Review Comment

[PHIL V3121] Plato

May 07, 2015

Nathan, Usha
[PHIL V3121] Plato

Usha led one class in the semester. Although she gave students the chance to engage in dialogue about the text, which was helpful and insightful, she also made the students engage in an unbearably infantile exercise in which students would form groups and answer a set of easy and uninteresting questions. This kind of exercise really belongs in middle school, not in college. This infantilizing attitude pervaded her entire interaction with students; she was more interested in proving her competence than in teaching.

In addition, her feedback on papers was incredibly subpar. This has nothing to do with the grading, by the way, which I thought was entirely fair. But she never offered any ground or reason for her comments. She would just write "irrelevant," "not detailed enough," which hardly explains or even describes the irrelevance or lack of detail of a passage. Otherwise her comments would be themselves petty and irrelevance, such as claiming there is a strict rule for when to use commas instead of dashes, which is false -- and if it weren't, I'm sure there were a hundred things more interesting and important for her to tell me than that.

Workload:

20 - 80 pages a week, two essays, take home final

May 15, 2011

Vogt, Katja Silver_nugget and Avgousti, Andreas (TA) Silver_nugget
[PHIL V3121] Plato

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

I love reviews like the one below this because they remind you how useful the 'Disagree' button is in CULPA.

Professor Vogt was an amazing professor: sweet, funny, smart, accessible, and (in this reviewer's opinion) pretty attractive for a classicist not interested in beauty as existing in the realm of sensible things. Honestly, this is one of my favorite classes I've taken here yet. The first few days I was at a loss for what was going on, excited that I was clueless but still worried for my prospects in the class. Vogt asked the kinds of questions that you really have to think about before answering, and didn't shy away from making the class participate on her terms — through substantive analysis and thoughtful consideration of the texts. She wanted us to read Plato on his terms, so the smart-ass philosophy majors who feel better for knocking the tangential details about classical philosophy were left speechless almost every time they tried to use 18th century rebuttals against the Man, the Legend.

She did a great job of guiding discussion and of engaging the large classroom so that it felt cozy. The reviewer below was correct in saying that some of the students in the class stopped participating toward the end, but the one time I came late and had to sit in the back I saw why: I was surrounded by Angry Birds and Facebook profiles — if you're only willing to look up and pay attention between page-loads, you're bound to end up dazed and confused toward the end of a 3000-level course. Her assignments were clear and the she usually did well to pick topics for the one-page assignments that weren't overwhelming while picking topics for the longer papers that invited in-depth analysis.

Several of the papers I wrote went against her approach to the dialogues; not only was I not penalized for having an opposing opinion, but I honestly feel I was graded more generously for being willing to think beyond class discussion in my essays.

Also, a note about my TA for Plato, Andreas Avgousti. This man is brilliant and affable. He was always available for office hours and before and after class — I saw him stay with a student for half an hour after class once and go over her paper in detail to show her were she did well and where she could use work. He was always willing to walk with me and discuss things tangentially relevant to the text and he gave detailed reviews that explained exactly why I earned the grade he gave me — no higher, no lower. Having him as my TA felt like I had been given my own personal professor and I never felt at a loss when going to him for clarification instead of Professor Vogt.

Workload:

Four one-page essays, two six-page essays (though the second one was shortened down to four pages in sympathy for finals stress), each focusing on a specific dialogue and offering two or more topics — you could also pick your own if you ran it by your TA and Professor Vogt first. A mid-term wherein you picked three topics to write a blue book entry on, out of 6 offered, from a collection of 15 that she sent out a week ahead of time — easy A if you can make the time to study the questions on the review.

April 28, 2011

Vogt, Katja Silver_nugget
[PHIL V3121] Plato and [PHIL V3701] Moral Philosophy

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

Professor Vogt is a truly intelligent instructor who clearly commits a great deal of her time and energy to teaching undergraduates. That said, one should be prepared for a very tedious work load, and a teaching style that can frequently be infuriating especially at the end of a semester. Having had a year of professor Vogt (I took Ethics, which is called moral philosophy here, in the fall of 2010 and Plato in 2011), I will break down my experience based on class because I am of the opinion that her Ethics class is a lot better than the Plato class.

Ethics:
This class was a great way to get a good introduction to the major ethical systems which have influenced the Western world to date. You survey Mill's Utilitarianism, Kant's Groundwork, and Aristotle's Ethics. You also (and this is really a nice touch that I feel like many would not get if taking this class at another school or with another professor) read contemporary philosophers and get their thoughts about these three ethical systems. This all happens in the first half of the course and culminates in a midterm where you have to explain a certain number of passages from these philosophers and the contemporaries who comment on them. The second half of the semester is all focused on examining current ethicists in a field which professor Vogt calls meta-ethics (a topic I feel is very poorly defined). This is where the class became more frustrating because she began to solicit more student participation. When explaining an argument or an idea, Professor Vogt is great. She has a great way of distilling complex sentences and passages into understandable arguments both in class and on her outlines (which she posts right before each class). However, Professor Vogt is also obsessed with soliciting student participation. This would be fine if she was good at leading discussion and guiding the class towards the right answer, but she's not. Any time professor Vogt poses a question to the class, the discussion immediately grows unfocused to the point where I, at least, had a difficult time understanding what I was supposed to take from the discussion. Professor Vogt never concludes these discussions with any sort of thought but rather just proceeds to the next point, leave me puzzled and frustrated. The frequency of the discussion at the end of the semester made her classes literally worthless. As the difficulty of the texts we read went up (modern philosophy is a lot harder than it looks), the time professor Vogt spent on explaining them went down! Soliciting student particiaption is good and all, but I signed up for this class to learn the thoughts of other, smarter people, not just throw ideas out at the professor and see what sticks. So, while the class frequently became frustrating, the workload similarly was irksome. In addition to the midterm described above, there were two 6-8 page papers on topics that we had to come up with ourselves (a nice change from most philosophy papers) and 10, 1-page outlines that we had to do over the course of the semester. The papers were fine, but the outlines were frustrating because they forced you to do professor Vogt's job for her. If you could successfully outline a philosopher's argument and get a 100 on the outline, there was no point to going to class that day since you already understood the text. The idea of outlines is great, knowing how to do one is essential to one's success as a philosopher, but to grade them on a 1-100 scale I think misses the point of such an assignment. That said, the class was incredibly easy, 50% of the students got either A's or A-'s (as confirmed by my transcript) so don't freak out about this class being to difficult for you because it's not.

Plato:
Again, the first half of the course is a good rundown of the major Platonic texts that you would get in almost any other survey. During this first half, again, professor Vogt does a good job staying on topic, explaining important arguments, and really explicating these texts. The first half of the semester culminates in a midterm much like the ethics midterm. The second half, just like Ethics, contains much more challenging material, but also contained just as much frustrating and useless discussion. I learned nothing because professor Vogt refused to teach and instead asked us questions to which she never gave any guidance.

It is important to say here that, in both classes, there are about 10-15 people who pack the front rows and manage to stay engaged throughout the entire semester despite the lack of concrete solutions or explanations of the texts. They will surely object to this review. I encourage them to look behind them and see how many people are no longer paying attention (or just not in class) because professor Vogt cannot keep the class organized enough to make any compelling or interesting points.

Workload:

Ethics:
10 outlines (dropped from the original 12 that was planned and which you will see on the syllabus) due at your own pace (read: do them early) throughout the semester, 2 6-8 papers of topics you make up for yourself, midterm. 50% got some form of A's

Plato:
3 1-page papers on topics given to you and due throughout the semester, 2 6-8 page papers on near the midterm, one near the end, midterm.

July 26, 2010

Mann, Wolfgang
[PHIL V3121] Plato and [PHIL G9131] Aristotle

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

Look, I understand why Mann gets a bad rap. I didn't like him at first, either. He doesn't interact with the class much, snaps at people who show up late or text each other during class or just drop things, and he has this way of moderating every clause in his sentences -- "Socrates' message, if Socrates can be said to have a message, which is debatable given the ambiguity of the Greek word 'eudaimonia,' might be intended..." -- but after a few classes and a few cups of coffee, I realized that there's a great reason for all of those things.

The reason is simply that this man is brilliant. He zeroes in on distinctions in the texts that seem insignificant at first; but if you do the reading and make an effort to follow his lectures, you realize that he's actually giving you a nuanced and completely fresh way to read the text. He does take questions at the end of class, but they tend to be questions that don't reflect an understanding of his lecture, and he can be a bit short in answering those. However, if you ask him something worthwhile -- which is difficult to do; make no mistake -- he'll sometimes devote a whole lecture to working on the problem. After class, he's generous with his time (he reads everyone's papers, even though the TAs have already graded them, and leaves comments), and he's a walking library of scholarship, ready with an article for any topic you can think of.

In short, he's the opposite of pedantic. He's a good-natured and profoundly wise person under the gruff facade. His classes are not for the intellectually lazy, but if you demonstrate a real desire to learn from him, he'll hold your hand the whole way. He's not even a particularly tough grader, although you find yourself wanting to work for him. And he's actually very funny. He's often making jokes during class that go by totally unnoticed -- "To the extent that this is a good chair, what attributes make it such? Perhaps this question is too difficult." He is also surprisingly self-aware and will make subtle and clever jabs at his own jargoned speaking style.

I'm about to be a senior, and as far as professors go, I've had them all -- Dames, Gray, the Kitchers, Mercer, Moyn, Neuhauser -- but no one has made me fall in love with a book the way that this man has. Take anything he offers, do the reading, and drink a cup of coffee before class. Your life will turn around.

Workload:

Not bad at all. Two 8-page papers, difficult to write but graded kindly. Occasional single-page assignments which don't really affect your grade (they're graded in checks). Reading varies. Never more than 20 pages of text. Some of the supplemental essays are difficult but worthwhile, and Mann explains them very well in class.

May 13, 2009

Mann, Wolfgang
[PHIL V3121] Plato

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

Professor Mann is very intelligent and capable, he is good at explaining complex ideas and conveys information splendidly. If you pay attention in class, you will do well - no need to go above and beyond outside of the classroom, Mann chews your food for you. However, he is NOT very sociable and throughout the entire semester there must have been 3 or 4 questions asked in total. Get ready to be talked at. No interaction. He is also a very easy grader.

Workload:

Light. Two papers - Five and Ten pages. One final.

May 22, 2005

Mann, Wolfgang
[PHIL V3121] Plato and [PHIL G9131] Aristotle

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

Mann really isn't that bad. The key is to do the readings beforehand. I didn't do this for Aristotle and I thought he was pretty bad. For Plato, I did do the readings beforehand and realized that he's actually pretty damned good despite his horrible speaking style.

He's a really easy grader, too.

Workload:

Aristotle: midterm and final, plus two papers.
Plato: two papers and a final.

In both courses, the paper topics were on stuff we hadn't covered in lecture, so we had to interpret the text on our own. If that kind of stuff throws you, you may want to stay away, but like I said above, he's an easy grader.

January 30, 2002

Mann, Wolfgang
[PHIL V3121] Plato

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

Prof. Mann usually gets a bad rep for being a dry lecturer, but his Plato class was really outstanding. Clearly, he knows his stuff backward and forward, but the nice part about it is that he seems to want to put out questions that interest him to the class, rather than just recapitulating questions to which he already knows the answer. He was able to get some pretty exciting discussions going in the class, and we ended up talking about a range of philosophical issues with regard to the texts. Mann seems more interested in language and knowledge than in politics, which is good to know if you're thinking about taking the class and expecting/worrying that it will be about how to form a just government or something like that. The paper topics for the final paper, although very straightforward questions, turned out to be quite difficult--not in the tricky way, but in the way that good philosophy is supposed to be difficult.

Workload:

Mainly just reading Plato dialogues, with the occasional secondary article thrown in. The reading was not overwhelming, but it was certainly substantial. Midterm, miniature assignments (an outline of the text, a recapitulation of the third man problem, etc), final, and taxing final paper. There are no surprises in any of this, just hard work.

Directory Data

Dept/Subj Directory Course Professor Year Semester Time Section
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL V3121: Plato Katja Vogt 2011 Spring TR / 11:00-12:15 PM 1
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL V3121: Plato Wolfgang Mann 2009 Spring TR / 10:35-11:50 AM 1
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL W3121: Plato Wolfgang Mann 2005 Spring MW / 10:35-11:50 AM 1
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL V3121: Plato Wolfgang Mann 2005 Spring MW / 10:35-11:50 AM 1
PHIL / PHIL PHIL PHIL W3121: Plato Katja Vogt 2002 Fall MW / 5:40- 6:55 PM 1