Yaffe, Gideon 1971–

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Yaffe, Gideon 1971–

PERSONAL: Born 1971. Education: Harvard University, A.B. (magna cum laude), 1992; Stanford University, Ph.D., 1998.

ADDRESSES: Office—School of Philosophy, Mudd Hall, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0451.

CAREER: Philosopher, educator, and writer. University of California at San Diego, lecturer in philosophy, 1998–99; University of Southern California, assistant professor of philosophy, 1999–.

AWARDS, HONORS: American Council of Learned Societies research fellowship, 2002–03.


Liberty Worth the Name: Locke on Free Agency, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 2000.

Manifest Activity: Thomas Reid's Theory of Action, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2004.

Articles and reviews have appeared in academic journals, including History of Philosophy Quarterly, Analysis, Midwest Studies in Philosophy, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, British Journal for the History of Philosophy, Journal of Scottish Philosophy, Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophy and Public Affairs, History of Philosophy Quarterly, Erkenntnis, and Kant-Studien. Contributor to Philosophical Perspectives, edited by James Tomberlin, Oxford University Press, 2000; The Blackwell Companion to Early Modern Philosophy, edited by Steven Nader, Blackwell Publishing, 2002; and The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

SIDELIGHTS: Gideon Yaffe's academic interests in philosophy focus on the history of modern philosophy; the study of metaphysics, including causation, free will, and personal identity; and the study of intention and the theory of action. In his book Liberty Worth the Name: Locke on Free Agency Yaffe explores the topic of free will through the interpretation of the writings of John Locke. As a part of this examination, Yaffe explores the philosopher's view of volition and voluntary action. Focusing primarily on Locke's "Essay concerning Human Understanding," the author discusses Locke's belief in relation to longstanding Christian teachings concerning grace. Writing in the Times Literary Supplement, James A. Harris commented that "in order to give a rigorous and elegant account of Locke on free agency,… Yaffe has to dwell on some aspects of Locke's thought at the expense of others." The reviewer also wrote, "Liberty Worth the Name uses Locke's texts as a means of exploring with great acuity the various ways in which human selfhood and agency depend upon each other."

In Manifest Activity: Thomas Reid's Theory of Action Yaffe turns to the works of philosopher Thomas Reid and Reid's thoughts about human will, the capacity for purposeful conduct, and the place of humans in the natural world. These interests guided Reid's theory of action, which has been largely neglected, especially compared to the scholar's contributions in the philosophy of perception and epistemology. Yaffe presents Reid's view that intellect and will are necessary for human power and goes on to discuss the philosopher's concept of efficient causation. The author also explores how Reid viewed human agency and the role of motives in human action and thought. In examining Reid's philosophical arguments, Yaffe delves into their implication in various aspects of human action, including the nature of human character and motivation and the causes of human behavior. Calling the book "excellent" in a review for Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews online, Terence Cuneo noted that Yaffe's thesis in Manifest Activity "is deftly and concisely argued, resourceful, and offers a charitable interpretation of Reid's position." Although Cuneo noted that Manifest Activity "is also a difficult book to penetrate," he also wrote, "The point to underscore … is that Yaffe has done Reid scholars the favor of casting a great deal of light on Reid's theory of action in a probing and insightful way."



Ethics, January, 2003, Roy T. Tsao, review of Liberty Worth the Name: Locke on Free Agency, p. 461.

Times Literary Supplement (London, England), February 15, 2002, review of Liberty Worth the Name.


Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, http://ndpr.nd.edu/ (March 30, 2005), Terence Cuneo, review of Manifest Activity: Thomas Reid's Theory of Action.

University of Southern California Web site, http://www.usc.edu/ (March 30, 2005), "Gideon Yaffe."