Humanities Circle: High School

Winter Quarter 2018: Course Information

In Winter 2018, we will offer two separate courses for high school students in grades 9–12. The focus is Philosophy. Both sessions will meet on Thursday evenings: 6:15–8pm.

Philosophy: The Big Questions

Philosophy is known for asking the biggest and most difficult questions about human existence. In this class you will be introduced to some of these questions and their prominent historical answers, as well as learn philosophical methods and techniques for addressing these questions more rigorously.

  • Week One: Who are you?
  • Week Two: What do you know?
  • Week Three: What can you do?
  • Week Four: Is morality objective?
  • Week Five: What is authority?
  • Week Six: What is equality?
  • Week Seven: What is politics about?
  • Week Eight: Formal Considerations
  • Week Nine: The Big Questions – Your Turn


  • Willie Costello (PhD, University of Toronto, Philosophy) is an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Philosophy Department at Stanford University. He specializes in ancient Greek philosophy, with particular interests in ancient Greek metaphysics and Plato. At Stanford and elsewhere, he has taught courses in ancient Greek philosophy, aesthetics, philosophy of literature, and philosophy of technology. He is currently working on his first book, The causal origins of Plato's Forms.
  • Ian Zuckerman (PhD 2012, Columbia University) is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Thinking Matters program at Stanford University, where he helps teach courses such as Evil, Rules of War, and Progress. A political theorist, Ian has published articles and book chapters on the history of modern political thought, on democratic theory and constitutional thought. He is currently at work on The Politics of Emergencies, examining the intersection of emergency powers and the idea of security in modern constitutional theory and practice in the United States. The second project, a coauthored project, is a critical examination of “militant democracy,” a theory which justifies excluding groups from democratic participation.

Philosophy: Ethics, Social Responsibility, and Living Meaningfully

This nine-week course will introduce students to philosophy, concentrating mainly on issues related to morality and human well-being. We will explore questions about the foundation and nature of moral judgments, discuss what makes a life go well, and examine some concrete cases in which challenging moral choices have to be made.

  • Week 1: Introductions. What Do Philosophers Think and Write about? Moral Relativism
  • Week 2: Morality and Self-interest
  • Week 3: Life’s Goods and Meaning
  • Week 4: Moral Theory – Deontology
  • Week 5: Moral Theory – Consequentialism
  • Week 6: Applied Topics in Ethics
  • Week 7: Moral Luck
  • Week 8: Free Will
  • Week 9: Philosophical Discussion Panel


  • Greig Mulberry (PhD, University of Kentucky, Philosophy) is Adjunct Professor at the University of San Francisco where he teaches a range of undergraduate courses in philosophy. He has published articles on the philosophy of language and on philosophy and popular culture. His interests also include 19th and 20th century continental philosophy.
  • Taylor Madigan (PhD student, Stanford University, Social Philosophy) previously taught the introductory philosophy course, “Philosophy in Calvin and Hobbes,” at the University of California, Berkeley. He has worked with high school philosophy students through the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. It is his second year instructing students in the Stanford Humanities Circle.