Major: Philosophy and mathematics
Student funding source: Student Opportunities for Academic Research (SOAR)
James Van Cleve
Tran Nguyen was surprised when she learned that the 18th-century Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid hypothesized that the visual field obeys a non-Euclidean geometry.
As a double major in mathematics and philosophy, Nguyen found it compelling that Reid, by reflecting on his own observations, could surmise something that took mathematicians nearly another century to conclude.
She approached James Van Cleve, professor of philosophy, to discuss this fact that she learned in his course on British empiricism. Van Cleve is currently writing a comprehensive overview of Reid’s ideas slated for publication by Oxford University Press in 2013. The two decided that they would partner to study Reid’s philosophies in more depth.
“Professor Van Cleve thought I would have something to contribute in terms of Reid’s geometry of visibles,” explained Nguyen, referring to the philosopher’s belief that the visual field is governed by principles other than the theorems put forth by the Greek mathematician Euclid. “It was a nice point of intersections between my two majors.”
Since Spring 2011, Nguyen has been digging into all things Reid — sifting through scholarly write-ups on his work, summarizing them for Van Cleve and making recommendations for additional readings.
Van Cleve also sends Nguyen drafts of his book chapters for her feedback.
“I want to make sure that what I’m writing is accessible to intelligent undergraduates,” he said. “It’s good for me to get Tran’s feedback and objections, or questions about things that aren’t sufficiently clear. That’s another valuable part of what she’s doing.”
Nguyen plans to continue studying the history of philosophy in graduate school. She said her work with Van Cleve has helped her to hone her skills as a student of philosophy. “It’s helped me gain confidence in developing a voice in the field.”
Related News Items
- Perloff to Receive Humanities Medal September 18, 2014
- Welcome New Faculty September 16, 2014
- Meet the 2014 Provost Postdoctoral Scholars August 28, 2014
- Sanchez’s Vision for Diversity July 10, 2014
- Life Goes On July 2, 2014
- A Wealth of Health June 19, 2014
- Hearts in the Highlands June 5, 2014
- ConvURGENT Bioscience May 29, 2014
- Watson Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences April 29, 2014
- In Memoriam: James Higginbotham, 72 April 28, 2014
- Near and Far Ahead April 28, 2014
- History in a Box April 28, 2014
- In My Opinion: Strong As Oak April 28, 2014
- ‘I Dwell in Possibility’ April 28, 2014
- Coloring Outside the Lines April 28, 2014
- The ABCs of JEP April 28, 2014
- From Melville to Medieval India April 3, 2014
- The Forgotten Holocaust April 3, 2014
- A Deeper Connection March 14, 2014
- Gioia Honored for His Poetry February 4, 2014