'I realised that UC is an appropriate place for me that I can shape my dreams...'
Studying towards a PhD in Philosophy
Mehrnaz had originally completed pure physics study in her home country Iran, and then decided that the industry was not her calling. Having newly discovered an interest in philosophy from her undergrad degree, she decided to return to study and follow her true passion.
‘My interest in philosophy goes back to my childhood, and for as long as I can remember I have had a love affair with philosophical knowledge,’ she says. ‘In my opinion, physics and philosophy have deep connections and they combine the most rigorous and fundamental subjects in the arts and the sciences. At undergraduate level, my interests became more focused on modern physics which deals with conceptual and interpretational issues.’
After completing her master’s research in Philosophy of Science at the University of Malaya in Malaysia, she looked again to overseas universities to continue onto PhD research, and decided on New Zealand.
‘Many of New Zealand’s universities are famous across the globe for its high standard of education, research and innovation. Every academic person is interested in educational improvements in his or her studies, and I came to the conclusion that completing my PhD at UC would provide such improvements in my life.
One of her favourite aspects of UC is its separate Department of Philosophy from other departments, and unique emphasis on philosophic research from other universities. Her thesis supervisor has especially been ‘super-supportive’ in her areas of interest.
‘My supervisor Dr Douglas Campbell is perfect. We always have fruitful discussions together. I appreciate his kind support. So, I realised that UC is an appropriate place for me that I can shape my dreams,’ she says.
Her PhD focuses on the philosophy of time, and modern debates around the concept of time seemingly changing based on different perspectives. In particular, Mehrnaz is investigating divisive discussions begun by the philosopher J.M.E. McTaggart’s assertion that time does not actually exist.
‘Philosophers divide into two main camps — “A-theorists” and “B-theorists”. My aim in my PhD thesis is to develop a new version of B-theory, and to show why it is immune to common A-theorist objections against B-theory. The theory I describe will assign a pivotal role to the “conscious observer”, particularly as Thomas Nagel expressed “the view from nowhere”; and will imply that “change”, and the “flow of time”, are artefacts of our representation of time, rather than objectively existing phenomena in their own right.
‘The theory will be based in part on the ideas of several distinguished Persian scholars whose works on time have previously received virtually no attention within the tradition of western Analytical Philosophy. It will also be based on insights from modern physics, and especially Relativity Theory.’
Her previous master’s research uses viewpoints and phenomena from modern physics to explain the concept and role of ‘consciousness in the universe’.
Mehrnaz’s research around the idea of ‘consciousness in the universe’ has led to a number of publications previously, including her recent book Consciousness and the Physical Universe: Qualitative Attribute of the Universe, and an Institute for Scientific Information paper titled The Historical Path of Traditional and Modern Ideas of the Conscious Universe.
As such, Mehrnaz’s long term goal is to continue her academic career and become an internationally-renowned female philosopher, especially because there are so few women philosophers around the world.
‘As a young researcher, I look forward to receiving a higher education that gives me technical skills, intellectual discipline and international accreditation. A PhD from a prestigious university like UC in New Zealand, indeed, would be the crucial first step toward my goals.’
With her views on Philosophy as the foundation of all sciences and critical thinking, Mehrnaz’s ultimate goal is to establish a research institute with her husband. Her idea is that it would cover research from a variety of areas, due to philosophy teaching students to be passionate about seeking unbiased scientific knowledge from multiple cultural perspectives.
After achieving so much from deciding on a career change, Mehrnaz encourages other students to study what they truly enjoy for a more fulfilling life experience.
‘Never stop perusing your dreams; in philosophy, you are a creator and you can shape all your dreams about the universe academically.’
She highly recommends other Philosophy students wanting a contemplative atmosphere to make the most of the ‘freedom, tranquillity and gorgeous nature of Christchurch and UC’.