Matthew Ally

Picture of Matthew Ally

Social Sciences, Human Services and Criminal Justice


Office: N-651A

Office Hours:

Phone: +1 (212) 220-8000;ext=5207

After nearly becoming a temperate ecosystems ecologist, Matthew Ally earned an interdisciplinary bachelors degree in the humanities, a Master of Divinity degree with a concentration in philosophies and theologies of liberation, and a Ph.D. with a concentration in moral, social, and political philosophy. He teaches introductory courses in cross-cultural philosophy and ethics and human geography, and an upper-level course called Great Issues, which focuses on contemporary philosophy of mind, environmental philosophy, and/or the ethics of globalization in any given semester. Matthew lives in New York City with his wife, their identical twin daughters (on the increasingly rare occasions that they are home), a dog, a cat, a jade tree, and sometimes a bird. Among other things, he likes to walk on city streets at sunrise, run in city parks at sunset, and hike in the woods as often as possible.


Social Justice Issues, Philosophy of Mind/Consciousness Studies, Environmental Philosophy, Continental Philosophy


  • B.A. New York University, Philosophy, Religious Studies, Classics,1990
  • M.Div. Union Theological Seminary, Phenomenology of Religion, Liberation Philosophy & Theology,1993
  • Ph.D. Temple University, Philosophy and Ethics,2001

Courses Taught

Research and Projects

This study explores the increasingly troubled relationship between humankind and the Earth, with the help of a simple example and a complicated interlocutor. The example is a pond, which, it turns out, is not so simple as it seems. The interlocutor is Jean-Paul Sartre, novelist, playwright, biographer, philosopher, and, despite his several disavowals, doyen of twentieth-century existentialism. Standing with the great humanist at the edge of the pond, the author examines contemporary experience in the light of several familiar conceptual pairs: nature and culture, fact and value, reality and imagination, human and nonhuman, society and ecology, Earth and world.

The theoretical challenge is to reveal the critical complementarity and experiential unity of this family of ideas. The practical task is to discern the heuristic implications of this lived unity-in-diversity in these times of social and ecological crisis. Interdisciplinary in its aspirations, the study draws upon recent developments in biology and ecology, complexity science and systems theory, ecological and Marxist economics, and environmental history.

Comprehensive in its engagement of Sartre’s oeuvre, the study builds upon his best-known existentialist writings, and also his critique of colonialism, voluminous ethical writings, early studies of the imaginary, and mature dialectical philosophy. In addition to overviews of Sartre’s distinctive inflections of phenomenology and dialectics and his unique theories of praxis and imagination, the study also articulates for the first time Sartre’s incipient philosophical ecology.

In keeping with Sartre’s lifelong commitment to freedom and liberation, the study concludes with a programmatic look at the relative merits of pragmatist, prefigurative, and revolutionary activism within the burgeoning global struggle for social and ecological justice. We learn much by thinking with Sartre at the water’s edge: surprising lessons about our changing humanity and how we have come to where we are; timely lessons about the shifting relation between us and the broader community of life to which we belong; difficult lessons about our brutal degradation of the planetary system upon which life depends; and auspicious lessons, too, about a participatory path forward as we work to preserve a habitable planet and build a livable world for all earthlings.


Sartre’s Integrative Method: Description, Dialectics, and Praxis, Sartre Studies International 16 (2): 48-74 2011

Ecologizing Sartre’s Ontology: Nature, Science, and Dialectics, Environmental Philosophy 9:2 2012

The Importance of Wondering (an article about Prof. Ally’s “Great Issues” class), Intimations of a New Socioecological Imaginary: Sartre, Taylor, and the Planetary Crisis , In: Revolutionary Hope: Essays in Honor of William L. McBride, edited by Nathan Jun, Lexington Books, 2013

Reading Catalano’s Reading Sartre, Sartre Studies International 17 (2): 81-88 2012 Sartre’s Wagers: Humanism, Solidarity, Liberation (A Commentary on Drake, Baugh, and Gines), Sartre Studies International 9 (2): 68-76 2003

Glimpses of Earth: Sustainability in the Crucible of Experience, Union Seminary Quarterly Review 63 (1-2): 164-79 2011

Normative Inertia, Historical Momentum, and Moral Invention: Dialectics of Ethos in Sartre’s Phenomenology of Praxis, Sartre Studies International 6 (1):105-115 2000

Embodied Mind, Earth Ethics, and Grassroots Globalization: A Case Study in Popular Education, Center for Global Justice 2006

Ecology and Existence: Bringing Sartre to the Water’s Edge2017, Lexington Books

Honors, Awards and Affiliations

Additional Information