"SFU’s Master’s program in philosophy is pretty well regarded as one of the best terminal MA programs in the field. The courses offered are all great and extremely engaging, and the faculty are all super open to chat about research and life in general. ."

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Student Profile: Eddie Cai

September 13, 2021
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Philosophy master's student in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

I grew up in Brampton, Ontario, and spent a few years in Ottawa for my undergraduate degree. I wanted to be a lawyer. After I realized that the lawyer-path would never work for me, I switched to Philosophy because I loved the intellectual challenge that it brings through the form of endless, super difficult conceptual puzzles. Ultimately, my interest in philosophy led me to pursue a Master’s degree at SFU. Besides graduate research, I’m very passionate about rock climbing and trail running. I also occasionally play the flute.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?

SFU’s Master’s program in philosophy is pretty well regarded as one of the best terminal MA programs in the field. The courses offered are all great and extremely engaging, and the faculty are all super open to chat about research and life in general. Since I wanted to continue studying what I love, I decided to come to SFU to further develop my skills in writing and analytical thinking, and also to get a better sense of what the philosophy graduate student life is like.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RESEARCH OR YOUR PROGRAM TO A FAMILY MEMBER?

Broadly, my research is focused on the interaction between truth and the world. One big question for me is: supposing a sentence is true, how must the world be in order to support that sentence’s being true? If the sentence ‘Bill is red’ is true, then Bill (the guy) is red. But what about something like ‘Bill could be red, even though he is not’? If true, Bill could be red: but how must the world be for Bill to possibly be red even though he is not actually red? It’s not some fact that we can point to (because Bill isn’t red), so what is it? How about ‘Witches could exist, even if they don’t’, assuming that witches don’t actually exist in our world? Conversely, supposing the world is a certain way, how does that affect the truths and the falsehoods? If Pegasus does not exist, then ‘Pegasus does not exist’ is true; how about ‘Pegasus does not run fast’, or ‘Smith believes that Pegasus exists’? What about a world with no truths and no falsehoods? Does such a possibility even make sense? These questions are amplified in the setting of logic, where the majority of my passion lies. Here, I am particularly interested in the relationship between sentences and models of those sentences, or circumstances in which those sentences are true. ‘Cats are fluffy’ is true in cat-less circumstances, provided there are numbers related to each other in the right kinds of ways. ‘There are X number of Ys’ is true in special circumstances where there are less than X number of Ys. What do these kinds of relationships between sentences and the world tell us about the expressive power of language, and the truth-making capabilities of the world? That is one question that runs through my research interests.

WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?

I’m enjoying the interactions I am able to have with my fellow graduate students, and with my supervisor. Being able to communicate with others who share a similar passion to such a high degree is, for me, one of the most fulfilling experiences out there. I often find myself on walks or runs with people from the faculty, discussing research topics. These experiences reinforce my desire to further pursue higher education in philosophy.

HAVE YOU BEEN THE RECIPIENT OF ANY MAJOR OR DONOR-FUNDED AWARDS? IF SO, PLEASE TELL US WHICH ONES AND A LITTLE ABOUT HOW THE AWARDS HAVE IMPACTED YOUR STUDIES AND/OR RESEARCH.

Canada Graduate Scholarships – Master’s program (SSHRC)

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE?

Cindy lives in the town of Volcano Island. Cindy is the only barber in town, and only has one policy: she shaves all and only those who do not shave themselves. Alas, it's impossible for Cindy to exist. Why?

 

Contact : eddie_cai@sfu.ca

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