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Philosophy Camp

Oakland University Philosophy Camp is a weeklong residential experience for high school students that brings together young people and philosophy professors to talk about important questions in philosophy. Since its inception in July of 2018, the camp has addressed a lack of philosophy or logic instruction in high schools by providing students with a short but rigorous program that will give them skills in the short run and launch them toward further philosophical reading and development. We engage in a variety of activities, such as dynamic discussions, lectures and group activities, as well as time for recreation and socializing. The camp's main goal is to provide students with a hands-on, engaging experience that will help them develop their critical thinking and reasoning skills.

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The theme of Philosophy Camp 2024 is Nature and Natures. If you would like to join us, sign up here.

At Philosophy Camp, we are committed to creating a great atmosphere for asking questions, building relationships, learning about philosophy and having fun. This is not your ordinary summer camp, and we tend to attract extraordinary campers. Our campers aren’t satisfied with the easy answers, and that’s something we at Philosophy Camp delight in.

“Philosophy camp is a really fun experience that introduced me to a lot of fascinating philosophical concepts and helped me learn to think more critically," one former camper said. 

Our camp isn’t only a series of classes to look spiffy on your college applications; it’s a deep engagement in this confusing world that we live in. The critical thinking skills you learn in Philosophy Camp will help you no matter where your future leads, but the questions we ask, and the answers you try to develop, may have a deeper impact. They may impact your understanding of yourself, your understanding of your relationships, your understanding of the world.

During camp week, we follow the lead of philosophers like Aristotle, Avicenna, and Henry David Thoreau, all of whom thought that the health of the mind and the movement of the body are interconnected. We want to think deeply about things, so we will be moving around a lot, walking around OU's beautiful campus, building things, tossing around a frisbee, creating a fire, even (safely) climbing trees. But we will spend the majority of time exercising the muscle that makes the world go round: the human brain. If you’re anything like OU's philosophy experts, you’re gonna love it and you’re gonna wish every week was like this one.

“As a senior in high school, I loved being able to see what a college lecture is like. There were a variety of professors, even profs from different universities. I very much enjoyed the breakout sessions and activities that we did,” another former camper said. 

When is this year's camp?

July 8th-12th, 2024.

Will we be staying overnight?

Yes! We encourage students to stay overnight, though there is also a day camp option.  Overnight campers will stay Monday through Thursday night (four nights). The last day of camp is Friday.

Where will this year's camp be?

We will based in the 2nd floor of the Human Health Sciences building on Oakland's campus, but we will also spend time on the philosophy floors of the MSC (6th and 7th floor), at the Oakland Center, and out in the sunny vistas of the lovely Oakland University Campus.

What is the cost of camp?

Cost for Monday-Friday overnight option is $600.  The day camp option (10 am - 5 pm) is $250.  Early bird discount: 15% off, if you register by May 4, 2024. This includes meals, activities, snacks, and (for overnight campers) housing. Scholarships are available!  Just ask.

What is the theme for this year's camp?

Our theme is Nature and Natures. We will ask questionslike, “What are our duties to nature?“, “Is human technology just another part of the natural world?“, and “How can human beings evolved for navigating nature live flourishing lives amidst a world of artifacts?“

What will we be doing during camp?

A typical camp day will structured around two lectures by philosophy professors at OU, interspersed with interesting activities, conversations, long walks, musical interludes, funny clips, frisbee tossing, ethics bowl preparation, and an enjoyable and leisurely lunch. There will be a lot of open air, a lot of space to think, and a lot of great people. This is not like any camp you've been to before, but those who have attended will never forget the experience.

Are meals provided?

Yes. We will be eating lunch at the OU dorms every day. Believe it or not, the food there is pretty good!

Students who stay overnight will be provided three square meals a day - actually, we're not that sure about the shape of the meals, but they will be existent.

What do I need to bring?

Bring yourself, your smartphone, a notebook and a pen. If you don't have a smartphone, no worries, we can provide whatever you need to do activities that involve an electronic device during camp.

Did you say "ethics bowl"? What's that?

Ethics Bowl is a type of friendly competition that takes place between various high schools or colleges, based on how well you and your teammates can argue in favor of a certain position on a topic of ethical contention. It's kind of like debate, except you don't have to disagree with your opponents.  During the week of camp, we put on a Mock Ethics Bowl, which is a sort of abbreviated version of the competition. You will have undergrad majors in philosophy help you form your arguments, and at the end of the week, you'll have the opportunity to show off your argumentative skills!

Philosophy Camp 2023
Theme: Turtles All the Way Down
Student Directors: Kendall Tamburo, Bella Javier
This yea's camp began our transition toward being an overnight camp, as we included activities throughout every evening, including a movie night, a bonfire and a game night. We had the opportunity to welcome the Dean of Wayne State's Honors College, Dr. John Corvino, to give a keynote session entitled "How to Be a Raging Moderate". We also went on a hike in the nature preserve near campus, visited downtown Rochester for ice cream (in a rainstorm!), saw Achilles race a tortoise, and participated in marvelous discussions led by various OU professors.

Philosophy Camp 2022

Theme: Thought Experiments
Student Directors: Kendall Tamburo, Danielle Polcyn
The 2022 installment of camp was tremendously important, since it brought us back! Two years of COVID-19 were rough, especially when both the 2020 and 2021 camp had to be cancelled at the last minute. But we persevered, and had our first camp on the South side of campus. Undergraduate volunteers created a wonderful environment, and for the first time joined our campers to learn alongside them, problematizing the artificial distinctions that can in many camps make it seem like camp leaders have nothing to learn. We were honored to have Dr. Rosenthall from the Linguistics department to join us, and also had visits from Drs. Navin, Macdonald, White, Thiel and many others.

Philosophy Camp 2019
Theme: Identity
Student Directors: Samantha Sinclair, Maggie Schneider
We had a considerable increase in participants this year, as 19 campers joined us to learn about
the nature of the self. Students came from a variety of high schools to discuss the theme of
"identity" from a variety of perspectives, including ethics, metaphysics, philosophy of gender,
philosophy of religion and political philosophy.

One of our undergraduate student leaders said, "My experience was fantastic, to say the least. I think I really found my calling, working with philosophy at the high school level.

"Another commented on the leadership skills gained from this experience and said, "Philosophy Camp helped me practice the roles of public speaker, planner, improviser and friend all at once."

Philosophy Camp 2018
Theme: Civil disagreement
Student Director: Samantha Sinclair
With presentations from Elysa White, Joyce Havstad, Mark Navin, Anthony Williams, Paul
Graves, Sean Stidd (Wayne State University) and many others, our inaugural camp was a tremendous
success. Attendees of the camp were enthusiastic about the camp's future, and several of them
expressed interest in going on to study philosophy at a college level.

If you have questions about camp, please check out our FAQ in the second tab on this page. Additional questions should be addressed to [email protected].

Department of Philosophy

Mathematics and Science Center, Room 752
146 Library Drive
Rochester, MI 48309-4479
(location map)
(248) 370-3390
fax: (248) 370-3157