The main purpose of the network is to plan and facilitate philosophical cooperation between the departments of philosophy of Baltic and Nordic universities. Cooperation between in particular the Department of Social and Moral Philosophy of the University of Helsinki (now part of the Department of Political and Economic Studies) and the universities of the Baltic countries of the network has begun in the early 1990s. Based on this extensive experience, the Department has played the central role in establishing the Baltic Philosophy Network (Balphin) in 2007.

Why was Balphin created?

Analytic philosophy in Scandinavia is traditionally of very high quality. In particular, in social and moral philosophy, it has typically been on the cutting edge of international research. Philosophical inquiry in the Baltic countries was suppressed for the main part of the 20th century, and only in the past twenty years it has been regaining its position as a central discipline of the academia. At the same time, some Baltic philosophers are renowned for their accomplishments in continental philosophy. It was thought that combining the different philosophical traditions, and utilising the individual strong areas, expertise, and foreign contacts of the partner universities could result in high-quality research and teaching achievements for all involved.

How the network was born

Cooperation between the Nordic and the Baltic universities has been constant yet fragmented. Thanks to the initiative and efforts of Prof. Olli Loukola at Helsinki, since the beginning of the 1990s extensive cooperative activities have been developed and realised – in particular student and teacher exchange but also philosophical research and meetings – with funding from a variety of sources (CIMO, Nordic Council of Ministries, University of Helsinki, EU, and others). Since 1995 there have been student and teaching exchanges between Helsinki and the Department of Practical Philosophy of the University of Latvia, amounting altogether to approx. 25 lecture series and seminars held in both Helsinki and Riga and approx. 30 graduate and post-graduate students from Riga studying in Helsinki over the years. The relationships with the Estonian Institute of Humanities of Tallinn University have been close since Tõnu Viik, the current Head of the School of Humanities, spent a year studying in Helsinki in 1997. From Lithuania, Professor Leonidas Donskis of Vytautas Magnus University had his second doctorate from the Department of Social and Moral Philosophy of the University of Helsinki. He was Docent of the Department and lectured there on several occasions since 1997. Cooperation with Center of Ethics of University of Tartu and with the Department of Philosophy is more recent, yet student and teacher exchange, as well as common research, have proceeded extremely well during the last decade. In 2006, European Humanities University, a Belorussian university located in Vilnius joined in, with new perspectives and areas of interest. To enhance the Nordic expertise in the area of Continental philosophy, Professor Hans Ruin from Södertörn University College was another obvious candidate. As a result of this long-lasting work, the Baltic Philosophy Network (BalPhiN) was founded in the spring of 2007. During the winter of 2007-8, Professor Mikael M. Karlsson from University of Iceland, already an active partner over the past years, returned, thus completing the initial configuration of BalPhiN (name created by Olli Loukola).

The most tangible result of these efforts was the creation of a joint international Master in Practical Philosophy – Theories of Good Society, which (thanks to Nordplus funding obtained by Olli Loukola on behalf of the network) allowed students from network institutions to follow their home courses, take part in common intensive courses, and spend a semester in one of the other institutions. The last intake of students was in 2011. The program was discontinued due to structural changes at various partner institutions.

Balphin today

Building on the successful experience of the Master program, Balphin has since regularly continued its activities in a project-based form, with the creation of biannual intensive courses (Symposia) designed for philosophy Master students from partner universities and taught by a range of lecturers both from within and outside the network. The topics of these courses have been in line with the spirit of philosophical pluralism that has animated Balphin from the start, as an ideal meeting point for the different philosophical traditions and styles (analytic, continental, historically oriented, scientifically oriented etc.) represented in the Nordic and Baltic regions.

Balphin’s composition is currently as follows: University of Tartu, Tallinn University, University of Latvia, University of Helsinki, Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences, University of Iceland, and since 2017 also Vilnius University. The coordinator role has also moved from Helsinki, then to Tallinn (2010), and since 2017 to Tartu.

Partner universities and institutions