The Dialectic: Philosophy Summer Camp


2024 Topic: What is the nature of the self? 

Who are you? Why does it matter? Are you the same self now that you were a year ago? You might have asked yourself what it means for me to be me and for you to be you. We participate in groups and communities based on shared identities, we vote for politicians that we feel a shared sense of self with, we choose life plans in various ways based on the things we believe to be true about ourselves. But what does it mean to be a self? What makes us who we are? Are those things stable, or changing? And perhaps, most importantly, what is at stake when we ask who or what we are?

Some guiding questions that we will be engaging: 

  • What does the self consist of? Who, or what are you? 
  • Are you separate from others? Are you unique?
  • Do you make your own decisions? 
  • What does it mean to be a self among other selves? 
  • What benefits or harms come from focusing on the self? 
  • Are people inherently good or bad? 
  • Can the self survive change? Death? 

For one week, you are a college student, working with ASU’s graduate students, to investigate these questions - coming to campus in the morning and leaving in the evening. You will get to meet a handful of ASU professors as they come in to give guest lectures. We will be drawing from Metaphysics, Philosophy of Mind, Epistemology, and Ethics. In the meantime, you’re hanging out with your peers that want to look at life a little more carefully. You are part of an intellectual community. You’re running around campus, eating in dining halls, peeking into the life of a college student.


Date: June 10-14, 2024

Time: 8:30 a.m.- 4 p.m.

Location: Lattie F. Coor Hall, Arizona State University (976 S Forest Mall, Tempe, AZ 85281)

Eligibility and Tuition

The Dialectic is open to any student that was in high school (9th-12th grade) during the 2023-2024 school year or is just graduating 8th grade.

Tuition for The Dialectic is $375.

Tuition covers the cost of the camp including instruction, lunches, materials, and facilities. 

Payment in full is due upon registration. While registering, please review the Refund/Cancellation policy on the payment confirmation page before finalizing submission.

For students with financial need, SHPRS awards a small number of need-based scholarships. Scholarships are awarded based on need and application answers. If you accept a scholarship, you are making a commitment to arrive on time and to participate fully in the camp. To request a scholarship please contact Angela Barnes BEFORE you fill out the registration.

Meet the instructors

Angela Barnes is a Philosophy PhD student studying technology and wellbeing. She is researching how the dependencies that we have on our smartphones (among other things) change the way that we interact with the world around us, and moreover, what that means for our own flourishing. Previously, she worked with a philosophy summer camp while she was getting her BA at Ohio State. Chatting about values and life’s biggest questions are Angela’s favorite hobbies, and she is looking forward to working with curious high school students again this summer!


Aubrial Harrington is from the Verde Valley in Northern Arizona. She earned her BA from Northern Arizona University in Politics, Philosophy and Law with minors in economics and classical studies, and is now pursuing a PhD in Philosophy focusing on social and political philosophy, critical theory, philosophy of economics, and Latinx philosophy. She loves to teach and talk about philosophy and has enjoyed participating in middle school and high school philosophy mentoring programs.


Dr. Thad Botham earned a PhD in philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. Thad is published in epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics. He has taught at ASU since 2006. He has taught for Barrett, the Honors College at ASU, and is currently the Faculty Honors Advisor for philosophy. Thad enjoys thinking about hard things to think about—things that cannot be resolved by empirical investigation alone, for example, the nature of free will. Thad has a penchant for high quality teaching that produces results. Fostering an environment where students feel safe, yet challenged, Thad equips students to master both evaluation and delivery of sound arguments for controversial claims.  He nurtures the sense of community many consistently experience in his classrooms. For fun, Thad builds large boomerangs from a 1912 Australian design, and they really do return. 


Dustin Taylor is a PhD student interested primarily in moral philosophy. He earned his BA and MA degrees from Brigham Young University and the University of Nevada, Reno, respectively. Prior to coming to ASU, he worked as an adjunct instructor at Utah Valley University teaching Ethics and Values and Introduction to Philosophy. In addition to philosophy, Dustin also loves rock n' roll music, college football, and Star Wars.


Distinguished Guest Lecture

“Maybe you don’t exist”

Dr. Steven Brown, OSU, will be joining us to give a special guest lecture on how Asian philosophies differ from their Western counterparts in how they conceptualize the individual self. This talk will focus on the Buddhist concept of "No-Self," suggesting that it is importantly related to human psychology, artificial intelligence, and the future of technology.

Dr. Steven Brown, from The Ohio State University, teaches wildly popular classes in Death and the Meaning of Life, Asian Philosophies, and Philosophy of Religion. He is highly recognized for his innovative teaching. For a recent award for distinguished teachers, his students wrote that he is “an inspiration to his students, a mentor to graduate assistants and a tireless advocate for pedagogical innovation and inclusive teaching excellence, Steven Brown is an inspirational teacher who inspires students and changes lives.” Dr Brown also enjoys the simpler things in life - spending time with his family, a well laid meditation walking path, and making pottery. We are excited to have him joining us! 


Registration deadline: May 30, 2024. 

Questions? Contact Angela Barnes.

Past Programs


2023 Topic: Technology: Friend or Foe?

We are surrounded by all kinds of technologies: human creations that sit on top of the natural world. They make our lives pleasant, comfortable, and easy. They also capture our attention, and hold it hostage. This week, we are going to step back and ask:  Are we telling technology what to do? Or is technology telling us what to do? 

Some guiding questions that we will be investigating: 

  • How does technology affect my well-being? 
  • What is holding my attention? 
  • What are hidden influences on my actions?
  • What have people convinced me that I need? 
  • How is technology affecting the way I view others?
  • How is technology affecting the way I view myself? 


2022 Topic: Why don’t they get it? How to engage disagreement. 

We are constantly bombarded by disagreement - with our friends, with our parents, on social media, on the news - it seems to be around every corner. Moreover, these are not inconsequential disagreements, they are about things that we care about - things that matter to us. We try to explain to people why we believe what we believe but they just don’t seem to get it. Why don’t they get it? 

This year's summer camp is going to have this issue as its focus. Some of the topics we will be addressing are: 

  • What is good argumentation? What does good reasoning look like?
  • What do values have to do with disagreement? How do we respect people’s values when we disagree? Should we respect people’s values?
  • What is good evidence? What do we do when we have different evidence than someone else?
  • Is my point of view uniquely accessible to me? How can I share it with others?
  • What could reasonable political dialogue look like?
  • How can I engage with disagreement?

Why philosophy?

Philosophy is the practice of critical thinking. Looking headlong into hard problems and reasoning through them. 

For those of us that search for the “WHY?” around every corner, philosophy is intrinsically appealing. We get to engage the questions and the topics that we care about the most, with other people that care about those same things. 

For others, philosophy is a pathway to being a better thinker - to think and solve problems more creatively. Philosophy is a set of skills, skills that will serve you in college, in a job, and in life. Students that study philosophy in college test higher than students of all other majors on the GRE (graduate school application test) and become invaluable employees. Learning to think clearly and to communicate effectively is the most transferable skill on the market. Whether you want to be a lawyer, programmer, or business owner - philosophy can help you do it at the top of your game. 


Funding provided by the American Philosophical Association and PLATO (Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization).