Graduate Student Directory

Matthew Alexander Smith
  • Title
    • Graduate Student
  • Division Humanities Division
  • Department
    • History of Consciousness Department
  • Email
  • Office Location
    • Humanities Building 1, TBD
  • Mail Stop History Of Consciousness

Summary of Expertise

In broad strokes, my research investigates the limits of self-knowledge and the contemporary meaning of freedom and individuality. It involves questions that have bedeviled philosophers, artists, and social scientists for ages: given that we can hardly get away from social influences that have a normalizing effect on how we think and act, how can we understand the determinants of our own perceptions and beliefs, and act in light of that knowledge to become more free? 

My research addresses these questions about the limits of self-knowledge and the contemporary meaning of freedom and individuality by combining approaches drawn from the philosophy of mind, aesthetic theory, and semiotics. I am currently the most occupied with the philosopher Stuart Hampshire’s enlargement of Spinoza’s concept of “freedom of mind,” with Charles Sanders Peirce’s ideas about semiotics, and with the artistic praxis of the Situationist International. 


Research Interests

Matt's research engages with the following fields, Philosophy of Mind, Phenomenology, Semiotics, Aesthetic Theory, Marxism, and Psychoanalysis, with a particular emphasis on the thought of Sir Stuart Hampshire, Spinoza, Sartre, Heidegger, Lacan, and Althusser. 

Biography, Education and Training

Matt received a BA in History from Columbia University, and JD and LLM degrees from Duke Law School. Before beginning his Ph.D. studies, Matt was a plaintiff's attorney specializing in federal class action litigation, and served as a judicial law clerk on the United States Court of Appeals. 



Honors, Awards and Grants


2011. Order of the Coif. Duke University School of Law Chapter.

2011. Outstanding Achievement Award, International and Comparative Law. Duke University School of Law.



2020. Summer Research Fellowship. The Humanities Institute, University of California, Santa Cruz. 

2020. Summer Research Grant. History of Consciousness Department, University of California, Santa Cruz. 

2019-2020. Regents Fellowship. Division of Graduate Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz.

2008-2011. Ida and Edward B. Silberstein Memorial Scholarship. Duke University School of Law. 

Selected Publications

2013. “Delegating Away the Unitary Executive: The INA § 287(g) Agreements Through the Lens of the Unitary Executive Theory.” Duke Journal of Constitutional Law and Public Policy, vol. 81.

2011. “Reasons Behind the Rules: From Description to Normativity in International Criminal Procedure.” North Carolina Journal of International Law and Commercial Regulation, vol. 35 (with N. Weisbord).

2010. Note, “Advice and Complicity.” Duke Law Journal, vol. 60.

Selected Presentations

2013. “State and Local Immigration Enforcement under INA 287(g) Agreements.” Perspectives of Migration, Governance, and Citizenship. Duke Law School, Durham, North Carolina.

2011. “State Action and the Original Understanding of Section 5.” J.D. Capstone Project Presentation, Duke Law School.

2010. “The Road From Kampala: An Analysis of the First ICC Review Conference.” Duke Law School. Conference Organizer.