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Student Profile: Yanjie Ding
Philosophy master's student in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
I grew up in Linyi, Shandong Province, P.R. China. And I’m now an MA student at the Department of Philosophy with an interest in metaethics and moral psychology.
Before coming to SFU, I studied at Shandong University (Ji’nan) where I obtained my bachelor’s degree in philosophy. Before making up my mind to study philosophy, I’m interested in Chinese historical linguistics. But in this process I have been introduced to many classical Chinese philosophical works, from which I discovered the enchantment of philosophy. Now, my pursuit of philosophy brings me here.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?
SFU has one of the most well-ranked terminal MA programs of philosophy in North America with many faculty members working on the area I’m interested in, and the department provides all MA students with a full funding package, which greatly helps my life here in Metro Vancouver.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RESEARCH OR YOUR PROGRAM TO A FAMILY MEMBER?
In my view, moral psychology aims to figure out what happens in our minds when we are making moral judgments and/or performing moral actions. How do we form these judgments? How are we motivated to act so? These are the very questions I wish to explore.
In moral psychology, I’m particularly concerned about the role that emotions play in our psychological mechanism of morality. If you have certain knowledge about the history of philosophy, you might have the sense that there has been a long philosophical tradition that we should refrain from being emotional and learn to be rational. But really, should we? We could reflect on this view in two different aspects. Firstly, it presumes a descriptive fact that we human beings can think and behave morally totally out of rational motivations. But certain empirical research suggests that it’s not true. So, who is right? Secondly, it also presumes a normative fact that judgments and actions caused or influenced by emotions are bad, or at least not good enough. But is this view plausible? Is an emotional or sentimental moral system inferior to a rational one?
Moreover, these questions further suggest a very interesting and significant socio-political philosophy issue, especially in today’s context. We could observe that emotion serves as the catalyst of many social movements. Yet one might wonder: Should emotions be allowed to play an important role in social movements, especially those actions related to morality and social justice? Is the role they play a positive one or negative? Do emotions need to be limited to certain limits? These are crucial questions calling for the answers, and you can see how certain seemingly abstract philosophical discussions would benefit real-life public debates.
WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?
As a terminal MA program, many students here have previously worked in varieties of fields and/or from different countries. Plus, we have a very friendly atmosphere — everyone would love to collaborate with others. These things provide us with a unique benefit to do philosophy: You can always know something new and find certain brilliant ideas that could help your own work in a way you might never come up with by yourself. That’s the most wonderful thing about our program!
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.
Special Graduate Entrance Scholarship.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PROGRAM/POSTDOC POSITION TO SOMEONE STILL SEARCHING FOR A PROGRAM OR POSTDOC POSITION?
You can find almost everything you need for a terminal philosophy MA program here! A full funding package, excellent faculty members, sufficient philosophical training, friendly and inclusive atmosphere, .... Just name it, and you’ll find it!