Matthew Boyle

Matthew Boyle is a Professor in the Department of Philosophy and the College. He works on topics in the philosophy of mind and on some issues in the history of philosophy. In the former area, he has been especially concerned with the question of how we know our own minds and with debates about the scope and limits of such knowledge. In the latter field, he has written mainly on the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, although he also has interests in the work of Aristotle, Aquinas, Fichte, Hegel, and Sartre.

Before moving to the University of Chicago in 2016, Boyle was Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University. He has held visiting positions at the Universität Leipzig, Germany, and the Universität Basel, Switzerland. He has been the recipient of a Radcliffe Institute Fellowship, an ACLS Fellowship, a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship, and a Rhodes Scholarship. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh and a BPhil from Oxford University.

CV (PDF)

Contact

office: Rosenwald Hall 218-D
office hours: Autumn Quarter, Tuesdays: 3:30 - 5:00 pm and by appointment
email: mbboyle at uchicago

Recent and Upcoming Courses

PHIL 59950. Job Placement Workshop. Course begins in late Spring quarter and continues in the Autumn quarter. This workshop is open only to PhD Philosophy graduate students planning to go on the job market in the Autumn of 2018. Approval of dissertation committee is required. Spring 2018

PHIL 27000. History of Philosophy III: Kant and the 19th Century. The philosophical ideas and methods of Immanuel Kant's "critical" philosophy set off a revolution that reverberated through 19th-century philosophy. We will trace the effects of this revolution and the responses to it, focusing in particular on the changing conception of what philosophical ethics might hope to achieve. We will begin with a consideration of Kant's famous Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, in which the project of grounding all ethical obligations in the very idea of rational freedom is announced. We will then consider Hegel's radicalization of this project in his Philosophy of Right, which seeks to derive from the idea of rational freedom, not just formal constraints on right action, but a determinate, positive conception of what Hegel calls "ethical life". We will conclude with an examination of three great critics of the Kantian/Hegelian project in ethical theory: Karl Marx, Søren Kierkegaard, and Friedrich Nietzsche.Completion of the general education requirement in humanities. Spring 2018

PHIL 59950. Job Placement Workshop. Course begins in late Spring quarter and continues in the Autumn quarter. This workshop is open only to PhD Philosophy graduate students planning to go on the job market in the Autumn of 2017. Approval of dissertation committee is required. Autumn 2017

PHIL 53501. Special Topics in Philosophy of Mind: Imagination. (=SCTH 53501) What is imagination, and what functions does our power of imagination have in our lives? The seminar will approach these general questions via more specific ones such as the following. What are the relations between imagining, perceiving, remembering, and dreaming? Does our capacity for imagination play a role in enabling us to perceive? Does imagining something involve forming a mental image or picture of that thing? If not, how should we conceive of the objects of imagination? What is the nature of our engagement with what we imagine, and how does this engagement explain our ability to feel emotions such as fear, pity, and sympathy for imaginary beings? What is the role of imagination or fantasy in structuring our understanding of ourselves and our relations to other persons? Is there such a thing as the virtuous state of the power of imagination? Readings will be drawn from various classic discussions of imagination - e.g., Aristotle, Hume, Kant, Freud, Wittgenstein, Sartre - and from some contemporary sources. Graduate students in Philosophy & Social Thought only, except with permission of instructor. (III) M. Boyle; J. Lear. Autumn 2017

PHIL 27000. History of Philosophy III: Kant and the 19th Century. The philosophical ideas and methods of Immanuel Kant's "critical" philosophy set off a revolution that reverberated throughout the 19th century. The only reaction it did not elicit was one of indifference. His revolution polarized the philosophical community, meeting with eager forms of inheritance as well as intense and varied resistance - and, as we shall see, usually both within a single thinker's response to Kant. This class will seek to understand the nature of Kant's philosophical innovations and the principle sources of his successors' (dis-)satisfaction with them. This class will seek to introduce students to the outlines of Kant's "critical" philosophy, well as its subsequent reception, as the first two generations of post-Kantian thinkers grappled with and reacted to his ideas. The first half of the course will be devoted to a careful reading of portions of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason; while the second half will focus on various aspects of its reception, transformation, and rejection at the hands of Hegel, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche. The course as a whole will focus on the following five topics: (1) the dialectical relation between skepticism and dogmatism in philosophy, (2) the difference between our theoretical and practical cognitive powers, (3) the proper account of the "finititude" of these powers, (4) the tendency of human reflection to overstep the boundaries of its legitimate employment, (5) what a satisfying treatment of the four preceding topics reveals about what philosophy is and what it can and cannot accomplish. Completion of the general education requirement in humanities. Spring 2017

Kant's Critique of Pure Reason A careful reading of Kant’s greatest work, his first Critique, aiming at a general understanding of the problems that it seeks to address and the significance of its famous doctrine of "transcendental idealism." Topics to include: the role of mind in the constitution of experience; the nature of space and time; the relation between self-knowledge and knowledge of objects; causation; freedom of the will; the relation between appearance and reality; the possibility of metaphysics. Spring 2017

PHIL 51103. Problems of the Self It is a characteristic trait of rational animals that they are self-conscious: able to reflect on their own thoughts and deeds as such. This seminar will be a study of how self-consciousness informs our lives in various dimensions, and of some problems that arise in trying to make sense of it. We’ll begin by considering what it is to think of oneself as such and how this capacity relates to abilities to recognize oneself in a mirror, to employ the first person, etc. We’ll then turn to some problems connected with the distinctive kinds of relation to oneself that self-consciousness enables. Topics in this part of the seminar may include: awareness of one’s own body, concern for one’s own well-being, the role of self-consciousness in imagination and empathy, the possibility of self-alienation or bad faith, the role of self-consciousness in grounding a philosophical understanding of mind. Readings will mostly derive from recent philosophy of mind, but we may also read some psychology and/or some relevant discussions from the history of philosophy. Autumn 2016