Review Comment

[PHIL W3551] Philosophy of Science

February 26, 2018

Albert, David
[PHIL W3551] Philosophy of Science

This is a class with great material and terrible structure. Don't expect a syllabus or any explanation of grading criteria or weighting of assignments (just hope that your TA grades your stuff and is a homie). Go to office hours if you can, don't expect replies to emails. The lectures are really interesting. Take good notes. Asking questions in class can be intimidating so be prepared to explain/defend your question.

Workload:

Light reading. Exams are open book!! papers on any topic of your choice (work hard on these). Unclear what the weighting is.

December 11, 2010

Albert, David
[PHIL W3551] Philosophy of Science

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Prof. Albert approaches teaching with a loose and fluid style that more resembles storytelling than lecturing. I did not want to take philosophy of science and had no interest in the topic, but it was a requirement for my major. Nevertheless, I left Albert's class with a completely different view of science and a profound appreciation for the subject. At the beginning of the semester, Prof. Albert told the class, "You know you are in a good philosophy class if you leave the class more confused than when you came in." I left Albert's class absolutely more confused than I had come in, but the reason for my confusion was due to a radical confrontation of previously unexamined ideas I had about science and the way we experience the world. If you are the type of person who doesn't like going to class. If you want to be spoon-fed equations and procedures and take plug-n'-chug style exams, don't take Albert's class. You won't get anything out of it. On the other hand, if you are willing to take new material seriously and aren't afraid of a real philosophy class, jump on this opportunity. Prof. Albert's teaching style is unconventional. He is less concerned about participation points, homework, and exams than he is about the material itself. He is an expert in his field, and if you approach this class with due respect, you won't regret taking it. Appreciate the time you get to spend in the presence of genius.

Workload:

Reading that I was not tested on. Midterm exam. Final 15 page paper.

May 09, 2010

Helzner, Jeffrey Silver_nugget
[PHIL W3551] Philosophy of Science and [PHIL W4565] Rational Choice

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

First off, Helzner is a really nice professor. I thought of him more as a dude. Very approachable, jokes with his students, but very conscious of bullshit.
Go to his office hours for homework help and he will help you more than is due. But he expects you to try very hard.

Rational Choice and Philosophy of Science tackle pretty technical subjects in philosophy. You won't ever have had anything like it. The readings are dense, and his lectures will work off of them. If you intend to cram for homeworks or exams, you will have a grueling (but not impossible) time.

The thing to note about Rational Choice and Philosophy of Science is that while they are philosophy courses, learning the material is like learning in a science or math field - the material builds up sequentially, and it takes time to sink in. Don't expect to strap down last-minute with a few essays for the final paper and expect to come up with brilliance.

Grading: Helzner himself said that an A should be an earned grade, should feel special to a student. He gives very few A's. He says he gives out a lot of B's.

Workload:

Philosophy of Science: 4 homeworks, one 12pg take-home exam

September 04, 2006

Corsentino, Anthony
[PHIL W3551] Philosophy of Science

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Corsentino is overall a marginally good professor.

Negatives:
1. As an earlier review mentioned, Prof. Corsentino has an incredibly pretentious manner of speech that initially annoyed me a great deal. However, its not a reflection of his personality and he seems to be a genuinely nice person.
2. He tends to over-explain concepts and leave little time for questions or discussion. Some days it seemed like we spent 30 minutes on a concept that could be explained in about 5. He usually ran out of time at the end of class and kept us afterwards for at least 5-10 minutes. I took this as a summer class so maybe he felt like he had to 'dumb down' the subject material but it didn't seem necessary to me.
3. Would have like a little more freedom on the essay topics.

Positives:

1. Clearly, clearly knows what he's talking about and is well organized (but ponderous).
2. The class was interesting and I would recommend it.
3. Is a good guy and is willing to repeat concepts and makes a point to have extra office hours before essays are due, etc.
4. Seems to have passion both for the subject and for students understanding the subject; I just wish he'd moved a little faster.

Workload:

Altogether, not very much. For a summer class it was just two essays and a final. Nothing to worry about.

June 03, 2006

Albert, David
[PHIL W3551] Philosophy of Science

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

David Albert is a horrible professor. His lectures are discombobulated and he wastes an incredible amount of time in class re-explaining the same material over and over and over, leaving you with a sense that even Albert doesn't know where he is going with the material. If you have questions, don't bother e-mailing him, visitng his office hours, or trying to catch him after class. He will not respond to a single e-mail you send him, frequently does not show up to his office hours, and will immediately dart out of the classroom after lecture, shooing people off, directing them to e-mail him. It took Albert nearly 4 months to grade my final paper, during which time he did not respond to any of my inquiries as to what was going on. I took this class in the Fall and he did not submit my grade until the summer. Simply put, Albert is absolutely awful.

Workload:

One final paper, 100% of the grade. ~15 pages. Don't expect your grade back anytime soon.

January 18, 2006

Albert, David
[PHIL W3551] Philosophy of Science

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Are you kidding me? This class was a joke. I learned absolutely nothing from this obviously very knowledgeable man. The subject matter is very interesting, but won't stay with you. It just isn't the kind of topic you can gloss over, which he did. This doesn't even translate into a consolatory easy grade, as it all hangs on a final paper that he will hold up to very high standards. My advice: don't bother.

Workload:

A 15 page final paper.

December 24, 2005

Albert, David
[PHIL W3551] Philosophy of Science

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

I agree with what previous reviewers said about this class. One warning: if you are the type of person who won't do the reading or go to lecture unless you have to then you may as well not take this class. There's no midterm or final (he does threaten a midterm but I'm not sure if he's ever actually given one) and the paper can be on anything you want, so you could potentially go to the first week or two of class, pick a topic from those discussions, and never go back. And not having any tests means that you never have to study the material, which means you never really learn it. If you are relatively self-motivated, and the topic interests you, then Albret's class is definitely worth taking. But if you're lazy then you will end up knowing a bit about one very small subtopic of the philosophy of science, and not much else. Know thy self...

Workload:

1 paper, 15-20 pages, on any topic from the course that interests you.

August 22, 2005

Albert, David
[PHIL V3576] Physics and Philosophy and [PHIL W3551] Philosophy of Science

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

A lot of people seem to be put off by Albert's teaching style, but I thought he was great - definitely one of the best professors I had at Columbia. I'll grant that it takes a little while to get used to the way he runs class discussions. Essentially, he presents a problem to the class, asks for ideas or responses, and then argues vehemently against anything a student says. The trick is not to take this personally. That's just the way he discusses things - by debating them. If the student has a valid point and sticks up for it, he'll acknowledge that it's interesting and continue to explore it by arguing against it. If the student doesn't have a valid point, then he'll explain why in the course of shooting it down.

Philosophy of Science requires little or no background in either philosophy or science. The readings are mainly from an anthology of papers; their relevance to the class discussion varies.
Physics and Philosophy, strictly speaking, doesn't require a background in philosophy or science either. However, it is necessary in the course of the class to learn a fair bit of linear algebra; the course will probably not appeal to those phobic of math. The text is Albert's book. His writing is a bit unusual; he has a tendency toward very long, very complex sentences. This makes the book difficult to skim, but it also rewards a careful reading with great clarity and precision.

May 25, 2003

Albert, David
[PHIL W3551] Philosophy of Science

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

This class is somewhat interesting. Actually, I found the subject matter to be extremely intriguing, though the way Prof. Albert presents it is a little rough. There were several topics that we spent a copious amount of time on and on others we barely skimmed the surface. Prof. Albert can get a class discussion (which in my class consisted of abut 8 out of 40 people) started pretty well, however he cannot adequately lead the class in the right direction and we often got off on tangents. To Prof. Albert's credit however, the topics of philosophy of science are in many cases inextricably connected, which makes it very difficult to confine discussion to only the philosophical problem at hand. But, nonetheless, that is his job, is it not? Overall, I would say this class is worth taking, but don't expect it to be your favorite.

Workload:

A considerable amount of reading each week (which honestly you do not have to do at all). The final paper (17-20 pages) is the only grade that you have, though he very timidly threatened to give a midterm. An obvious, though extremely useful, bit of advice: start early! You will be kicking yourself big time if you do not. In order to write a paper that will give you a decent grade you are going to have to do a fair amount of outside reading on your chosen subject and put some real thought into your arguments.

January 27, 2003

Albert, David
[PHIL G4675] Direction of Time, [PHIL V3576] Physics and Philosophy, and [PHIL W3551] Philosophy of Science

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

As you can tell from the amount of courses I've taken with him, I like Professor Albert. However, of the three I consider only Physics and Philosophy to be exceptional. Philosophy of Science is very good too but Direction of Time is disorganized, confused, and very weak overall....
Physics and Philosophy deals with various interpretations of quantum mechanics, some of their mind-boggling consequences, and how they bear on certain metaphysical doctrines, e.g., determinism and indeterminism, materialism. In addition to the fascinating subject matter, the appeal of the course lies largely in its accessibility: no background in physics or math is presupposed in lectures or in Albert's book--the only text for the course. As you long as youÂ’re willing to work a bit on the necessary technical/formal stuff, even if you are a non-science major (I am), you will be able to understand quantum mechanics in a general but sophisticated way. It's one of the best classes I've taken. The only assignment was a paper, due at the end of the semester, of approximately 20 pages. You can get away with something a bit shorter....
Philosophy of Science also had only one requirement, a 15 pager. The course is a good introduction to the field and you explore interesting issues, e.g., how to interpret scientific theories, realism, scientific explanation, objectivity. Albert was irresponsible about putting photocopies on reserve. In fact, the syllabus was generally vague and you did not have to do any reading because he didn't talk about the readings in class nor did he test us on them. He sort of just lectured on the subjects--if you were interested you could do the reading. Despite his sometimes surprising nonchalance learned a lot in the course and found his lectures interesting.....
Direction of Time is a different story. The only text used was Albert's own book about the conflict between the time asymmetry of thermodynamics (and our everyday lives) and fundamental physical theories. It is a confusing book and, unlike his book on quantum mechanics, poorly written. For one thing, he goes parenthesis crazy. In addition to his stylistic unclearness, the structure is awkward. He makes the problems more complicated than they have to be and the class mirrors the confusing progression of the book. I don't know if there are better, non-overly-technical books/articles on the subject, but if there are I wish he had assigned them. Further, after I finally deciphered his main points I wondered why there was a whole course devoted to them: they're few and simple once the decoding of his insane style is through. It seemed that he had stretched his book into a semesterÂ’s worth of material by being so confusing. I left the class annoyed that I hadn't learned more about this problem or about the philosophy of time in general. There was a choice between a final exam and a final paper. I took the test, which I found shockingly easy.

May 28, 2002

Albert, David
[PHIL W3551] Philosophy of Science

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Takes a hard subject and makes it come close to earth. But not close enough to help you prepare for your paper. For the paper you are on your own, and don't think that Albert's laid back teaching style means he gives laid back grades. You will be rocked. Start on the paper early, but even then there is no telling how badly he will come down.

Workload:

1 Paper-length 15-20 pages

Directory Data

Dept/Subj Directory Course Professor Year Semester Time Section
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL W3551: Philosophy of Science Jeffrey Helzner 2010 Spring TR / 2:40- 3:55 PM 1
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL W3551: Philosophy of Science David Albert 2010 Fall TR / 2:40- 3:55 PM 1
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL W3551: Philosophy of Science David Albert 2008 Fall TR / 2:40- 3:55 PM 1
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL W3551: Philosophy of Science David Albert 2006 Fall TR / 1:10- 2:25 PM 1
PHLB / PHIL PHLB PHIL V3551: Philosophy of Science Alan Gabbey 2005 Spring TR / 9:10-10:25 AM 1
PHLB / PHIL PHLB PHIL W3551: Philosophy of Science Alan Gabbey 2005 Spring TR / 9:10-10:25 AM 1
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL W3551: Philosophy of Science David Albert 2003 Spring MW / 4:10- 5:25 PM 1
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL W3551: Philosophy of Science David Albert 2002 Spring TR / 1:10- 2:25 PM 1