2023 Colorado Summer Seminar in Philosophy

Topic: Norms and Values

June 4th through 23rd, 2023: Boulder, Colorado

We are no longer accepting applications for the 2023 seminar. Thank you for your interest!

Mountain hike with 2022 participants
Weekend hike in the mountains near campus with participants in the 2022 Colorado Summer Seminar.

The topic for the 2023 summer seminar is “Norms and Values.” The seminar will be team taught and will cover a wide range of philosophical areas. Possible subjects include general questions about the nature and authority of epistemic norms, legal norms, aesthetic norms, moral norms, norms of mental health, and norms of scientific inquiry, as well as normative questions about more specific subjects like racial justice, the right to privacy, obligations to future generations, and the ethics of divestment.

“This summer seminar was a wonderful experience. I gained invaluable insight into the application process for graduate school and what it is like being a graduate student and being a philosophy professor. Along with that, coming from a smaller institution, it was a unique opportunity to gain exposure into some philosophical areas that I would not usually have access to. The speakers were engaging and promoted fascinating discussion that extended outside of the classroom. The teaching aside, Boulder is a beautiful place, with breathtaking views of the mountains everywhere you look. It was great to be able to explore all that the city had to offer. Lastly, my favourite part of the seminar was the friends I made there. I learned a lot from them and had a great time joking around and getting to know everyone. They are awesome individuals, and I am eternally grateful that I was given the opportunity to meet each and every one of them. David Boonin was amazing and helpful with everything. You couldn’t ask for a better Director. If you are passionate about philosophy, I would highly recommend applying to partake in this life-changing experience!”

Luke Umar-Khitab (2022 seminar)
Undergraduate at University of New Brunswick

2021 Summer Seminar participants
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.

“As my time to apply to graduate school gets closer, the more I realize how meaningful and useful the 2021 summer seminar was. I learned a lot about doing philosophy, being a philosopher, and topics that interest me. All while making friends along the way. The seminar was extremely helpful for my professional development and my ongoing philosophical projects. Getting to hear both students and faculty from other institutions share their perspectives on philosophy and graduate school has allowed me to make more informed decisions about the profession. But above all, I think the attention we received from both the Colorado faculty and the guest speakers was what made this experience unlike any other. Everyone engaged with us and our interests so profoundly that they made me feel extremely welcome at Boulder even though I never set a foot on campus.”

Jaime Fernandez (2021 seminar)
Undergraduate at NYU Abu Dhabi

For additional feedback from 2021 seminar participants, click here

Peter Singer leads an online Zoom discussion, Summer 2020
Peter Singer discussing animal ethics, effective altruism, utilitarianism, and more with Summer Seminar Director David Boonin and the participants in the 2020 Summer Seminar.

“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

For additional feedback from 2020 seminar participants, click here

2019 Summer Seminar participants
View from the front of the seminar table during the 2019 Summer Seminar

For feedback from 2019 seminar participants and participants from earlier years, click here.

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.

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. After two years of holding the seminar remotely, the 2022 seminar successfully took place in person and we expect the 2023 seminar to take place in person, too. If we are unable to hold the 2023 seminar in person in Boulder, however, the seminar will still take place and will be run 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.

2017 Summer Seminar participants
View from the front of the seminar table during the 2017 Summer Seminar

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

Past Seminars

Some topics and syllabi from seminars past:

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

Registration: $850

Housing: approximately $750 (shared double) to $900 (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.

Participants in the 2016 Colorado Summer Seminar in Philosophy

Participants in the 2016 Colorado Summer Seminar in Philosophy


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 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.

Review of applications will begin on March 1, 2023 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
Bowling on the CU campus with the 2016 summer seminar participants
Bowling on the CU campus with the 2016 summer seminar participants.