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PhilosophyThe Berkeley Connect program opens up the extraordinary resources of the university to you: the extraordinary students on our campus. By joining, you will become part of a community of like-minded faculty, mentors, and students that will provide a supportive environment in which to exchange and discuss ideas and goals. Berkeley Connect will help you to make the most of your time at the university as you learn more about the major in Philosophy. We’re excited to get to know you!

Message from the Director

Lara BuchakHave you been enjoying your philosophy classes but wish you had an opportunity to develop closer relationships with professors, graduate students, and your peers?  Do you have questions about how to get the most out of your experience in the Philosophy Department – whether and when to go to office hours, how to structure the paper-writing process, how to think about which classes to take – but are unsure who to ask?  Are you interested in why philosophy uses the methods it uses, and how these methods contribute to our understanding?  If so, Berkeley Connect in Philosophy is specially designed for you.Berkeley Connect is an opportunity to connect with professors, graduate students, and your peers, while receiving mentoring and reflecting on philosophy as a discipline.

Professor Lara Buchak

Director, Berkeley Connect in Philosophy

Program Description

Berkeley Connect links undergraduate students with experienced mentors in Philosophy. These mentors lead small groups of 10-20 students in regular meetings; they also meet with students one-on-one to provide guidance and advice. The core of the Berkeley Connect program is a one-credit, pass-fail course that is designed to create a community of students with similar intellectual interests. There is no homework associated with Berkeley Connect: no exams, no papers, no quizzes. Instead, small group meetings focus on sharing ideas and learning new skills within the Philosophy major as a way to foster friendships and provide a supportive intellectual community for Berkeley undergraduates.The only requirement for joining Berkeley Connect in Philosophy is that you have an interest in the field of study. You do not have to be a major in order to participate! Undeclared freshmen and sophomores are welcome, along with entering junior transfers and juniors and seniors who have declared the major.

Every semester, Berkeley Connect sponsors a wide range of activities and events for participating students.  They include:

  • small-group meetings led by your mentor;
  • one-on-one meetings with your mentor;
  • special events, including informal lectures by professors and guest speakers, and panels on career options, graduate school admissions, and other topics;
  • and visits to Berkeley resources.

At the heart of Berkeley Connect is the relationship between you and your mentor. The Berkeley Connect mentors are advanced graduate students or recent PhDs in Philosophy, who are chosen both for their demonstrated commitment to undergraduates and for their scholarly achievement. They are dedicated to providing the kind of close-knit community and one-on-one attention that can be hard to find at a large university.

When you sign up for Berkeley Connect, you will join one of several small groups of participants in Philosophy. Your small group will be led by your mentor, and will meet every other week during the semester for an hour-long dinner discussion sessions. Discussions will focus on key intellectual issues within Philosophy as well as key skills you need to succeed in the major. Above all, the small groups will focus on building connections among students, so that each group becomes a supportive community for all participants.

You will also meet with your mentor one-on-one at least twice during the semester, once to get acquainted, and a second time just before Tele-Bears, to discuss your plans for completing your major. Your mentor also has office hours every other week, during which you are free to show up and ask questions, talk over your day or your week, discuss what you are learning in class, or just have an informal conversation.


Professor Lara Buchak, Faculty Director, buchak@berkeley.eduLara BuchakLara Buchak’s primary research interests are in decision, game, and rational choice theory. Her work focuses on how an individual ought to take risk into account when making decisions and how we should best model risk attitudes within decision theory. She argues for a more permissive theory of rationality than is standardly assumed. Her book in this area, entitled Risk and Rationality, is forthcoming in January 2014 (Oxford University Press). Further work in formal epistemology explores the questions of when and why one ought to stop one’s search for further evidence. In the philosophy of religion, she has written on the question of what faith is, and under what circumstances it is rational to have faith. She also has more general interests in the philosophy of religion, and in epistemology.

Professor Buchak is excited to be directing Berkeley Connect because she thinks Berkeley students are some of the best in the world and she wants to create opportunities for faculty and students to interact more, and for students to feel at home in the Philosophy department.

Professor Geoffrey Lee, Assistant Director,

Geoffrey Lee is an Associate Professor of Philosophy (Ph.D., New York University). His main areas of research interest are philosophy of mind, metaphysics, and the foundations of cognitive science and neuroscience. One of his current projects is writing a book on the experience of time, tentatively titled “Consciousness and the Passage of Time.”

Berkeley Connect Mentors

Jim Hutchinson Jim Hutchinson is a graduate student working on a PhD in Philosophy. He especially likes the history of philosophy, epistemology, and the philosophy of language. He also reads a lot of art criticism, especially about literature and movies, and hopes that someday people will write good criticism about video games. He is very excited to be a part of Berkeley Connect!

Richard Lawrence recently received his PhD in Philosophy. His research focuses on philosophy of language and philosophical logic. He is also interested in mathematics, ancient philosophy, metaphysics, and philosophy of science. In his spare time, he writes programs, rides bicycles, bakes bread, and brews beer. He loves teaching and is excited to be a part of Berkeley Connect!

Austin Andrews Austin Andrews graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2009 with a B.A. in philosophy and recently received his PhD in Philosophy at Berkeley. Austin’s teaching and research focuses on issues in the philosophy of mind, especially perception and self-knowledge. Having been a graduate student instructor for six years, Austin is excited to bring his teaching experience to Berkeley Connect and to further grow as a teacher and mentor.



  • Attend weekly meetings (small-group and large-group events and mentoring meetings). Note that small-group meetings are at your designated time and large-group meetings are at times announced on the syllabus, generally on Tuesdays at 5 or 6 PM.
  • Field Trip to a talk in the philosophy department.
  • Fill out a questionnaire at the end of the semester.

Attendance policy:

You are expected to attend (i) all small-group meetings; (ii) two one-on-one mentoring meetings; and (iii) all large-group meetings and field trips.  You are also expected to (iv) fill out the end-of-semester survey.  In order to receive a pass, you cannot miss more than two small-group sessions; you cannot miss more than two of the large-group/Field Trip events (i.e., you must attend 2 large-group events or 1 large-group event and the Field Trip; the welcome meeting does not count as a large-group event), but you may substitute attendance at an additional department talk for a large-group event.  You cannot receive a pass without filling out the end-of-semester survey.

Sessions start on the hour, not on “Berkeley time.”  This is so that everyone can get food and discussion can begin by 10 after the hour.


Week 1 (August 23): Welcome, WEDNESDAY 7 PM, Mulford Hall, Room 159

Welcome meeting

Hearing about the program, meeting your mentor, syllabus


Week 2 (August 28-30): Intro meeting

Small group meeting

Getting to know each other, courses and goals for this semester

Week 3 Part I (Sept 5): Meeting Your Faculty, TUESDAY 5-6:30 PM, Howison Library

Large group meeting: panel with 4 philosophy professors.

Discussion questions: What made you become a philosopher? Which philosopher do you most admire? What’s the value of philosophy?


Week 3 Part II (Sept 4-8): Mentoring

One-on-one mentoring meeting.

Initial meeting, getting to know you.


Week 4 (Sept 11-13): What is philosophy?

Small group meeting

Discussion questions: What is philosophy?  Why should we study it?  What got you interested in philosophy?  What are some examples of philosophical problems?  What is the value to society of what we do, as philosophers?


Week 5 (Sept 18-20): Different approaches to philosophy

Small group meeting

What are the different areas and approaches in philosophy?  How does history of philosophy relate to contemporary philosophy?  What are “analytic” and “continental” philosophy?  What are the differences between “Western” and “Eastern” philosophy?  How do the branches of philosophy relate to other fields, such as psychology, mathematics, or rhetoric?  Why does our department include the classes it does?


Thursday, Sept 21, 4-6 pm: Study Break with Faculty and Graduate Students (301 Moses), optional

Week 6 (Sept 26 & 27). The Reading and Writing Process, TUESDAY Sept 26 4-6 PM, Howison Library

Large group meeting, led by Professor Niko Kolodny

Optional Practical Session with peer tutors, WEDNESDAY Sept 27 4-6 PM, Howison Library

Week 7 (October 2-4): Reading and Work Habits

Small group meeting.

How to read, analyze, criticize a philosophical argument, using examples.  How to do reading for class efficiently and with understanding.  How to work effectively and overcome psychological blocks.  The effect of technology on our work habits and what to do about it.  When to go to office hours and how to navigate them.  University resources for study help, counseling help, and disabled students.

Week 8 (October 9-11): Philosophical examples, thought-experiments, and methods

Small group meeting.

Discussion questions: Talk about some philosophical examples from courses.  What is the role of examples and thought-experiments in philosophy?  How are similar and different from the “data” in other disciplines?  How are formal/mathematical methods used in philosophy?  What other methods does philosophy use?  How does philosophy make progress?


Week 9 (October 17). What can I do with my degree?, TUESDAY Oct 17 6-7:30 PM, Howison Library

Large group meeting: panel with those with philosophy degrees that have gone on to do something else.  Statistics and anecdotes.  How to think about one’s career.


Week 10 (October 23-25). Making Choices about the Future

Small group meeting.

What challenges do I face in making decisions about what to do in college, after college, and beyond?  Strategies for choosing a career or what to do after college.  (Freshman and sophomores: strategies for choosing a major.  Sections where there’s interest: should I go to philosophy graduate school, and how can I prepare?)  How do my grades matter for the future?  How can I integrate my intellectual pursuits, my interests, my skills, and my need to make a living?


Week 11 (October 30-November 1). Climate and Diversity

Small group meeting

What has been my experience of being a philosopher of a particular gender, race, religion, sexual preference, nationality, socioeconomic class, or other identity?  How can we better understand each other’s viewpoint when doing philosophy?  Does and should identity matter when doing philosophy?


Week 12 (November 6-10): Mentoring

One-on-one mentoring meeting: writing papers, working habits, or topic of mentee’s choice.

Week 13 (November 13-15). Philosophy and Culture

Small group meeting

How much should philosophy engage with science, with politics, with literature, or with the concerns of the citizens around us?  Looking at a philosophical article in the popular press.


Thanksgiving Week (November 20-24): NO CLASS


Week 14 (November 27-29). Topic TBD

Small group meeting

Topic determined by student interests.




Wednesday, Aug 23, 7pm, Mulford 159

Monday, Aug 28, regular time and location

Tuesday, Sept 5, 5-6:30pm, Howison Library

Sept 4 – Sept 8, mentoring meeting

Monday, Sept 11, regular time and location

Monday, Sept 18, regular time and location

Thursday, Sept 21, 4-6pm, 301 Moses, optional study break

Tuesday, Sept 26, 4-6pm, Howison Library

Wednesday, Sept 27, 4-6pm, Howison Library, optional

Monday, Oct 2, regular time and location

Monday, Oct 9, regular time and location

Tuesday, Oct 17, 6-7:30 Howison Library

Monday, Oct 23, regular time and location

Monday, Oct 30, regular time and location

Nov 6 – Nov 10, mentoring meeting

Monday, Nov 13, regular time and location

Nov 20 – 24, NO CLASS

Monday, Nov 27, regular time and location


Wednesday, Aug 23, 7pm, Mulford 159

Tuesday, Aug 29, regular time and location

Tuesday, Sept 5, 5-6:30pm, Howison Library

Sept 4 – Sept 8, mentoring meeting

Tuesday, Sept 12, regular time and location

Tuesday, Sept 19, regular time and location

Thursday, Sept 21, 4-6pm, 301 Moses, optional study break

Tuesday, Sept 26, 4-6pm, Howison Library

Wednesday, Sept 27, 4-6pm, Howison Library, optional

Tuesday, Oct 3, regular time and location

Tuesday, Oct 10, regular time and location

Tuesday, Oct 17, 6-7:30 Howison Library

Tuesday, Oct 24, regular time and location

Tuesday, Oct 31, regular time and location

Nov 6 – Nov 10, mentoring meeting

Tuesday, Nov 14, regular time and location

Nov 20 – 24, NO CLASS

Tuesday, Nov 28, regular time and location



Wednesday, Aug 23, 7pm, Mulford 159

Wednesday, Aug 30, regular time and location

Tuesday, Sept 5, 5-6:30pm, Howison Library

Sept 4 – Sept 8, mentoring meeting

Wednesday, Sept 13, regular time and location

Wednesday, Sept 20, regular time and location

Thursday, Sept 21, 4-6pm, 301 Moses, optional study break

Tuesday, Sept 26, 4-6pm, Howison Library

Wednesday, Sept 27, 4-6pm, Howison Library, optional

Wednesday, Oct 4, regular time and location

Wednesday, Oct 11, regular time and location

Tuesday, Oct 17, 6-7:30 Howison Library

Wednesday, Oct 25, regular time and location

Wednesday, Nov 1, regular time and location

Nov 6 – Nov 10, mentoring meeting

Wednesday, Nov 15, regular time and location

Nov 20 – 24, NO CLASS

Wednesday, Nov 29, regular time and location


To find sections for the upcoming semester, search the Schedule of Classes for Philosophy 98BC (for first-year and sophomores) or 198BC (for juniors and seniors).

To help you meet other students who share your experiences and perspectives, Berkeley Connect sections are designated as lower division (first-year students and sophomores), new junior transfers, and upper division (juniors and seniors), but you can enroll in any section that fits your schedule and credit requirements.

How to Sign Up

To participate in Berkeley Connect in Philosophy, you enroll in a designated section of Philosophy 98BC or 198BC (one unit, taken on a Pass/Not Pass basis). Many students chose to enroll for more than one semester. Participation is NOT restricted to declared majors.To sign up, enroll in a Berkeley Connect section when course registration opens.  Please see the Berkeley Connect sections listed above under “Schedule.”

**Read the schedule notes carefully—different sections are designated as primarily for lower-division (freshmen and sophomores), upper-division (juniors and seniors), or junior transfer students.

If you are interested in participating in Berkeley Connect, but course registration is not currently open, you can join the Berkeley Connect Mailing List, and you will be sent more details when the next semester’s information becomes available.

Contact Us

Please see our FAQs.  If you have additional questions about Berkeley Connect in Philosophy, please contact:  Professor Lara Buchak,, (510) 296-5932.

Assistant Director: Geoff Lee,

Graduate Fellows:

Umrao Sethi (Monday sections),

Arpy Khatchirian (Tuesday sections),

Jeremiah Carey (Wednesday sections),

You can also contact the central Berkeley Connect office at or (510) 664-4182.

Links & Resources