For the Love of Wisdom
Offered by the largest philosophy department in Hong Kong, the undergraduate programme in Philosophy at CUHK prepares its students for advanced research in philosophy and equips them with critical thinking and outstanding communication skills. In two consecutive years, 2017 and 2018, the programme has been ranked first among all peer programmes in Asia according to the QS University ranking by subject.
‘Ever since the time when Prof. Tang Chun-I was the first Chairman, the Department has firmly established itself as a stronghold of Chinese philosophy. Built on such a legacy, the Department further developed and adopted the integrated approach to structure its research and teaching, with equal emphasis on Chinese and comparative philosophy, Anglo-American philosophy and Continental and European philosophy,’ remarked Prof. Cheung Kam-ching Leo, Chairman of the Department of Philosophy at CUHK.
Ng Chun-sing, a Year 3 student in the Department of Philosophy at CUHK, recalled the reasons why he chose to major in one of the oldest academic disciplines.
‘I was looking for a programme that would satisfy my intellectual curiosity. When I came across the website of CUHK’s undergraduate programme in Philosophy, I was impressed by its comprehensive curriculum, which allows students to explore a wide range of philosophical topics under the guidance of internationally renowned philosophy scholars,’ he said.
After spending three years in the Department of Philosophy, Chun-sing has developed a very close relationship with his teachers—some of them have even become his friends.
‘Amidst their busy teaching and research schedule, our teachers would still spend time after class to discuss with us about our assignments and answer our questions. Some of them even brought us to lunch and went hiking with us,’ said Chun-sing.
Chun-sing also enjoys studying and hanging out with his fellow classmates, whom he refers to as his ‘companions in the journey of academic pursuits.’
‘We spend hours discussing and even debating over various topics on philosophy. Every semester, our classmates form study groups to prepare for the lectures, reading seminars and examinations. Apart from studying, they also organize outings and other activities so that we can take a break from our coursework and de-stress,’ said Chun-sing.
Each year, 28–35 new students join the Department’s undergraduate programme. To help these new students get used to life as a Philosophy major at CUHK, a mentorship system was introduced more than 10 years ago. In recent years, full-time lecturers are assigned to mentor new students during their first year of study. At least two to three meetings are held between the students and the lecturers each semester.
‘After they have declared their majors and entered the Philosophy programme, the students are encouraged to pursue a minor discipline. Our curriculum provides sufficient freedom for them to explore whatever subjects they may be interested in,’ said Prof. Cheung.
The programme encourages students to adopt an inter-disciplinary perspective in the study of philosophy, which has changed Chun-sing’s perception of the subject itself. ‘Instead of merely focusing on the study of philosophical ideologies, our professors have enlightened us to look at the socio-cultural backgrounds that contribute to the rise of various schools of thoughts, so that we could have a more comprehensive view on the development of intellectual history. We are also encouraged to use the knowledge obtained from our Philosophy classes to analyze the causes and propose creative solutions for existing global issues.’
However, it is not uncommon for students of philosophy to encounter friends and families who wonder what a philosophy major can do after graduation. Chun-sing has never shied away from a question like this.
‘I would reassure my friends that there are actually plenty of career options for a philosophy graduate. As philosophy students, we are trained to read and write extensively, as well as to articulate our ideas in research papers and during in-class discussions. These trainings have allowed us to cultivate a critical and creative mind, and to acquire outstanding communication and problem-solving skills. I can see myself applying these skills and qualities in my future career, just like many of our Department’s graduates, who are now working in the fields of law, business, information technology and the public sector,’ he said.
The Department of Philosophy also works closely with its alumni to arrange placement opportunities for its undergraduate students in various sectors, such as culture, publishing, advertising, movie and television, theatre and education. Students not only gain valuable working experience, but also develop skills and networks beneficial to their career development.
‘Studying philosophy would probably not give you an answer to all questions in life. Yet it is intellectually rewarding to explore these philosophical questions with your teachers and classmates and to study the thoughts of some of the greatest minds in history,’ said Chun-sing.
He encourages those who share the same love of wisdom to join the Philosophy cohort, ‘if you find it interesting to read philosophy books and wish to know more about the subject, then don’t spend too much time thinking. Start working on your applications and join us. You will find teachers and classmates who will offer you the intellectual inspiration that will make a lasting impact on your life.’
Published: Summer 2017
Last Updated: Summer 2018