Principal Invistigator: Thomas Pashby, Assistant Professor of Philosophy

There is scarcely a field of human endeavor that the personal computing revolution has left untouched. Yet recent developments in computer science (beyond word processing) still play little role in philosophical theorizing and pedagogy. This project will begin to explore the use of modern computing power and rapid prototyping as tools for the development of philosophical theories and new learning experiences.  In the first arm of the project Pashby aims to develop links with the recently opened Media Arts, Data, and Design Center (MADD). Here, outcomes involve the development of virtual reality, audio or visual experiences, 3D-printed models or games for teaching metaphysics experientially. Specifically, some initial ideas that leverage MADD include:

  • 3D-printed projections of 4-dimensional shapes to play the same role as 2D-drawings of solids, or as mounting blocks for “light sculptures” that use laser-pointers to visualize (in fact, realize) configurations of light-rays (e.g., the “cusps” of Sir Michael Berry’s geometric optics).
  • Reproduction of the polarization filter-based quantum cubes used by Julian Schwinger as a teaching aid for my course Introduction to the Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics.
  • Generalizations of John Conway’s Game of Life to relativistic or quantum space-time.
  • Using audio computing languages such as Supercollider to explore (i.e. sonify) the stochastic processes characteristic of quantum phenomena (inspired by the music of Iannis Xenakis).
  • Using the 4-dimensional nature of virtual reality to visualize physical processes and teach relativistic physics without equations.

The second arm of the project concerns ongoing research in the foundations of logic and the metaphysics of space and time. These diverse interests have each revealed the importance of discrete mathematics for Pashby's philosophical research, which is ideal for the application of digital computation. Pashby's projects require the use of modern scientific computing techniques to develop, make precise and visualize the theories of historical figures such as Aristotle, Leibniz, Russell and Whitehead.