Gareth Matthews

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Gareth B. Matthews (July 8, 1929 – April 17, 2011) was an American philosopher who specialized in ancient philosophy, philosophy of childhood and philosophy for children.


Gareth Matthews was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on July 8, 1929. He grew up near Memphis, Tennessee. As a Boy Scout, he earned the rank of Eagle Scout. Matthews moved with his family to Franklin, Indiana, in 1945. He was valedictorian of the Class of 1947, at Franklin High School. He went on to earn his B.A. at Franklin College (Indiana), where his father was a professor. Matthews began his graduate work at Harvard University, where he earned an M.A. in 1952. He spent a year as a Rotary Fellow at the Free University of Berlin.

Matthews served as an Intelligence officer in the United States Navy, during the Cold War. He was assigned to the Naval Security Group, and the National Security Agency. He later served in the reserves, and retired as a Lieutenant.

Matthews earned his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1961. His teaching appointments have been at the University of Virginia (1960–61), the University of Minnesota (1961–69), and the University of Massachusetts Amherst (1969–2005).

Matthews first established himself with a series of important papers on Aristotle. He also wrote a number of scholarly articles on St. Augustine. His later works on philosophy for children and philosophy of childhood have been translated into a dozen languages, including Chinese, German, Japanese, and Indonesian.

Matthews regularly taught undergraduate and graduate courses at UMass Amherst on ancient philosophy, medieval philosophy, existentialism, applied ethics, and various topics in metaphysics. He has directed reading groups for graduate students on Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations and Heidegger's Being and Time.

Matthews was a visiting professor at Amherst College, Brown University, Mt. Holyoke College, Smith College, and the Harvard Summer School. He has been a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and directed four summer seminars sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. He was twice awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship.

Matthews lectured regularly in the US and abroad and has conducted philosophy discussions with elementary-school children in Austria, Australia, China, Israel, Germany, Japan, Norway, and Scotland, as well as in various schools in the U.S.

Prior to his death, he lived for many years with his wife, Mary, in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Matthews died of colon cancer on April 17, 2011, in Boston, Massachusetts.


  • Augustine (Blackwell, 2005)
  • Augustine: On the Trinity - Books 8-15, ed. (Cambridge, 2002)
  • Socratic Perplexity and the Nature of Philosophy (Oxford, 1999)
  • The Philosophy of Childhood (Harvard, 1994)
  • Dialogues with Children (Harvard, 1984)
  • Philosophy and the Young Child (Harvard, 1980)

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