Review Comment

[PHIL V3740] Hermeneutics, History, and the Human Sciences

December 26, 2006

Carman, Taylor Silver_nugget
[PHIL V3740] Hermeneutics, History, and the Human Sciences

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

I don't normally write reviews, but I noticed that several of Professor Carman's previous reviewers seem to think that he is an unfair grader and a poor lecturer. I've studied philosophy at a few different institutions, and Professor Carman is easily one of the best I've had. He made sense of Foucault, which is no small task, and he was perfectly clear about what he expected from the students (excellent papers, not written the night before the due date). He is accessible, answers his emails, and responds to questions in a sincere manner. In response to the person who conducted the "experiment" with the term papers: I never once went to Professor Carman's office hours to discuss the paper topics, nor did I rehash his ideas, yet I still received A's. I think it is safe to say that Carman is well-read and experienced enough to know when someone has not done any research. Sorry for the snark, but really. I read the previous reviews before I took this class and was a little nervous about what to expect, so I just want others to know that I am happy I took it. (If you think Carman is difficult, try studying non-classical logic with Professor Gaifman).

Workload:

Normal amount of reading; if you don't understand it, don't worry, Carman will clear everything up in the next class. Three term papers, no exams.

December 18, 2003

Carman, Taylor Silver_nugget
[PHIL V3740] Hermeneutics, History, and the Human Sciences

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

What Carman lacks in philisophical precision he makes up for with entertainment value. Granted, possibly this subject material didn't allow for him to be rigorous in his argumentation and thorough in his analysis; regardless, during each class I got the feeling that we were at a level of such generality that anything held sway.

Of course, when I got my first paper back, I realized that not just anything held sway. So a friend and I ran a little experiment (far from scientifically precise, so be forewarned). She went into his office hours and "asked him about the paper topics." I, on the other hand, wrote about the topic based on his lectures, the readings, and ultimately my philisophical reasoning.

The result: Her = A. Me = B. Now, this result alone need not shock you, you know nothing about she or I. However, in light of reading the other reviews here, the conclusion becomes a bit more clear: shut up about your thoughts and remind him of his. (I use the word 'remind' since my friend related to me that when she went over her paper with him, he would review sections that were direct quotations from him and make such remarks as, "Great idea!").

Point being: this Carman class was great because he's interesting on a general level and good grades are within your reach. However, if you value philosophical precision over general appeasement, and you'd like to practice your own philisophical reason as opposed to restating his, then avoid this class.

Workload:

Like what other people said. Two long papers (7-8), take home final (3-4).

December 10, 2003

Carman, Taylor Silver_nugget
[PHIL V3740] Hermeneutics, History, and the Human Sciences

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

I am definitely in agreement with all the other positive reviews, so it's hardly worth repeating all the compliments, but I can't resist taking the opportunity to give due praise to one of the best (and probably the best) professor I've had so far at Columbia (I am a Math major and a Physics minor, however, so maybe I have lower standards).
Anyway, let me start with the class itself. The three main authors (Gadamer, Danto, Foucault) were a great cross-section of the various strands of contemporary philosophy of language, history, and society, and also form some interesting continuities (although the loose, Continental approach we took in the class could turn anything into a continuity, no matter how much Foucault would turn in his grave). The topics we addressed ranged from the ontology of language to the sociology of everyday life (through Bourdieu, who was added to the syllabus at the end since we finished ahead of time), and there wasn't a single lecture that wasn't captivating for less than half the duration of the class.
This brings me to Professor Carman himself. He's probably the most lucid, reasonable, and entertaining lecturer I've ever had (except for John Collins on the latter point--sorry, but it's true), and there wasn't a single concept he discussed of which I didn't have a clear understanding following a lecture or two on it.
I certainly plan to take any other course he offers in the remaining two semesters I'm here (unfortunately, he's not teaching anything in Spring 2004), and recommend that you do too, whether you're a philosophy major, just slightly interested in the field, or even if you know nothing about it, although in that case you'll certainly have trouble with the papers. So audit it then, if he'll let you (this class was pretty small, but 19th Century is usually big, I think).
I could go on... (and will, for just a little bit). One unique characteristic Carman has is an uncanny skill for improvisation & stream-of-consciousness philosophizing. Far from being tangential or confusing, this style conveyed (with utmost clarity and coherence) an amazing interdepartmental, international web of ideas that constitutes a large part of modern theory.
The only negative aspects of Professor Carman are 1) his slightly disorganized syllabus, or rather his lack of sticking to it completely rigorously--and yet I really can't complain, because it allowed for the fluidity I praised in the last paragraph, and 2) his susceptibility to being derailed from his crazy train by inane or naive questions (though I must say, I was probably responsible for some of these), but this was never horribly harmful to the structure of the course, so I suppose it could be construed as yet another virtue of his: he'll listen to anyone's ideas, and set them on the right course when necessary (which was almost always the case).
Alright, that's all; sorry for the long sentences and parentheses, but that's philosophy for you.

Workload:

Two 5-7 page papers (there were suppsed to be three) and a take-home final (i.e. 3-4 page paper; it was supposed to be in-class). He seems to be a fair grader so far (I haven't done the final yet), though I've heard otherwise from some people.

December 06, 2003

Carman, Taylor Silver_nugget
[PHIL V3740] Hermeneutics, History, and the Human Sciences

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

I got to say, I started this course with no idea what Hermeneutics is. Having finished it, I still couldnÂ’t give you a good definition. But, amazingly, it doesnÂ’t matter. It was perhaps the most informative class I have had about twentieth century philosophy. The whole gang was there, if not in text than in spirit: Heidegger, Kuhn, Foucault. The class was an arcane mixture of Philosophy of History, Critical Theory, and general bizzaro methodology. Only Taylor Carmen could ever pull this kind of voodoo, and it is a testament to his incredible teaching ability. I hope he is given more free reign to conduct similar classes in the future because he has so much insight into what other teachers could only present as gibberish.

Workload:

two papers and a take home final.

November 22, 2003

Carman, Taylor Silver_nugget
[PHIL V3740] Hermeneutics, History, and the Human Sciences

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

Taylor Carman is incredibly smart, as you will be able to tell seconds after hearing him speak. At first I thought he was kind of a pretentious intellectual, incorporating german words like "nacherleben" into his lectures (I won't even go into the number of times I took notes and later had to bust out the good old dictionary) but I decided that he is really just so incredibly knowledgeable that he doesn't realize how his lectures sound to an outsider. I came to adore the class, mostly because Professor Carman would have us laughing uproariously at least once every class, and his lectures were clear and interesting. The workload was very manageable—2 relatively short essays, which are difficult, but so neccessary to the class because it was one thing to listen to him talking about complex ideas but it was quite another to sit down and have to sort them out for myself in a coherent essay. There was a lot of reading...but you really don't need to do it, because he talks about everything in class and explains it. One other thing though—there were a lot of people who asked questions in the class, and he always took them seriously and answered them well...which was a blessing when the question was good, but got annoying when the person would be off on this obscure tangent or would be saying something completely stupid, and rather than disregarding them and moving on he would sort through their nonsense and answer...but what can you do?
Take a class with Professor Carman. You'll laugh...and you will learn a lot, too.

Workload:

(2) 5-7 page papers, and a final exam.

November 15, 2003

Carman, Taylor Silver_nugget
[PHIL V3270] 19th Century Philosophy: Hegel to Nietzsche and [PHIL V3740] Hermeneutics, History, and the Human Sciences

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

Taylor Carman is a wonder-worker, one of the most captivating lecturers that I have encountered in my Columbia career. Essentially, he understands complex philosophical texts so well (we're talking Hegel, Kant, and Heidegger here - I'm pretty sure that he's fluent in German) and explains them so beautifully -- and comprehensibly -- that his courses almost negate the need to read the primary source being discussed. This man is, I repeat, a genious, and his cult following has been flourishing as of late. Also, a really nice and approachable guy at office hours.

Workload:

The workload is not too bad - a few papers - but Carman is a hard grader and likes papers with no frivolous elements or personal opinions -- only straightforward discussion of the philosophic problem in question.

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