Cultivating the biophilic self

Urpo Harva as a theorist of environmental adult education




environmental adult education, self-cultivation, biophilia, Urpo Harva


This article presents ecological thinking of the Finnish educational philosopher, Urpo Harva (1910–1994). Harva's theories of adult education are strongly linked to the theory of self-cultivation developed in Finnish educational theory particularly in the early 20th century, according to which adults need to develop themselves as moral agents in their relations with others and the ecological environment to reach mature adulthood. In addition to his work as a professor, Harva was an active social debater, writing a significant number of columns and essays for Finnish magazines. The present article uses abductive content analysis on 31 of these columns and essays written between 1971 and 1994 to uncover the basics of Harva’s environmental adult education theory. The analysis showed that readers are encouraged to adopt a “biophilic” or nurturing attitude towards nature, as this will provide the necessary skills for ensuring a more sustainable future.


Metrics Loading ...


Alanen, A. (1994). Urpo Harva, aikuiskasvatuksen humanistinen filosofi [Urpo Harva, Humanist Philosopher of Adult Education]. Aikuiskasvatus, 14(4), 296–299. DOI:

Alanen, A. (1997). Aikuiskasvatuksen arvofilosofi, poleeminen individualisti, humanisti [A Philosopher of Values in Adult Education, a Polemic Individualist, a Humanist]. In J. Tuomisto & R. Oksanen (Eds.), Urpo Harva. Filosofi, kasvattajan, keskustelija [Urpo Harva. Philosopher, Educator, Debater] (pp. 27-36). Tampereen yliopisto.

Autio, T. (1997). Linjoja ja mutkia Urpo Harvan kasvatusfilosofiassa [Lines and Bends in Urpo Harva’s Educational Philosophy]. In J. Tuomisto & R. Oksanen (Eds.), Urpo Harva. Filosofi, kasvattaja, keskustelija [Urpo Harva. Philosopher, educator, debater] (pp. 37-43). Tampereen yliopisto.

Berkowitz, A. R., Ford, M. E., & Brewer, C. A. (2005). A framework for integrating ecological literacy, civics literacy, and environmental citizenship in environmental education. In E. A. Johnson & M. J. Mapping (Eds.) Environmental education and advocacy: Changing perspectives of ecology and education, (pp. 227-266). Cambridge University Press.

Blom, S. M., Aguayo, C. & Carapeto, T. (2020). Where is the Love in Environmental Education Research? A Diffractive Analysis of Steiner, Ecosomaesthetics and Biophilia. Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 36(3), 200-218. DOI:

BIOS. (2019). Ecological Reconstruction.

Clover, D. (2003). Environmental adult education: Critique and creativity in a globalizing world. New Directions for Adult & Continuing Education, 99(3), 5-15. DOI:

Davies, W. (2016). The Happiness Industry. How the Government and Big Business Sold us Well-Being. Verso.

Earl Rinehart, K. (2021). Abductive analysis in qualitative inquiry. Qualitative Inquiry, 27(2), 303-311. DOI:

Elias, J. L., & Merriam, S. B. (2005). Philosophical foundations of adult education. Krieger Publishing Company.

EPALE. (2020). The role of adult education in fostering environmental awareness.

Filander, K. (2012). Discursive turns from ”Bildung” to managerialism: Memory-work of the Finnish adult education generations. European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, 3(2), 135-153. DOI:

Frewen, P., Rogers, N., Flodrowski, L., & Lanius, R. (2015). Mindfulness and metta-based trauma therapy (MMTT): initial development and proof-of-concept of an internet resource. Mindfulness, 6(6), 1322-1334. DOI:

Fromm, E. (2001). The Sane Society (2nd ed.). Routledge.

Grayling, A. C. (2007). What is good? The Search fo the Best Way to live. Phoenix.

Hadot, P. (2002). What is ancient philosophy? Harvard University Press.

Harni, E. & Saari, A. (2016). Elämän politiikka J. A Hollon ajattelussa [The Politics of Life in the Thought of J. A Hollo]. Kasvatus & Aika, 10(2), 19-32.

Harva, U. (1955). Aikuiskasvatus. Johdatus aikuiskasvatuksen teoriaan ja työmuotoihin Suomessa [Adult Education. Introduction to the Theory and Forms of Adult Education in Finland]. Otava.

Harva, U. (1963). Systemaattinen kasvatustiede [Systematic Education]. Otava. (Original work published 1960).

Harva, U. (1964). Ihminen hyvinvointivaltiossa [People in the Welfare State]. Kirjayhtymä.

Harva, U. (1980). Hyvä ja paha – praktisen etiikan ongelmia [Good and Evil – Problems of Practical Ethics]. Otava.

Harva, U. (1981). Pedagogiikka, andragogiikka ja kasvatus [Pedagogy, Andragogy and Education]. Aikuiskasvatus, 1(2), 44–45. DOI:

Harva, U. (1985). Aikuiskasvatuksen käytäntö ja teoria [Adult Education Practice and Theory]. Aikuiskasvatus, 5(3), 121–125. DOI:

Haugen, C. S. (2009). Adult Learners and the Environment in the Last Century: An Historical Analysis of Environmental Adult Education Literature. Electronic Green Journal, 29. DOI:

Heikkinen, A., Pätäri, J. & Teräsahde, S. (2019). Disciplinary struggles in and between adult, vocational and generaleducation in the Academy. Lessons from Finland. In A. Heikkinen, J. Pätäri & G. Molzberger (Eds.), Disciplinary Struggles in Education (pp. 89-116). Tampere University Press. DOI:

Hollo, J. A. (1931). Itsekasvatus ja elämisen taito [Self-Cultivation and the Art of Living]. Werner Söderström osakeyhtiö.

IPCC. (2022). Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. IPCC.

Jaaksi, V. (1997). Urpo Harva ja ekologinen kysymys [Urpo Harva and the Ecological Question]. In J. Tuomisto & R. Oksanen (Eds.), Urpo Harva. Filosofi, kasvattajan, keskustelija [Urpo Harva. Philosopher, Educator, Debater] (pp. 207-216). Tampereen yliopisto.

Jokinen, J. (2017). Tampereen koulukunnan synty ja hajoaminen. Aikuiskasvatuksen tiedeorientaatioita 1930-luvulta 2010-luvulle [The Birth and Disintegration of the Tampere School. Scientific Orientations in Adult Education from the 1930s to the 2010s]. Vapaa Sivistystyö VTS r.y.

Jones, S. G. (1986). Work, leisure and unemployment in western Europe between the wars. The International Journal of the History of Sport, 3(1), 55–80. DOI:

Joye, Y. & De Block, A. (2011). ”Nature and I are Two”: A Critical Examination of the Biophilia Hypothesis. Environmental Values, 20(2), 189–215. DOI:

Kajanto, A. (1992). Ympäristökasvatus [Environmental Education]. Vapaan sivistystyön vuosikirja 33 [Yearbook of Liberal Education 33]. Kansanvalistusseura.

Kallio, J. & Pulkki, J. (2022). Elämää vaalivan itsekasvatuksen luonnos [A draft of life-enhancing self-cultivation]. Aikuiskasvatus 42(1), 25–36. DOI:

Kallio, J., Pulkki, J., Saari, A. & Tervasmäki, T. (2022) Ekoterapeuttinen itsekasvatus: Tulkinta Erich Frommin rakkauden teoriasta kapitaloseenin ajassa [Ecotherapeutic self-cultivation: An interpretation of Erich Fromm’s theory of love in the age of the capitalocene]. Kasvatus & Aika, 16(3), 25–48. DOI:

Kloubert, T. (2018). Propaganda as a (new) challenge of civic education. European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, 9(2), 139–159. DOI:

Kluttz, J., Walker, J., & Walter, P. (2020). Unsettling allyship, unlearning and learning towards decolonising solidarity. Studies in the Education of Adults, 52(1), 49–66. DOI:

Kluttz, J. & Walter P. (2018). Conceptualizing learning in the climate justice movement. Adult Education Quarterly, 68(2), 91–107. DOI:

Koski, L. & Filander, K. (2013). Transforming causal logics in Finnish adult education: Historical and moral transitions rewritten. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 32(5), 583–599. DOI:

Maeckelbergh, M. (2009). The will of the many: How the alterglobalisation movement is changing the face of democracy. Pluto Press.

Manninen, J. (2017). Empirical and genealogical analysis of non-vocational adult education in Europe. International Review of Education – Journal of Lifelong Learning, 63(3), 319–340. DOI:

Manninen, J. & Nokelainen, R. (2021). Ekososiaalinen sivistys haastaa vapaan sivistystyön [Ecosocial Education Challenges Popular Education]. Aikuiskasvatus, 41(2), 140–147. DOI:

Martusewicz, R. A., Edmundson, J. & Lupinacci, J. (2020). Ecojustice education: Toward diverse, democratic, and sustainable communities. Routledge. DOI:

Milana, M., Kopecký, M. & Finnegan, F. (2021). Capitalism(s) and the future of adult education policy [Editorial]. European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, 12(1), 7–13. DOI:

Moisio, O. P. (2008). Erich Fromm: terve ja patologinen ajattelu politiikassa [Erich Fromm: Healthy and Pathological Thinking in Politics]. In Lindroos, Kia & Soininen, Suvi (Eds.), Politiikan nykyteoreetikkoja [Contemporary Political Theorists] (pp. 131-161). Gaudeamus.

Mäki-Kulmala, H. (1995). Urpo Harva ja filosofin kutsumus [Urpo Harva and the Philosopher’s Calling]. Vsk.

Mäki-Kulmala, H. (2010). Konservatiivi ja radikaali. Professori Urpo Harvan 100 – vuotismuisto [Conservative and Radical. 100 Years of Professor Urpo Harva]. Kasvatus & Aika, 4(4), 83–88.

Mäki-Kulmala, H. (2012). Muutoksia työn kuvassa [Changes in the work pattern]. Niin&Näin 1(2012), 60–68.

Nussbaum, M. C. (2008). Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions. Cambridge University Press. (Original work published 2001). DOI:

Nussbaum, M. C. (2018). The Therapy of Desire (2nd ed.). Princeton University Press.

Nussbaum, M. C. (2019). The Cosmopolitan Tradition: A Noble but Flawed Ideal. Harvard University Press. DOI:

Orr, D. (2004). Earth in mind. On education, environment, and the human prospect. Island Press.

Paakkola, E. (2007). Itsekasvatus: Pyrkimys kohti ihanteellista ja hyveellistä elämää [Self-Cultivation – Aiming Towards an Ideal and Virtuous Life. Western and Confucian Approaches]. (Publication No. 122) [Doctoral dissertation, University of Joensuu]. University of Joensuu.

Räsänen, R. (1997). The Ethical Nature of a Teacher’s Work. Electronic Journal of Business Ethics and Organization Studies, 2(1).

Saari, A., Salmela, S. & Vilkkilä, J. (2014). Governing Autonomy: Subjectivity, Freedom, and Knowledge in Finnish Curriculum Discourse. In W. Pinar (Ed.), International Handbook of Curriculum Research (2nd ed., pp. 183-200). Taylor & Francis.

Saari, A. (2021). Kasvatusteoria antiikista nykypäivään [Educational Theory from Antiquity to the Present Day]. Helsinki: Gaudeamus.

Saari, A., Varpanen, J., & Kallio, J. (2022). Aktivismi ja itsekasvatus: Itsestä huolehtiminen prefiguratiivisena politiikkana [Activism and Self-Cultivation: Self-Care as a Prefigurative Policy]. Aikuiskasvatus, 42(1), 37–49. DOI:

Salo, S. (1994). Urpo Harva, Grand Old Man of Finnish Adult Education: The value debate is inadequate. LEIF: Life and Education in Finland 31(3), 21–23.

Salo, P. (2007, April 17–19). On the concepts of the Nordic adult education tradition [Paper presentation]. Nordic Conference on Adult Education, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden.

Schöni, W. (2022). Continuing education as value creation: Towards a new orientation beyond market logic. European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, 13(3), 261–283. DOI:

Sivonen, K. (2006). Itsekasvatus suomalaisena käsitteenä ja käytäntönä [The Finnish Concept and Practice of Self-Education]. (Publication No. 117) [Doctoral dissertation, University of Joensuu]. University of Joensuu.

Takkinen, P., & Pulkki, J. (2022). Discovering earth and the missing masses – technologically informed education for a post-sustainable future. Educational Philosophy and Theory 55(10), 1148–1158. DOI:

Timmermans, S., & Tavory, I. (2012). Theory construction in qualitative research: From grounded theory to abductive analysis. Sociological theory, 30(3), 167–186. DOI:

Varpanen, J., Saari, A., Jurvakainen, K. & Kallio, J. (2022). The Uncanny Challenge of Self-Cultivation in the Anthropocene. Studies in Philosophy and Education 41, 345–362. DOI:

Vilkka, L. (1997). Urpo Harvan vihreä filosofia [Urpo Harva’s Green Philosophy]. In J. Tuomisto & R. Oksanen (Eds.), Urpo Harva. Filosofi, kasvattajan, keskustelija [Urpo Harva. Philosopher, Educator, Debater] (pp. 193-206). Tampereen yliopisto.

Värri, V-M. (1997). Harva urpo on Urpo Harva, filosofi [Rare Man is Urpo Harva, the Philosopher]. Review of book J. Tuomisto & R. Oksanen (Eds.), Urpo Harva – filosofi, kasvattaja, keskustelija [Urpo Harva. Philosopher, Educator, Debater]. Aikuiskoulutuksen maailma 1997(4), 24.

Walter, P. (2009). Philosophies of Adult Environmental Education. Adult Education Quarterly, 60(1), 3–25. DOI:

Walter, P. (2020). Adult environmental education. In T. Rocco, M. C. Smith, R. C. Mizzi, L. R. Merriweather & J. D. Hawley (Eds.), Handbook of Adult and Continuing Education (pp. 314-321). Stylus Publishing.

Walter, P. & Kluttz, J. (2020). Theorising adult education, power and socio-environmental change: A consideration of the climate justice movement. In F. Finnegan & B. Grummell (Eds.), Power and Possibility: Adult Education in a Diverse and Complex World (pp. 191-200). Brill/Sense Publishers. DOI:

Wildemeersch, D. & Fejes, A. (2018). Citizenship and the crisis of democracy: What role can adult education play in matters of public concern? [Editorial]. European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, 9(2), 133–137. DOI:

Wilson, E. O. (1984). Biophilia. The Human Bond with Other Species. Harvard University Press. DOI:

Wilson, E. O. (1993). Biophilia and the Conservation Ethic. In S. K. Kellert & E. O. Wilson (Eds.) The Biophilia Hypothesis (pp. 31-41). Island Press.




How to Cite

Kallio, J. (2023). Cultivating the biophilic self: Urpo Harva as a theorist of environmental adult education. European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults.



Open Paper

Funding data