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Department of Philosophy


Matthew Kisner

Title: Professor
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Department: Philosophy
College of Arts and Sciences
Office: Close-Hipp 524
Resources: Curriculum Vitae
Department of Philosophy
Matt Kisner


PhD, UC San Diego, 2004

Research Interests 

My research focuses on seventeenth-century philosophy, especially moral philosophy. While most of my publications are on Spinoza, I also work on Descartes and the British Moralists. Within this area, topics of interest include the passions, moral motivation, eudaimonism, freedom and autonomy, practical reason and its relationship to theoretical reason, the basis of obligation, and theories of good and evil. I am also interested in how these issues are related to ethics today.

My current book project seeks to defend Spinoza's legacy as a chief architect of secular morality. I also have a side project on the emotion of wonder, which I hope to find time to continue developing in some way.

I believe that philosophical ethics has an important role to play in civic life. While I have not published in these areas, I am interested in environmental ethics, business ethics, and ethical issues surrounding food. I teach in these areas and I perform service in these areas, for instance, organizing conferences and advocating on issues.

Regularly Taught Courses

  • PHIL 304: Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Philosophy
  • PHIL 502: Continental Rationalism
  • PHIL 501: The British Moralists
  • PHIL 103: The Ethics of Food
  • PHIL 324: Business Ethics
  • PHIL 370: Climate Justice in Columbia

Selected Publications

  • “Spinoza’s Guise of the Good: Getting to the Bottom of 3p9s,” Philosophical Explorations, forthcoming 2021.
  • “Spinoza on Natures: The Metaphysics of Relational Autonomy,” in Spinoza and Relational Autonomy, eds. Andrea Sangiacomo, Keith Green, Aurelia Armstrong, University of Edinburgh Press, 2019.
  • “Spinoza Activities: Freedom without Independence,” in Freedom, Action, and Motivation in Spinoza’s Ethics, ed. Noa Naaman-Zauderer, Taylor and Francis, 2019.
  • “Descartes on the Ethical Reliability of the Passions: A Morean Reading,” Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy, volume 8, eds. Don Rutherford and Daniel Garber, Oxford University Press, 2019.
  • “Spinoza’s Liberalism,” Philosophy Compass, 7 (11): 2012, 782-93.
  • “Perfection and Desire: Spinoza on the Good,” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 91 (1): 2010a, 97-117.
  • “Spinoza’s Model of Human Nature: Rethinking the Free Man,” Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy, volume 5, 2010b, 91-114.
  • “Spinoza’s Benevolence: The Rational Basis for Acting to the Benefit of Others,” Journal of the History of Philosophy, 47 (4): 2009, 549-68.
  • “Spinoza’s Virtuous Passions,” Review of Metaphysics, 61 (4): 2008, 759-83.

Grants and Awards

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.