Department of Philosophy
Department of Philosophy

Matt Evans


Associate ProfessorPhD, University of Texas at Austin

Contact

Interests


Ancient Philosophy, Ethics, Metaphysics

Biography


Professor Evans works primarily on topics in ancient philosophy, with an emphasis on ethics, moral psychology, philosophy of mind, and metaphysics. He has published articles on Plato's account of the ethical status of pleasure and pain, Plato's response to Protagoras, Socratic intellectualism, and the Epicurean justification of friendship. He is currently writing a book on Parmenides.

Courses


PHL 610QB • Probs Of Knowledge & Valuation

41670-41680 • Spring 2019
Meets MW 1:00PM-2:30PM WAG 302

There are some questions we should all ask ourselves at least once before we die, and many of them are philosophical. In this course we will pick out a few of the most pressing of these questions, and try to answer them as best we can. In the spring semester we will ask questions about valuation — good and bad, right and wrong. Among them will be: What is it about right actions that makes them right? Is it only that they bring about the best available outcome? What is it for one outcome to be better or worse than another? What is it for one life to go better or worse than another? Could it be wrong to bring someone into existence? Do we owe anything to future generations? Are there some things that it would be wrong to say, regardless of whether they are true? Are all of us leading immoral lives? Readings will be drawn primarily from recent work in philosophical ethics, and will be made freely available on Canvas.

PHL 381 • Socrates

42005 • Spring 2019
Meets W 3:00PM-6:00PM WAG 310

Instructors: Matt Evans and Paul Woodruff

Prerequisites

Graduate Standing and Consent of Graduate Advisor or instructor required.

Course Description

Lots of philosophers were thinking and writing by the time Socrates arrived on the scene, but there is a reason why we call them all “Presocratics.” Something new began with him — a distinctive style of intellectual engagement that captured Plato’s imagination and, as a result, dominated the early history of our discipline. In this seminar we will examine a number of Plato’s so-called “Socratic” dialogues, including the Euthyphro, the Apology, the Protagoras, the Gorgias, and the Lysis. Our aim will be to reach a better understanding of the Socrates who emerges in these works, and to assess his contributions — both substantive and methodological — to the foundation and development of ancient Greek thought. Among the topics we will discuss are the meaning and force of the Socratic paradoxes, the epistemic status and ontic presuppositions of Socratic inquiry, the so-called “Socratic fallacy,” the contrast between Socrates and the Sophists, and the relation between the Apology and the aporetic dialogues.

Texts

 

This seminar satisfies the History requirement

PHL 610QA • Probs Of Knowledge & Valuation

41990-42000 • Fall 2018
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM WAG 302

There are some questions that all of us should ask ourselves at least once before we die, and many of them are philosophical. In this course we will pick out a few of the most pressing of these questions, and try to answer them as best we can.

In the fall semester we will ask questions about knowledge. Among them will be: What is it, and how is it possible? Does it extend beyond our own thoughts and feelings? If we aim to acquire it, how should we adjust our beliefs when we find we disagree with people whose judgment we generally trust? Is it somehow relative to individuals, communities, cultures, or species? Does the theory of evolution imply that we cannot acquire it, particularly in matters of right and wrong? If we cannot acquire it in matters of right and wrong, are we morally responsible for what we do?

In the spring semester we will ask questions about valuation — good and bad, right and wrong. Among them will be: What is it about right actions that makes them right? Is it only that they bring about the best available outcome? What is it for one outcome to be better or worse than another? What is it for one life to go better or worse than another? Could it be wrong to bring someone into existence? Do we owe anything to future generations? Are there some things that it would be wrong to say, regardless of whether they are true? Are all of us leading grossly immoral lives?

Readings will be drawn primarily from recent work in epistemology and ethics. All of them will be made freely available on Canvas.

PHL 325K • Ethical Theories

42140 • Fall 2018
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM WAG 208

Most of us accept that there are some things we morally ought to do, and other things we morally ought not to do. But we rarely take the time to ask, in a serious and systematic way, what is it about these things that makes them the ones we morally ought, or ought not, to do. The aim of this class is to explore and evaluate the full range of different possible answers we might want to give to this question. Readings will be drawn primarily from recent and contemporary work in the analytic tradition of philosophical ethics, but will also include some material from the two historical figures who have had perhaps the greatest influence on that tradition — Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill.

PHL 329M • Plato's Republic

42090 • Spring 2018
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM GAR 2.112

The Republic is Plato’s greatest masterpiece – a work of astounding literary power that is also a cornerstone of the Western philosophical tradition. Yet even its most dedicated and disciplined readers have disagreed, and continue to disagree, about its structure, its purpose, and its meaning. Our aim in this class will be to explore some of the most pressing of these disagreements, and to see whether and how we might be able to resolve them.

 

Proposed texts:

"Platos's Republic" (translated by CDC Reeve), "Philosopher Kings" by CDC Reeve, "An Introduction to Plato's Republic" by Julia Annas

 

Proposed Grading:

50% short writing assignments, 25% term paper, 15% quizzes, 10% participation

 

PHL 381 • Plato On Knowledge/The Good

42215 • Spring 2018
Meets T 3:30PM-6:30PM WAG 310
(also listed as GK 390)

In a famous passage near the end of Republic 6, Plato’s Socrates claims that the relation between knowledge and the good is analogous to the relation between sight and the sun. But in this passage, and in the passages that follow, he does relatively little to explain or defend this extraordinary claim. Our project in this seminar will be to see whether we can do any better. We will start by looking for clues in the Republic itself, and in some other well-known and similarly situated dialogues such as the Meno, the Phaedo, and the Symposium; then we will turn our attention to the Philebus — one of Plato’s most underappreciated and underexplored later works. Among the questions that guided him there, and will be guiding us in this seminar, are: 

  • What is the difference between knowledge and correct belief, and why is the former so much better than the latter?
  • Is epistemic excellence related, in any interesting way, to ethical or political excellence?
  • Are certain kinds of knowledge at least part of what makes a good human life good? If so, how do their good-making powers compare to those of the many and various kinds of pleasure, honor, friendship, and the like?
  • Is there some constitutive or essential connection between goodness, on the one hand, and truth, rationality, or beauty, on the other?
  • Is there a distinctively philosophical kind of knowledge? If so, how does it relate to the various non-philosophical kinds? 

Primary readings will be drawn mostly from the Republic and the Philebus, but will include supplementary material from various other dialogues as well. Secondary readings will be drawn mostly from recent work in the Anglo-American commentary tradition. (All texts will be read in translation. Familiarity with ancient Greek will not be presupposed.)

 

Grading Policy 

For PHL 381 and CC 383:

Term Paper 80%

Seminar Presentation 10%

Vocal Participation 10%


For GK 390:

Term Paper 60%

Translation Exercise 20%

Seminar Presentation 10%

Vocal Participation 10%

 

Texts

Plato: Complete Works (Hackett)

Various secondary readings available on Canvas. 

PHL 325K • Ethical Theories

42480 • Fall 2017
Meets MW 2:30PM-4:00PM WAG 210

Nearly all of us accept that there are things we morally ought to do, and other things we morally ought not to do. But only a few of us take the time to ask ourselves, in a serious and systematic way, what is it about these things that makes them the ones we morally ought, or ought not, to do. The aim of this class is to explore and evaluate the full range of different possible answers we might want to give to this question.

PHL 329K • Hist Of Ancient Philosophy

42500-42505 • Fall 2017
Meets MW 11:30AM-1:00PM WAG 302
(also listed as C C 348)

Western philosophy owes its birth to the ancient Greeks. In their care many of the fundamental questions in ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, and the philosophy of mind were raised for the first time and developed in striking and sophisticated ways. We will try to determine which questions they asked, what their answers were, and whether we should accept their answers as correct even now. Readings will be drawn primarily from the works of Plato and Aristotle, but will also include material from some important Pre-Platonic figures.

PHL 329K • Hist Of Ancient Philosophy

42550-42555 • Spring 2017
Meets TTH 3:30PM-5:00PM WAG 201
(also listed as C C 348)

Western philosophy owes its birth to the ancient Greeks. In their care many of the fundamental questions in ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, and the philosophy of mind were raised for the first time and developed in striking and sophisticated ways. We will try to determine which questions they asked, what their answers were, and whether we should accept their answers as correct even now. Readings will be drawn primarily from the works of Plato and Aristotle, but will also include material from some important Pre-Platonic figures.

PHL 387 • Virtue Ethics

42705 • Spring 2017
Meets M 3:00PM-6:00PM WAG 210

Course Description

A little more than 50 years ago, Elizabeth Anscombe launched an attack on modern moral theory that still resonates today. Since then many philosophers have heeded her call to abandon the utilitarian and Kantian approaches that were dominant at the time, and return instead to the ancient Greek tradition — not just in ethics, but also in moral psychology, action theory, metaethics, and even epistemology. What distinguishes this tradition from its competitors, Anscombe thought, is its focus on the virtues of character, and on the contribution these virtues make to a good human life.

Our aim in this course will be to examine and evaluate some of the leading theories that have emerged from this recent return to the Greek tradition. Among the questions we will ask are the following: Can (or should) virtue theory provide an account of right action? Is there really such a thing as a virtue of character? Is it reasonable for us to take up the virtues as ideals for ourselves? Does virtue theory show us how to ground ethical normativity in human nature? Does virtue theory entail that ethical norms are somehow relative to cultures, narratives, or situations?

Grading Policy

10% presentation. 10% participation.  80 % paper. 

 

Texts

Readings will be drawn primarily from the work of recent and contemporary philosophers, including Philippa Foot, Iris Murdoch, Alasdair MacIntyre, Rosalind Hursthouse, John Doris, Thomas Hurka, and Christine Swanton.

 

This seminar satisfies the Ethics requirement

PHL 329K • Hist Of Ancient Philosophy

42480-42485 • Fall 2016
Meets TTH 3:30PM-5:00PM WAG 302
(also listed as C C 348)

Western philosophy owes its birth to the ancient Greeks. In their care many of the fundamental questions in ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, and the philosophy of mind were raised for the first time and developed in striking and sophisticated ways. We will try to determine which questions they asked, what their answers were, and whether we should accept their answers as correct even now. Readings will be drawn primarily from the works of Plato and Aristotle, but will also include material from some important Pre-Platonic figures.

PHL 334K • Martin Heidegger

42505 • Fall 2016
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM WAG 308

The rise of industrial technology in late 19th century Europe and America marked a new and decisive victory in humankind’s long struggle to dominate the earth. But not everyone greeted this victory with excitement and good cheer. In fact some philosophers — most notably Martin Heidegger — saw it as the most visibly destructive symptom of our increasing alienation from ourselves, from the world, and from each other. His project, which eventually came to be known as existential phenomenology, was to examine the technological-scientific mindset that made this victory possible and expose it as superficial, derivative, and profoundly ignorant of itself. By redirecting his attention to the concrete, lived experience of everyday human existence, he hoped to reveal the fundamental structure of our distinctive way of being in the world — and, in so doing, allow us to repair our relationship with that world. Our aim in this course will be to understand and evaluate this philosophical project.

PHL 301 • Introduction To Philosophy

41305 • Fall 2015
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM WAG 302

There are a few questions that all of us should ask ourselves at least once before we die, and many of them are philosophical. In this course we will pick out some of the most pressing of these questions, and try to answer them as best we can. Among them will be: Do we really know anything about the world outside our own minds? What is the nature of consciousness? Is there a God? What exactly are we? Are we free? Are we responsible for the things we do? Is it morally OK for us to have children? Should we be afraid of dying? Do our lives have a purpose?

PHL 325K • Ethical Theories

41590 • Fall 2015
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM WAG 302

Nearly all of us accept that there are things we morally ought to do, and other things we morally ought not to do. But only a few of us take the time to ask ourselves, in a serious and systematic way, what is it about these things that makes them the ones we morally ought, or ought not, to do. The aim of this class is to explore and evaluate the full range of different possible answers we might want to give to this question. Readings will be drawn primarily from recent and contemporary work in the analytic tradition of philosophical ethics, but will also include material from the two historical figures who have had perhaps the greatest influence on that tradition — Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill.

PHL 301K • Ancient Philosophy

41540-41544 • Spring 2015
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM UTC 3.124

Western philosophy owes its birth to the ancient Greeks. In their care many of the fundamental questions in ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, and the philosophy of mind were raised for the first time and developed in striking and sophisticated ways. We will try to determine which questions they asked, what their answers were, and whether we should accept their answers as correct even now. Readings will be drawn primarily from the works of Plato, but will also include material from some important Pre-Platonic thinkers.

PHL 381 • Origins Of Metaphysics

42130 • Spring 2015
Meets W 3:30PM-6:30PM WAG 316

Prerequisites

Graduate Standing and Consent of Graduate Advisor or instructor required. 

Course Description

PHIL 381: Ancient Philosophy

The Origins of Metaphysics

Since the end of the 20th century, the status of metaphysics as an intellectual enterprise has once again been called into question. Fresh doubts have been raised about its ambitions, its methods, its results, and even its cognitive significance. Partly in response to these doubts, some contemporary philosophers — such as Kit Fine, Jonathan Schaffer, and Michael Thompson — have tried to recover and revitalize what they take to be the animating core of the ancient Greek metaphysical tradition. Our aim in this seminar will be to take a closer look at this tradition, in the hope of seeing more clearly whether these contemporary philosophers are on the right track.

We will begin by examining the work of Parmenides, the Greek tradition’s most influential founding father, whose views have become a topic of increasing scholarly controversy over the past few decades. Then we will turn our attention to Plato, and in particular to his attempt to provide — with his so-called “theory of forms” — a new and more stable foundation for a recognizably Parmenidean project of inquiry.

Primary readings will be drawn mostly from Parmenides and Plato, but will also include material from some other important figures in the history of Greek metaphysics, such as Anaximander, Xenophanes, Zeno, Melissus, and Philolaus. Secondary readings will be drawn from recent and contemporary analytic historians of philosophy, but may also — depending on the interests of the class — include material from some more popular and controversial commentators, such as Nietzsche, Heidegger, Hadot, and Kingsley.

All texts will be read in translation. No knowledge of ancient Greek will be presupposed.

 

This course satisfies the History requirement

 

PHL 325K • Ethical Theories

43015 • Fall 2014
Meets MWF 11:00AM-12:00PM BEN 1.106

Nearly all of us accept that there are some things we morally ought to do, and other things we morally ought not to do. But only a few of us take the time to ask ourselves, in a serious and systematic way, what is it about these things that makes them the ones we morally ought, or ought not, to do. The aim of this class is to help us understand and evaluate the full range of different possible answers we might want to give to this question. Readings will be drawn primarily from recent and contemporary work in the analytic tradition of philosophical ethics, but will also include some material from the two historical figures who have had perhaps the greatest influence on that tradition — Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill.

Curriculum Vitae


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