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Scandinavia, philosophy in

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-N051-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 25, 2024, from

Article Summary

The three countries of Scandinavia – Sweden, Denmark and Norway – share much of their history and culture with Finland and Iceland, and it is natural to treat all five Nordic countries together in any philosophical survey. The first universities in this region were founded more than 500 years ago, in Sweden at Uppsala in 1477, and in Copenhagen, the Danish capital, two years later. Over the years, the main trends of philosophical thought, from Descartes and Locke to Hegelianism, existentialism and logical positivism have all impinged upon philosophy in these countries. A unique feature of philosophy in Norway and Iceland, and until 1971 also in Denmark, is that all university students, including students in law, medicine and dentistry, spend all or most of their first semester preparing for a compulsory exam in philosophy which comprises some philosophy of science and philosophy of language, and some history of philosophy and history of science. This requirement has meant much for recruiting and employment opportunities for philosophers. Thus, for example, the University of Oslo has sixty-five tenured philosophers, while Denmark has suffered a dramatic reduction in the number of philosophical positions since the requirement was abolished. In Sweden philosophy is a compulsory subject in some branches of study in secondary schools.

That philosophers from the Nordic countries have gained a reputation for broad interests and familiarity with several philosophical traditions may largely be due to two factors: small countries increase the likelihood that they will get involved in popularization and public affairs, and small language communities induce the learning of other languages, notably English, German and French, which makes developments in other countries more accessible.

Citing this article:
Follesdal, Dagfinn. Scandinavia, philosophy in, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-N051-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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