Ein Bild, das Kleidung, Menschliches Gesicht, Screenshot, Im Haus enthält. Automatisch generierte Beschreibung

Philosophical Exploration of the Academic Profession

This article is a little different from what you usually read from me. It has a deeply reflective and intimate touch it. When I usually pick one topic of interest, whether that be cyber security, or political neutrality, I aim to deductively analyze the common knowledge in that particular field, add some examples to illustrate and then provide a final personal thought. My way of thinking is a rather deductive one – seeing the big picture, and then narrowing down to a single, specific instance. However, in light of the advent spirit, I would love to give you something more reflective, less science-backed, more prose, less educational, more personal to read. The brain nevertheless consists of two hemispheres, the analytical and the creative side. As every human tends to lean towards one side or the other, with this article, I want to empathize with the right-side of the brain, the creative, artistic, emotional; and at the same time, I want to challenge my left-brain dominant readers, to delve into a text that may seem rather counter-intuitive to you. This article will challenge the latter reader even more, as I deviate from common academic writing practices, hence, this present article is not written as concise as possible, rather all thoughts are allowed to fully sprout.

During my bachelor’s degree, I had a humbling reflection crisis: As I was studying economics and business, my mind got carried away with big philosophical questions. What does it mean to think? What does it mean to exist? Et cetera. I got so involved with it that I even considered very strongly to give up my business degree to pursue a degree in philosophy at the University of Vienna, a very notable university (and the oldest one in Europe). After a while and a significant amount of time spent in the library and the building of the department of philosophy (“NIG”) – they had just opened their renovated new building – I put on my ‘rational goggles’ to think seriously about my future. It is rather irrational to give up a two-thirds done degree to just start another one without even knowing what the future will hold. This is essentially why I did not quit my economics degree and eventually enrolled in my master, in the field of general management. While the left side of my brain was satisfied with this rational argument, I had to pacify the right brain hemisphere that felt deeply betrayed by this decision.

Fast forward to present time, I am pursuing my PhD (short for Doctor of Philosophy), mainly dealing with business informatics – at the fine juncture between social and technical disciplines. I feel deeply grateful to pursue a career that I have always aspired, teaching and researching how to transfer knowledge in contemporary times. I can say that the work that I do nurtures my soul despite the academic field being a rather competitive one. I feel that my deeply philosophical spirit is what keeps me going in this environment. Amongst other, it is essentially the Stoicism philosophy from which energy I feed off. Zeno (334 B.C. – 262 B.C.) declared four virtues of Stoicism, namely, courage, temperance, justice, and wisdom [1]. Aiming to incorporate all four characteristics into my daily life, courage is the most challenging. In times of despair, courage is no easy thing. It means to get up every morning and tell oneself ‘I am not afraid of the storm that comes my way’. It takes strength and resilience. However, it is the most rewarding when exercised.

In the first semester of my PhD, I enrolled in the mandatory class “Philosophy of Science” which every doctoral student has to take. Here, we discussed the works of Aristoteles, David Hume, the Viennese Circle, Karl Popper, and some more. My heart began to extend again, as back then in my bachelor’s degree; my entire mind got put on a rollercoaster of thoughts, realizations, and aspirations. It is incredible to see how in life if one does not close a chapter for oneself, it will come back to haunt. Just as back in 2019, my mind wandered if I had chosen the right path in life, and if I was not meant to study philosophy altogether. Dear reader, it may seem as if these thoughts were just a replication of what has crossed my mind almost five years ago, yet this time it was a different experience as my work was at its all-year peak of stress (students will relate, speaking of the pre-Christmas period) and my mind got trapped in a claustrophobic dark pitfall of misery. And amidst the struggles, I could finally draw a sound conclusion that put my restless thoughts at peace.

When dealing with something, and you begin to feel that your heart is expanding, a sense of belonging cripples in, you feel warmth and bliss – this is when you feel alive. What a joyful humanly experience. Of course, this can expand to all areas of life, but certainly does not have to. Whenever confronted with a decision of choosing between what feels joyful and what does not, one must also remember to not just opt for the joy but also accept the hardship of the alternative. For me this means that no matter how much I love philosophy, quitting everything I am doing so far is not the right decision to take.

Albert Einstein is one of my great inspirations for life and he did also do both: theoretical physics and philosophy. His aspirations in life are essentially a guide to my own. Pursuing an academic career, to transfer knowledge to eager learners while being deeply reflective in times outside the classroom. Living up to the four stoic virtues in life while continuing my highly rewarding academic career. Philosophy is not something one must choose to dedicate one’s career to while quitting the rest. It is something one can incorporate into one’s life to make it worth living.

Some humans have a more melancholic sense to life than others, and if that is the case for you, my dear reader, you are not alone with this burden. Life is not meaningless if you cannot answer the big philosophical questions. To some readers this chain of thoughts might appear deeply crippling. I do not believe that all humans who obtain a doctorate are condemned with these thoughts, however, perhaps more than less. When pursuing a doctorate and dedicating your life to academia, you will certainly at one point question your existence in a rather epistemological way. Pursuing a doctoral degree is essentially not only about the grand knowledge you will gain. It is a ø six-year-long examination of your endurance, resilience, and mental strength. It will transform you fully – what a bachelor’s and master’s degree might have added to your competence, a PhD will test your mind and soul.

My dear reader, thank you for reading this far, it warms my heart. Academia is my calling, and I am so content to have now found the balance between the right and left side of my brain. The inner voices of my philosophical and artistic side of my brain are pacified and calm. If you can relate anyhow to this text, please remember to thrive for balance between your right and left side brain activities, satisfy your artistic urge as much as you would with your analytical side. This way, life may appear more lifeworthy.


Cover Picture: created by dall’e

[1] Holiday, R., Hanselman, S. (2020). Lives of the Stoics: The Art of Living from Zeno to Marcus Aurelius. USA: Penguin Publishing Group.

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