February 11, 2015

Lando, Tamar
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

By far the worst class and worst professor I have had at Columbia. Tamar Lando, while an intelligent woman, did not make the material understandable or approachable. Even from the first day, she had this holier-than-thou attitude and told the class that they'd all be bad at the subject, no matter how smart they were.

Avoid Tamar Lando. She is a horrible professor and an unsympathetic individual.

Workload:

Tedious and unnecessary problem sets that are not well explained. Midterm and final. Avoid this class with her at all costs if possible.

April 17, 2012

Morrison, John
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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

You know its trouble when the Professor consistently sends out answer sheets containing incorrect answers. It is not cool to assume students will take it as a joke. The scatterbrained professor act only works so long--after that real insight and precision would be most appreciated. This is a case of not being prepared, or just being too full of superior knowledge to condescend to us plebs until we are full initiates into the mysteries of logic. Really, it's too bad, as this should be a challenging course, rather than a visit to the Mad Hatter's tea party!

Workload:

A little annoying, but completely excessive if not properly explained.

January 23, 2012

Morrison, John
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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

John Morrison teaches Intro to Logic (NOT SYMBOLIC). There were tons of GS students in this class though he told them all to get out the first day because he wanted to focus on the pleibs. ie. freshman. But they didnt and therefore the class got kind of confusing. You must go to all the lectures because you'll find it hard to understand the slides without his explanation of his examples. He makes TONS of inside jokes/examples to himself and to those in the class who watch whatever shows he watches. I liked the class it just and him as a teacher but I think the class size may have hindered the material. Because the class is basically like geometry proofs minus the geometry it think it would have been more helpful if he had made his office hours more clear. The TA's were the ones who taught you it if you didnt get something but because its a proof that can be attacked from many different angles, it became hard to see how JoMo wanted you to articulate the proof.

You also have to buy a 120$ book that MUST BE NEW bc it comes with a CD that MUST BE NEW because it registers you and your answers via an internet connection. If your computer craps out frequently before class when you're doing your HW your'e screwed. You only get to drop 4 HW (you get hw everyday) and if you average above an 80 it can bring your grade up somewhat. This semester he curved all tests but the final.

Grade Recieved: B

Workload:

Not an overload but if you really want a good grade you need to spend 2 or 3 hours on the proofs via the book.
2 or 3 tests then a final which was semi cumulative because it was math.

December 15, 2011

Varzi, Achille Silver_nugget
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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

I agree with the positive sentiment around Varzi: he's very entertaining and funny, teaches clearly and does as good of a job as possible at making a boring subject tolerable. I won't expound much on his positives because all the other reviews have already addressed them.

I'll just point out a few flaws with the class. First of all, you never get your homework assignments returned, which is frustrating. Second of all, for the first many weeks of the class, it moves absurdly slowly for anyone with a somewhat mathematical inclination. I understand that many people find the material difficult, but I found the stuff at the beginning is mind-numbingly simple. (My apologies to the philosophy majors in the class who found it difficult.) On a related note, he has a tendency to go on long, rambling tangents -- they're sometimes amusing, just be prepared for it. Finally, Varzi can get somewhat terse/rude when people asks questions. There were a couple of times where he misunderstood someone's question and instead of being apologetic, he got annoyed at the student for not having phrased his question differently.

All in all, it's not a bad class, I just wanted to give a slightly different view from everyone else.

Workload:

Very light: 3 problem sets, 2 midterms, and 1 final. There are also weekly discussion sections where attendance may or may not be taken (if you understand everything in class, there's literally no reason to go).

May 03, 2010

Helzner, Jeffrey Silver_nugget
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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

Though Varzi may be the go to Symbolic Logic option, taking this course with Professor Helzner was by no means a let down. He usually attempts to infuse the material with some sort of humor (even it's at the expense of the smelly, obnoxious kid in the front row), and grades very fairly, if not generously, on exams.

Unlike a lot Columbia professors, Jeff wants his students to do well in the class (adjusts curves, schedules review sessions with the TAs, etc.) and is generally a down to earth guy. His office hours, along with the recitations, are extremely helpful resources for the sometimes confusing material. Before every exam he posts several previous tests that pretty accurately reflect what you'll need to know (i.e. same format and types of questions).

Really, my only criticism of the class is the occasional disconnect between the topics covered in class and those discussed in the textbook. While it's obvious that the guy really enjoys what he's teaching, he typically supplements the lectures with advanced topics of discussion that tend to leave a portion of the class behind. There were a few lectures that dealt with concepts outside of the material we were expected to know for tests, but the TAs quickly cleared up the confusion at recitations. However, if you're at all interested in the field of logic or mathematics, you'll definitely appreciate what he has to offer beyond the textbook.

Ultimately, if you put any effort into this course you'll be rewarded with a more than fair grade. Helzner is a young, knowledgeable and enthusiastic professor that cares about his students (he learned a good portion of the student's names in his 80+ class) and offers extra background in the fields of logic and mathematical theory - which can be positive or negative depending on your interest and ability. Exams closely mirror practice tests, and progressively increase in difficulty, but are all manageable.

Overall, an interesting, well organized, and at times, entertaining introduction to symbolic logic.

Workload:

- Weekly ungraded (yet helpful) homework assignments, 2 Midterms (30% each) and 1 Final (40%).
- First midterm is of average difficulty: if you've done the HW and studied, you'll have a good shot at getting an A (class average = around 70?, but curve was generously adjusted).
- Second midterm is essentially a quiz: if you've been following along in class, it should be a joke (class average = 82).
- Weekly recitations (not required) are definitely useful in gaining a better understanding of the material, as are Helzner's office hours. However, neither are essential.

May 11, 2009

Rothschild, Daniel
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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

Professor Rothschild seemed to be well meaning, but I have to agree with previous reviewers in saying that he is not a particularly good teacher. Hopefully he has improved since I took this course in Fall 2007, but at the time I almost always left lecture more confused than when I arrived. His scribbles on the board were not only confusing, but often incorrect as were the lecture notes he handed out at each class. Sometimes he would jokingly berate students for not realizing he had made some critical error of logic earlier. The optional TA discussion sections helped a little bit, although they too seemed confused about a lot of the material. The textbook was dense, although at least clear. The homeworks ranged from too easy to way too hard, and if you brought up issues with the homework content or grading, Rothschild would dismiss your comment since "homework doesn't matter" even though it did account for 10% of the final grade. The first exam was very difficult, the second easier, and the final was relatively cake. Overall I would not recommend taking this class with Rothschild. What could have been very informative and interesting turned into a confusing mess.

Workload:

Weekly homework assignments, 2 midterms, Final.

January 05, 2009

Varzi, Achille Silver_nugget
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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

Varzi definitely deserves the praise for being a strange and good lecturer, but Symbolic Logic is definitely a boring class. I couldn't help but doze off almost every class because the material isn't that interesting. Varzi engages with it well, and his anecdotes are amusing, but the core of the class is like any other math course. It's pretty good if you are trying to fill an science requirement, since the class isn't that challenging or heavy on work load. I do have one major quib though—the final had a lot of trick questions that I missed, which I felt was unfair since I knew the core of the material and simply did not expect there to be questions out to get me. Otherwise, decent class on boring material.

Workload:

weekly problem set, midterm, final

December 10, 2008

Varzi, Achille Silver_nugget
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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

SIMPLY AMAZING. Varzi is so wonderful! His classes are incredibly entertaining and you learn SO much from him. He's hilarious, witty and absolutely brilliant.

Workload:

Weekly problem sets that appear difficult at first but are easy to crack with a little bit of effort. Two decent midterms, and a fabulous final.

December 07, 2007

Rothschild, Daniel
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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

Daniel Rothschild is very young and very smart. It is too bad he cannot teach. He makes tons of mistakes on the board and in his lecture notes, which supplement an already horrendous textbook. His homework assignments presuppose material that we cover in class, and although he wants it to be challenging, it does not help for what we cover in class or what is covered on tests. He speaks very quickly, but often pauses in the middle of a sentence and closes his eyes to regain his train of thought. Because he speaks so quickly, material becomes very hard to comprehend and while he will call on you if your hand is raised, he seems annoyed. I recommend taking this class with another professor. Rothschild seems like he would only be good for 1-on-1 thesis advising in the Philosophy department.

Workload:

about 10 hw assignments. 2 midterms and a final. Final is 60% new material, 40% old material. He made first test extremely difficult for no reason. 2nd test, he was a little nicer.

April 16, 2007

Varzi, Achille Silver_nugget
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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

After reading all the great reviews about Varzi, I had to take a class in logic with him. However, be warned, If you dislike math or tedious problems with symbols, do not take this class. Varzi is a nice guy and clear lecturer, but his charm fades off with the boring subject of the class. I expected to leave this class having somehow improved my logic, but ended up hating logic and its seamingly pointless material. Honestly I feel that I have gained nothing from this class. The textbook is also useless, but Varzi posts all his lectures, which makes attending class unnecessary. The problems sets aren't too hard, what is hard is trying to understand the vague instructions in the book. For a book on logic, the intstructions aren't very logical as they are unclear and oddly worded. Ultimately, this is the least enjoyable class I have taken at Columbia, except perhaps Statistics, but at least statistics is useful for something.

January 08, 2007

Felder, Sidney Silver_nugget
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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

As an English major, taking Felder's class to fulfill the science requirement was maybe the best surprise of my semester. Felder, aside from showing a genuine interest in his students' understanding of the material, was incredibly fair. In addition to curving every test considerably, he announced late in the semester that the homework - though graded - could absolutely not harm your average. He even allowed students to drop one of two midterms when the grades were drastically lower on the second exam (which was, in fact, much more difficult than the first).

Although two or three (I think) recitations took place each week, attendance at neither recitation nor lecture was required.

I came away from the class with warm feelings towards this kind, enthusiastic, and admittedly adorable professor, but I should add that his lectures were sometimes scattered. If you are really intent on learning during the lecture, pay close attention. Felder frequently miswrote equations on the board, which proved pretty confusing at times. Don't be afraid to correct him. Students always did and he amicably laughed and corrected it. The bottom line is in a class at this introductory level, you can teach yourself everything you need to know for the homework and the exams from the detailed textbook.

Workload:

Very little. I spend less time on this class than I have on any other at Columbia. Homework is assigned every few weeks and takes no more than a couple hours to complete - assuming you include time spent reading the textbook to figure out the problems, if not, thirty minutes at most. Two midterms, one of which was dropped completely. Final. I thought the final was tough but came out of the class with an A, evidencing a generous curve.

December 29, 2006

Felder, Sidney Silver_nugget
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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

The material is not easy, unless you have taken another symbolic logic course. Professor Felder, however, makes every effort to make the material understandable. Class can be boring, but necessary for understanding the material.

Workload:

2 midterms, 1 final. homework bi-weekly.

December 26, 2006

Felder, Sidney Silver_nugget
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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

Horrible professor and horrible class.

Professor Felder is honestly a nice guy. He tries his absolute hardest to be available outside of class, and he attempts to make classes as painless as possible. You can tell he prepares for lecture, too, and he even posted his notes on set theory and quantification on CourseWorks. I can't stress any of this enough.

However, class is such a waste, and it's a shame that he doesn't know how to organize it better -- I got NOTHING out of his lectures or his class I was excited to take this class, but that was zapped after a week or two. I skipped many classes and was forced to learn the material from the course pack, and I think 90% of the class agreed: everyone was there for the first class, but only 20-30 or so came to the next (and subsequent) classes. When I did go to class, he would rely on easy examples and constantly proclaim, "Oh, this is probably too easy for everybody." Before the exams, he'd give a comprehensive outline of the test's questions, but - again - providing EASY, no-brainer examples to explain. Before the tests, he'd say, "Oh, you're all probably going to get 100s." At one instance during the semester, he even admitted how slow the class was going (and, consequently, how little progress he was making) and was forced to take a chapter out of the syllabus.

When I went to class, usually THINKING it would supplement/complement the course pack well enough or SEEKING some clarification of a point, I'd be highly disappointed because Felder didn't match the pack's difficulty level/provide anything more advanced. (Though, the course pack could use some major improvements. But that's a different story.)

When the time came around to take the tests, your position was doubtful. The difficulty of exams doesn't reflect anything he teaches in class. The first exam was tough, but many people did well; the second exam, however, was horrible -- so horrible that he said when determining semester grades, he'd drop the lowest of the two exams. (When I talked with many classmates after the 2nd exam, we all shared similar "WTF?!" sentiments.)

The final was a bit unfair, depending on your perspective. Instead of being comprehensive, it was basically a huge chunk of your grade on chapter 9 of the course pack -- good or bad, contingent upon how well you understood that material. And of course, the pre-exam outline given in class wasn't stellar.

I can't stress enough how much of a waste I think this class was. The TAs for this class were great -- they actually TAUGHT in recitation and were generally very helpful. They held great review sessions before the tests. In fact, I wish THEY taught the class over Felder.

Felder's grading scheme was pretty hazy, too. Originally, it was supposed to be 10% HW, 25% for each exam, and 40% final. But after he said he was dropping the lowest exam, I don't recall him adjusting the weights and letting us know the new totals. He said he curved, but I couldn't see how (after he said what score corresponded to what letter grade). I tried asking him in person, but he gave me a vague answer. So, who knows.

Basically, don't take the class with Felder. This class has some pretty fascinating material, so wait until a professor who knows what he's doing teaches the class.

Workload:

6-8 homeworks, 2 exams, and 1 final. ALL EXAMS ARE OPEN NOTES/OPEN COURSE PACK. If he didn't do this, most of the class would undoubtedly be totally and utterly screwed. Homeworks are assigned sporadically; Felder originally wanted them to be biweekly, but that didn't happen.

December 19, 2006

Vasudevan, Anubav (TA)
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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

He, along with another grad student, was the TA for Symbolic Logic. He was the less-comatose of the two. It seemed that he knew his shit, and although he wasn't masterful at explaining many concepts, and he was loud and articulate enough to facilitate an understanding of the material. More importantly, he was able to explain important ideas at a particularly rudimentary level that was appropriate for a large portion of the audience - in fact he was better at it in many respects than the TA or the professor (not Varzi). All in all, he wasn't an incredible TA, but he's at least sufficient.

Workload:

I believe it's set by the instructor.

May 12, 2006

Varzi, Achille Silver_nugget
[PHIL V3601] Metaphysics and [PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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

I've never written a CULPA review before, but Varzi's too good to pass up the opportunity. I knew a number of people in each class who were not philosophy majors--I strongly recommend that no matter what your field, you take a course with Professor Varzi. If you're interested in logic and/or philosophy of language it will be a good way to further your interest--since even metaphysics has become in a number of important aspects a mainly linguistic field. If you're not particularly interested in these areas, he will surely interest you in at least a few of the topics covered in the classes. For instance, we talked seriously about time travel for a week in Metaphysics--he's written some very funny stuff about it himself. (Of the few of his own publications on the syllabus--most with a co-author as he humbly points out whenever he mentions them--one was a case-study of groups involving the Chicago Bulls; another was a humorous exchange about time travel.) In class, he always cracks a few jokes and has the entire class laughing--even in Logic. He makes each new topic very clear and guides the class through their major interpretations and problems. After class and in office hours he is extremely approachable, friendly, and helpful. I'm afraid I don't have much to add to the reviews here since everyone seems to agree on his greatness. Definitely, whether or not you're a philosophy major, take a class with this guy. Not a single better professor in the department as far as I can tell, and he is among the best at the university I'm sure.

Workload:

Logic: The assigned readings in the textbook are really not necessary if you go to class and follow Varzi's very clear lectures which he posts prior to each class so that students can print them and follow along in class. Weekly homework--helpful, though not particularly important for the grade; 2 Midterms and a Final--very fair, transparently graded, and consistent in structure.

Metaphysics: Reading for each class, not overwhelming; 2 Take-home assignments, kind of like metaphysics problem sets in that they are not the vague kind of assignments that sometimes crop up in humanities courses. They really require you to think hard about some of the topic covered in class. Varzi switched the final to a take-home of the same nature as the midterms. The midterms, 3 or 4 questions each, could not be more than a page. The final he was a bit more flexible with, but could be done in the same space.

April 03, 2006

Varzi, Achille Silver_nugget
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic and [PHIL V1401] Elementary Logic

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

If you need to take logic for a requirement or even if you have no idea what logic is, take one (or both) of these classes and take them with Varzi. He is a very clear teacher. I think having taken Elementary with Varzi first is really helping me in Symbolic.

Elementary: I only attended on test days and I barely did work and I got an A. The textbook is co-written by Varzi and is really good for practicing problems, which I think is a good way to learn the material.

Symbolic: I do attend regularly but it is not so hard. The courepacket sucks and is very unclear, but he provides lecture notes which are clear and very helpful.

Workload:

weekly homeworks (not too time-consuming, and good for practicing the material), 2 midterms which are generally straightforward (hardest part is usually the True/False), slightly more creative final (at least for Elementary)

April 02, 2006

Varzi, Achille Silver_nugget
[PHIL V3601] Metaphysics and [PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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

The denotation of the logic teacher and the denotation of the idol of students everywhere both name the philosopher also known as Achille Varzi. Only Varzi could make such otherwise complex material so easy to understand... I once tried to read the logic book by Gaifman and thanked the gods I didn't take the class when Gaifman himself was teaching it. Having a professor like Varzi alter the entire way you think is the reason people decide to take philosophy classes and then to become philosophy majors. Only Varzi could discuss the subject of the existence of holes with such... um... depth...

May 13, 2005

Varzi, Achille Silver_nugget
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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

Professor Varzi is one most brilliant professors in Columbia I've ever met. Most of the time, he is on top of his material and he readily answers whatever questions you have in class (even if they are dumb. Trust me, sometimes people ask really dumb ones). As for the lectures, you can technically skip all of them and go over them yourself, but I would recommend you to attend them simply because Varzi takes what is written in the lectures a step further with his eccentric examples.

What was really memorable about the course was this question he gave to the class near the end of the semester:



1. Logic is better than nothing.

2. Nothing is better than sex.

3. Therefore, logic is better than sex.

True?
In any case, based on what I heard from people, do take Varzi over Collins.

March 26, 2005

Collins, John
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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

This class was a nightmare! You could go to all the lectures, do every homework meticulously, and still end up completely lost on the exam. There was no way whatsoever of getting help. No way of figuring out what you did wrong (the homeworks were just never returned). Yeah, he's funny and a great lecturer, but unless you're willing to get a horrible grade despite all your hard work, stay away.

Workload:

Problem set every week, two midterms, final

January 21, 2005

Collins, John
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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

This guy is sloppy and lazy, a real disgrace. I am not saying he doesnÂ’t understand the material; I am saying in my opinion he gave absolutely no forethought to how it should be taught. Not only wasnÂ’t he prepared to teach this class, - He was incredibly disorganized
- He apparently had no time to correct homework (only 6 of the 10 assignments were ever graded and only 5 of these 6 were available to be picked up in the philosophy mailroom at the end of the semester)
- Although in class he would promise to post answers to homework assignments, he repeatedly failed to do so. This left many students in the position of not knowing what they got wrong on the homework AND not knowing the correct solutions.
- Although homework was supposed to be posted on Thursday, he often didn’t get around to it until Monday or Tuesday – indicating again how ill-prepared he was to teach this class. On two occasions homework was simply cancelled because he didn’t have it ready. How hard is this to prepare? Especially for a logic class, homework is a critical part of the learning process.
- He often changed the syllabus but did not reflect these changes in the reading assignments as he promised to do.

He actually said that he views his classes as performances. This is not an attractive quality in a professor, unless he first meets the necessary condition for a professor: the ability to teach. I often asked myself how he gets away with his lack of professionalism.

The text used in this class (a copy of a draft manuscript) combined with Collins’ unfamiliarity with it, is an embarrassment. It is not formatted, making it very difficult to use. No answer key is available – even to the TAs, leaving them to slog through each question with students. It is filled with errors and many pages contained blanks to be filled in later.

If you have the option, take this class with Varzi.

Workload:

Weekly assignments if he gets around to writing them. Two midterms and a final.

January 04, 2005

Collins, John
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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

Simply put, many Philosophy majors left Symbolic Logic with very mixed feelings about Professor Collins. I tried to talk to as many students as I could before writing this review, and will try to stick to the consensus, although it does seem to me to be much the same as my personal opinion.
Professor Collins has a killer sense of humor and is an engaging lecturer. I could imagine many Porfessors under whom the course could easily become another dry, bureaucratic hurdle for those students who don't have a peculiar affinity for First Order Language. I don't think that telling any of his jokes over CULPA will demonstrate the robust flavor of Collins' quick and playful wit, and so I suppose that you'll have to trust that he, better than any Professor I've had yet, is able to get an entire class of us aspiring intellectuals to erupt in giggles and knee-slaps.
There were problems, however. For one, Professor Collins does not seem able to make Symbolic Logic intelligible to the uninitiated undergrad. He will rarely stray from the formal definitions of terms, and tends to misinterpret or not comprehend at all even the simplest of student questions--unless they are posed using the language of FOL flawlessly. The students, understanding the posed question better than the Professor, often had to act as interpreters in order to clarify issues we all would have liked to ask about, if only we knew how to properly phrase our questions. Collins has an impressively lucid understanding of the material (which is a good thing), but simply cannot convey it very well. For example, during one of the most difficult lectures of the course, which happened to be perhaps the most important, he wrote an incredibly involved sentence (for a definition of truth-value in FOL). The class was immediately baffled. Sensing this, Collins said (perhaps 90% sincerely), "Look, the first thing to do is to realize that this all makes sense." That one, I believe, got the biggest laugh of the semester.
There were other problems. Hardly anyone ever saw either of the two midterms after they had been graded. I tried to email Collins in order to see and go over my midterm, and I never heard back. Collins only posted the first six of ten homework scores online, though he promised all ten before the final exam, and after digging through a drawer in the Philosophy Department's office, I found that online five of my assignments had been graded and returned to me. This was particularly problematic for the students, given that the average homework grade was around 70%--we never got to find out what we'd done wrong. Most baffling of all, I think that the undergraduates and graduate students were all graded on the same curve. Now, I'm not 100% sure of this, but all evidence points there; for example, some undergraduates had unknowingly signed up for the graduate section of the course, but Collins told them that since the grading standards were exactly the same, it didn't really matter. Maybe I shouldn't be so upset over this, but it does seem odd that my exams were subjected to the same grading standards as my TA from another philosophy course, who told me later that she'd already taken a Logic course like this one as an undergraduate, and that Collins' course was just a review.

Workload:

There are homework assignments given almost every week, and they take anywhere from twenty minutes to six hours to finish. They are graded with unbridled wrath on the part of the TAs, but I think that in the end Collins may have curved the homework grade. The two midterm exams and final exam are pretty difficult, often involving content not gone over before. That is, if you're like me, you might flex your brain for ten hours of study for each exam, arrive at the exam, and still not have much of a clue what some questions are asking of you.

January 02, 2005

Collins, John
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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

Symbolic logic has the potential to be a great class. Collins is OK. He often looked for ways to spice the class up, maybe not always successfully, but at least he tried. There were people in the class who were grad students in philosophy, but there were also people who were just looking for a non-science way to satisfy the science requirement, and I think Collins did a commendable job in presenting the material to students of all backgrounds. Some of the homework and exam questions definitely gave math majors an advantage, but overall, he's pretty fair. One complaint about Collins: he really is not very organized. Lectures rarely matched with the reading, which was somewhat of a nightmare since our book is impossible to understand. Also, don't ever expect to get your homework back within a reasonable time frame (if you get it back at all without him losing it). The discussion sections are also quite worthless, especially if you get a disinterested TA.

Workload:

As long as you keep up with the readings and do the weekly problem sets, it's pretty straightforward. The questions are never very difficult, but the instructions are often vague. That makes some exam problems very annoying. Exams are curved though.

December 31, 2004

Collins, John
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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

If you are wondering if this teacher's class is worth taking, just take it. I don't find him a great teacher, but okay. What I didn't like about him/his class were: 1) he is bad at understanding and answering students' questions 2) he lost some of my homework 3) he was disorganized about handing back hw and posting up our grades online. But at any rate, I liked going to his lecture. He made jokes (although sometimes pretty lame, usually laughable) and presented the material clearly, especially as the semester progressed. I found the class challenging, but maybe only because I'm a first year with no background in any kind of philo/logic class.

Workload:

Reading for every class and weekly hw assginment. Managable amount I guess.

December 29, 2004

Welty, Ivan (TA)
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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

Ivan was exceedingly helpful and patient, and was inexhaustibly generous with his time.

December 23, 2004

Collins, John
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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

Collins is hilarious. His lectures were always engaging, usually funny, and sometimes resulted in him paying students for his mistakes. If you pay attention and do your work, he'll guide you to a firm grasp of elementary logic. If you don't, you will suffer. Weekly assignment deadlines were strictly enforced, and all work was scrupulously graded. If you were at least good at math in high school, you'll do fine and probably even enjoy the homework. If you don't keep up, however, your grade will drop, and Collins will not feel sorry for you. This class is good for anyone who likes puzzles and is looking for non-sciency way to satisfy the science requirement, or for anyone just looking for a break from the usual paper crunch.

Workload:

Weekly problem sets, two midterm exams, and a final. Homework and exams sometimes got tricky, but were usually pretty straightforward and doable. Weekly homeworks rarely took more than an hour of my time, if that. Also, there is a weekly recitation, but you don't really have to go if you're not in the mood. I never was.

November 16, 2004

Varzi, Achille Silver_nugget
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic and [PHIL V1401] Elementary Logic

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

I think the only bad thing I have to say about Achille Varzi is that he gave me a woefully inadequate example of what the other philosophy professors on campus are really like, or philosophy as a whole. He inspired me to pursue the subject as a major, which in retrospect may have been a mistake, but more the credit to him. Elementary Logic should be an easy A so long as your homework's kept up with, and though Symbolic Logic is far harder (essentially like an intensive Elem Logic class) I was still able to pull off a C+ throughout a lengthy heroin binge and relying on what I knew from Elem Logic two years prior. Hey, it's anonymous posting, so what do I care? I kid you not - a junkie could (and has) passed this class.

Workload:

Weekly homeworks, midterm and final.

August 02, 2004

Helzner, Jeffrey Silver_nugget
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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This man is the nicest person ever, I want to bake him cookies. I got a B in his class, but it was my fault. He gave everyone every opportunity to get an A. He changed the syllabus grading scale just to make sure everyone got the best grade possible. The curves were generous.

Workload:

Recitations optional. Three tests.

June 23, 2004

Helzner, Jeffrey Silver_nugget
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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Professor Helzner managed the not insubstantial feat of competently teaching introductory symbolic logic to a huge class of students at many different levels (of interest, ability, and prior knowledge of the subject).

I can't say he made it fascinating, but he did at least make it manageable. He actually slacked off a bit on the homework near the end which was unfortunate in that this is largely a grind class -- you just have to do a certain amount of mechanistic symbolic manipulation to understand the underlying semantics -- but fortunate in that by the end of the semester I was starting to worry that if he gave us another homework assignment like the first few, I could easily end up totally swamped.

He did seem to expect, at the beginning of the class, that he could work quickly through important principles (or the "mini proofs" which abound in this class) on the blackboard and that students would be able to follow along. I think I was one of the better students in the class (at least, I got one of the better grades) and often I could just barely keep up; other times I couldn't keep up at all. This is a common failing of mathematicians, of course: they tend to assume that they're talking to people who can make the same intuitive leaps that they can, but only the most exceptional new students of a subject will in fact be able to do so -- to his credit, Professor Helzner managed to get his pacing a bit more dialed-in by the end of the semester and take more time where the students seemed to need it.

I was a little disappointed by a late, strange change to the grading policy that recentered grades around and seemed to discard information. I worked my butt off all semester; I didn't really appreciate the "kindness" of giving people a chance to lift their grades into the range I'd _earned_ by studying really hard for the final; oh well, instructor's discretion I suppose.

Workload:

This course is a lot of work. I wouldn't expect that to differ from one instructor to another. The first several weeks are heavy on long, painful exercises in symbolic manipulation (several hours each); after that it's mostly conceptual difficulties. Two "midterm" tests, both quite hard; one final. You'll work hard to get a B in this course; which makes sense, given that it's 4 points.

January 11, 2004

Varzi, Achille Silver_nugget
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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One of the best professors in the philo department by far. He is witty, organized and articulate. More importantly, he teaches Logic with a certain zest that is hard for one to ignore. He also teaches Logic in an organized and user-friendly style that makes an otherwise difficult subject seem less so. HIs lectures are extremely organized. He uses powerpoint presentations but only as a guide and not the sole basis of lectures. You will appreciate these presentations after trying to read that dreaded Logic book written by our dear Gaifman. The sections aren't that helpful, but the review sessions (right before the exams) are. I suggest you do the problem sets religiously and redo them before the tests.

Workload:

Weekly problem sets that are medium-difficult, 2 tests, one final. Prepare well as they are tricky but not impossible. In fact, if you study hard the problems he's assigned, you will most likely do fine.

September 01, 2003

Avital, Doron
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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Yes, professor Avital does speak English with a thick Israeli accent. Yes, he does make cryptic statements which dumbfound the class. However, if you’re a philosophy student looking to learn symbolic logic, I strongly recommend this class. About two-thirds of the class is spent learning the “mechanics” of logic – the symbols, the operations, laws etc.
The other third of the class is spent discussing the various philosophical movements intimately related to logic, mainly Wittgenstein and his ideas on language and meaning, but also Russell and Frege along with discussions on philosophy of science and mathematics. As a philosophy student, it was these “digressions” that made the class interesting and worthwhile (as well as kept me awake); without them, the class would seem to belong in the math or computer science departments, not philosophy.
So, again, if you’re taking this class to learn symbolic logic for the LSATs or otherwise don’t care about the philosophical digressions, don’t take this class – but if you want what amounts to an introduction to symbolic logic and analytic philosophy, I recommend professor Avital.

Workload:

Weekly problem sets (3 hrs?), quiz, midterm, final.

August 03, 2003

Avital, Doron
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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CAUTION! Avoid at all costs!! If you think about taking this class, I strongly urge you to think again. Boring doesn't even begin to describe the mental agony this class puts one through. HOURS of homework, along with obtuse teaching from a teacher who speaks broken English and doesn't want to be there. He should be teaching a higher level class. I didn't speak to one person who liked this class or wasn't having problems with it. You grade is pretty decent in the end, but not deserving of the hard work put into the class. Stay away!!

Workload:

Homework due every week (4-5 hrs). Big Quiz, written mid-term and final.

June 13, 2003

Welty, Ivan (TA)
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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A fabulous TA... He was always willing to provide extra help outside of class if students needed to discuss the material. Considering that he had over 40+ students in that class alone that he was responsible for, along with many other responsibilities, I was very impressed with his devotion to the students. His explanantion of the material was a very helpful addition to Professor Avital's lectures. He had a great interest in the subject, and it showed. His enthusiasm and time commitment reveal that he will make an excellent professor. Rock on Ivan !

Workload:

weekly homework assignments, midterm, final

May 25, 2003

Avital, Doron
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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Well, I didn't really enjoy Prof. Avital as a teacher, though I thought he was a good guy. He is rather disorganized and sometimes difficult follow during lectures. Ever single day he would ask the class a question, in a really cryptic manner, about something he is talking about and the whole room would be silent. It wasn't that we couldn't figure out the answer to his questions, it was just that no one had any idea about what he was asking. Then we would just sit there while he got mad at us and told us that we had to know the answer if we had been paying even the slightest bit of attention. Whatever. The book was the only way that I had any idea what was going on in that class--though it has its own problems too. On the whole, Avital is a very intelligent man who is passionate about Philosophy and Logic and will really trying to help you to grasp the more complex concepts. When it comes to the more elementary work, however, I suggest you look elsewhere.

Workload:

On the upside, Prof. Avital is a pretty easy grader and he allows open book/notes on most exams and tests, which makes it easier for those people who don't understand the material perfectly. However, those students who don't understand the material at all--good luck!

March 10, 2003

Varzi, Achille Silver_nugget
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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Any one who would answer a petulant studentÂ’s objection to a fundamental law of logic with the phrase, "it must be a difference in our intellects" is worth listening to. Varsi is always entertaining, which is merciful considering the subject matter. He will make you respect Logic, even if you enter with a few...reservations. He, or rather the material, is not as much of a push over as advertised; however, the clarity logic adds to any type of analysis is invaluable. And no better time can be had with this stuff...

Workload:

two midterms and a final. Weekly homeworks of the mind numbing variety (the text book was written by Gaifman [shiver]). A small price to pay for a sharp mind.

November 23, 2002

Varzi, Achille Silver_nugget
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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Probably one of the harder classes you can take at Columbia, Symbolic Logic is a treat with professor Varzi. He is engaging, animated, intelligent, conversational; one of Columbia's better staff members. His tests are challenging but fair. His lectures are done via powerpoint, but they are mostly to show proofs and not to serve as his crutch (like almost EVERY other professor). He shows a genuine interest in his students and will talk to you outside of class with enthusiasm and not distain. Best of all, he's not Haim Gaifman -- who, for those who don't know, rules the grade book with an iron fist and a heart of steel. The class is actually so good I would go so far as to suggest it to non-philosophy students. Yes, you do need somewhat of a math mind -- you need to be able to work in the abstract -- but you'll probably find the experience rewarding. The one downside: Bad TA experiences in this class. One had a serious attitude problem (which he even displayed with Varzi) and another had a language issue which made it difficult to... well... be helpful. Thankfully this wasn't a class where the TA's were essential!

Workload:

2 midterms. Weekly homeworks. Final

January 18, 2002

Varzi, Achille Silver_nugget
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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After this class I was thinking maybe I could become a symbolic Logic prof. Maybe I just really liked the subject and I am a philosophy major, but I think Varzi is so funny and clever it's hard not to like it. The course material is clear and he spends class doing a lot of examples and going over the stuff from the text. One of my all-time favorite courses.

Workload:

weekly homeworks, midterm, and final - really helps to do readings before lectures

November 19, 2001

Varzi, Achille Silver_nugget
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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HARD!

Workload:

It takes lots of time if you want to do well.

April 09, 2001

Gaifman, Haim
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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I think the Haifman gets a bad rap. I like him a great deal. He's cute, fat, with an adorable Israeli accent. He is not a great teacher, but he generally explains things thoroughly enough that his lack of communicative abilities are overcome. His text book is terrible. But if you want to learn Symbolic Logic, really learn it, this is the class to take. All you philosophy majors will have to readjust your minds to the system, but if you do that and work hard, you will succeed and you will know the material like Jenna knows Rocco. If you want an easy class, take Varzi. If you want to have a mind that picks up logical errors like a Hoover, take Gaifman.

Workload:

Quiz every week, and you always think that you're failing (I got a twenty-eight on a couple). But they make you learn it, so by the final (especially with his adjusted grading system) you'll do well. Midterm, Final, and quizzes.

December 31, 1999

Gaifman, Haim
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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This is most definitely one of the toughest classes I've ever taken, but mostly that is b/c Symbolic Logic is completely and totally foreign to any normal person. Mr. Gaifman is incredibly bright, and keeps lectures interesting, but his pace is brutal thoughout the semester (that's why you get 4 points, kiddies!). If you keep up, you'll be fine, if you don't, you'll be destroyed by the almost weekly quizes that become quite challenging by the end of the coures. Don't Fall Behind!

Workload:

2 hrs of class a week, and you really must go to as many classes as is humanly possible. The HW assignments (NOT OBLIGATORY!!) will take anywhere from 2 - 8 hours a week. Stay aware of quizes, they're tricky!

December 31, 1999

Varzi, Achille Silver_nugget
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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

Clear, funny, generous and kind. And even slightly repetetive, in case you didn't catch it the first time. Pleasant similarity to High School algebra -- do the homeworks and the exams will go fine. Straightfoward expectations, though trig. knowledge is still necessary. Definitely the choice for symbolic logic classes.

Workload:

weekly homework, Midterm & Final exams.

December 31, 1999

Gaifman, Haim
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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

Gaifman is indeed a challenging professor. He was hands down the most difficult grader I've ever had. The mean on the midterm was a C. And he does not curve. Ever. In the beginning of the semester there were around 50 students, by the end there were only 21. (A number of which were grad students). You had to know the material inside out in order to survive the class. Now symbolic logic is forever imprinted on my brain.

December 31, 1999

Gaifman, Haim
[PHIL V3411] Introduction to Symbolic Logic

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

Makes symbolic logic a gruelling experience; gives D's with impunity. Avoid if at all possible.

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