2017 Colorado Summer Seminar in Philosophy

June 12th through 30th, 2017: Boulder, Colorado

Hiking in the foothills near the CU campus with the 2016 summer seminar participants
Hiking in the foothills near the CU campus with the 2016 summer seminar participants

Please note: At this point we are no longer accepting applications for the 2017 Summer Seminar.

The Colorado Summer Seminar in Philosophy

The Colorado Summer Seminar in Philosophy is intended for outstanding advanced undergraduates who are considering graduate school in philosophy. The aim is to introduce students to the atmosphere of a graduate-level seminar, giving them a chance to explore their philosophical abilities and interests before they commit to a graduate program.

In addition to offering the experience of a graduate seminar, we hope participants will benefit from meeting other students with similar interests and from interacting with prominent faculty in the field. Seminars in previous summers have attracted students from all over the country and abroad. All kinds of institutions have been represented, from various regional schools to prestigious liberal arts colleges to major research universities. We especially encourage applications from students who do not have the opportunity to take high-level courses at their own institution, and from students coming from institutions where philosophy has a relatively modest presence.

The class size will be 15-20. The course will be highly intensive, meeting five times a week for three weeks, for three hours a day. The readings will be philosophically sophisticated, and students will be expected to participate extensively.  Applicants should have done substantial work in philosophy, including exposure to contemporary analytic methods. Preference will be given to students who have not yet applied to graduate programs.

Participants in the 2016 Colorado Summer Seminar in Philosophy
Participants in the 2016 Colorado Summer Seminar in Philosophy

2017 Topic: Thought Experiments in Philosophy

The topic of the Seminar changes every summer. In 2017, the topic will be "Thought Experiments in Philosophy." The Seminar will focus on understanding and critically evaluating the use of thought experiments across a wide range of subjects including problems from both historical and contemporary sources in ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science, and more. Class sessions will be taught by a wide range of CU faculty members along with two special visiting faculty members: Douglas MacLean and Susan Wolf both from UNC, Chapel Hill. Likely topics include:

Further details will be posted in the coming months.

Participants who successfully take the course for credit will receive three credit hours at the graduate level, which may be applied to either undergraduate or future graduate study.

Past Seminars

Some topics and syllabi from seminars past:

The seminar will take place on the campus of the University of Colorado at Boulder. Located at the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains, 25 miles northwest of Denver, Boulder is perhaps the most attractive college setting in the country. Participants will be encouraged to explore the city of Boulder and the nearby mountains. Weekend outings will be organized.

Tuition and Housing

Tuition: $850

Housing: approximately $550 (shared double) to $700 (single)

Students should consult their own institutions about the possibility of financial support; many students in past years have found their own departments willing to contribute to the costs of the program.
 

Applications

There is no application form.

Applicants should provide the following:

  • A cover letter including your name, mailing address, email address, and an account of who you are and why you are interested in the program.
  • A letter of recommendation from someone who has taught you philosophy. The letter should address the quality of your contributions to class discussion and your ability to interact productively with other students as well as the quality of your written work for the class.
  • A copy of your college transcript. (An unofficial copy is fine.)
  • A short philosophical essay. (The shorter the better; ordinarily, it should be something written for a class.)

Electronic submission of materials is strongly preferred. Applicants should send the cover letter, transcript and essay in pdf or Word format to the Director of the Seminar, David Boonin, at david.boonin@colorado.edu and should have the person writing their letter of recommendation send their letter directly to this address. It is the applicant’s responsibility to confirm that the letter writer has submitted their letter.

Materials may also be submitted by mail to this address:

David Boonin
Director, Colorado Summer Seminar in Philosophy
Department of Philosophy
University of Colorado
232 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309-0232.

Review of applications will begin on March 1 and continue until all available positions are filled.

For more information, direct queries to david.boonin@colorado.edu.

To learn more about Philosophy at CU Boulder, go to our homepage.

Picnic at the Boulder Farmer’s Market, a short walk from the CU campus, with the 2016 summer seminar participants
Picnic at the Boulder Farmer’s Market, a short walk from the CU campus, with the 2016 summer seminar participants

Feedback from Former Participants

“The University of Colorado Boulder Summer Seminar in Philosophy benefits philosophy undergraduates who are looking into applying to graduate school in several capacities. For one, the structure of the seminar daily schedule is set up in such a way that mimics what a typical day of classes for a graduate student might look like, including discussions and also guest presentations on specific days. Moreover, graduate students and faculty from CU Boulder are highly involved in the seminar by offering readings, discussions, and guidance in their wide range of areas of expertise. The faculty are able to share their experience of what they commonly look for in graduate applicants and graduate students are able to share what the process was like for them (i.e. how they chose schools, narrowed their list, chose an essay to submit, etc.)”

Ghoncheh Azadeh (2016 seminar)
Undergraduate at the University of Oregon

"The Colorado Summer Seminar in Philosophy was the first time that I have been surrounded by people my age who get just as excited about philosophy as I do. We talked philosophy endlessly – in back-and-forth seminar discussions, in the Q&As after daily talks, in evenings back at the dorm. I felt more like a ‘young philosopher’ than I ever have; academia felt less like a ‘solo journey’ than it ever has. I learned that philosophy is a community endeavor. We voiced objections to each other’s arguments, pressed for clarifications, and offered supporting considerations. We listened to each other, asked each other questions, and took each other seriously. And in the moments we failed to do so, we had difficult, important conversations about how to do philosophy in a way that enriches, challenges, and includes all involved. All said, the Summer Seminar was an incredible philosophical experience. I highly recommend it!"

Sumeet Patwardhan (2016 seminar)
UNC Chapel Hill

"The Colorado Summer Seminar in Philosophy represents a singular opportunity for undergraduates to engage with peers and professors of diverse backgrounds in a graduate-level setting. Intensive, well-organized, rigorous, and fun, the Seminar better prepared me for graduate study in philosophy and introduced me to ideas and friends I'll remember forever. I especially appreciated the commitment to diversity on the part of the Seminar organizers, as my cohort and instructors came in large part from traditionally underrepresented groups and fostered dialogue which increased my awareness of and sensitivity to issues of diversity within the profession. Like all great experiences, it left me exhausted and humbled, but also with deep friendships and a deeper understanding—of philosophy, its challenges, and its opportunities."

Adam Donahoo (2016 seminar)
Undergraduate at Utah Valley University

"The seminar offers a wonderful opportunity to both do philosophy and gain invaluable advice on applying to graduate school. Over three short weeks, we covered a wide range of areas of philosophy, including metaphysics, ethics, history of philosophy, and the philosophies of science and language. There are ample opportunities to discuss the material with professors, peers, and, on some occasions, the very author of the work. In addition, the information sessions on applying to PhD programs in philosophy proved extremely useful. If this weren’t enough, Boulder is a gorgeous city with a lot to offer in terms of nature, culture, food, and drink. Yet the best part of the seminar may be that you get to make 19 new friends with whom to discuss philosophy on a regular basis. Many of us still keep in touch regularly, discuss philosophy and grad school, and exchange papers. I would highly recommend the seminar to anyone who hopes to pursue philosophy at the graduate level."

Elise Woodard (2015 seminar)
Undergraduate at Reed College
 

"The Summer Seminar in Philosophy provided an invaluable opportunity to grow as a philosophy student. I learned a lot from the outstanding group of professors--foremost, about the issues and arguments we studied with them, but also the diverse paths that led to them becoming professional philosophers. Moreover, I greatly enjoyed finding myself in a community of peers who were united by a commitment to doing philosophy but had heterogeneous experiences, interests, and, of course, opinions to share. Attending the seminar helped me to gain a sense of what graduate school is like and left me wanting to pursue further studies in philosophy all the more."

Caroline Bowman (2015 seminar)
Undergraduate at Claremont McKenna College

Bowling on the CU campus with the 2016 summer seminar participants

Bowling on the CU campus with the 2016 summer seminar participants.

"If I had to give undergraduates who are thinking about graduate school in philosophy just one piece of advice it would be to go to this seminar. Over the course of the three weeks of the seminar, I went from feeling isolated and cut-off from the rest of the world of professional philosophy, to feeling like I was a part of it. Something about the combination of being around like-minded peers (who have now become some of my best friends) and being taught by very serious scholars who really noticed me made me produce better philosophy than I ever had before. The work I did at Boulder turned into to conference presentations that turned into my writing sample that turned into my research focus in grad school. Boulder both made me more sure than ever that going into professional philosophy was my dream, and gave me the tools to realize that dream."

Amanda Gorman (2011 Seminar)
BA, University of Mary Washington
Ph.D. student in Philosophy, USC

"For me, the Summer Seminar was much like a language immersion program for philosophy: I was forced (in a good way) to quickly develop certain skills necessary for philosophical flourishing. For instance, spending the majority of my waking hours in the presence of other philosophers enhanced my abilities as a generalist. I had to learn to be prepared to offer cursory though intelligible evaluations of many positions with which I was unfamiliar. All this closely approximates and is good preparation for life as a philosophy graduate student. I highly recommend the Seminar to anyone considering masters or PhD programs in philosophy."

Jon Morgan (2011 Seminar)
BA, Muhlenberg College
Ph.D. student in Philosophy, Texas/Austin

"It is no understatement to say that this seminar changed my life. I came into the program unsure whether I wanted to continue with philosophy after I graduated from college, and I left knowing my heart was set on staying in the field for the rest of my life. The classes and papers were as rewarding as they were challenging -- very! -- but the heart of the seminar lay elsewhere. I found incredible and lasting friends, and my closest confidantes in philosophical matters, living alongside me in the dorm rooms and hiking with me through the spectacular scenery of the Rocky Mountains. They have helped me through my applications to graduate school and celebrated with me as we all headed off to top Ph.D. programs across the country, and we still fondly recall our times together in Boulder. The program taught us more philosophy than any of us were expecting, but more than that it gave us a glimpse of the life of the modern philosopher, and we liked what we saw very, very much. I cannot recommend the CU Summer Seminar highly enough."

Julia Bursten (2007 Seminar)
BA, Rice University
Ph.D. student in History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh

 

"Boulder provided three wonderful weeks of pure, unadulterated philosophy. Being part of a circle of outstanding philosophy students, whose sole purpose was learning philosophy, gave me the opportunity to develop my philosophical skills as never before. Many of the best conversations and debates I have ever had occurred during my time there. The people I met there became some of my closest friends, and we continue to read each others' work. Simply put, Boulder changed my conception of what it takes to be a good philosopher. Thanks to this seminar, I feel like I'm on my way to becoming one."

Matthew Glass (2007 Seminar)
BA, Hamline University
Ph.D. student in Philosophy, UC Irvine

"When I look back on the last few years and try to explain my growth, the narrative takes the form of BB and AB: 'Before Boulder' and 'After Boulder.' In three weeks I learned more philosophy than I did in entire semesters at my undergraduate institution, I made long lasting friends and philosophical colleagues, and I also came to an important conclusion in the fresh air of those Rockies: graduate school was the track for me.  Many of us who attended that summer of 07 were accepted to top PhD programs in the year following, and "The Boulder Circle" (as we call ourselves) has become a continual community for discourse, exchange of papers, encouragement, research, and fun philosophically packed reunions. The CSS was absolutely one of the most transformative experiences of my life, and I will always be grateful for the new horizons it opened and the lasting friendships it provided."

Amber North (2007 Seminar)
BA, Northwestern University
Gates Scholar, Ph.D. student in Philosophy, University of Cambridge