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Matthew Congdon

Assistant Professor of Philosophy

Current Research

My core areas of research are ethics (primarily moral psychology and metaethics), social philosophy, feminist philosophy, and the intersections of ethics and epistemology. I am particularly interested in the nature of 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 am writing a book, Moral Articulation: On the Formation of New Moral Universals, which focuses on the historical development of new moral concepts. My leading example is the development of new moral terms in the 20th century, like ‘sexual harassment’ and ‘hate speech’, which give expression to previously marginalized forms of ethical experience. My question is how best to understand what we are doing when we bring ethically significant acts and events under new descriptions. Are we simply naming moral realities that already exist, fully formed and intact, prior to their expression in language? Or do ethical phenomena bear a more sensitive relation to the descriptions under which they fall, such that the development of new modes of ethical expression help constitute the very objects they bring to light? I argue that we can accept a version of the latter, transformative view without sacrificing notions of moral truth, objectivity, and knowledge. The result is a new theory of moral value I call historicized moral realism, which holds that morality can be both (a) objectively rational and (b) historically alterable.

Other research-in-progress includes work on neo-Aristotelian ethical naturalism, Hegelian recognition theory, moral emotions, and the philosophy of Iris Murdoch

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) 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, or contact us at

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


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).