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Walker, Matthew

 Matt Walker

Matthew Walker
ACLS New Faculty Fellow

Contact Information
Office: Seminary 3
B.A. Amherst College, Ph.D. Yale University
Ancient Philosophy, Ethics
Research and Professional Activities

The main focus of my research is Aristotle's ethical theory. Here, I am principally interested in Aristotle's views on the place of contemplation in the happy life, and in understanding these views against the background of Aristotle's biological naturalism (especially his views on living organisms as self-maintaining systems). I argue that while Aristotle thinks that contemplation is the highest end of a happy life, and is in some sense a useless activity, Aristotle also identifies a useful role for contemplation in the self-maintaining activity of human beings. Hence, contemplation plays a role in the good for human beings continuous with the role that perception plays in the good for animals and nutrition plays in the good for plants.

I maintain related interests in Platonic and Aristotelian views on friendship and self-knowledge, and am at work on various papers covering these topics. In 2008, I participated in the NEH Summer Seminar "Traditions into Dialogue: Confucianism and Contemporary Virtue Ethics."
Selected Publications

"Contemplation and Self-Awareness in the Nicomachean Ethics" (forthcoming in Rhizai)

I explore Aristotle’s account in the Nicomachean Ethics of how agents attain self-awareness through contemplation. I argue that Aristotle sets up an account of self-awareness through contemplating friends in Books VIII-IX that completes itself in Book X’s remarks on theoretical contemplation. I go on to provide an account of how contemplating the divine, on Aristotle’s view, elicits self-awareness.

"Aristotle on Activity 'According to the Best and Most Final' Virtue" (forthcoming in Apeiron)

I examine Aristotle's claim (in Nicomachean Ethics I.7 1098a16-18) that eudaimonia consists in "activity of soul according to virtue, but if there are many virtues, then according to the best and most final" virtue. Ongoing debate between inclusivist and exclusivist readers of this passage has focused on the referent of "the best and most final" virtue. I argue that even if one accepts the exclusivist's answer to this reference question, one still needs an account of what it means for activity of soul to accord with the best and most final virtue. I examine the nature of this accordance relation and defend a novel inclusivist reading of the whole passage.


Review of Paula Gottlieb, The Virtue of Aristotle's Ethics. Journal of the History of Philosophy 48 (2010): 397-398.

"The Utility of Contemplation in Aristotle's Protrepticus." Ancient Philosophy 30 (2010): 135-153.

Fragments of Aristotle’s lost Protrepticus seem to offer inconsistent arguments for the value of contemplation (one argument appealing to contemplation's uselessness, the other appealing to its utility). In this paper, I argue that these arguments are mutually consistent. Further, I argue that, contrary to first appearances, Aristotle has resources in the Protrepticus for explaining how contemplation, even if it has divine objects, can nevertheless be useful in the way in which he claims, viz., for providing cognitive access to boundary markers (horoi) of the human good.


2010 New Graduate Students

Welcome to the Rutgers Philosophy Department
Incoming Class, Fall 2010

  • Alex Anthony (B.A., Wesleyan)
  • Edwin Green (B.A., Rutgers)
  • Lucy Jordan (B.A., University of Southern California)
  • Stephanie Leary (B.A., University of Washington, Seattle)
  • Tara Rhoades (B.A., University of Delaware)
  • Una Stojnic (B.A., University of Belgrade)
  • Christopher Weaver (B.A., Moody Bible Institute, Northern Illinois, M.A. Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary)

Walen, Alec


 Alec Walen Alec D. Walen
Associate Professor, jointly appointed in  Law, Philosophy and Criminal Justice
Contact Information
Web Site:
B.A. University of Maryland
Ph.D. University of Pittsburgh
J.D. Harvard
Moral Philosophy and Philosophy of Law
Research and Professional Activities
"My work is centrally concerned with understanding the nature of deontology and the way it limits and draws on consequentialist considerations. I work on this project on two levels. On the level of moral philosophy, I am working on a series of papers that explore two themes: (1) the structure of rights and (2) deontological significance of intentions. On the level of legal theory, I explore this interest in the context of national security law, criminal law, and constitutional law, and am currently working on a book, the working title of which is "Detention in a Liberal State" (Under Contract at Oxford University Press)."
Selected Publications


“Agents, Impartiality, and the Priority of Claims over Duties; Diagnosing Why Thomson Still Gets the Trolley Problem Wrong by Appeal to the ‘Mechanics of Claims,’” Journal of Moral Philosophy 9 (2012): 545-571 DOI: 10.1163/174552412X628959.

"A Punitive Precondition for Preventive Detention:  Lost Status as an Element of a Just Punishment," San Diego Law Review 48 (2011): 1229-1272.

"A Unified Theory of Detention, with Application to Preventive Detention fo rSuspected Terrorists," Maryland Law Review 70 (2011): 871-938.

"The Doctrine of Illicit Intentions," Philosophy and Public Affairs 34 (2006): 39-67.




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