Review Comment

[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

December 15, 2019

Bilgrami, Akeel
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

My thoughts on Bilgrami changed constantly throughout the semester. Should preface this that I am a philosophy major already, so no matter what my thoughts were on the class, I'm pretty committed to that fact.

Bilgrami, as other posters have wrote, is very quick to shoot people down. I asked a question on the first day of class, he condescendingly commented on how I phrased the question and (without answering my actual question) moved on. After this, I did not speak the rest of the semester. This is important, because I found his class not only enlightening but incredibly amusing. For example, telling a student that they "bring no distinction to class" was funny (because it wasn't me he was saying it to). The way he constantly show down kids, again to the quiet kid in class, was fun to watch. YOU NEED TO HAVE THICK SKIN TO SURVIVE.

He can be quite pompous but once you look at his large body of work, you see that he has every right to be.

It's a great class and I felt like I walked out of every class with more questions than when I walked in (which to a Philosophy major, is a good sign).

My only complaint was the lack of communication he had with the TAs. If we mentioned something that the TAs had said during the review session, we would sometimes be marked down because it wasn't correct. The grading on the exams, to me, seemed pretty strict for a class with no set course (no powerpoints or anything; he just showed up, usually ten minutes late, and would often go off tangents). I enjoyed this except when it was exam time.

Workload:

Assigned readings; however, he specifically says not to refer to them when preparing for the exam. You MUST go to every lecture and take good notes. He wants you to REGURGITATE what he says in class ONLY!

April 04, 2017

Vogt, Katja Silver_nugget
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

i'll keep it short - take this class!
This was my first philosophy class and I'm so glad I took it.
Her syllabus is carefully composed with tons of interesting material, great for those who haven't taken many philosophy classes.
Professor Vogt also expertly leads the class, raising intriguing discussions and questions.
It's a fascinating, easy, and educative class. Take it if it's offered!

Workload:

7 half-paged papers (each 5%/total 35%)
2 one page papers (each 10%/total 20%)
Midterm 20%
Final 25%

May 17, 2016

Albert, David
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

I absolutely hated this class. Not that I didn't find the material somewhat interesting, I did. But Albert was awful. He has a background in quantum mechanics, so if you don't know much about physics, a lot of stuff in his lectures won't make sense. Also, he's just not great at explaining things clearly to a group of undergrads. The lectures are not great. He presents a single problem, asks the class for possible responses, tears their answers apart, and eventually moves on without providing an answer at all. Each problem would take about 4 classes to get through. This got boring and frustrating. I realize that the problems he presents don't have perfect answers, but it would have been nice to at least look at what modern philosophers have to say about them. There were 3 essays. He only counted 2 of them for the final grade. The grading was VERY arbitrary with the TAs grading some, Albert grading some, there was no consistency. Also, he let you write about anything from the course, which was sort of annoying because he pretty much had already demolished all of the class' ideas on the subjects in class.

Would not recommend.

Workload:

weekly readings
3 essays (2 of which counted to the final grade)
grading was very inconsistent

July 20, 2015

Collins, John
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

This class is a great introduction into philosophical thought. I came into this class having no formal education in philosophy, and I learned a ton. His heavy analytic style may be a little bit frightening in that he mostly talks about ideas and arguments by organizing them in steps, which makes the entire thing a little less "fun" and a little more rigorous. However, he is an engaging lecturer, has a great accent, and is very helpful during office hours. I would definitely recommend this class to anyone unsure about whether to take it. You will finish with a very solid foundation in philosophical content and style.

Workload:

Light. He posts a lot of readings but you don't necessarily have to read them to understand the lectures or do well on the tests.

3 homework assignments that didn't take very long (they have to be less than a page in length or he won't accept them).
1 midterm
1 final
1 final paper 5-7 pages

May 14, 2015

Collins, John
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

If you have the opportunity to take this course with Professor Collins, I strongly recommend you do so.

The lectures are very interesting and, when time allows, he will permit the student's questions to drive the conversation, often for the betterment of the class. The only time when time will not be an issue is when Professor Collins recalls a witty story or a philosophy joke, and will undoubtably end up telling it. Although the stories and jokes may end with silence, his lectures are, more often than not, very funny. As stated in the previous post, you will see No! on your returned papers, at least if you write philosophy papers of the same poor quality as I do, but the grading is fair.

If you are new to philosophy, as I was, do not expect an easy transition into the subject, the first topic was time travel. If you have never experienced an extreme level of confusion, so extreme that you may be convinced you have just suffered a stroke, you will when you read a philosopher's explanation of time travel. You will also never be able to enjoy Back to the Future ever, ever, again.

Occasionally the link to the assigned readings will not work and the notes will not be posted, just bring it up to him before or after lecture and it will get fixed. I do not recommend emailing him.

Workload:

4 short papers, 400 word max; Final paper 5-7 pages; Mid-term shocked a few people, Final was the same format. I highly recommend you do all of the assigned readings, especially in preparation for the mid-term and final.

April 14, 2015

Albert, David
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

David Albert is a fantastic teacher. He really gets you into the mode of philosophical thinking. I took the Barnard equivalent of Methods and Problems, and while it was good, I appreciated that Albert took a less structured approach. Instead of reading out of a text book, it felt more like we were getting the chance to discuss philosophical issues with a really, really intelligent man. I would highly recommend taking the course with him, and YouTubing some of his talks because he always has something interesting to say. That said, if you have thin skin or aren't used to being criticized, exercise caution! I didn't find Albert unfriendly, but I know that some people in our class were a little offended by his mannerisms.

Workload:

Pretty typical of an introductory course--4 papers

April 13, 2015

Collins, John
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

Dr. Collins gives new life to the stereotype of a crazy philosopher. White-haired, pot-bellied, digressive, chalk-throwing and brilliant, he suffers no fools. Be ready for the consequences. He and his TAs will not hesitate to return assignments marked in red with "NO!" and "this makes no sense." While the workload of his marquee class - Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought - is low, don't expect points just for effort.

But if you're philosophically inclined, good at Socratic discourse, and curious - by all means take the class.

Workload:

Low

December 18, 2014

Albert, David
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

Very challenging, thought-provoking, fun class. Should be called "Intro to Philosophy of Science."

Professor Albert is a world-renowned physicist, who basically sauntered into a philosophy department at some point and has no reservations about slipping into quantum and statistical mechanics at a brisk pace, nearly every class. That said, the guy is incredibly smart and funny, approachable, and seems to genuinely care about "doing philosophy," rather than simply memorizing thinkers and their own ideas. So you can expect each class to be introduced to a very complex philosophic problem, then get pointed toward readings in order to supplement and expand the discussion. So, if you miss a lecture, you better go to office hours, or have a good friend in the class to bring you up to speed. The Professor has office hours regularly, and is very good about breaking problems down and re-explaining material. As well, he'll give you more sources to scour, or topic ideas for assignments. And if you're bored, you can check him out on YouTube, or in the New York Times. Word of caution: if you think you're well-versed in philosophy and are looking for an easy A, this is NOT the class. Professor Albert has no reservations about the Socratic method, and you will leave each class stunned by the material. Topics covered include Causal Closure Physicalism, Aesthetics, Time Travel (awesome), Probability, Laws of Nature, Philosophy of Mind, Ontology, Poetry, Ethics, and Physics.

Workload:

Three short papers, lots of fun reading. Fair grading.

December 17, 2013

Albert, David
[PHIL G4675] Direction of Time and [PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

Regardless of whether you are majoring in philosophy or not, taking a class with this man should be on your before-you-graduate bucket list. For non-philosophy majors, I especially recommend methods & problems.

Professor Albert is the epitome of what a philosophy professor should be, namely, deeply disillusioning. If you let him, he will leave you more puzzled than when you began. His lecture style is very Socratic. He is not interested in giving you answers for free and will make you work for them. Maybe this is what rubs people the wrong way, but isn't this why we came to Columbia in the first place? To be forced to critically examine our worldview and, if necessary, uproots those pieces that do not stand up against such examination? And when he finally does offer his two cents, he does so in the clearest, most colloquial way, so as to make the typical philosopher blush. His ability to translate extremely complex and abstract issues into layman's terms is a rare gift in this field. In so doing, he is able to make philosophy extremely accessible, which is why I, again, recommend methods & problems to all non-philosophy majors.

Workload:

Methods and Problems: 3 papers on a topic of your choice

Direction of Time: His book, Time and Chance, which serves as the sort of textbook for the course, a few supplementary readings, and a final exam.

April 21, 2013

Collins, John
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

John Collins is an amazingly lecturer and also the laziest person I have ever met.

On the first point: his lectures are incredible. He is hilarious, he goes through the material slowly and clearly, he makes everything and anything interesting, and he responds so thoughtfully on-the-spot. If you take this class, go to the lectures and you will forever see the world differently. (I still talk about a lot of the material to anyone who will listen.)

On the second point: he is so unbelievable lazy. He writes his tests the morning of (for a 9 AM class); the upside of this is that if you go to his office hours the day before, you know exactly what topics will be on the midterm/final. He flees the scene after class, and I once saw a student catch him before he left and ask to set up special office hours (because he had class during the regular office hours) and Collins told the student to email him. "I have emailed you," said the student. "Email me again," Collins said. "I have," the student said. "I've emailed you three times now." Collins was just kind of quiet for a second, and then he looked at the kid and said "Well you've really got me in a corner," and then walked out of the classroom. I have never seen a teacher so shamelessly avoid work.

I would definitely recommend this class: both what he teaches and what he does will provide you material to talk about for many years.

Workload:

No work. Literally, there is almost no work. Weekly homework assignments that take ten minutes. A midterm and a final (easy if you've gone to class).

If you're only taking four classes in a semester and this is one of them, then you are a lazy alcoholic college student, because this class is no work.

August 23, 2012

Collins, John
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

Oh well well, where to start? First of all, I enjoyed Collins's lectures. He is hilarious, fairly articulate, and structured compared to a lot of other lecturers in the philosophy department. He would proclaim in his very first lecture that he would grade harshly. That is not true - median in midterm is a clear cut B+, which is a standard Columbia curve. Despite the nature of this course as an introduction to philosophy, Collins spends most of his time talking about epistemology and logic but barely touches on ethics or more literature oriented philosophy. And he admits it himself. While this is understandable because a serious philosopher does not give a damn to what other philosophers say, you should definitely think again if this course is really for you. He sort of has a skeleton of which topics he will talk about, but he follows it loosely. Quite a few lectures seem to be of what's going on in his mind on that particular day. Having said, he talks about stuff that is not unheard of, which allows you take on some new perspective and help clarify some stereotypes. That is the good part. Midterm and final are in the same format, around fifteen short response questions, covering everything in class. Questions are very standard, not testing on your philosophical talent, but just how much attention you've paid to his lectures. If you manage to take notes diligently and copy down every words that spit out of his mouth, you have a good shot to ace the exams. That is the sweet part. One thing could potentially disturb some people is that a lot of arguments tend to be directed towards Collins's understanding. This might not be the most ideal scenario since this course is supposed to introduce philosophical argument but not to reassure opinions. But again, a serious philosopher can't stand a second opinion, let alone to teach one. Overall, Collins is really sharp and not arrogant (not sure if he is approachable though). His lectures are insightful and worth listening but don't expect a smooth or very structured lecture series.

Workload:

four 400-word assignments but somehow winded up to 7 in the end; One 7-15 page paper which is based on his lectures; readings close to none; one manageable midterm and final. Grading could be random.

January 17, 2012

Albert, David
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

I think David Albert is a wonderful professor. I understand why people might get annoyed with him - he is a strange man with an odd style of speaking and, yes, sometimes a "goofy grin" on his face, lopes around the room with a similarly goofy slouch and sits with his feet up on his desk (if he's not sitting cross-legged on top of his desk). But I came to understand these things not as an indication of carelessness, or not wanting to be teaching, as another reviewer suggested, but of a truly free spirited teacher who cares not so much about the presentation of his ideas as much as the consistency of the ideas themselves. This could have been a problem in a more-lecture based class in which we had a limited time to learn certain points, but the format of our class was an open-ended one in which this attitude was ultimately very effective. Often times it took a long time - an entire class period or more - for even a basic bit of clarity to emerge, but when it did, I often found myself marveling at the incredible reasoning powers of Professor Albert. His method, in which he basically fields questions and suggestions from the class and systematically rejects almost all of them, can be extremely grueling and exasperating, but at the end of the day, I always found that my exasperation arose not from dissatisfaction with him but with a dissatisfaction in my own ability to reason things out in a logically consistent way. Looking back now, I recognize that I was in the throes of some real - and quite wonderful - intellectual bewilderment, which, in fact, was one of Albert's stated goals for the class. He wants to create a confusion in which students find their beliefs and reasoning skills deeply undermined; a confusion out of which we had to climb on our own, piecing bits of logic together for ourselves rather than having them told to us. I think that if people are patient, they will find that his class discussions lead to profound and extremely rigorous conclusions--or, if not conclusions per se, highly honest evaluations of our current state of understanding of a topic.

There were certainly times when his incessant interruptions became frustrating - especially when our T.A. would try to join the discussion. But he would often recognize that he was being too harsh and apologize for it.
Some parts of the semester were presented more clearly than others - I personally found Albert's statements in our discussions of Philosophy of Mind to be especially puzzling and unsatisfying.
But this was the first time he had taught Methods and Problems, and when, on the last day of class he let us voice our overall opinions of the class and his teaching, I think he took our feedback to heart.

Something else I noticed about Albert is that he is a somewhat rigid thinker. I don't mean this in the sense that he is closed-minded; rather, it seems to me that he has found certain ways of explaining things and largely sticks to those ways of explaining them. I watched a video interview of him, in which his arguments, statements, metaphors, etc. were often word-for-word identical to things he had said in class. But this isn't a complaint- I think that he uses these certain explanations because they really work and communicate his ideas in a clean and direct way. Many of the points he made in class, and indeed his style of speaking and reasoning as a whole, has had a powerful and lasting impact on me.

Overall, my opinion of Albert is that he is an extremely genuine man and a brilliant thinker who will turn you into a more rational person if you let him.

Workload:

Two medium-length papers and a 10 page final paper. Fairly graded, on the easy side I'd say. Final grade entirely determined by the essays.
Doing the few readings helped for class discussions and essay writing.
The most important thing is to focus during class and follow the logic of the arguments being made. If you don't, you will have a hard time making a good argument in your paper.

March 15, 2011

Collins, John
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

An entertaining and enlightening introduction to the different fields of Philosophy, Methods and Problems was certainly a course I do not regret taking. Prof. Collins makes the class additionally enjoyable as his personal investment in the problems is palpable. The topics covered included the subjectivity of color, logical necessity (and yeah, in that context we spent a lot of time on time travel), consciousness and philosophy of mind. If you sat through more or less stale history of philosophy courses you'll find the hands-on experience a welcome change. On the downside (for me) but understandably, given Collins' focus on metaphysics and logic, ethics and political philosophy were not at all talked about.

Workload:

A few dense readings, mid-term, final (both incredibly fun to solve - yeah, solve). A few short assignments of 400 words and a final paper of five pages. While not an easy A it is quite possible to get one if you stay on top of the material.

December 27, 2010

Lawhead, Jonathan (TA) Silver_nugget
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought and [W3248] Darwin

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

Jon is a great TA, as long as you can put up with his eccentric personality and ideas, and don't mind that he doesn't really look at you when he talks to you. He knows a lot about lots of different things, but can be a little dogmatic about science and materialism. If you have strong religious leanings, beware, but even when he's disagreeing with you he's always interesting and helpful. He gave very funny lectures that were at least as good as the professors. He responds to email instantaneously no matter when you send it. I sent him a question at 2 in the morning the night before the paper was due, and got an answer back 10 minutes later. He's obviously really intelligent, and seems to actually care about students even more than some of the professors. After having him as a TA for two classes (Darwin and Methods and Problems) I can say that the best way to learn from him is to try to argue with him. Highly recommended, and a nice guy.

Workload:

Darwin: Midterm, paper, final
Methods and problems: a few homeworks (that the professor seemed to forget about after a while), midterm, final, and short paper

November 19, 2010

Collins, John
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

John Collins whose course I have actually taken, IS the greatest professor at Columbia. If you do not take a course with John Collins you are the most foolish student at Columbia.

John Collins is great.

I will add, that as John Collins frequently discusses traveling back in time to the moment of one's conception, that if I could travel back in time to the movement of John Collins's conception, the beams of light and singing of angels would be more glorious than any moment in my time at Columbia.

Workload:

Heavenly

September 28, 2010

Lawhead, Jonathan (TA) Silver_nugget
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

Jon is amazing!! He is very very intelligent and has an excellent teaching style. I would totally think that he is already a professor if told so. His lectures were so much better then the lectures given by the actual professor of this class. If Jon was teaching a class as a professor I would definitely take his class as he has a natural talent for teaching. He goes above and beyond for the students. In this particular class he actually taught half of the class since the professor scheduled one class each month for Jon and in addition the professor was absent a few times. Jon held several review sections at different dates to accommodate students. His lectures were very clear, rich and interesting. It goes without saying that he is a highly recommended TA.
Written by a philosophy major.

Workload:

Midterm and final.

September 04, 2010

Lawhead, Jonathan (TA) Silver_nugget
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

Remarkable TA for Bilgrami's M&P course. His warm and caring personality juxtaposes well with the professor's cold exterior. Here we have someone who is actually passionate about the course material, who wants the students to understand and learn, who is not afraid of commuting from Queens or Brooklyn (or wherever it is) to lead an extra review session. In addition Jon is a fair grader, willing to work with students to help them achieve better. All in all a brilliant TA, clear, thoughtful, eloquent; he will go on to achieve great things.

Workload:

Minimal. You can easily get by without the readings.

August 03, 2010

Collins, John
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

For all you freshmen out there coming in wanting to take an intro philosophy class, this class is not exactly a home run. Yes, it's a solid intro class and Collins is ridiculous and very funny, but you'll walk out wondering what exactly it was that you actually learned. There's no set syllabus, and most of the semester just involves him rambling on about whatever he feels like talking about. With that said, the work load is INSANELY light, with 3-4 400-word maximum assignments about whatever random philosophical question/concept he decides to test you on. Another upside is that there is almost never any required reading, but these both come with the additional downside that you have no idea what exactly to study for the midterm or final unless you took supremely copious notes on whatever was spewing from his mouth during lecture. So take notes. Diligently. Regardless of all the above facts, his grading seems to be totally arbitrary, so just ask smart questions (he loves being challenged) and hope that he likes you. This course was actually just enough to turn me off from taking philosophy ever again because I did not find it to be stimulating in the slightest, but if you are set on taking philosophy, this course will do the job and Collins won't bite.

Workload:

Impossibly light, with the aforementioned 3 or 4 400-word/1 page maximum assignments and basically no required readings ever (there might have been one). Classic midterm and final which just involve a lot of writing but aren't too long.

May 28, 2010

Bilgrami, Akeel
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

Bilgrami might not be the most interesting or caring professor, but he's not as bad as some of the reviewers below say he is. (Or maybe he's changed for the better.) I also disagree that you can't learn philosophy from a rambling and unorganized professor. I can honestly say that Bilgrami's lecturing combined with the reading has totally shaped a freshman's way of thinking. You just got to be receptive enough.

About the course: One of the easiest to get an A in. I stopped reading and just attended lectures after the first "unit" (he said the exams are based on what's discussed in class, not strictly on the texts; he's right). It is true that he still posts the midterm and final questions a week in advance, so you really shouldn't find any surprises. For each exam I studied no more than three hours and certainly did memorize any answers (just thought about the questions) and did well. That said, this class is not very organized. Bilgrami picks what he wants from the course package of readings and essentially lectures what he wants each day.

About the lectures/TA sessions: Bilgrami's lecturing has its highs and lows. Usually at the beginning of a class he's not "warmed up" yet. His thoughts are slow, he mumbles, there's a lot of meditation. But if he's on fire the lecture becomes very clear, focused, and energetic. He is great at summing up a philosopher's argument through syllogisms, and at presenting his own issues with those arguments. He could also be engaging; we've had quite a few animated discussions about how to interpret a philosopher's ideas. Bilgrami guides these discussions, providing some clarity to some students' rambling remarks and showing us where a hypothesis would logically lead us.

We had a really good TA for Spring 2010 (I'll probably write a separate review for him). He is very kind, responsive, and brilliant in what he loves (naturalism and the philosophy of science in general). In his review sessions, the TA gives additional clarifying and also does a fine job linking together the different lectures on different philosophies. His sessions on the mind-body problem are the best and rival Bilgrami's lectures in my opinion.

About Bilgrami: Yes, he could be an ass at times, but ONLY TO STUPID PEOPLE. And in my opinion he's quite tolerant and kind to anyone, as long as he/she doesn't disrupt the class with inane oppositions. I think that's quite fair. He is very encouraging to comments that are thoughtprovoking. In short, he does not take BS.

Great class. Bilgrami is a good intro to philosophy.

Workload:

As I said, extremely light (rivalling FoS for me, which I had the same semester). There's no homework if you don't want there to be one. I recommend attending the lectures and understanding the main ideas (if you don't there's still the TA). Midterm (3 questions) and exam (6 questions), both given out in advance.

December 17, 2009

Collins, John
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

John Collins, a brilliant and careful thinker, leads this course in an excessively roundabout fashion, with few readings, a meandering syllabus, and lectures that are always deeply provocative of thought and entertaining to boot. He seems a rather disorganized man, and thus the seven short assignments he promised turned into three, and he was often a week late in sending out questions and topics for assignments. Professor Collins will attempt to introduce philosophy to you by a series of tricks and gimmicks: he wants one to learn philosophy by experience of it, and will try his best to make that experience as simultaneously frustrating and rewarding as possible. Take this course if you want, essentially, to be a more careful thinker.

Workload:

Three short assignments, one midterm, one final exam, one 5-7 page final paper.

September 14, 2009

Collins, John
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

John Collins is an unashamed egomaniac. If you like that - if you, likewise, are an aspiring egomaniac, but simply lack the experience/degrees/age/money to express it unabashedly - then this class will tickle your fancy. It's amazing to see a professor so in love with himself, who could not care less about the syllabus, and who simply wants to masturbate a few thoughts/concepts to please himself. Other than that, or because of that actually, John Collins is quite entertaining in small weekly doses. I didn't really take much with me from the class, except remnants of discussions concerning light, color, a few "is" and "is not" word plays.

This course can't really be taken seriously with this professor, but then again, it's an intro course, so who wants to take it seriously?

Workload:

Nothing really. One or two short-responses, mId-term and exam (both in class). I did none of the reading, didn't need to. Didn't do particularly well, but then, like I said, I didn't read, and I didn't re-read my class notes. If you do re-read your class notes, however, that's all you need. Collins grades somewhat at whim, according to fancy.

January 11, 2009

Collins, John
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

This was a good course to get you thinking about the most basic of philosophical problems, but it didn't move much beyond that. Collins let the class choose most of what we learned, talking about things like free will, colors, time travel, etc. He is a pretty good lecturer, taking questions and explaining logical proofs well, but often the views he presented were very narrow and over-simplified. He's also extremely leisurely in his work, and will take forever to get an assignment back to you.

Overall I'd recommend this course if you want a taste of the world of philosophy, but are not interested in taking other philo courses (otherwise a deeper, more engaging course would be better).

Workload:

Pretty light, considering there is no reading whatsoever. Three 500-word papers--but don't be fooled by the length; Collins grades on how precisely you articulate answers. In class midterm, final exam, and longer final paper on a topic of your choice.

Difficult to get higher than a B+.

January 05, 2009

Collins, John
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

When you choose John Collins for a course, you are putting yourself at a risk that could either be a disaster or extremely rewarding. Collins doesn't use a syllabus, his assignments are few and tiny, and his lectures often spiral out of control. But unlike other philosophy classes of the same nature, they are rarely boring. Collins attempts to frustrate students in order them to dig their own way out of the hole, and has great fun doing it. His Australian accent his even funnier. His grading can be ambiguous and often strange, and you really could end up with a grade somehow you never saw coming in the class, seeing how there is so little to prepare for at both the midterm and the final. But I almost took another Collins class this semester (it didn't fit into my schedule) just because I enjoyed coming to class so much.

Workload:

one reading the entire semester, 3 400 word responses (tricky), midterm, final, and final paper (7 pages)

December 31, 2008

Collins, John
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

AMAZING CLASS. AMAZING TEACHER. Take it. So laid back. So fun. Huge class, but feels like a seminar. Contribute. Show up. Pay attention. ENJOY!

Workload:

A couple minor written assignment, some light and interesting reading, and a midterm, big final paper, and final. Not too bad at all.

December 27, 2008

Collins, John
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

The class is really interesting and fun although it's tough. It's worth taking just for Professor Collins though. He's brilliant... and entertaining! I recommend taking it pass/fail so that you can just enjoy the class as almost purely entertainment. That sounds like a waste, but it's not. The class time itself made me so happy even though when I sat down with my notes after class I didn't really understand much of the material. Taking it pass/fail allows you to just enjoy the class time, the crazy conversations you'll have, and all the great stories and tangents Collins takes you through.

Workload:

Nothing. No book or anything. Just go to class! It's worth it because it's so fun and entertaining.

December 11, 2008

Collins, John
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

I highly recommend this brilliant and enthusiastic teacher, who manages to make you reflect on sometimes challenging matters while being totally refreshing for the mind. He teaches in a very relaxed and open-minded way, which really allows you to ask the questions you may have and makes you realize that serious stuff must not be always talked about in a serious way.
Loved the whole semester

Workload:

Barely a few assignments and a very free final essay at the end. Midterm and final, both totally feasible once you understand what was talked about in class

January 21, 2008

Collins, John
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

After reading some of the previous reviews, I was rather excited to take a course with Collins. Unfortunately, I was horribly disappointed once the semester got underway.

On the first day of class, Collins read aloud some reviews from CULPA, both good and bad, forewarning us of his possible faults as a teacher. While this was humorous and engaging, I should have taken those reviews more seriously and dropped the course as quickly as I could. Being a Phil major and having taken Phil courses before, I was extremely frustrated with Collins's teaching style and his lack of coherency. Philosophy to begin with is a difficult subject to comprehend, but Collins often made it near impossible. While his lectures could be funny at times, his humor did not make up for his rambling. Collins is obviously a brilliant man, but his teaching is simply not clear. I was looking forward to learning in depth about philosophical argumentation, but instead, I walked away from his class knowing hardly any more than I did when I walked in. The only reasons I survived with a decent grade are meetings I made with the TA.

Workload:

3 short papers (although he said there would be one every other week), midterm, final-- all graded harshly by the TA

April 15, 2007

Collins, John
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

Regarding the "17 May 2006" Methods and Problems review, I just want to add a few comments, as I was in the same class.

The class (and philosophy in general) is not: let's all get together and share our feelings on and 'talk about' time-travel and the matrix. So don't be disappointed when you find that a 'cool' thought you just shared wasn't entertained by the professor because it didn't make any sense.

Concerning time-travel, Collins tries to tell you a coherent story about time travel to show you how there is no conceptual contradiction. So, yes, there are many arguments and Collins is meticulous about the logic, but a huge part of what the course is supposed to do is to teach you the proper methods of making arguments and prepare you for further study in philosophy. Collins also shares with you some infamous argumentation flaws in the history of philosophy.

The class is difficult, but regardless of the grade you get, if you try hard, you will leave with a better understanding of what an argument is and a clearer mind. I felt it was just what an intro to philosophy class should have been.

Workload:

7-8 written assignments which required much thinking. Midterm, final: both very fair, i.e. do your work and understand the material and you will be fine.

May 16, 2006

Collins, John
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

Be warned: Methods and Problems with Collins is basically a logic course. The topics discussed sound cool (time travel, the matrix, etc.) but the way they are presented would turn even the most interesing subject into a drawn-out lesson on the form of argument. Collins will literally spend three hours forming arguments only to refute them in five minutes; a fact which makes note-taking extremely difficult. It doesn't help that he's a difficult grader either. The best part about this class was often the ridiculous discussions the written assignments would provoke, both inside the class and outside with your classmates. All in all, it wasn't a terrible experience, but it definitely was not what I was anticipating.

Workload:

7 (often difficult) written assignments, a challenging midterm and final that may kick your ass if you don't go to lecture.

January 17, 2006

Rovane, Carol
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

Overall, I was pretty satisfied after having taken Prof. RovaneÂ’s course. She lectures well, and covers all of the most significant aspects of our readings in class. It did annoy me that she answered a few too many questions from a couple of students whoÂ’d have their hands raised every few minutes throughout the whole semester, and who rarely had anything very relevant or interesting to ask about. She would occasionally answer peopleÂ’s questions very briefly, but I donÂ’t think the way she did it was too harsh, and it was never called for that she go any more in depth as to why the personÂ’s question was misguided. Indeed, she did it to me once, and after her brief (but complete) response, I realized that my question actually was a pretty dumb one.

On the whole, I really enjoyed the readings, which I thought were well selected (by her, to my understanding). The class was based off of Descartes’ first four meditations, after the reading of each of which we would go on to some more modern philosophers’ takes on similar topics: various aspects of philosophy of mind (identity, etc.), free will, and some moral philosophy. In the papers we basically had to show that we understood well the topics which we read and were lectured on, and that we knew how to make a philosophical argument—if you could do this, you were fine.

I went to her office hours once to meet with her, and waited for about a half an hour as one student spoke with her; however since I wouldn’t have been able to stay long enough to have my questions answered because I had to be elsewhere, she very kindly scheduled time to meet with me the next day. In speaking with me for quite a while then, she helped me to understand completely the topics on which I was a bit confused, and showed me that she really knows her stuff (well, I think this should be a given), as well as that she’s actually dedicated to teaching—she was really willing to help me understand anything I did not already. And she did it completely on her own time, too.

All said and done, I would certainly take another course from Rovane.

Workload:

for 75% of classes, you’ll have a reading of 45 minutes to 3 hours (if you're a slow reader like me) assigned, and throughout the semester four papers she calls “short.” Mine ranged between 5 and 11 pages. No midterm or final.

November 21, 2005

Rovane, Carol
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

my feelings on rovane are slightly mixed. she knows how to lecture--there are no problems understanding her speech, and her lectures are fairly organized. she does get pelted with dumb questions, which, if she's in the mood, she will entertain ad nauseaum.
the assignened readings are mostly very good--sometimes dry, but almost always right on mark with relevant content. they are of course only partially necessary. her answers to emails stink--very brusk and rudeish, dont let them intimidate you. oh and another thing--she is apt to shut you down if you ask a question that a)irritates her, b)goes against her beliefs, c)doesnt allow her to show off, d)she hasnt prepackaged an answer to etc etc etc. it can be embarassing because she has the gift of being able to effortlessly make you feel/look dumb. all that said, i might take another class with her if the other options were sparse or shoddy

Workload:

4 'short' papers, she alternates grading with TA (mine was a self-righteous twit) and she is meagerly fair about grades. the papers are not really 'short'. they take forever, especially if you didnt read in advance, and the essay topics are fairly advanced for a 1000 level course

August 25, 2005

Berofsky, Bernard
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

The reviews are pretty accurate, Berofsky likes to mumble so sit up front to prevent yourself from dozing. Also, participate!!! Our class was partially brain dead and there were maybe two or three people that would ask questions or answer Berofsky's. If you engage in the class then it becomes more interesting. That said Berofsky knows his shit. He is THOROUGH and if you want to learn alot then take this class. It was definetly worth it, and he is an extremely nice guy. Some of the readings are difficult so it pays to read them before the lecture and ask questions. Take good notes, you will need them for the final!

Workload:

two papers (go talk to him about your paper idea before you write it) and one final. If you take good notes in class and study a little, you'll be fine.

May 18, 2005

Collins, John
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

I really enjoyed my class with Professor Collins, and I learned a lot. As Collins explained early on in the course, he was once known as "the man" thorughout campus because he taught the philosophy class with no homework, no reading, etc. He decided to add a few "written assignments" and some light reading to scare away students who just wanted an easy class and to make the class size bearable. It worked, and we had a great class with great discussion (and still not too much work, although I gladly would've done more for the class as I had a good time). Don't enter the class hoping to learn about Plato, Kant, etc. This class is about actually BEING a philosopher - making arguments, using logic, etc. There is a lot of class discussion, but you can talk as much or as little as you want. Collins said he was a tough grader at the beginning of the course. He later sort of admitted that he was trying to scare people off, but that we really shouldn't worry that much because we seemed like an above average class anyway and should expect better grades. I think he is a tougher grader than most, but not terrible. Some of my friends, who I thought would get A's, got B+'s, but I felt I had earned an A, and he gave me one, so I can only assume he's a fair grader. Collins is really funny and makes class fun. The first day of class, he just read us this huge short story by Robert Heinlein about time travel, and then we argued about it for a few weeks. It was a blast.

My only complaint about the class was sometimes I felt like Collins didn't give us the full story on certain topics and stated things that he merely believed to be true as fact. However, in a class about philosophizing, it's hard to expect your professor to give you arguments he doesn't believe in with a straight face, so I can't hold it against him.

Overall, I would highly recommend the class. It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot about philosophical thinking. In fact, I might major in philosophy, partly due to this class.

Workload:

5 or 6 "written assignments," which were like 400 words each. However, they were pretty tough, you had to think hard, and he graded them tough. That said, he admitted that a 7 on the homework would not translate to a 70% in the class. We had to read one short "book," Berkeley's Three Dialogues, and a brief thing by Plato. Not much reading either. Midterm and final, some of it restating stuff from class and some of it applying logic to new problems.

April 03, 2005

Bilgrami, Akeel
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

In my opinion, Bilgrami doesn't care about teaching this class at all. He doesn't prepare at all for the lectures and as a result he ends up ranting through the whole class period. He comes in looking like he just crawled out of bed and would rather be doing anything other than teaching a room full of undergrads. Twice he stopped in mid-lecture to answer his cel phone, then had a conversation right in front of the class. By the end of the semester, we didn't even get through 1/3 of the syllabus. What's more, he's impossible to reach. As he finishes up his lecture he dives for his coat and runs out the door. Did I mention he habitually comes in 10 minutes late, on average? This guy doesn't seem to like students.

Frankly, despite getting a very good grade in this course, I ended up learning almost nothing about philosophy. This professor is totally unmotivated and his class is a waste of money.

Workload:

No homework. Midterm is way in the semester, past the drop date. Final is barely a couple of weeks after that. The format is always essay questions. TA's do all the grading.

January 09, 2005

Bilgrami, Akeel
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

This class is a waste of tuition money. I learned practically nothing. Bilgrami does not prepare his lessons and ends up repeating the same lecture week after week. We covered less than a third of what was on the syllabus, but not because we were going in-depth. Even if he was saying something new each class, it wouldn't matter because he speaks so softly. To top it all off, in my opinion he is really obnoxious and takes pleasure in ridiculing his students and their questions/comments. This class was a miserable and worthless experience

Workload:

Easy midterm (2 questions given days before the exam) and easy final (4 questions given at least a week before the exam).

January 04, 2005

Bilgrami, Akeel
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

I believe an earlier review describing Akeel as "brilliant but frusturating" sums it up best. Akeel is the type of professor who makes you feel honored to be in his presence. A Rhodes Scholar, he is clearly accomplished and he does all he can to demonstrate this. He doesn't use notes, a trait which is at first impressive but becomes irritating when he dwells on the same concepts for sometimes weeks at a time (we spent the first 6 weeks on two essays). Often times, I found the TA sessions much more clarifying than his lectures. I'm glad I took Akeel's class. But I'm not sure he was glad to be teaching to undergrads. His dry but incredibly clever wit made his class, at times, a delight and his intellect was quite motivating. However, I wish that he would spend a little bit more / any time preparing for the class.

Workload:

A midterm (2 questions you get a week ahead of time) and a final (4 questions, 2 weeks ahead). Basically, it's not bad but it stressed the heck out of me the few days before.

January 03, 2005

Berofsky, Bernard
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought and [PHIL V3786] Free Will and Responsibility

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

Berofsky is a mediocre player on an all-star philosophy team. He's tolerable, but there is no reason to take a class with him when you can take the same one with an amazing professor, of which the dept has plenty. He's straightforward and intelligent, but very boring, and clearly has long forgotten what it's like to be a student. He will deliver the material to you but doesn't add much that you don't pick up on your own if you do the boring (particularly for Free Will) and dense reading he assigns. Don't waste your time and tuition.

Workload:

Methods: typical classic readings, a couple of papers, midterm and final - grading is what you'd expect for Philosophy 101.
Free Will: plenty of boring reading, two long papers and a ridiculously comprehensive final that will leave you struggling if youhavent taken good notes in every one of his broing lectures,

December 27, 2004

Bilgrami, Akeel
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

Arrogant beyond belief. Don't take Bilgrami unless you're forced to (that's the only reason I took him against better advice from former classmates). Don't ask questions in class unless you're prepared to let his scathing replies roll off your back. Don't argue with him in the hopes of changing his opinion. I was appalled at the way he treated students when they asked questions. I don't mind appropriate sarcasm from a prof when a student obviously thinks he/she is smarter, but Bilgrami--I'm speechless. You gotta see it to believe it. You'd think he literally has something personal against the student; it sounds like he's defending himself. It's unbelievable. That said, if you find that you are indeed forced to take the class, simply take careful notes and regurgitate everything he said. Don't attempt to incorporate any ideas of your own (unless you know the TAs are grading and you think they'll be more lenient). If you simply regurgitate everything (but it's gotta be practically word for word regurgitation--that's the trick), you'll do reasonably well. And never mind reading the text; technically, you don't have to read any of it at all although it helps once in a blue moon to skim over it to fill in the blanks (god forbid you should have any) from your notes. But under no circumstances should you interpret the text yourself. To give Bilgrami some credit, I found him to have a quite sane attitude when I spoke with him outside of class. His demeanor was substantially different. Like he actually showed a hint of respect for you. I don't know why he's so different outside of class; maybe he thinks if you still have the guts to speak to him after his ranting, poor pitiful ignorant you deserves a certain iota of compassionate indulgence.

Workload:

1 in-class midterm and final. No homework.

November 14, 2004

Berofsky, Bernard
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought and [PHIL V3786] Free Will and Responsibility

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

To being with, Berofsky is HILARIOUS. The casual way in which he makes hilariously ironic comments was enough to keep classes entertaining.
In terms fo teaching style, Berofsky is admittedly somewhat dry, but he knows his stuff and does his best to make complex texts and concepts acessible to his students. The course structure, esp in Methods&Problems, was very condusive to giving a broad, general understanding the main currents of philosophy, and while doing the reading is necessary, readings were short and concentrated on the main issues at hand-basically, while you will be somewhat lost if you don't do the reading, if you do it, you'll find that Berofsky's lectures provide answers to the very questions/parts of the text that you had found particularly difficult. In the advanced course, the same holds true. Also, in that class, Berofsky always left time during transition points in the lecture for students to ask questions, but beware, he will challenge you, and force you to think.

Overall, I have TRULY enjoyed my classes with Berofsky; my expxerience in methods&problems spurred my decision to major in philosophy and his class on free will has made that topic the focus of my interests in philosophy. I would HIGHLYrecommend him to anyone who has a real desire to understand and as he says "do" a little philosophy of their own. Philosophy classes aren't meant to be easy, but Berofsky succeeds in making his accessible and engaging.

Workload:

M&P: two paper (i think one is 3-5 and the other 5-7, final: he gives you all the potential questions beforehand and chooses from among them. You do get to choose which questions to answer, i think it's like 2/3 for each major topic. definitely do-able.
FW: 2 1200-1500 papers, suggested topics and reading list provided (you are required to use one paper not on the syllabus for each). Final. VERY do-able.

January 19, 2004

Bilgrami, Akeel
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

Wow... what a horrible semester of philosophy. I was actually excited to be introduced to philosophy seeing as there was nothing like it in my high school. After a semester with Bilgrami I can honestly say I hate every ounce of that subject. I would never in my life recommend anyone take that class with him... and if you do, I would suggest never raising your hand because all he will do is spit back at you how dumb your thought was and never actually tell you whats right. Dont expect for him to show up until 15 minutes past class time, if he shows up at all. There was obviously no rubric on how to grade. The people that never once came to class got A's and many of the others who always showed got low C's. (I believe the TA's were much more leniant) Save yourself... find a new prof. or maybe even better, a new subject.

Workload:

Readings which you shouldnt really bother doing, midterm and final... only positive side to the class was getting the test questions ahead of time that he pulled out of his ass on the spot.

December 03, 2003

Bilgrami, Akeel
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

Bilgrami is awesome. I started Methods and Problems thinking, "Well, CULPA says he's a jerk, but I want a good intro to philosophy." I ended the semester with Bilgrami being my favorite teacher, by far. He seems to have improved on the faults described in earler reviews. He was only five to ten minutes late for class, and he only missed one class (to visit an ailing friend). Yes, he still rhetorically pimp-slaps anyone making a shallow or just-plain-wrong comment, and I must thank him for that. His esoteric put-downs are always based on what a person says, and thus the person deserves to get owned (I know I deserved it at the start of the semester, but then I started making more intelligent comments). Don't come to class looking for your own intuitions and unfounded beliefs to be affirmed; you'll either become one of the droning morons who often slowed the class down with their idiotic questions and complaints (until Akeel administered the hilarious mental beat-downs), or you won't enjoy the class because you'll think his theories are "weird" and he isn't "friendly" enough. He said in class that he likes teaching undergraduates because they aren't afraid to present extreme (i.e. extremely novel or extremely stupid) ideas, and that having someone prove you wrong is basically the point of your undergraduate education. So if your ego can't take it, don't sign on for it in the first place.
On the other hand, if you have an open mind and an odd sense of humor, you'll love his class. From the course booklet (which could be a little better organized - he screwed up the order of readings and simply deleted Descartes' proof of God's existence from the scepticism reading. He thinks God is a silly idea in this day and age, but no, he didn't jump-kick anyone wearing a crucifix necklace, chill out), we looked at each philosopher's main ideas, or where his/her ideas fit into the five philosophical topics we discussed. Bilgrami explained the readings' main points (his blackboard skills rocked pretty hard - scribbly writing, but he plots out ideas really well), then he presented other philosophers' objections, including his own. His real-life examples and weird sense of humor kept people awake and, if they cared at all, entertained and interested. We spent a little too much time on the first topic, so we had to skip the last topic, freedom of the will, but I don't think that mattered, for two reasons. First, the class is really an introduction to how philosophy is done, not to the specific concepts discussed. Second, a lot of the readings and discussion overlap and bring in issues from all the topics anyway, so we didn't miss much by not doing every topic.
I enjoyed Bilgrami's informative (and completely improvised) lectures and his sarcastic dismissals of stupid comments a lot more than I cared about the specifics of the readings. Take this class if you want to see how philosophy works. It involves a lot of clever but meaningless mind-tricks, devil's advocacy, intellectual insults, "ism"-ism, and extensive conceptual categorization, but with Bilgrami, whether you like philosophy or not, it can be a lot of fun. You'll think he wants to kick your brain in its brain-ass, but he really just wants to give it a love-tap. Sounds weird, and it is, but his teaching style will win you over, and you'll really enjoy the class if you give it a chance.

Workload:

Pffff... He doesn't care about grading you. I quote: "I hate exams. What kind of culture imposes exams on people?" He gives you the midterm and final questions (6 short answers each) beforehand, and you get graded on how well you regurgitate the basic ideas discussed in class. Plus the TAs (Bonnie...meow, plus she was great in the reviews. The two guys couldn't explain things as well as she could) go over the questions before the exams. I got an A on the midterm because I got the first question right. Bilgrami called us "semi-literate" because he was disappointed with most people's performance, but I didn't hear of anyone getting less than a C. The readings are interesting, but you can just skim them or skip them if necessary.

November 12, 2003

Berofsky, Bernard
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

Some of the previous reviewers from my class (Spring ’03) were a little unfair to Berofsky, so I’m going to try to balance their reviews out a little. There seems to be two basic points of criticism in each of the previous reviews. First: that Berofsky is boring. This is a half-truth; while it’s true that the man is no Winston Churchill, I thought he did an excellent job breaking down complex arguments into crystal-clear, easily digestible pieces. His lectures were dry but usually revealed so much crap I missed while reading that they were able to keep me engaged. Could he do a much better job livening up the material? Of course, but I always left class with a strong grasp of the material, and IMHO that makes him a successful teacher. Second point of criticism: Berofsky can’t answer students’ questions. This one is mostly true; don’t expect a lot of interesting dialogue from his class. He makes an effort to answer students’ questions, but often has a tough time with them – not because he’s been ‘speaking Philosophese’ or something, but rather because he is entirely incapable of reformulating a poorly phrased statement. If you have something to say, do so using clearly defined terms that you have a strong command of. And be careful: if you have an objection to one of the arguments discussed in class, think it through carefully before you open your mouth or Berofsky will shred you. Also: I thought the reading selections were good – not great, but a solid sampling of both new and historic material on various problems. (One paper was closely related to some of the issues touched on by The Matrix, however, sadly Berofsky never saw the movie and wasn’t able to approach it from this angle). Overall, don’t take this class with Berofsky expecting to become passionate and inspired about philosophy; instead, expect to gain a solid foundation for more advanced philosophy classes.

Workload:

“Two 6-8 page papers, for which you had better do the reading and have an actual point. Berofsky is no pushover when it comes to grading papers--at least I can respect that.” Show enthusiasm for your paper topic and you’ll get the A. A retarded final exam that took entirely too much studying. He gave us a list of 26 questions, each which took 45 to an hour to prepare for. Very little choice; you have to prep for like 20 of them, which amounts to ~ 16-17 hours of studying. Hopefully he’ll adjust the final a bit for the next iteration of this class.

September 10, 2003

Berofsky, Bernard
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

Berofsky is fairly boring, surprisingly inarticulate, and totally unable to answer questions posed to him in normal English. He has apparently spoken exclusively in philosophese for so long that he often can't parse normal speech. He's a nice guy and seemed very much to know his stuff. But, the class is a drag and frankly I'm at a loss as to what previous reviewers were talking about regarding his supposed wit and charisma. Occasionally he will go off on some extremely odd tangent about some weird crap, but even then, it's a far cry from funny. Moreover, this happens with relative infrequency. The majority of the time is just minutes piled upon minutes of listening to him talk in a monotone voice. The best part of the class were the absolutely absurd chalk drawings he used in a poor attempt to illuminate those ideas he felt needed a bit more kick than his monologue. He once drew a giant misshapen oval, which if I recall correctly, was a schematic for the concept of free will.

Workload:

2 (6-8pg) papers and an in-class final consisting of 5 short essays.

May 19, 2003

Berofsky, Bernard
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

Disappointment would be the best word to describe this class. After all the positive reviews on CULPA I was looking forward to a good semester with Prof. Berofsky. Instead, I got mind-numbing tedium. He's nice enough, and occasionally funny, but I just couldn't bring myself to pay attention to what he said. As far as the class goes, there's a lot of reading, and I did most of it at the end of the semester prepping for our final. Most of it is not very interesting, but there are a few good articles. While Berofsky knows his stuff, for some reason he couldn't communicate it to us in an interesting way. I wanted to concentrate in Philosophy, but this class has made my seriously reconsider that. And Philosophy majors/concentrators don't even need to take Methods and Problems, so you should probably just go right into an elective or one of the History of Philosophy courses. For non-Philosophy majors, take this class if you like, but don't expect to become interested in philosophy.

Workload:

Fair amount of reading - about 20 pages or so per class on average, most of which is doable. Two papers which are graded fairly, no midterm, and a final that took way too much preparation (he gave us 26 questions, we had to answer 5, with very little choice. Not fun.)

May 19, 2003

Berofsky, Bernard
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

Boy, CULPA really let me down with this one. This class engendered in me one emotion with regards to philosopy: LOATHING. Even my friends who are planning to major in philosophy disliked, to use a milder word, the class. Prof. Berofsky seems very nice and approachable, but he was unable to keep my attention for more than 10 minutes during any given class (exceptions being the first and last lectures--maybe he got his second wind). Whatever the reason for his usual pedantic, incredibly dry approach, I came to dread going to this class by the middle of the semester.

Workload:

Two 6-8 page papers, for which you had better do the reading and have an actual point. Berofsky is no pushover when it comes to grading papers--at least I can respect that. For the final, he gave out a list of 26 questions, and chose five at random for the final (there is a little choice on the actual test).

March 31, 2003

Welty, Ivan (TA)
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

Awful TA. Part 2 of the undynamic duo including David Wolfe for Bilgrami's Fall 2002 Methods and Problems. Took him a month to grade a midterm and even then he only wrote the grade on the front cover. He simply couldn't be bothered to provide feedback on an essay based midterm. Couldn't grade the final on time either. As a result, we had to wait until the spring semester to finally find out our grades for the fall. Welty doesn't have the minimum work ethic required to TA at this school.

March 31, 2003

Wolfe, David Silver_nugget
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

TA for Akeel Bilgrami's Fall 2002 Methods and Problems.Complacent and Inept. Grading a midterm and a final was an overwhelming task for this guy. Columbia must be desperate. If you wind up with him as a TA, you will have to hold his little hand and do his job for him, because he just won't.

March 31, 2003

Bilgrami, Akeel
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

All the bad reviews hit it right on the nose. I don't care how smart this guy is, he is totally out of line. Snapping at students for sitting a certain way in their desks, or interrupting the lecture to yell at a student who showed up late to class are all common occurences in his class. Also, he loves missing class. 20 minutes late to every lecture, and missing six classes over the semester all seemed normal and acceptable to this monster. I feel for any religious student who has been insulted by this professor's close-minded views about religion, period..... As for the teaching, dont try to understand anything, he wont explain it, wait for the TA's review sessions.

Workload:

Very Light. Easy readings, which you dont have to do, midterm and final, with the questions before hand.

February 27, 2003

Bilgrami, Akeel
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

Unlike nearly everyone else who had posted, I really enjoyed Bilgrami's class. His analysis of and insight into topics is great, and I certainly learned a lot about texts and philosophers that I had already read and thought I already knew about. He is late all the time and sometimes just doesn't show up, and that can be humerous but annoying. Overall, he doesn't seem very dedicated to the class, but I don't blame him; he probably hated the idiotic questions and opinions he had to deal with for much of the class. His lectures are somewhat interactive and always interesting, becasue you dont' know when he's going to say something really wierd to someone in the class, and everyone else can never decide who he's talking about. Overall, he's pretty funny..

Workload:

Not too much reading material; an in-class midterm and final

January 30, 2003

Bilgrami, Akeel
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

I'm the same guy who wrote the LONG review below (the funny parts of which were edited out by the damned censors here). [Note from censors: lawsuits are not as fun as they seem on TV] After speaking with the kid I mentioned in the review (the one who took prof B's senior seminar), we decided that despite all the negatives - and there are many more than I mentioned - we both somehow STILL managed to get more out of Bilgrami's class than out of almost any other Philosophy class we've taken here. The guy is obviously doing something right. Take that for whatever you think it's worth.

January 21, 2003

Bilgrami, Akeel
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

the most arrogant prof i have had -- and that's a high standard to meet. someone who took a class with him when he first arrived at columbia, described an incredibly helpful, friendly and patient teacher, so i can't blaim oxford forhis current arrogant and sloppy behavior; he seems to have had some kind of personality break since he came to columbia. just don't speak in class and you'll be fine. also don't look at him -- you can't be sure what sets off one of his tirades.
otherwise an interesting approach to some familiar philosophy topics.

Workload:

midterm and final. light readings.

January 21, 2003

Bilgrami, Akeel
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

This guy is the living stereotype of ivy-league, ***** professor. The only thing cheesier than his misconstrued lectures is his phony, five-dollar, "I went to Oxford and you didn't" accent. He gave late students a hard time, even though he was habitually late himself. He skipped at least four classes over the semester. He routinely showed up fifteen minutes late, looking like he just woke up -- I think he sleeps in his office.... He very obviously didn't prepare his lectures and spent the majority of the class answering dopey questions from over-achievers. He has some interesting insights, but confuses and collapses much of the material because he relies on memory. The guy flat-out stinks. This is a turd that Columbia needs to flush.

Workload:

one midterm, one final. questions given ahead of time. never took attendance.

January 20, 2003

Bilgrami, Akeel
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

Bilgrami started the semester by missing his first two classes, and then proceeded to miss two or three more during the semester, plus called in sick at the last minute for another class, leaving his TA's with no material or guidance for how to spend the class. If you're keeping count, that's around six absences. On top of that, he was over 15 minutes late for EVERY class, including a couple of times he was over 1/2 hour late. Why care about his attendance (besides that you're paying tuitition for him to be there)? Because it just shows how little he cares about his students. Not once do I recollect him apologizing for keeping us waiting. The closest he came was deigning to make up some excuse once about arriving on campus and thinking it was Wednesday instead of Tuesday or something. He thinks himself so superior to us pea brained undergraduates that he feels he is doing us a huge favor by just allowing us to hear him speak. He's so full of himself and his Oxford degree. I think the reason all the above reviewers think he's brilliant is that he speaks with a British accent. Anyways, even if he is brilliant, all you get from the course is Bilgrami showing off how brilliant he is (or thinks he is) and very, very little substantive knowledge about philosophical arguments. He went off on diatribes almost every class about how stupid other philosophers' arguments are and then presented even stupider ones of his own that the TA's had to patch together at the review session in order to explain to us - and they still never really made sense either to them or us. I really just don't like the guy and would recommend taking Methods and Problems with a different professor.

Oh, some more stuff - we didn't get through any of the material, hardly. The course was supposed to have six topics, and we spent well over half the semester just on the first one and had almost no time left for the others. In case you think I'm just sour over receiving a bad grade, I actually got an A in the class. The grading was really erratic (mostly the TAs' fault I think), though, and some really intelligent people I know got C's on the midterm.

A good friend of mine took his Senior Seminar last semester and now dislikes the man's (lack of) teaching as much as me. Oh, I could go on and on . . . like how he takes questions from the class, completely screws up (because of his brilliance? maybe I just didn't get it) the argument and confuses the person into submission. God forbid the person makes a logical mistake or asks a stupid question - Bilgrami will rip them apart (again, to show how smart he is). That's actually one of the fun parts of class - when he rips apart some pompous know-it-all. One last thing that I almost forgot: the guy has, like, mental problems I think. He just snapped like five or six times during the semester and, in the middle of lecture, started screaming about George Bush being a nitwit. Hillarious, but really scary. He also snapped a couple of times at students. One quote I remember was "I have a whiplash tongue, and I won't hesitate to lash you all over with it!" What?
Oh, I almost forgot a doozy. THE MAN ANSWERED HIS CELL PHONE IN THE MIDDLE OF CLASS AND HAD A CONVERSATION. I mean, right in the middle of lecture he walked over to the window and had a conversation, leaving the students absolutely dumbfounded. I'm amazed that there are no other negative reviews of this guy.

Workload:

The good thing about Bilgrami's Methods and Problems is that the workload is really small. Plus, he gives you the questions on the midterm and final beforehand, so if you want you can just read the five or six relevant pages and skip the rest.

January 13, 2003

Bilgrami, Akeel
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

first, the good. bilgrami is one of the most brilliant profs at columbia, probably in the world. on a good day, you leave the class floored by his ability to lecture without notes so clearly and humorously. has a talent for wisecracks and funny asides on contemporary affairs as well.
now the bad. bilgrami routinely arrives to class late. we didn't even finish half the readings. and it's been a month and i still don't have my final grade! grading is lenient. regurgitate and you'll do fine. you don't even have to do all the readings. VERY mixed bag, but i think his brillance excuses his administrative ineptness.

Workload:

moderate reading, 2 finals

January 31, 2002

Collins, John
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

Collin’s proclaimed idea was to teach us philosophy by teaching how to do philosophy. I don’t think it worked very well at all. The class was too big (100+ students) for any genuine feedback and the discussion board was pretty much a waste of time. I would have liked the opportunity though to take this class with 25-30 students maximum. Then it might have been quite good. But to be fair, the things that the writer’s of the previous two reviews complain about are things that Collins himself warned us about in the very first class which was devoted to “reasons not to take this course”. And if these reviewers had listened to what the prof was actually saying instead of chatting with the girl/guy next to them they might have realized that he wasn’t just repeating himself at the beginning of class, but usually revising and completely reversing what he had said in the previous lecture. Anyway it’s clear from the complete hash that the previous writer made of the quote on higher order vagueness that any subtlety is lost on them and they weren’t really listening very carefully. I wouldn’t recommend Collin’s class either, but I think it’s ridiculous to stoop to the level of criticizing his hair. Sure, the pony-tail screams mid-life crisis, but “prematurely balding”? You’ve got to be kidding. Collins told us that he was in graduate school in the 1970’s, so unless he was some kind of child prodigy, he must be pushing 50 now which would make his balding totally age-appropriate.

Workload:

As described above, but somewhat deceptive. The midterm lulled me into afalse sense of security and the the final bit me on the butt.

January 20, 2002

Collins, John
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

When you first start the class, you think you've hit the jackpot: there's no syllabus, no textbook, no reading. Professor Collins is funny and all that's required of you is to show up and take notes. However, as the class went on it became boring at times. You begin to realize that he repeats himself for the first 30 minutes of class, which is why people started showing up to class 15 minutes late. Because the exams are straight from the lectures, you do need to attend, but it's alright if you zone out a little. The class is in a lecture form though he sometimes entertains comments or questions, and when you hear some of the ridiculous things people say, you're almost relieved that it isn't a discussion class.

Workload:

Mid-term and final which are straight forward and come right from lecture plus your best 5 posts to the online message board.

January 16, 2002

Collins, John
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

Disclaimer: Do not expect to delve too deeply into whatever it is that you've always thought constituted "philosophy." Instead, expect to delve far too long into the psyche of John Collins. In my unfortunate experience, this lecture class was essentially an exercise in futility. Dutifully taken notes would end up consisting of nothing more than Collins' somewhat bland lexicon of logic and common sense; and at the end of a day's class, I wouldn't be surprised if the only philosophical conclusions or "knowledge" he/we had come to consisted of, for instance, "things can be vague and therefore possible penumbral regions are infinite." Everything this man "taught" was just a thuddingly blatant fundamental not of philosophy but of existence as a whole. And sadly, many of the students in this huge class were first-years--many of whom that experience with Collins discouraged from seeking a philosophy major. Granted, there was a small batch of kids who were constantly tossing shameless praise and innocently curious "philosophical" questions Collins' way, but everybody I ever spoke to in that class (at least, of the two-thirds or so who regularly showed up) was as unenthused and turned-off as I. "Progress" during each hour-and-fifteen-minutes proved itself a concept apparently foreign to Collins; you could show up forty minutes late and he'd still musing self-contentedly about the same damn topics. In every class, it was quite obvious that Collins was just talking off the top of his head, except toward the end of the semester when he adopted a strangely avid and hurried attitude (which left me wondering what he was ever trying to accomplish in the first place). But for god's sake, in that case, couldn't the man at least have had some compelling philosophical topics sitting there on the top of his severely ponytailed, prematurely balding head? Admittedly, occasional amusements would present themselves in the form of convoluted (and obviously intended-to-amuse) philosophical "examples" and quotes. (For instance: "Man, Mother Theresa was a selfish bitch," used to illustrate egoism; also, an ebullient declaration of "I've got tenure!" used for no apparent reason at all.) But for the most part, this class comprised nothing but a vocabulary lesson in common sense, taught by an obnoxiously smug little man with a tendency to strut shamelessly and proclaim his every "um."

Workload:

You're supposed to contribute five posts to the web discussion board in addition to completing the in-class midterm and final. He never graced any of us with the knowledge of what in hell those seven assignments would entail, but even so, whatever worries you have are probably excessive. (Note: Practices such as reading other books during class, skipping class entirely, and making discussion-board posts about completely unrelated and un-philosophical topics have little or no bearing on your final grade in the course. Just know, somehow, the logical gist of whatever he chooses to lecture on during his classes or be able to bullshit your way around it. If you can prove him wrong or make some other adequately logical argument, he's willing to concede.)

January 01, 2002

Collins, John
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

First of all, there is no reading and no papers for this course, which is definately an awesome thing, but there are annoying consequences. 1) you have to either show up to every class or get good notes from someone who does and 2) your grade is comprised of the midterm, final, and your postings on the class' discussion board--a stupid component of the class, since he never lets you know what separates a good posting from a bad one and never grades them until the end. as a result, while you don't have to do much at all for this class, what you do have to do is so ambiguous that you could screw it up and not even know. the lectures vary from fun and interesting to awful, since collins does not prepare before class and often confuses himself while trying to figure out what he means to teach. the topics are arranged like improv comedy-he chooses the first one and from there he goes on tangents. in the end, you come out learning some interesting things, but suprisingly little since without reading and/or organization on his part you don't cover much ground.

Workload:

no reading, no papers, a minimum of five postings on the class discussion board, most of which range from 1/2 page to 2 pages. it's hard to find a class with less of a workload

December 30, 2001

Collins, John
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

John Collins is, to say the least, a unique man. His lecture style is random and disconnected, and you get the sense that he's telling private jokes to himself as he chuckles his way through the classes. For those who like structure, a syllabus, and any sense of the importance of what one is studying, this class is not for you. Professor Collins enjoys making things up as he goes along and going off on endless tangents, and yet it's hard not to enjoy it: he certainly knows his stuff and covers interesting topics, whatever they end up being. However, the unpredictability and confused nature of the course makes it very frustrating at times to follow his logic or stay awake. But, overall it is an enjoyable elective and provides some good food for thought.

Workload:

Absolutely none, well, almost. The only requirement was to post 5 messages to a class discussion board, responding to any philosophical issues one chooses. Also a midterm and a final that are a breeze if one understands the major concepts of the class.

November 12, 2001

Collins, John
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

This is basically Intro to Philosophy. Collins taught it very well. Although he didn't follow a fixed syllabus and let the course progress naturally through discussion (but not completely arbitrarily; he did have the big bullet-points in mind), he explained the ideas very clearly and repeated each of them at least three times. He lectured on interesting and representative problems in different topics in philosophy, which I found highly inspiring. And they really gave me a taste of what philosophy is really like.

Workload:

Minimal. Each of us was supposed to post at least 5 messages on the bulletin board (not that 5 messages is a lot of work) but I don't think he actually bothered to count. Since he repeated the materials many times and since the exams were extremely easy, even attendance wasn't that important if a student was just in for the credits.

September 15, 2001

Bilgrami, Akeel
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

This guy's brilliant, and he knows it. Condescending as he is, it's pretty refreshing to hear him shoot down some of his more arrogant students who think they know what they're talking about. He's also pretty entertaining.

Workload:

Midterm and final, questions given beforehand. He's a pretty lenient grader, didn't see anything less than a C+ all semester.

April 08, 2001

Berofsky, Bernard
[PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

Prof. Berofsky makes philosophy accessible and engaging for the first-time student. His class examines six different topics that really get at what philosophy is about. His lectures are interesting and hold your attention. You can tell he knows a tremendous amount of shit, and yet he is usually able to explain things so that you can understand them while making sure that you're actively engaged in thought the whole time. This is a great course. Berofsky is very cool.

Workload:

Moderate. Readings for each class. 2 papers (5 pg each) and a final exam. Be sure you've done the reading for the final.

December 31, 1999

Bilgrami, Akeel
Senior Seminar and [PHIL C1010] Methods and Problems of Philosophical Thought

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

Bilgrami lectures without notes, yet he is still able to pick up approximately where he left off from the last class. This is a pretty good trick and creates two impressions: that he is paying to attention to what he is saying and that the class is going somewhere. Both are true. His favored class format is a mutation of the Socratic method made popular by televangelists everywhere. Bilgrami will present and defend an seemingly crazy argument until a majority of the class agrees with him, at which point he will change his mind and begin arguing the other side until the majority agrees with him again. Slightly unnerving, this is also a good trick which clearly demonstrates the techniques of philosophical argumentation and, of course, the fact that he is much smarter than any of you. On a good day, he may wax eloquent while standing on one leg for a full hour. The Methods and Problems class is a good introduction to philosophy and a great chance to sit back, listen and learn. Other classes demand quite a bit more, but will probably follow his own work very closely. Regurgitation is always appreciated and well rewarded. Lectures make detailed use of the readings and expect snappy, indignant answers to stupid questions. This man needs and deserves a talkshow.

Workload:

(Methods & Problems) Midterm & Final exams; (Seminars) 1 paper, 20-25 pages.

Directory Data

Dept/Subj Directory Course Professor Year Semester Time Section
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL C1010: Methods/Prob of Philosophy Thought: Methds & Pblms-Philosphc Thght David Albert 2012 Fall TR / 2:40- 3:55 PM 1
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL C1010: Methods/Prob of Philosophy Thought: Methds & Pblms-Philosphc Thght John Collins 2010 Fall TR / 9:10-10:25 AM 1
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL S1010: Intro Methds-Pblm Philosophy Thght: Methods and Problems Michael Brent 2009 Summer MWR / 2:00- 4:05 PM 2
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL S1010: Intro Methds-Pblm Philosophy Thght: Methods and Problems Christia Mercer 2009 Summer TR / 2:00- 5:10 PM 1
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL C1010: Methods/Prob of Philosophy Thought: Methds & Pblms-Philosphc Thght John Collins 2009 Fall TR / 9:10-10:25 AM 1
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL C1010: Methods/Prob of Philosophy Thought: Methds & Pblms-Philosphc Thght John Collins 2008 Fall TR / 9:10-10:25 AM 1
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL C1010: Methods/Prob of Philosophy Thought: Methds & Pblms-Philosphc Thght Carol Rovane 2006 Fall TR / 10:35-11:50 AM 1
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL C1010: Methods/Prob of Philosophy Thought: Methds & Pblms-Philosphc Thght Carol Rovane 2005 Fall TR / 10:35-11:50 AM 1
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL C1010: Methods/Prob of Philosophy Thought: Methds & Pblms-Philosphc Thght Akeel Bilgrami 2004 Fall TR / 9:10-10:25 AM 1
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL C1010: Methods/Prob of Philosophy Thought: Methds & Pblms-Philosphc Thght Akeel Bilgrami 2003 Fall MW / 11:00-12:15 PM 1
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL C1010: Methods/Prob of Philosophy Thought: Methds & Pblms-Philosphc Thght Akeel Bilgrami 2002 Fall TR / 11:00-12:15 PM 1
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL C1010: Methods/Prob of Philosophy Thought: Methds & Pblms-Philosphc Thght Carol Rovane 2002 Fall TR / 1:00- 2:25 PM 2
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL C1010: Methods/Prob of Philosophy Thought: Methds & Pblms-Philosphc Thght John Collins 2001 Fall MW / 11:00-12:15 PM 1