Image credit: pixabay

Doing a PhD is more than doing research

Philosophical thinking, intellectual independence, defend and fight for values, mindfulness.

Image credit: pixabay

Doing a PhD is more than doing research

Philosophical thinking, intellectual independence, defend and fight for values, mindfulness.

Pursuing a degree is not an end in doing a PhD, and doing a PhD is more than doing the research itself. What one needs to defend one’s PhD title is not only some results, but also, more importantly, the values, the values of doing things properly, and the values of being a good human. To do a PhD is not to enslave one to existing conventions and thought patterns, but to flourish upon intellectual independence and philosophical thinking, and eventually, one grows out of it and becomes a force. Besides, for me, doing a PhD means a unique and sometimes lonely path and an exciting experience in finding myself, getting through the mental blockage, fighting for proper values and doing good to others. All of those are an inevitable part of my PhD. I am proud of that.

Doing research requires strong philosophy, that is, proper thinking. Nowadays, too much applied research is ongoing without touching anything philosophical. It is a signal of danger, not only to the research quality itself but also to the essence of academia. Everything is empty generally, and meaning exists only in a specific reality. Therefore philosophy is needed to evaluate the purpose of doing some research in a particular reality, which also means one has to be critical, of not only the purpose but also the perceptions that lead to the reality. Not all the research is reasonable, and one needs to voice and stand up against those improper. It is a pathetic sight that one keeps silent only for one’s selfish purpose, and it would be a tragedy if everyone did the same.

PhD requires intellectual independence1, which of course requires strong philosophy, critical thinking and mindfulness2.

It’s the true test of your minds ability to think freely without the false rational constraint.

It is hard, but it is highly possible with strenuous efforts put into mindfulness. Intellectual independence makes one deserve the title of PhD if we still recognize the values of the PhD title. However, in reality, intellectual independence is never easy to find from these people with a doctorate. Therefore I strongly suspect PhD is the abbreviation of a different phrase from “Doctor of Philosophy”, perhaps “Permanent Head Damage”.

Defending values is a challenging but rewarding experience. When one acts on proper values, one has a higher chance to encounter issues and conflicts with people who have a record of malpractice. In this situation, one has to defend the values, defend what one believes. It is a mentally challenging experience, especially when the power is not equal, one can be bullied, intimated, excluded and threatened, but it is a rewarding experience teaching one how not to react and how to maintain humanity in a difficult situation. The situation puts stress on one’s nerves, challenging the good nature one usually has in a calm environment. How to keep compassionate and kind while moving on and defending and fighting for the values is a tricky process, it requires strong mindfulness and wisdom, and one can also achieve strong mindfulness through this experience if one can survive. Everyone can give advice, but nobody can help. One has to seek solitude and grow out of it on one’s own. Only after one experiences the pristine aggressiveness, can one truly understand what values are about.

You may still ask, what is PhD? I don’t know, but at least, I know it is not merely a degree.

Cico finished this on a rainy afternoon, but his fight is not finished yet.


  1. It might not be easy to get the hang of “intellectual independence”, because it involves many mental states and skills which is beyond the description of the language and it is best for one to understand it by experiencing it. ^
  2. Mindfulness represents the core values of Buddhism, but it is not something that can be easily explained by languages. Mindfulness describes a series of mental skills systematically. One needs to experience it to understand mindfulness. Mindfulness has much concerned intellectual independence. ^
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Chao (Cico) Zhang
Thinker, Doer, Mindfulness Meditator, Mathematician, PhD Candidate

With mindfulness and philosophy, I relish thinking about the meaning of being and doing.

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