A (somewhat) pensive note about my PhD journey

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Back in 2015, when Nilanjana and I embarked on our respective graduate school journeys, little did we anticipate things to turn out the way they did: halfway through this journey, we were married; six months later, I had left Philadelphia and moved to Chicago; another two years down, with an unprecedented pandemic raging around the world and with the US living through an extraordinary political moment, we had defended our PhD dissertations within a week of each other.

As a social scientist by training, I often feel duty-bound to ask questions of causality: “How did this happen?” the theorist in me ponders; “What caused this to happen?” the experimentalist in me quips. And every time, I draw blanks because I simply do not know. Notwithstanding what most social scientists like to believe, the narrative fallacy clouds our reasoning, preventing us from truly understanding why things happen the way they do. We tell ourselves stories. We create post-hoc explanations for the things we see around us, behaving no differently from the clowns on television, who sit in their ostentatious cages and analyze election results. We weave tales through sequences of facts - only to satiate an innate cognitive desire for control, not to really understand what’s going on.

Maybe Wittgenstein was right when he said, “only describe, don’t explain”.

PhD champagne