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Philosophy In Real Life: Alumnus Nick Sayed Heads to Law School

July 27, 2020
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Congratulations to Philosophy Major, Nick Sayed, who graduated this June. His degree—a Major in the Philosophy Law Concentration with a minor in Criminology—opened doors to his future career with offers from not one but six law schools.

Nick came to Simon Fraser University from high school, winning the Simon Fraser Dean's Academic Excellence Entrance Scholarship for admission to the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS). His acceptance letter notes that this was ‘an outstanding achievement made possible by a lot of hard work on [his] part, and all the more remarkable given the high level of competition [he] faced that year’.
While studying in SFU Philosophy, Nick has also been active in making philosophy accessible to a wider audience. He’s been an invited back to his high school IB (International Baccalaureate) program to deliver philosophy sessions and he’s played an active role in the SFU Philosophy student union.

Nick, In His Own Words

And outreach doesn’t stop with graduation; Nick has very generously answered a few questions, describing why he chose to major in the Law Concentration. He also has a few tips to help future philosophers make the most of their time at SFU.

Why did you choose Philosophy as your subject area, and why take the Philosophy Major with the Concentration in Law?

In my high school IB program, we had to take a class called Theory of Knowledge (TOK). One day we discussed the Trolley Problem and I found it fascinating. Furthermore, in Biology class we discussed the problem of defining a species where scientists are still unable to provide a satisfactory definition of what constitutes a species; needless to say, this philosophical problem also greatly interested me.

I also learned that Phil students do well when it comes to Law School, and as I wanted to become a lawyer, Philosophy, as well as Criminology seemed like great choices for me.

However, the moment I truly knew that I loved philosophy was in Phil 221 with Dr. Evan Tiffany. He assigned the paper ‘Determinism Al Dente’ by Pereboom, which led me to become skeptical of the reality of free will. This change of belief significantly impacted how I directed my life, my relationships, and what I valued.

As philosophical ideas changed how I live my life, I came to realize the importance of Philosophy and the promulgation of ideas as a whole.

I chose the Concentration in Law as not only was law school my eventual goal, but my favorite area of philosophy is ethics; or more specifically, ethics when applied to the real world and law is the area with the most cross-over.

What useful skills have you picked up from your philosophy classes?

Studying philosophy has changed the way I think. It’s helped my ability to read effectively and critically, helped develop my writing and communication skills generally. Most of all, it has helped cultivate my critical thinking skills. In my experience, these aren’t just useful in academia, but are significant in all aspects of life.

Any stand-out memories from SFU Philosophy?

My weirdest story was in a class with Dr. Phil Hanson. He overheard a conversation I was having with a friend and found out I have a Lebanese background. He then told me that his nephew was studying in Lebanon. Bizarrely, it turned out that his nephew was studying under my uncle (who is a philosopher) in Lebanon at the American University of Beirut. This means that my uncle was teaching Dr. Hanson’s nephew in Lebanon, while my uncle’s nephew (me) was being taught by Dr. Hanson at SFU.

I think my greatest achievement at SFU, after many years of being very confused and having absolutely no idea what to believe, I finally came to a conclusion. From that I wrote a paper, ‘Social Mitigationism’, where I outlined my own novel theory of ethics and what I believe a just society would look like. The paper has been accepted by the Philosophy Student Union for their journal. Check it out when published!

What advice do you have for new philosophers coming to SFU?

In terms of advice for students looking to make the best of their time at SFU, it’s very simple: study something you are passionate about and find friends who are passionate about those things too.

My best memories at SFU are from my involvement in the Philosophy Student Union, where I served as the Department Representative for two semesters, and later the Vice President for three. The Union is a wonderful thing and is full of many great people who elevated my experience in our department from good to great. They have brought together much of the student body and helped make the department feel like family.

In addition to studying Philosophy, extracurricular activities helped with successful Law School applications; I was accepted into all the schools I applied to. For those interested in pursuing a career in law, I recommend putting as much of yourself and your interests in your personal statement as possible. For example, I talked about my love of metal music, my veganism, political activities and volunteerism in mine – don’t be afraid to be genuine!