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2015 Colorado Summer Seminar in Philosophy

July 20th through August 6th, 2015: Boulder, Colorado

Featuring special sessions taught by:

Shelly Kagan (Yale)
Doug MacLean (UNC Chapel Hill)
Rivka Weinberg (Scripps College)
Susan Wolf (UNC Chapel Hill)

The Seminar is intended for outstanding undergraduates who are considering graduate school in philosophy. The aim is to introduce students to the atmosphere of a graduate-level seminar, giving participants a chance to explore and sharpen their philosophical abilities 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 small 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 between 15 and 20. The course is highly intensive, meeting five times a week for three weeks, for three hours a day, with a further student-led discussion session in the evenings. The readings will be dense and difficult, and students will be expected to participate extensively. Several papers will be required. 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 school.

Topic: Matters of Life and Death

The topic of the Seminar changes every summer. In 2015, the topic will be "matters of life and death". The Seminar will focus in roughly equal measure on particular questions that arise under each heading. Likely topics to be addressed include:

  • The Nature of Life
  • The Good Life
  • The Meaningful Life
  • Reproductive Cloning
  • Commercial Surrogacy
  • The Nature of Death
  • Posthumous Harm
  • Suicide
  • Euthanasia
  • Capital Punishment

The seminar will be jointly taught by the faculty of the Department of Philosophy, along with a few special visitors. Scheduled participants include:

Special Visitors
  • Shelly Kagan (Yale)
  • Doug MacLean (UNC Chapel Hill)
  • Rivka Weinberg (Scripps College)
  • Susan Wolf (UNC Chapel Hill)

Colorado Faculty
  • David Boonin (Pittsburgh, Ph.D. 1992)
  • Eric Chwang (Princeton, Ph.D. 2003)
  • Carol Cleland (Brown, Ph.D. 1981)
  • Iskra Fileva (Boston U., Ph.D. 2009)
  • Chris Heathwood (UMass, Ph.D. 2005)
  • Mitzi Lee (Harvard, Ph.D. 1996)
  • Claudia Mills (Princeton, Ph.D. 1999)
  • Alastair Norcross (Syracuse, Ph.D. 1991)
  • Robert Pasnau (Cornell, Ph.D. 1994)

Successful participants 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:

Summer in Colorado

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: $815

Housing: approximately $500

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. In special cases, the CU Department will consider providing financial support.


We are no longer accepting applications for Summer 2015.

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.
  • 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 preferred. Applicants should send the cover letter, transcript and essay in pdf or Word format to and should have the person writing their letter of recommendation send their letter directly to this address.

Materials may also be submitted via mail at:

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

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

For more information, direct queries to

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

Some participants in the 2013 seminar, hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Feedback from Former 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


Philosophy Department, UCB 232, Boulder, CO 80309-0232
Hellems 167  |  Phone: (303) 492-6132  |  Fax: (303) 492-8386
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