Matthew David Farley

Doctoral Candidate

Research Interests

The working title of my dissertation is “The Verticality of Neighborly Love: Lombard Redivivus.” Jesus’s twofold summary of the greatest commandment on which “hang all the law and the prophets” (Mt 22:36-40) involves various interlocking vectors of divine love and human love.  There is, of course, God’s love in se (Trinitarian theology); God’s love for us (Crisis Theology); our love for God (Unitive Theology.) Much theology has been written about these various inflections of amor Dei in the first commandment. Much less theology has been written about the second commandment, “love thy neighbor as thy self,” let alone how neighborly love is “like” the love of God, as Jesus insists it is (δευτέρα δὲ ὁμοία αὐτῇ.) The shining exception here is the Magister Sententiarum, Peter Lombard (1100-1160), who in Distinction 1.17 of Book 1 of his Sentences makes the astonishing claim that “Fraternal love is the Holy Spirit,” point. Few commentators on the Lombard dared to follow him in this opinion.

My dissertation provides a historical-theological and a phenomenological defense of the transcendence of neighborly love in these two basic domains, respectively. In the first part, I try to harmonize Aquinas and Lombard on this disputed question. The mature Aquinas, I contend, came to a position very close to Lombard’s, by tempering his earlier doctrine of created love with an impressive taxonomy of various kinds of auxiliary graces. In the second part, I seek a phenomenological update of the verticality of charity. On the one hand, such an update puts me at odds with modern French theologians inspired by Heidegger who have canceled the subject. I am speaking here, of course, primarily of Jean-Luc Marion, since it seems to me that neighborly love, whatever else it is, is necessarily an emotion that passes between subjects. On the other hand, accepting as I do the phenomenological criticisms of empathy that work on theories of emotional contagion or mimicry still popular in the cognitive and social sciences, which treat the subject as natural rather than personal, I seek a description of the intentionality of empathy. Particularly, I seek to show that empathy involves a different kind of intentionality than the one that is modeled on perception.  To this end, I adjudicate the teachings of empathy in Edmund Husserl, Max Scheler, and Edith Stein, seeking to show that foreign mindedness is directly given in empathy (without, of course, arguing that the empathizer shares the emotion of the sufferer.)  Lastly, I conclude that this directly felt suffering of others is vertical because it suspends the various horizontal horizons of Heidegger’s being-toward-death.  I conclude that in acts of charity, especially those that involve matters of life or death as in the “good” Samaritan par excellence, our usual ontological concern with death is dissolved, if momentarily, by the ontic care of the other. Otherwise put: it is empathy, a “feeling in the gut” (ἐσπλαγχνίσθη) that compels us to redress the suffering of others, that makes us subjects without therefore destroying the general structure of Dasein. Thus self-love, i.e., of a subject for herself, passes only by way of love of neighbor.


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]