The Pondering Philautic: An Introduction

Greetings all, and thank you for a hearty and jubilant welcome. I am not wholly sure whether I can live up to all the epithets thus presented, but as a popular green space dwarf once put: “Do or do not – there is no try.”

I might as well take a few lines for a short introduction: a young philosophy major in search of ultimate reality, omniscience and power, I see myself as an heir to the awesome and immense wisdom of the sons and daughters of Greece and Rome. I am also an avid friend of sarcasm and lyrical presentation, so you will do well in disregarding my grandiose choice of words and constant self-glorification. After all, a play of words is akin to a play of swords.

I see myself as one not too prone to producing long rants on recent events; rather, I am interested in the more fundamental subjects concerning knowledge, existence and our possible place in it – surely you know the pattern. The following must, then, be understood as a healthy deviation – one must be open to new venues as well.

Formalities having now been laid aside, there is something I wish to discuss concerning the status of students, at least the status of those studying in Finnish universities. It was only this morning that I was once again treated with a cup of fresh disappointment, flaming moron-brew, when I stumbled upon an item of news. The title, sublime in its wittiness, requires little analysis: “AN END TO SLACKING: ARE YOUTH NOT BROUGHT UP TO WORK?” The cornucopia of such brilliant spouts of wisdom, the Confederation of Finnish Industries, has once again targeted students and newly graduated people with accusations of laziness and lack of willingness to work. These allegations have almost become somewhat an annual, displeasing tradition – “If something’s wrong, I bet it’s because of those damn students. My poor tax monies, my poor alimonies…”

The corporate powerhouses criticise the tendency of taking a sabbath year before applying to a university which some 25% of Finnish youth do at the moment. The reason for this, the magnates argue, is that young people are either provided with too little career guidance or they “have not been taught the ethos of work enough” whatever this ethos may be. If a sabbath year seems to be the best option at hand for some, they clearly lack a well-founded picture of where they are headed in life.

These pillars of society seem to think that it is not far from malice that young Finnish people, eager to immerse themselves in the best possible education and knowledge by enrolling at a university, take so dreadfully long to complete their degrees and start doing something useful to the rest of us, that is, get a job. “If you are not ready to give your share to the society, you should not expect to get much in return” claims Markku Koponen, education director of the Confederation of Finnish Industries. This kind of talk about being useful, doing one’s share, even repaying a debt of some sorts I find both unnerving and unappealing – are we, for one, to tread down the road of assessing the worth each occupation and individual has, or are we perhaps to lay down dicta to ensure that the individual must always bend to the will of the many? Besides, Koponen fails to acknowledge that students are doing their share to the society – they pay taxes just like everyone else and approximately 70% (study published in Yliopistolainen 7/2011) of them work alongside their studies. Many of them, id est almost every male one of them, have also sacrificed a year to universal conscription, an institution I cannot possibly see as a part of a modern society. Plus ultra, another lapse of judgement is the possible assumption that a society could do well without students; while I am not certain whether this is what Koponen suggests, I find his disdain for people not immediately entering the job markets either short-sighted or misguided, possibly both.

What about the ethos of work, what in Helios’ dread name could that mean? Is Koponen arguing that there is some metaphysically intrinsic value in the very substance of work – if so, what could it be and why would it be? In the traditionalist’s opinion not any kind of job will do, oh no – it has to be a respectable one like a doctor or the kind; what good is an archaeologist or a historian for? Being a theoretical philosophy major myself, this is a question I have dealt with numerous times. Ipso facto no occupation, no lifestyle can in itself justify its existence and practice – historians are good for history, but what is history good for? What are doctors good for if humans are good for nothing? If we are to independently prove that something and something are good and reasonable pursuits in life, we ought first be able to present the instrument with which these assessments are carried out. Take happiness, for one; if an occupation brings happiness, it is a justified pursuit in one’s life. Clearly, this kind of metron will not suffice – I, for one, have not got the slightest clue about what happiness actually is. The challenge Koponen and his ilk face is demonstrating that either there are intrinsic qualities and predicates (and that they are knowable and applicable) or that work, in contrast to studying or unemployment, is arguably a superior way of life; being no diviner myself, I do foresee some foreboding troubles for that kind of a project.

Instead of bickering about this and that person’s duties to the society, I have in mind a scenario in which the society acts as a sort of fail-safe organ providing a progressively better minimum framework for every individual while also enabling the gifted and the talented to become as good and great as humanly possible. Koponen, along with his pals in the CFI, seem to think that investing in education carries too great a risk to pay off enough in the immediate future, and that contrasting this with the immediate rewards of manual, menial labor ultimately tips the scales. Yes, it may be and it is a fact that investing in education and youth will generate instances where funding goes down the drain and chocolate turns into shit – another fact is that in some cases we turn chocolate into gold, id est science, innovations, new ideologies and new welfare. Even if we accept the viewpoint that labour is the summum bonum of every society, I fail to see how education, through which new approaches to labour are developed, is detrimental to it.

The way I see it, humanity, of which Finland, as much as any other piece of heaven on Earth, is a part cannot afford holding back on progress and research. It may be costly, it may all be in vain, but upon the brink of extinction we, the merry few, will face Terminus, the boundary-setter, with bold, stern faces and shout: “Be it as it may, we did our best! There was a try, and for that, our greatest triumphs and most monumental failures, we will be tried.”

The world needs more romantics.

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