2021 Colorado Summer Seminar in Philosophy
Topic: Ethics Meets Epistemology
June 6th through 25th, 2021: Boulder, Colorado
Students getting a bit punchy on the last day of the 2021 Colorado Summer Seminar in Philosophy while talking about Plato with Professors Mitzi Lee and Summer Seminar Director David Boonin.
Peter Singer discussing animal ethics, effective altruism, utilitarianism, and more with Summer Seminar Director David Boonin and the participants in the 2020 Summer Seminar.
View from the front of the seminar table during the 2019 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.
The topic for the 2021 Summer Seminar is “Ethics Meets Epistemology.” Each class session will focus on an issue at the intersection between these two areas of philosophy. The seminar will be team taught by ten or more faculty members and will cover a wide variety of historical and contemporary subjects. Likely subjects to be covered include:
- Plato on moral knowledge
- Aristotle on moral knowledge
- Aquinas on the ethics of faith
- Descartes on the ethics of belief
- Mill on epistemology and free speech
- The epistemology of moral testimony
- Moral reasons for belief
- The epistemic status of moral intuitions
- Value comparisons in ethics and epistemology
- Agent-centered norms in ethics and epistemology
- A priori moral and mathematical knowledge
- Doxastic voluntarism and the ethics of belief
Class sessions will be supplemented by a variety of extracurricular events, including talks on additional subjects and workshops on such topics as women in philosophy and how to apply to graduate school. If we are unable to hold the seminar in person in Boulder, the seminar will still take place and will be run via Zoom. If we are able to hold the seminar in person in Boulder, some events will still take place remotely via Zoom.
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 philosophy courses at their own institution, students coming from institutions where philosophy has a relatively modest presence, and students who are members of groups that have traditionally been underrepresented in philosophy.
Enrollment will be limited to 20 students. 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. Priority will be given to students who have not yet applied to graduate programs.
View from the front of the seminar table during the 2017 Summer Seminar
Participants in the 2016 Colorado Summer Seminar in Philosophy
Some topics and syllabi from seminars past:
- 2020: Agreement, Disagreement, and Uncertainty
- 2019: Freedom
- 2018: Paradoxes and Puzzles
- 2017: Thought Experiments in Philosophy
- 2016: Paradoxes and Puzzles
- 2015: Matters of Life and Death
- 2013: Justice
- 2012: The Limits of Knowledge
- 2011: Will and Desire
- 2010: Applied Philosophy
- 2009: Identity
- 2008: Big Ideas from the History of Philosophy
- 2007: Science
- 2006: Value
- 2005: God
- 2004: Reasons and Persons
- 2003: From Perception to Conception
- 2002: Moral Psychology
- 2001: Mind over Matter: Dualism and Nonreductive Materialism
- 2000: Universals
If the seminar is able to meet in person, it 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.
Registration, Housing, and Meal Plan
Housing: approximately $550 (shared double) to $700 (single)
Meal Plan: $340 (covers 40 meals)
If the seminar takes place remotely, the only charge will be for registration and it will remain at $850. 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.
Hiking in the foothills near the CU campus with the 2016 summer seminar participants
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 respectfully and 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 writing sample that demonstrates your philosophical abilities. (Ordinarily, it should a paper written for a philosophy class.)
Applicants should send the cover letter, transcript and essay in pdf or Word format to the Director of the Seminar, David Boonin, at email@example.com 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.
Review of applications will begin on March 5, 2021 and continue until all available positions are filled.
For more information, direct queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
Feedback from Former Participants
“I absolutely loved being a part of this seminar. Despite being online due to COVID-19, our lectures and discussions were engaging. I got to meet and converse with several philosophers that I never expected to be able to engage with. This was a major silver lining to the online format. I keep in touch with my fellow seminarians and we share syllabi and book recommendations! I would highly recommend this program!!”
Cyd Funk (2020 seminar)
Undergraduate at Westminster College
“The 2020 Colorado Summer Seminar has been a formative experience in my philosophical development. It is a high-level, fast-paced, and interesting seminar packed with interesting topics to discuss everyday with a highly talented group of philosophy students from all over the world. Although I would have really enjoyed meeting everyone in person, the virtual seminar worked out really well because there were ample opportunities for participants to be engaged in talks outside of lectures and also communicating outside of class (via Discord). In addition, I really liked how we were able to listen to prominent philosophers (such as David Chalmers, Susan Wolf, Peter Singer) give talks to us over Zoom, which would not have been possible if the seminar was in person."
Phillip Yoon (2020 seminar)
Undergraduate at Johns Hopkins University
"Coming from a very small department, the Colorado seminar provided me with the opportunity to be surrounded by other students with dreams similar to mine, and I was able to grow philosophically in ways I never had before. Many of the people in my cohort still keep in touch, and provide a network of advice and support for those applying to grad school. I also can’t think of many better places to do philosophy than nestled in the Rocky Mountains. If you haven’t debated Kantian philosophy after a several mile hike on one of Boulder’s magnificent trails, have you really philosophized at all?”
Parker Rose (2019 seminar)
Undergraduate at University of Alabama at Birmingham
"The Summer Seminar in Philosophy gave me an immersive, representational experience of the world and vocation of academic philosophy unlike anything I could have gained through an undergraduate education alone. The friendships and understanding I walked away with were (and continue to be) invaluable.”
Blake Harris (2019 seminar)
Undergraduate at the University of Denver
"Having just had completed coursework for my final year as an undergrad, Boulder proved to be the perfect setting to remind me of the beauty and joy of doing philosophy. The format of the seminar provided a unique opportunity to be reminded of the breadth of philosophical topics and an impressive variety of approaches to teaching as each seminar session was led by a different instructor. The faculty was extremely helpful and approachable and shed some much needed light on admissions procedures to graduate programmes. Most importantly though, the intellectual stimulation from discussions and exchanges with fellow seminar participants was a completely novel and exciting experience, illustrating that philosophy is most fruitful as a social exercise. Frequent trips to the stunning mountain landscape and hospitable town of Boulder provided the best conditions one could wish for what was a truly unforgettable experience. I am deeply grateful for the chance to participate."
Alexander M. Hutterer (2018 seminar)
Undergraduate at King’s College London
"The Summer Seminar in Philosophy at Boulder, Colorado was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It’s rare that one gets a bunch of very smart and enthusiastic aspiring philosophers from all over the world in one location. The outcome was something that would give Plato’s Academy (or the Lyceum) a run for its money! In between classroom sessions, I enjoyed doing philosophy el fresco with the Rocky Mountains in the background; or on the move while hiking up the Flatirons. You would think that we’d have solved all philosophical puzzles at the end of it all! Yet I’m grateful for the exposure to the breadth and depth of what philosophy has to offer: to see how fields of philosophy like ethics and metaphysics (for example), which previously I had thought were miles apart, connect through Thought Experiments to illuminate solutions to some of the most perplexing questions of our age. Perhaps what’s truly special is the peer-to-peer learning that went on with folks who may one day be colleagues in the profession; and the realization out of this that there is still a lot more to learn, after all."
David Mwakima (2017 seminar)
Undergraduate at Harvard University
“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)
Undergraduate at 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."
"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.
"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