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Studying Philosophy - the Beauty of Critical Thinking

I never expected it, but what I learned in philosophy will not just help me in my career, it will help me in life.

Never have I ever thought that I would be sitting here right now writing a review blog about Philosophy 105G - the course that I hated so much at the beginning of the semester.

But it turns out I learned a few things that opened my mind. And I highly recommend taking a course at university that has nothing to do with your major, just because it might be interesting.

To give you the full story - I chose this course simply because:

  1. I wanted to be in the same class with my girlfriend;
  2. And I was too late to enroll in any other courses available.

Soooo… I took it, unwillingly. Only because I had to. Just like how I was forced to eat seafood when I was a kid.

(Ewww… *still don’t like it.)

Anyway, little did I know, philosophy was very helpful, informative and interesting...
Okay, let’s just get straight to the point: Philosophy (or PHIL105G) was life-changing.

And I don’t just say it for the sake of it. What I learned in philosophy will not just help me in my career, it will help me in life.

Here are some of the things I learned:

Example 1: Confirmation Bias

We all know that I hate seafood.

Always have and always will. Plain and simple.

And don’t even argue that I haven’t tried good seafood yet - mind you that I’m from Vietnam.

google search screenshot showing news story that vietnam is the world's 3rd largest seafood exporter

As you can see, Vietnam is the world's third largest seafood exporter. So it's crazy that I don't like seafood...right?

The problem: Whenever I talk to a new group of people, I would often favor the opinions of those who also hate seafood - like me.

Don’t get me wrong - I never proactively try to do this.

It’s subconscious. It’s an underlying assumption that says: “Seafood lovers are not my type of people. They are not trust-worthy.

You see how toxic that was? :(

It wasn’t until I learned about it in PHIL105G that I finally realised and understood:
I was suffering from a form of psychological bias - confirmation bias.

Sounds fancy? Yep, a confirmation bias basically means: We, as human beings, often only listen to things that are aligned with our opinions and disregard/ignore others.

That was literally what I was doing - only listening to those who agreed with “hating seafood” led me to trust them more instead of others.

Crazy right?

I know. When I found out about this - my mind was B.L.O.W.N.

Jackie Chan "mind blown" meme

Example 2: Appeal to Authority

This is about a fallacy that we all make called appeal to authority.

“Okay Matthew - enough with the fancy words already. Speak human please?” - said one of my friends.

Yea sure :) You guys remembered this picture?:

google search screenshot showing news story that vietnam is the world's 3rd largest seafood exporter

And did you notice the website? Yeah - it came from a site called “english.gamingonline.vn” which had nothing to do with seafood and was completely made up (by me - Matthew Le).

-- That, right there, is called a fallacy (or an appeal to authority, to be specific).

Okay, let me break it down:

  • You guys were convinced that Vietnam was the world’s 3rd largest seafood exporter based on an article on Google (hopefully).
  • I intentionally used the Google logo and search layout in the photo in order to create the feeling that this article came from a trust-worthy authority.
  • In reality, as we now know, this article is made up. Fake news in other words.

This is the perfect example of an appeal to authority: we, as human beings, often believe things just because they are from seemingly-trust-worthy sources (eg, Google or Wikipedia.)


As you can see, getting to see and understand these very-much-practical-things that we all do daily was a total game-changer for me.

This was all done thanks to the University of Auckland for letting students like me choose some totally unrelated courses to my degree so that I could:

  1. Explore my options
  2. Gain a broader skill base for career adaptability in the future
  3. Have a kick-ass CV/portfolio

Excited for next year! :)

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By Matthew Le"Get up, dress up, show up. Never give up! Urgh, scratch that. I'm just trying to GROW UP"

Updated 2 years ago

Hey, I’m Matthew. Born and raised in Vietnam. I spent the last 2 years in high school here in New Zealand. And now, I’m an international student at the University of Auckland.

I am turning 19 soon. And I don’t like that. So… I’ve decided to live the last few months of being 18 by the "Theory of YES". Saying YES to things that scare the heck out of me.

You can follow my journey here on the Study in New Zealand blog, or on Facebook @studyinnewzealand

*Views expressed are the blogger's own
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