Dr. Jeremiah Lasquety-Reyes

Jeremiah Lasquety-Reyes obtained his M. Phil. and Ph.D. in Philosophy, as well as an advanced M. A. in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium. He also studied computer science at the University of the Philippines and the Universität Hamburg. His primary research focuses on the use of computer simulations for ethics and economics. His articles have been published in journals such as Asian Philosophy, Etikk i praksis - Nordic Journal of Applied Ethics, and Open Philosophy (special issue on “Computer Modeling in Philosophy”).

Research Project Summer Term 2019

Simulating Ockham's Philosophy

This project investigates the potential of computer simulation to model the ideas of the philosopher, William of Ockham. Ockham is most famous for "Ockham's razor," a principle of parsimony often used in scientific theorizing. However, he is also famous for his nominalism or conceptualism, the metaphysical position that insists there are no real universals in the world but only singulars (in contrast to the position dominant during his time). He also developed an original cognitive theory of “mental language” that serves as the foundation for written and spoken language. This project attempts to use current resources in machine learning and computer simulation (specifically, agent-based modeling) to represent Ockham’s ontology and psychology, and in the process, explore how computer simulations can help facilitate the understanding of philosophical ideas. Ockham conceived of reality as made up only of singulars. Each tree, for example, is as different from another tree as a tree is from a cat or a man. There is nothing in reality that trees share that gives them all their ‘tree-ness.’ Rather, what makes them all trees is a pre-linguistic concept in our minds of TREE. We acquire this concept through the actual encounter with individual trees and this concept signifies all the trees in the world. The project will simulate this ontology using a virtual world populated with unique singular objects and agents with algorithms that convert the cognition of these singulars into universal concepts. Though the primary mechanism is simple, numerous elements in Ockham’s text offer challenges for simulation. For example, he makes a distinction, common to Aristotelians, between the substance which is the object per se (for example, the substance of a man), and the accidents which inhere in the substance (for example, being blue-eyed, left-handed, etc.). Upon encountering a unique singular in the world, one not only derives the concept of the substance, but also the concepts for all the accidents that inhere in the substance. In addition, these accidents taken together allow us to recognize substances as particular individuals (for example, this man is Socrates because of his bald head, his beard, etc.). What is the best way to implement all these factors in a computer simulation? The second stage of the project focuses on Ockham’s psychology of “mental language” as it applies to memory, recognition and human communication. Concepts are combined and remembered in the memory as mental propositions which are structured similarly to normal sentences. These mental propositions are used by a person in activities such as recognizing objects encountered before and, more importantly, in human communication. What happens in the mind when we recognize objects or when we learn new things from other people? In order to simulate this aspect of Ockham’s thought, the project will draw from Ockham’s Summa Logicae in conversation with the contemporary philosophy of language.