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Implementing Algorithmic and Computational Design in Philosophical Pedagogy

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Part of the Philosophical Studies Series book series (PSSP,volume 143)


This paper argues that using diagrammatically compositional forms of representation may enhance the teaching and learning of computational and algorithmic aspects of philosophy and that this potentially extends to broader ramifications for the field of philosophy as a whole. Several concrete implementations that supplement traditional textual methods with compositional diagrams are introduced, drawing from work sponsored through a Davis Foundation education grant focusing on digital liberal arts and critical thinking in the humanities. The paper concludes by suggesting how such diagrammatic representation may serve as material for higher-level and philosophically sophisticated reflection by exploiting deep connections between algebraic and logical relations on the one hand and compositional diagrams of various types on the other, in particular as mediated by the use of category theoretical tools.


  • Diagrammatic reasoning
  • Philosophy pedagogy
  • Compositionality
  • Category theory

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-75267-5_7
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  1. 1.

    Research for this paper was supported by a 2016 interdisciplinary Davis Foundation grant in Digital Liberal Arts awarded to Endicott College “to extend critical thinking across the liberal arts curriculum by systematically integrating digital literacy into the undergraduate classroom”. Information about the grant may be found at The author would like to thank the participating students from PHL100, 240 and 245 courses in connection with the grant as well as collaborators on related research: Gianluca Caterina and Fernando Tohmé.

  2. 2.

    For historical surveys of the field of Digital Humanities and some of its more recent developments, see Schreibman et al. (2004), Schreibman et al. (2016), Berry (2012), Dobson (2019), and Berry and Fagerjord (2000).

  3. 3.

    The reader might also consider work such as Brandom (2008) in which the functionalist approach in artificial intelligence research is treated in terms of “the algorithmic decomposability of discursive (that is, vocabulary-deploying) practices-and-abilities” (p. 27), where such algorithmic decomposition is not further defined in a rigorous mathematical manner but rather understood primitively, as a basis for analyzing philosophically relevant higher-order compositional relations.

  4. 4.

    It is true that digital humanities scholarship is not solely concerned with digital media (for instance, a researcher in the digital humanities might apply data analysis to a traditional text, say, Melville’s Moby Dick) but even in such cases, the traditional materials are themselves necessarily reformatted into digital objects.

  5. 5.

    The software is available at To use the argument diagram features outlined here, the user must select “Start Argument Visualization” under the “View” tab on the website’s main screen.

  6. 6.

    Other features of the software not elaborated here include the support for bracket-types that function as “objections” to claims rather than “reasons”.

  7. 7.

    The examples used here are modified versions of diagrams collaboratively produced in the course.


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Gangle, R. (2022). Implementing Algorithmic and Computational Design in Philosophical Pedagogy. In: Lundgren, B., Nuñez Hernández, N.A. (eds) Philosophy of Computing. Philosophical Studies Series, vol 143. Springer, Cham.

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