Philosophy PhD student Jingbo Hu on why he chose Sheffield

Jingbo Hu is from China and is a PhD candidate in the Department of Philosophy. He studied his BA and MA in philosophy at Sun Yat-Sen University, China.Photo of Jingbo Hu

Why did you choose to study in Sheffield?

When I was an undergraduate, I found that I really liked analytical philosophy. Since analytical philosophy is a philosophical style which is popular in the English-speaking world, I decided to pursue my PhD in an English-speaking country. There are many good philosophy departments in the UK and Sheffield is one of the top. In addition, I received a scholarship from Sheffield and the China Scholarship Council, which made Sheffield my best choice.

What made the University of Sheffield stand out for you?

The University of Sheffield is a leading research institution both in the UK and in the world. The philosophy department is strong in various areas of philosophy. In particular, the department is famous for its empirically-informed philosophy, which combines philosophy research with empirical sciences. This is the philosophy that I want to study in my PhD.

What do you particularly enjoy about Philosophy?

Studying philosophy provides me with opportunities to get in touch with ideas in different areas and even in disciplines other than philosophy and I really enjoy this kind of multi-disciplinary research. By studying philosophy, I can also learn many insights from the great minds, challenge the ideas of others and construct my own arguments for my own theses. This gives me great intellectual satisfaction, and is one of the reasons why philosophy is so enjoyable for me.

What are you currently researching as part of your PhD?

I am now working on the intersection between free will and empirical sciences. Specifically, I am considering whether humans’ free will can survive the challenges from empirical sciences.

For example, in philosophy, one popular view about free will states that humans have free will because humans can act on reasons. However, many researchers in social psychology suggest that humans’ behavior can be dramatically influenced by tiny situational factors which are beyond humans’ conscious awareness. These empirical discoveries cast doubt on our common sense idea that humans act on reasons. In effect it challenges the philosophical conception of free will based on that common sense. What I am going to do is to investigate to what extent these empirical results will challenge the philosophical conception of free will. It may consist of interpretation of the empirical data as well as conceptual analysis of key philosophical notions such as ‘control’ and ‘reason’.

In general I like Sheffield very much—the weather, the food, the beautiful scenery and the friendly people. It is a remarkable experience for my life to study in this city.

Jingbo hu, Phd candidate, philosophy

How did the Department of Philosophy help support you through the whole process from application to settling in?

The department has helped me a lot. In particular, the department provided me with essential support to apply for the scholarship. The staff members helped to revise my research proposal as well as highlighted the relevance of my research to the research priorities identified by the scholarship. I have learnt that the scholarship I applied for is very competitive and the chance for students from humanities to be successful in their application is extremely low. I don’t think I would have managed to make it without the help from the department.

Moreover, when I was looking for a place to live, some of the PhD students in the department provided me with useful accommodation information, which saved me a lot of time. Before the semester started, the department organized a wonderful welcoming party in which I could meet and talk to the new people.

What are your top tips for any international students thinking about studying Philosophy in Sheffield?

If you enjoy multi-disciplinary research or if you enjoy working with philosophers from different research styles and orientations in a friendly environment, Sheffield is really a good choice for you. Importantly, the department has a supportive Philosophy International Student Society which is dedicated to help international students with their possible difficulties such as writing and presentation in English.

What is it like being a postgraduate in the department?Photo of Jingbo Hu outside the Diamond

Most of the time I do my own research, e.g. reading and writing. I also attend some lectures and seminars.

As a postgraduate research student, I am more flexible and have more time to manage my own research—to read and write what I am most interested in. But doing a PhD is not a lonely journey. My supervisors are always ready to give me advice and inspiration. The members of department including the staff and other postgraduate students are all friendly and helpful. It is worth noting that in the department we have a kitchen where students and staff members can have meals together and discuss everything in a comfortable and relaxing environment.

Despite doing my research, I will also participate in reading groups which are hosted by staff members or other students. I think this is a good way for cultivating my academic skills such as critical reading and argument reconstruction. Moreover, reading a philosophical text with others always presents me with new ideas that I can hardly get when reading alone.

Even though I don’t have course requirements, I do attend lectures and seminars for taught students. I am always welcome and learn a lot of things beyond my own research.

What is your highlight of studying and/or living in Sheffield so far?

I like the postgraduate seminar very much. Every week one PhD student presents his or her research to others. It is a good chance to get to know each others' research and to communicate with one another. The most impressive thing is that though we work in different areas and from different research styles, all of the opinions will be listened to and respected. After the seminar we usually go to the pub. It is quite a good way to socialize and relax.

What do you know now about Sheffield that you didn’t know before you came here?

The weather in winter is warmer than I expected. And the campus of the university is well integrated into the city. You cannot draw a separating line between the inner and the outer of the university.

What are your plans after your postgraduate study?

I will probably return to China and seek a teaching position in a university.

Anything you’d like to add?

In general I like Sheffield very much - the weather, the food, the beautiful scenery and the friendly people. It is a remarkable experience for my life to study in this city.

Tags: postgraduate, international students, research, philosophy, china, chinese, phd