Matthew Boyle

Matthew Boyle
Professor, Director of Admissions (2019-20)
Rosenwald Hall, Room 218-D
Office Hours: Spring Quarter: by appointment
University of Pittsburgh PhD (2005); Oxford University B.Phil. (1996)
Teaching at UChicago since 2016
Research Interests: Philosophy of Mind, Kant, German Idealism, Philosophy of Psychology, Ethics & Moral Psychology

Matthew Boyle 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.

He is presently at work on a book on the distinction between rational and nonrational minds, the connection between rationality and the capacity for first-person awareness of one’s own cognitive activity, and the continuing relevance of these topics to contemporary debates in philosophy and psychology. The book, to be called The Significance of Self-Consciousness, is under contract with Oxford University Press.

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 PhD from the University of Pittsburgh and a BPhil from Oxford University. 

Selected Publications

“Two Kinds of Self-Knowledge,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 58:1 (2009)

“Transparent Self-Knowledge,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume 85 (2011)

“'Making up Your Mind’ and the Activity of Reason,” Philosopher’s Imprint 11:17 (2011)

“Additive Theories of Rationality: A Critique,” European Journal of Philosophy 24:3 (2016)

“Kant on Logic and the Laws of the Understanding,” forthcoming in Logical Aliens, ed. Charles Travis (Harvard University Press)

Recent Courses

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 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 substantive conception of the proper organization of our social and political lives.  We will conclude by examining some important critics of the Kantian/Hegelian project in ethical theory: Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, Frederick Douglass, and Friedrich Nietzsche.

 

 

Completion of the general education requirement in humanities.

2020-2021 Spring
Category
Early Modern Philosophy (including Kant)
German Idealism

PHIL 54123 Intentionality in Mind and Action

This will be a seminar on the philosophical notion of intentionality as it bears on questions about our ability to represent the world, on the one hand, and to change it, on the other.  Brentano famously suggested that “intentionality” – the power of our minds to be “directed at” objects, in a way that allows it to be in states that are “of” or “about” those objects – is the fundamental mark of the mental as such.  Brentano’s work inspired a phenomenological tradition that sought to investigate the various faculties of the mind by investigating the distinctive kinds of “objects” at which they are directed and the distinctive manners in which they present these objects.  Our aim will be, first, to survey some key contributions to this tradition, with particular attention to their claim that the fundamental way to investigate the mind is by investigating its several forms of intentionality, and second, to think about the continuing relevance of this idea to contemporary problems about mind and action.  The course will begin historically, with readings from Brentano, Husserl, and Sartre. We will then turn to the reception, development, and criticism of this tradition within analytic philosophy by such figures as Chisholm, Kenny, Anscombe, Geach, Quine, Searle, Davidson, McDowell, Travis, and Crane. In the latter part of the course, we will divide our time roughly equally between topics in practical and theoretical philosophy. (III)

Graduate students in fields other than Philosophy must have instructor’s permission to enroll.

 

2020-2021 Winter
Category
Philosophy of Action
Philosophy of Mind

PHIL 54790 Transparency and Reflection

This will be a seminar on the instructor’s book manuscript, the topic of which is our capacity to know our own minds (especially via what I call “reflection”) and its relation our capacity to know the non-mental world (a posture of mind in which our own mental states are not in view, but rather “transparent”).  Themes will include: the scope and basis of privileged self-knowledge, the nature of rationality, the structure of self-awareness and its connection with the capacity for first person thought, the nature of bodily awareness, the extent to which it is possible to do psychology “from an armchair”, the question of how to interpret failures of self-knowledge and self-understanding, the value of self-knowledge in a human life.  In the background will be still grander concerns about the sense in which a human being might be a being whose being is an issue for it in its being (!). 

We will read chapters from the instructor’s manuscript, but also contemporary sources representing a variety of views on these topics.  The seminar could serve as an opinionated, graduate-level introduction to contemporary debates about self-consciousness and self-knowledge. (III)

 

Graduate students from other departments must have instructor’s consent to enroll.

2020-2021 Autumn

PHIL 55805 Aristotle's De Anima

This seminar will consist in a close reading of Aristotle’s great contribution to philosophical psychology, his De Anima, which we will read in conjunction with Sean Kelsey’s much-anticipated manuscript on the subject.  Themes will include the relation between mind and world, the natures of perception and thought, the distinctions between different kinds of minds, the definition of "life."  The seminar will take the form of a reading group, in which various graduate students and faculty members will participate.  Students taking the course for credit will be expected to submit a term paper.  Hours to be arranged. (IV)

 

Enrollment is open only to PhD students in Philosophy.

2019-2020 Spring

PHIL 57504 Kant’s Critique of Judgment

(SCTH 57504)

This will be a study of Kant’s third and final Critique, his Critique of Judgment.  We will attempt to survey they book as a whole, including Kant’s influential account of the nature of judgments of beauty and sublimity, as well as his theory of “teleological” judgment and its place in our understanding of the natural world.  We will also seek to comprehend and assess Kant’s claim that these studies constitute essential contributions to a critique of our cognitive power of judgment, a critique which is crucial to the completion of his larger “critical” project surveying the scope and limits of human cognition as a whole. (V) 

Graduate Students from Other Departments Must Have Instructor’s Consent to Enroll.

2019-2020 Winter

PHIL 27500/37500 Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason

(HIPS 25001, FNDL 27800, CHSS 37901)

This will be a careful reading of what is widely regarded as the greatest work of modern philosophy, Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. Our principal aims will be to understand the problems Kant seeks to address and the significance of his famous doctrine of "transcendental idealism". Topics will 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; how causal claims can be justified by experience; whether free will is possible; the relation between appearance and reality; the possibility of metaphysics. (B) (V)

2019-2020 Autumn

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 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 very different critics of the Kantian/Hegelian project in ethical theory: Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, and Friedrich Nietzsche.

Completion of the general education requirement in humanities.

2017-2018 Spring
Category
Early Modern Philosophy (including Kant)
German Idealism

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.

2017-2018 Spring

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. (III)

Graduate students in Philosophy & Social Thought only, except with permission of instructor.

2017-2018 Autumn
Category
Philosophy of Mind

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.

2017-2018 Autumn

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.

2016-2017 Spring
Category
Early Modern Philosophy (including Kant)
German Idealism

PHIL 27500/37500 Kant's Critique of Pure Reason

(HIPS 25001, CHSS 37901, FNDL 27800)

This will be a careful reading of what is widely regarded as the greatest work of modern philosophy, Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. Our principal aims will be to understand the problems Kant seeks to address and the significance of his famous doctrine of "transcendental idealism". Topics will 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; how causal claims can be justified by experience; whether free will is possible; the relation between appearance and reality; the possibility of metaphysics. (B) (V)

2016-2017 Spring
Category
Early Modern Philosophy (including Kant)

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. (III)

2016-2017 Autumn
Category
Philosophy of Mind