May 22, 2005

Mercer, Christia Silver_nugget
[PHIL V2201] History of Philosophy II: Aquinas to Kant

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

For the first couple days of this class I hated Mercer--she seemed arrogant, cold, and not much of a teacher. Right off the bat she told us that it was very hard to get an A in her class, that she would not be impressed by people, usually men she said, who try to "do philosophy" in front of the whole class, and she admonished us not to plagiarize or try to buy papers on the internet. So being a male and one who values education and would never have thought to buy a paper on the internet I was somewhat offended. If I'd stopped going to the class after that I'm sure I would have the same negative view of Mercer that some reviewers have expressed. But the fact is Mercer is a pretty good prof.

I'm not sure if her initial harshness is a product of her personality or an intentional device to get students to respect her, but either way she does warm up a lot as the semester goes on. She's actually a bit of a comedian--well, ok, more than a bit--and this can sometimes be annoying, but at other times she'll really get the class to crack up. She's also much more approachable then she seems. I never went to office hours, but the few times I went to ask a question after class she was very receptive and not at all scary. She also gave pretty good review sessions that you should definitely go to--she doesn't tell you exactly what's on the test but she'll give you some clues as to what to reread and what issues to think about.

I thought she did a good job of outlining the key ideas in a way that made the texts more comprehensible. Her lectures usually got me excited to read the texts, and definitely helped me understand them--plus I never once came close to falling asleep in class, which is more than I can say for some profs at this school. As to the comment that she focuses on minutia, I completely disagree. If anything I would have liked a bit more detail on certain philosophers, (yes, the Descartes circular argument thing is a bit confusing, but that was the only idea in the whole course that felt less than essential. also you were never required to write about it--I didn't).

As far as the accusations of sexism, I saw no evidence of this except for that one comment the first day. Maybe twice during the semester she mentioned that women philosophers had had a hard time getting heard, and she had us read Anne Conway instead of Locke. Big deal. I actually avoided the class last year because of these accusations, but they are hugely exaggerated. I wouldn't be surprised if she'd read the reviews on this site and made that comment just to mess with us--she's definitely a bit mischievous. Anyway, it's no reason to avoid the class. And as far playing favorites goes, if it's true I never saw it and I definitely wasn't one of them, but I worked hard and ended up with a precious A. This class is definitely worth taking.


Two 6 pagers, midterm, final. Not much reading before the midterm, but then longer more difficult texts after--try not to get too far behind in the second half. Papers were graded semi-tough, tests a bit more lenient, but all well within the realm of fair.