Aug. 7, 2020

Matthew Van Dyk defends his MA thesis on (micro)physicalism and rationality

Why non-reductive views of the human person are necessary to explain our rational capabilities

Matthew Van Dyk presented his MA thesis “Microphysicalism and Rationality: The Hasker/Reppert Argument from Reason” on August 4, 2020, to committee members Dr. Noa Latham (supervisor), Dr. John Baker (internal examiner), Dr. Nicole Wyatt (committee member) and Dr. Ann Levey (neutral chair).

Matthew Van Dyk thesis defence

(clockwise from top left): Nicole Wyatt, Noa Latham, Matthew Van Dyk, John Baker

In his thesis, Van Dyk examines William Hasker’s and Victor Reppert’s versions of the argument that the apparent capability of reason among human persons provides evidence against belief in physicalism. Van Dyk ultimately argues that “non-reductive views of the human person are necessary to explain our rational capabilities and as such should be considered viable alternatives to the currently popular (micro)physicalist views in philosophy and science.” 

Van Dyk’s undergraduate studies in philosophy further strengthened his conviction that “the human person is not reducible to a collection of subatomic particles rattling around in space but is rather possessing of a robust type of agency and free will.” His thesis topic developed from an interest in rigorous philosophical scrutiny of C.S. Lewis' defence of a non-reductive conviction based on our capacity to reason.

For Van Dyk, the most valuable outcome of his graduate studies was his discovery of a passion for teaching, “helping train others to think more clearly, analytically, and rationally, and to engage with other views with an open mind.” Additionally, the critical thinking and written communication skills he gained through the program have proven “generally applicable to virtually all areas of life.” 

He hopes to apply his interest in teaching through personal tutoring and sessional opportunities at local colleges/universities, possibly pursuing a PhD or other academic interests in the fairly distant future. For the time being, his focus is as a husband, and father of four children.