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Matthew Congdon

Assistant Professor of Philosophy

Current Research

My core areas of research are ethics, social philosophy, aesthetics, and the intersections of ethics and epistemology. I am particularly interested in moral change and moral progress: both how individuals can modify their existing ethical outlooks by learning from experience and how moral development occurs on a broader, historical scale as a result of collective social struggle.

I have recently completed a monograph, titled, Moral Articulation: On the Development of New Moral Concepts (under contract with Oxford University Press, expected to appear in 2023). This book focuses on the struggles we face in putting morally significant experiences into thought and language. We sometimes experience things as good or wrong in an inchoate way that requires a fresh conceptualization to become articulate. My aim is to characterize this phenomenon, which I call “moral articulation,” and address some key questions that it raises. Is moral articulation a matter of discovery or creation? Is it merely a matter of making implicit knowledge explicit, or does it involve new and reshaped moral understandings? Is our initial, inchoate experience non-conceptual, conceptual, or already implicitly discursive? What role might emotions play in this process? And how can we judge whether we are making moral progress in any particular instance of articulation, given the lack of any obvious external standpoint which might ground our judgment? In exploring these questions, I develop a historicized variation of moral realism that attempts to balance the objective and transformative sides of moral articulation. In doing so, I draw from inspiration moral philosophers who place articulation at the center of ethical life, most notably Iris Murdoch and Charles Taylor. A draft of the introduction and first chapter is available here

I am in the beginning stages of a second book project on the aesthetics of our ethical lives with others. The basic outlines of this project is sketched in my article, “The Aesthetics of Moral Address” (Philosophical Topics 2021).

I am co-editing, with Thomas Khurana (Potsdam Universität) a volume on the philosophy of recognition as part of the Routledge series, “Rewriting the History of Philosophy.”


Other research-in-progress includes essays on neo-Aristotelian ethical naturalism, Hegelian recognition theory, the rationality (and irrationality) of emotions, and the philosophy of Iris Murdoch

OTHER ACTIVITIES

I co-organize Ethcetera, an ethics research cluster here at Vanderbilt with my colleague, Dr. Diana Heney.

I am on the editorial board for Transforming Political Philosophy, a book series with De Gruyter that focuses on marginalized philosophers and topics.

I recently co-organized (with Alice Crary, Oxford University & New School for Social Research) a workshop on the theme of “Social Visibility” to held at Vanderbilt on April 12th and 13th, 2019. Information can be found here.

I am a founding co-convener of The Prize for Distinguished Achievement in Social Philosophy. This is a collective endeavor by faculty and graduate students from the New School for Social Research and Vanderbilt University. Conceived to recognize groundbreaking philosophical work tackling questions of social epistemology, social ontology, theories of race, gender, class, ability, animality, and the natural environment, the first biennial Prize will be granted in the spring of 2021, and the occasion will be celebrated with a public lecture with responses from philosophers and social theorists. For more information, please visit www.SocialPhilosophyPrize.org, or contact us at socialphilosophyprize@gmail.com.

I was recently interviewed about the Prize for Distinguished Achievement in Social Philosophy here.

Specializations

Ethics, Social Philosophy, and Aesthetics


Representative publications

“Does Moral Philosophy Leave Everything as It Is?” Analysis (forthcoming)

“The Aesthetics of Moral Address,” Philosophical Topics (2021). Draft version here.

“Social Visibility: Theory and Practice,” co-authored with Alice Crary, Philosophical Topics (2021). Draft version here.

Trusting Oneself Through Others: El Kassar on Intellectual Self-Trust,” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective (2021).

"The Struggle for Recognition of What?" European Journal of Philosophy (2020).

"Creative Resentments: The Role of Emotions in Moral Change,The Philosophical Quarterly (2018).

“‘Knower’ as an Ethical Concept: From Epistemic Agency to Mutual Recognition,Feminist Philosophy Quarterly (2018). 

“What’s Wrong With Epistemic Injustice?” Routledge Handbook to Epistemic Injustice, ed. Ian James Kidd, José Medina, and Gaile Pohlhaus, Jr (Routledge, 2017). Draft here.

Wronged Beyond Words: On the Publicity and Repression of Moral Injury,” Philosophy & Social Criticism (2016).

Epistemic Injustice in the Space of Reasons,” Episteme 12:1 (March 2015).