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.
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 specifically on the influence of Kant’s contribution to moral philosophy and its lasting influence on discussions of ethics and political philosophy. We will begin with a consideration of Kant's famous Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, in which he announces his project of grounding all ethical obligation in the very idea of a free will. We will then consider Hegel's radicalization of this project in his Philosophy of Right, which seeks to derive from the idea of 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 some important challenges to the Kantian/Hegelian project in ethical and political theory: Karl Marx’s re-interpretation of the idea of freedom in the economic sphere; Mary Wollstonecraft and John Stuart Mill’s radicalizations of the ideas of political liberty and equality; and the appropriation and critique of the Enlightenment rhetoric of freedom by writers on racial oppression including Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. DuBois, and Angela Davis.
PHIL 51312 Problems in the Philosophy of Emotion
This will be an exploratory seminar on some problems about what emotions are and what role they play in our lives. We will consider questions about how to define the general category of emotions; about the intentionality of emotions; the relations between emotion, perception, and judgment; the connections of emotion with embodiment; the relation of emotions to time and to human sociality; and other topics as time permits. We will give particular consideration to some emotions of which there has recently been interesting philosophical discussion, notably anger, shame, love, and grief. (I) and (II)
Permission of instructor required for graduate students not in Philosophy or Social Thought.
PHIL 50113 The Concept of World and Its Vulnerability
We will be interested in the special and problematic notion of an attitude toward the world as a whole, and in some questions that arise in contexts where people face what they experience as the end of their world or its vulnerability to destruction. Readings will include texts from Freud, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein, as well as more contemporary readings from Cora Diamond, Jonathan Lear, Brian O’Shaughnessy, and others.
Permission of instructor required for grad students not in Philosophy or Social Thought.
PHIL 27500/37500 Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason
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) (IV)
PHIL 28503 Existentialism in Sartre and Beauvoir
This course will be an introduction to the philosophical movement known as “existentialism” as it developed in France in the mid-twentieth century. We will approach this movement by reading two of its greatest works, Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness (1943) and Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex (1949). In the first part of the course, we will examine Sartre’s account of consciousness, freedom, anguish, and bad faith, as well as his conception of basic relations to other persons such as desire, shame, and love. We will then turn to the development and critique of existentialist ideas in Simone de Beauvoir’s classic work of philosophical feminism, focusing on her critical reflections on love, independence, and the conception of woman as Other.
Open to students who have been admitted to the Paris Humanities Program. This course will be taught at the Paris Humanities Program.
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.
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.
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.
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.
PHIL 57504 Kant’s Critique of Judgment
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.
PHIL 27500/37500 Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason
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)