Review Comment

The French Philosophical Tradition

May 29, 2010

Force, Pierre
The French Philosophical Tradition

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

This was one of the worst classes I've taken at Columbia. Prof Force spends the entirety of the class going over what was said in the texts we supposedly read. Not only did this make for incredibly boring lectures, it also encouraged us not to bother with the hundreds of pages of dense philosophical texts (why bother reading them, if he'll tell us what's important anyways?) --which of course makes his lectures all the less interesting. There was never any sense that we should, say, care about what these authors had to say, beyond simply being able to regurgitate Force's ideas for the papers and exams. He is fairly specific in what he wants to hear, and doesn't encourage much independent thought. Definitely look elsewhere if you're hoping to actually learn something and be interested in the material.

Workload:

About 200 pages of (fairly difficult) reading, though you can more or less get away with not doing it. Two papers, a midterm and a final which are pretty easy if you know exactly what he wants to hear.

May 20, 2010

Force, Pierre
The French Philosophical Tradition

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

A truly wonderful professor! He takes a syllabus of sometimes complex and confusing major works of French philosophy and breaks them down very well. The works are well-chosen to be in conversation with one another and his enthusiasm encourages participation by those students who have bothered to do the reading. His grading is fair and straightforward, as are his expectations. He cares about each of his students and that everyone engages with the readings, even when they are long and dry. The reading can be a bit heavy and complex, but his expectations are overall realistic and you will come away from the class with a great background in the overarching themes of French philosophy. Recommended!

Workload:

Roughly a book a week to read, two papers (one 4-5 pages, one 5-6 pages, with topics assigned well in advance), a midterm, and a final

May 19, 2010

Force, Pierre
The French Philosophical Tradition

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

Pierre Force is a very knowledgeable professor. He clearly knows these philosophers really really well, and as the chair of the French department, he also knows Columbia students really well. Thus he did an extremely good job of bridging the gap between what the students got from the text, and what the texts were actually about. I really liked how he explained the complicated nuances which were clearly over everyone's heads (either because they didn't do the reading at all, their French wasn't that great or because complicated old French is just plain hard for anyone). He would do a close reading of like two sentences for an hour and keep it interesting and relevant, which made me realize how rich these texts are, how great a syllabus this is, and how much is lost on me when I read this stuff on my own.

He's extremely professional - in a good and bad way. He's really impersonal. He barely learns anyone's names. It's all business, no joking. And he's really abrupt in beginning and ending class. It doesn't seem like he has much of a desire to be there, but he gets the job done. That said, he's a very generous grader, and doesn't penalize you for bad grammar or anything like that. He definitely knows the texts through and through (way more than any undergrad will ever know), so for him there is definitely a right and wrong answer. His questions are straightforward and your grade will reflect the extent to which you answered them right.

Workload:

Paper 1: 15% (4-5 pages)
Midterm Examination: 15%
Paper 2: 20% (5-6 pages)
Final Examination: 30%
Class Participation: 20%

If you don't do all the readings, it's not a huge deal as long as you find a few semi-intelligent things to say during class. Most people are either native French speakers or are at least pretty fluent though, so it might be a struggle if you don't have a really good grasp of language.

September 04, 2005

Force, Pierre
The French Philosophical Tradition

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

Professor Force is a very good professor. He has an impressively extensive knowledge of the texts he teaches, and does a good job of explaining the texts' nuances to students who are not native speakers. He does a good job leading discussions, though these discussions tend to result in his explaining the text straight-out, because the majority of the students in the class really did not understand what they read. Still, he stays patient and professional. He is a fair grader, and in fact I think he graded me better than I deserved.

The class itself has a lot of reading, often in old and complicated French. If you can deal with that, though, it's a very interesting class. I'm an engineering student with very little background in philosophy, and I still enjoyed the class a lot.

Workload:

a good amount of readings, two papers (5 or 6 pages if I remember correctly), midterm, and final.

Directory Data

Dept/Subj Directory Course Professor Year Semester Time Section
FRRP / FREN FRRP FREN W3695: The French Philosophical Tradition Pierre Force 2005 Spring TR / 4:10- 5:25 PM 1