Matthew David Farley

Doctoral Candidate

Research Interests

A Phenomenology of Christian Compassion:

In spite of twenty-five references to the gut-wrenching compassion of Jesus in the New Testament (making compassion the third most attested emotion of Jesus), Christian theologians did not fully claim the relevance of this spiritual emotion until the 12th Century. Once claimed and cultured in the West, compassion has been subject to devastating objections, from ethical dubita in the Nietzschean vein about the condescension of compassion to the phenomenologist’s denial that we can intuit others’ sufferings in the way that compassion supposes.

My dissertation is part philosophical apology, part historical-theological forensics, part phenomenological description, of compassion. Part one (chapters one, two and three) defends philosophical reflection on the emotions in general and presents Christian compassion as a kind of “ask no questions” compassion that is an urgent corrective to the hypertrophied logic of Stoic emotion doctrine; part two (chapters four and five) elucidates the Christological and Trinitarian problematics that hindered early Christian thinkers from taking the compassion of Jesus seriously, and shows how Bernard of Clairvaux, Hugh of St. Victor, William of St. Thierry, and Thomas Aquinas eventually overcame those problems; finally, part three (chapter six) presents a Husserlian defense of embodied emotion against the tendency in both Anglo and Continental thought to pseudo-divinize emotions by subtracting their physiological bases.

The conclusion: Husserl shows that what I take to be the unique note of Christian compassion, i.e., the removal of Aristotle’s proviso that only those who suffer unjustly warrant our compassion, is actually the phenomenological rule for how all emotions are founded in general. Emotions are founded in affective responses to the presentation of the non-axiological features of a thing or situation. In other words, to ask whether or not somebody deserves compassion—to take an everyday example, is the beggar on the street a drug addict? pretending to be poor? will she use my dollar bill for beer?—is to arrive too late to the graced moment of compassion.


Teaching Assistant, University of Virginia

  • New Testament, Spring 2015

  • Modern Theology, Spring 2015 & Spring 2014

  • Spiritual But Not Religious, Spring 2014       

  • Biomedical Ethics, Fall 2013

  • Sensing the Sacred, Spring 2013

  • Elements of Christianity, Fall 2012           

Adjunct Lecturer, English, Santa Clara University

  • Knowing That You Don’t Know, Spring 2010

  • The Brothers Karamazov, Spring 2010

  • Science, Ethics, and Society, 2009-10

  • Introduction to Poetry, Fall 2009

  • Cinema Odyssey, 2009-10

Adjunct Lecturer, Saint Ignatius Institute, University of San Francisco

  • Advanced Writing Practicum, Spring 2004

Teaching Assistant, Department of Theology, University of Notre Dame   

  • Medieval Theology, Spring 2002

Book Chapters

  • “The Apocalypse as Human Wilderness: The Phenomenological Progress of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road,” in Carrying the Fire: Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and The Tradition of Apocalyptic Literature, ed., Richard Wallach, Casebook Studies in Cormac McCarthy. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, forthcoming.)

  • “Introduction.” In Crossing the Rubicon by Emmanuel Falque. New York, NY: Fordham University Press (New York: Fordham University Press, 2016), pp. 1-13.

Peer-Reviewed Articles

  • “Saving the Subject as Life: A Modest Lacostian Defense of the Who Who Comes,” The Challenge of God, ed. Jacob Torbek (Chicago: Loyola University Chicago Press, forthcoming.)

  • “Poem as Endangered Being: Lacostian Soundings in Hopkins’s ‘Hurrahing’ and Stevens’s ‘Blackbird,’ Religions, Special Issue: “English Poetry and Christianity,” 8 Dec 2016.

  • “Jean-Yves Lacoste on John of the Cross: Theological Thinker Par Excellence,” Modern Theology (32:1) 23 Dec 2018, pp. 3-19.


  • “From Theology to Theological Thinking,” by Jean-Yves Lacoste, transl. W. Christ Hackett (Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press 2014), in Modern Theology (32:2) 9 May 2016, pp. 298-300.

  • Passer Le Rubicon by Emmanuel Falque.” In Recherches Philosophiques. Toulouse: Institut Catholique de Toulouse (forthcoming).

Conferences & Papers

  • Presenter, “Some Genre Remarks on Talal Asad’s Philosophy of Religion,” The University of Virginia Graduate Colloquium, April 29, 2016.

  • Presenter, “Maurice Blanchot’s Eccentric Critique of A/Theism.” University of Virginia Graduate Colloquium, March 20-21, 2015.

  • Presenter, “Obstinacy as a Self-Lie about the Self.” American Academy of Religion, Phenomenology and Scripture, San Diego, CA, Nov 22, 2014. 

  • Presenter, “Beyond Biocentrism: Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.” Cormac McCarthy Conference 2014, University of Western Sydney, Parramatta, Australia. July 23-25, 2014.

  • Convener, The University of Virginia Graduate Colloquium, “Contests of Desire: God, Goods & The Good,” March 28-30, 2013.

  • Presenter, “H.P Owen’s Moral Argument for God’s Existence: Fitting or Coercive?” Jesuit Philosophy Conference, Loyola Chicago, Chicago. March 9, 2007.

Professional Activities

  • Member, International Network in Philosophy of Religion (INPR), [Réseau international de philosophie de la religion], Institut Catholique de Paris, May 1, 2016—present.

  • Teaching and Technology Support Person for Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia, 2015-16, supervisor, Anne Ingram.

  • Research Assistant, Institute for Practical Ethics & Public Life, James Childress, supervisor. Fall 2014 to present.

  • Bioethics Internship, Transplant Unit, University of Virginia Medical Center, Summer 2014.


  • Distinguished AHSS Summer Research Grant, GSAS, University of Virginia, Latin Paleography, BnF, June 2016.

  • Alpha Sigma Nu, Fordham University, June 2006.

  • Undergraduate Research Award, Stanford University, May 2008. Awarded for my B.A. thesis in English, Al Gelpi, director, “Emily Dickinson and the Religion That Doubts As Fervently As It Believes.”


  • “Sunset Love,” song written for American composer James Craft and Amaranth Quartet, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, November 11, 2015, [Live Music]. 

  • “Matt Farley on the Jesuit Order.” Entitled Opinions (about Life and Literature). Hosted by Robert Harrison, KZSU 90.1. Stanford, CA: December 2, 2008, 5 p.m. [Radio]

  • Xavier: Missionary and Saint. Assistant Writer. Narrated by Liam Neeson and Janson Media. December 8, 2006. [Film]