan and the Challenge of Kant

Henrik Gabriel Porthan, Hassel’s follower as the professor of eloquency (from 1777 to his death in 1804) was one of the most important personalities of the Finnish Enlightenment culture, and the end of the 18th century has been called “the Porthanian era”. Surprisingly enough, the philosophical views of Porthan have not yet been systematically analyzed, but it is clear that he shared the ideas of German neo-humanism and Popularphilosophie. A couple of years after having been appointed to professor (1779) Porthan had a long travel abroad (it was the only he did in his lifetime) to Denmark and Germany. In Berlin, he formed a friendship with the well-known bookseller and writer Friedrich Nicolai, and met with Moses Mendelssohn; in Göttingen he again came to know the new school of historical research of A. L. Schlözer.

The experiences from the travel had a decisive influence on Porthan’s thinking and led him to abandon his earlier Wolffianism in favour of a more modern and empiristic way of research. The influence of Porthan was many-sided. Seen from the posterity, his most important achievements probably lay in his study of Finnish history and folklore. But he lectured and published dissertations even on aesthetics, archaeology, classical studies, psychology, logics, practical philosophy and natural theology. The most important influences he received were from German neo-humanism (Winckelmann, Ernesti, Baumgarten, Sulzer, Mendelssohn), English empirism and, to a lesser extent, from French Enlightenment thinkers, although he might in his correspondence casually praise e.g. the eudaimonism of Helvétius.

Like his paragons, the German “popular philosophers”, Porthan was not a very original thinker in philosophy. He disliked the Wolffians and supported the High Enlightenment idea of philosophy as an activity contributing to the ethical life in civil society and education of the citizens. In this respect his nearest kin was the secretary of the Swedish Academy, Nils von Rosenstein, with whom he correspondenced. Rosenstein’s book Försök til en afhandling om uplysning (An Essay on the Enlightenment, presented in 1789, printed in 1793) is probably the most important single work of the Swedish Enlightenment.

There are over 200 dissertations presided by Porthan. Many of them treat the favourite subjects of the “popular philosophers” and have such titles as De praejudiciis (1781) or De praejudiciis amovendis (1785), discussing the ways of abolishing the prejudices, or De spectris (1795) and De vi cognitionis physicae ad superstitionem minuendam (1798) on how scientific knowledge helps in overcoming superstitious beliefs. The dissertation An miracula sint divinae missionis criteria ? (1789) questions the doctrines of the Church on miracles and condemns the persecution of withces which had started in Sweden under Charles XI. Such mystical doctrines as Swedenborgianism or animal magnetism, so fashionable in the late 18th century, found in Porthan a resolute opponent, too. The influence of English common sense philosophy can be seen in dissertations on psychology (for example, De sympathia animorum humanorum I–II, 1778, 1780), and in his dissertations on aesthetics (e.g. De pulchro, 1795) he relies, besides on Sulzer, even on the ideas of Henry Home. Interesting is the dissertation De obligatione civis ad capessendam reipublicae (The obligations of the citizens as regards to the affairs of the state), published in 1788, because here Porthan indirectly, but clearly is distancing himself from the Anjala coalition which had a mutiny against the impopular Russian war of King Gustav III. The state, writes he, is based on the agreement of its citizens, from which it without questions follows that they have the duty to defend their country.

If the Enlightenment “popular philosophy” as represented by Porthan had after the mid-1700’s pushed aside the earlier Wolffianism, so in the 1790’s the popular philosophers in turn met a challenger in the critical philosophy of Kant. Porthan had from the beginning an aversion against the new doctrine. Its adherents had in Upsala already aroused the attention of government circles by their radicalism. In May 1795, Porthan commented sourly the philosophy of Kant in a letter to his friend, the jurist Calonius:

“Its mysterious language and own terminology, which can be understood only by the adepti, has excluded me from it; I am already too old to waste my time for it, and so I believe that I can get along with my old philosophy […] I really am afraid that whole this seething enthusiasm for Kantianism will suffer the same fate as Cartesianism and Wolffianism before it, namely that when it has made a noise for a while, it will calm down and be put aside…”

Soon Porthan, however, began actively fight against the influence of Kant, whom he criticized both in his lectures and in dissertations. In the year 1798 alone he published three dissertations against Kant, of which one typically was titled De obscuritate orationis (On the obscurity of speech) and where he tried to show that Kantianism does not come up to the “philosophy of a world’s citizen” in the sense of Enlightenment ideals. Such a negative attitude to Kant was generally typical to the “popular philosophers”, so that in Germany even specific magazines were founded to refute Kantianism. One of the coryphees of this campaign, the Berlin bookseller Fr. Chr. Nicolai sent in 1799 to Porthan, whom he considered his ally, some anti-Kantian pamphlets.

Despite of Porthan’s efforts, the new philosophy soon found adherents in Finland, even among the people near him. One of Porthan’s favourite pupils, the later famous poet Frans Michael Franzén, came back from Upsala turned a Kantian and published in Turku in 1798 the first Finnish pro-Kantian dissertations. In them Franzén took part in a dispute between the poet Carl Gustaf Leopold and the Kant-influenced Upsala professor Daniel Boëthius, and defended Kant’s interpretation of moral law. However, Franzén’s enthusiasm for Kant did not last long. Initially, he had adopted the new philosophy because he had seen in it a counterpoise to the utilitarian morals and eudaimonism of the Enlightenment. Soon it, however, became evident for Franzén that Kanmt’s philosophy, too, builds the morality on a merely subjective conviction. In 1803 he published in the Turku newspaper Åbo Tidning a poem, called Tviflaren (The Doubter), where he repudiated Kant’s philosophy; according to him, it teached that “the Earth, the Heaven, all which is beautiful” is but “a mental play” without reality outside the subject. It is very probable, that the so-called Atheism Controversy in Germany in 1799, when Fichte scandalously was removed from his office of professor of philosophy in Jena, contributed to that Franzén became less benign towards Kant and his followers.

A more stable Kantian than Franzén was Anders Johan Lagus (professor of logics and metaphysics from 1804, professor of practical philosophy after Franzén from 1812). Already in his professural dissertation Immanuel Kantis de tempore doctrina (1804), where he discussed Kant’s doctrine of time and space as aprioric forms of intuition, Lagus showed that he was a good connoisseur of the ideas of the Königsberg philosopher. Later, in the Russian period, Lagus profiled himself above all as an academic administrator and politician, but published even dissertations in Kantian spirit e.g. on theology.

The most interesting philosopher of this period is, however, Gabriel Israel Hartman (1776–1809), who died young and had to strain in ill-paid offices of a docent and a academic librarian. In addition, he was a redacteur of the Åbo Tidningar and founded a school for boys which had good reputation but seems not to have been a financially lucrative affair. Hartman has been called the first and maybe only Finnish philosopher who had an own system. He presented it in his main work Kunskapslära I–II (Doctrine of Cognition, 1807, 1808; a planned third volume never appeared). Hartman’s philosophical system reflects the then actual discussions about the perspectives of Kantian and post-Kantian philosophy and it has some traits which remind of the “Elementary Philosophy”, developed in the 1790’s by Kant’s follower Karl Leonhard Reinhold. Like Reinhold, even Hartman departs from the “fact of consciousness”, where a triplicity of the subject, the object and the representation can be found. But on the other side Hartman constructed his system deliberately as an antithesis to the philosophy of Kant, which for him was idealistic, and strove to maintain the results of the earlier frationalistic Enlightenment philosophy. One of his main theses was, that the I – quite contrary to the Ich of Kant or Fichte – is a “thing in itself”, of which we, however can obtain knowledge, and this reality of the I is the warrant of the reality of the objective world.

In quite recent times there has been more light on Hartman, as Georg Henrik von Wright succeeded in the 1990’s to find from the collections of the Russian State Library some manuscripts of Hartman which previously had been thought to be lost, among them an extensive text with the title Bestämmelselära, which contains Hartman’s practical philosophy. The manuscripts had landed into Russia already in the beginnings of the 1800’s, when a pupil of Hartman named Karl Sederholm had moved there. The new materials wait yet their more detailed analysis, but undoubtely they will add some interesting nuances to the earlier history of Finnish philosophy.


From 1809 on

The separation of Finland from Sweden was a major overthrow in the history of both countries and led to changes in the mental atmosphere of both countries. But while in Sweden the trends which hitherto had been in the opposition broke out so that in the 1810’s and 1820’s the academic and literary world became almost intoxicated of Romanticism and Schellingianism, it was typical for Finland that the old Enlightenment and neo-humanistic culture continued there without dramatic changes. The heritage of Porthan stuck tight in the Finnish intelligentia.

It is possible to follow the gradual decline of Kantianism in the light of the production of Fredrik Bergbom (1785–1830), docent of theoretical philosophy 1811, professor of logics and metaphysics from 1823). Bergbom, who died relatively young, published some interesting dissertations. The first of them is De repraesentatione originaria… (1810), which had Lagus as the praeses; the authorship of Bergbom can be concluded from the style only, but it is evident. In his dissertation Bergbom adheres to the doctrine of one follower of Kant, Jacob Sigismund Beck, which in specialist literature usually is called Standpunktlehre and was one step away from Kant’s original philosophy towards the later transcendental idealism. The material provided by the academic dissertations allows one to follow, how Bergbom step by step takes distance from Kant and comes nearer to the positions of transcendental philosophy, especially of Schelling.

Besides Lagus and Bergbom, even Gabriel Palander, the professor of theoreticasl philosophy from 1814 on (originally he was a mathematician) lectured during several years on different works of Kant. Palander died already 1821 and had thus nut much influence. In a similar way Johan Henrik Avellan, the professor of history from 1812 on, was at the initial stages of his career interested in Kantian aesthetics and pedagogics. Already in 1802 he published a work where he scrutinised the concept of beauty relying on Kant’s Critique of Judgement. However, Avellan did not hold on to Kant, but went through the whole scale of the systems of classical German idealism; in his old days, he yet published a series of Hegelian dissertations.

Although the philosophies of Fichte and Schelling were not recipied very enthusiastically in Finland, the success of Hegel was the more spectacular. When the collected works of Hegel immediately after the death of the philosopher – the so-called Vereinsausgabe – began to appear, the Wasenius book shop in Helsinki was the biggest single subscriber (over 40 sets) outside the German countries. Already J. M. Sundvall seems as a docent have lectured on Hegel in the beginning of the 1820’s, but it was Johan Jakob Tengström who finally introduced Hegel into Finland. Tengström was the professor of philosophy from 1830 on, after Bergbom (the Academy had moved from Turku to Helsinki in 1828 and had got new statutes, in which the both earlier chairs of philosophy were united). Tengström had made acquaintance with Hegel’s philosophy during his long travel abroad in 1817–1819 and built his own lectures thereafter on the doctrine of the “Master” in Berlin. He himself published almost nothing on philosophy, but the more important is the production of his pupil Johan Vilhelm Snellman (1806–1881), to the degree that Snellman has sometimes been called the “national philosopher” of Finland.

At the initial phases of his career Snellman was by no means in the favour of those in power. The authoritarian regime of the Czar Nicholas I was felt even in the autonomous Finnish grand duchy, whose leading officials saw in Snellman a suspected radical. The possiblities of an academic career being thus in Finland rather meagre, Snellman lived long periods in the beginning of the 1840’s abroad, first in Sweden, where he was active as an journalist and participated e.g. in the then actual and politically important debatte on the book of David Friedrich Strauss on the life of Jesus. In 1841 Snellman got doctor’s degree at the university of Tübingen with the dissertation Versuch einer speculativen Entwickelung der Idee der Persönlichkeit. This book was, like the articles on the Strauss debatte, a comment to the discussions inspired by the Left Hegelians. Next year Snellman published, this time again in Sweden, his main political work Läran om Staten (The Doctrine of the State), where the Hegelian jargon was used only chary, maybe for pedagogic reasons. The travel sketch Tyskland. Skildringar och omdömen (Germany – Descriptions and Appraisals, 1844) is an interesting document on Germany of the early 1840’s, especially as Snellman had met with several important persons of culture and science; he had even visited the famous Doktorklub of the Berlin Young Hegelians. After having returned to Finland, Snellman found that he still was a persona non grata in the eyes of the leading bureaucrats of the Grand Duchy, so he chose the career of a journalist. The newspaper Saima and the political and literary journal Litteraturbladet were signposts in ther history of Finnish journalism and their contribution in promoting a modern political life was considerable.

When Tengström retired in 1848 Snellman, who widely was seen his follower as a matter of course, applied for the chair, but did not get it for political reasons. The professorship was given to Germund Fredrik Aminoff, a favourite of the administration. When the students heard of Aminoff’s denomination, they immediately set up a demonstration for the disregarded Snellman. Aminoff could, however, enjoy his office only for a short time, as the Czar prohibited the teaching of philosophy in the whole Russian empire in 1852, because it was deemed too subversive. After the death of Nicholas I and accession of Alexander II a general process of political liberalization was started, culminating in that Finland, as the only territory within the confines of Russian empire, got a regular Diet. One of the signs of the changes was the rapid rise of the previously disfavoured Snellman. Already in 1856 a professorship in philosophy was hastily arranged for him (initially it was, however, camouflaged as “hodegetics and system of sciences”, because the ban on philosophy laid by Nicholas I was yet in force), from which he 1863 moved on to become a senator; a little later a title of nobility was conferred upon him, and he was for a long period active in politics as one of the leading persionalities of the so-called Finnish party. Among the important political achievements of Snellman can be mentioned the language edict of 1861, making Finnish equal to Swedish in all state affairs, and the creating of an own currency (the Finnish mark) in 1863, which made the Grand Duchy economically more independent from Russia.

Despite of his period in the opposition in the 1840’s, Snellman was not an adherent of the Left Hegelians; his nearest kin among the German Hegelians was Carl Ludwig Michelet, who in one of his works put himself and Snellman to the “left center” (linke Mitte) Hegel’s followers. Snellman knew Hegel’s system very well and his Hegelianism was rather orthodox. It may be that he got his professorship too late: he had already oriented to the politics and social activity, and his academic career did not last very long, although the influence of his lectures of social, moral and political philosophy was considerable. The problem was, too, that after 1850 the esteem of the philosophy of Hegel was rapidly diminishing: an all-encompassing speculative world-view had lost its credibility in an era when modern natural sciences and technics went forward with giant’s steps.

The changes were seen already in the follower of Snellman, Thiodolf Rein, who 1863 became the professor of philosophy; instead of Hegel, he rather relied on the philosophy of the nowadays almost totally forgotten Hermann Lotze. But the abandonment of Hegel’s heritage is yet clearer in the case of Wilhelm Bolin (1832–1920). Bolin is one if the really interesting personalities in Finnish philosophy. Born in St. Petersburg, Bolin moved in the 1850’s to Helsinki, because the political atmosphere of the Grand Duchy was, after all, more free, and even the study of philosophy had again become possible with the denomination of Snellman. But his main influences Bolin got from elsewhere – he had already as an youth became friends with Ludwig Feuerbach. After having presented to Snellman his dissertation on the development of the concept of family, Bolin published in the 1860’s his studies Leibnitz ett förebud till Kant (Leibniz, a Precedessor to Kant, 1864) and Undersökning af läran om viljans frihet (A Study on the Doctrine of the Free Will, 1868). In the latter, Bolin criticizes the Kantian doctrine of free will and defends the determinism of Spinoza, which according to him is congruent with the achievements of the natural sciences. In neither of these works he did not explicitely mention his mentor Feuerbach, but their general trend was despite of it “Feurbachian” in a broad sense, that is, naturalistic and materialistic. After having lost in contest for the professorship to Thiodolf Rein (whom he in one of his letters to Feuerbach snarlingly calls “a full-blooded Hegelian ruminant” – which, in fact, did not hold stand) Bolin became the chief of the University library. However, he published yet in 1870–1871 a rather important book on the history of the European political philosophy from the 1500’s on, Europas statslif I–II. In his later years Bolin concentrated himself to literature, theater and essayistics. At the same time, he however considered his duty to foster the memory of Feuerbach, who had deceased in 1872. He mpublished in 1891 a biography of Feuerbach and edited later in the early 1900’s a new edition of the collected works of the philosopher in co-operation with Friedrich Jodl, supporting the plan even financially. Bolin was a cosmopolitically oriented thinker, who had a vaste correspondence with many European philosophers and writers in the spirit of freethinking, naturalism and even Spinozism. His extensive literary remains – including a not uninteresting correspondence with Feuerbach – is preserved in the Helsinki University Library.