April 29, 2010

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.

I cannot begin to sing professor Mercer's praises high enough. She is incredibly passionate about the material. She can take things as dry as Aquinas' principals of nature and transform them into living, breathing (often hilarious) real-life examples. She makes you appreciate philosophy as a logical, meaningful, and sometimes beautiful way to think about the world. I too often hear, "what's the point of taking philosophy courses, it's just pure sophistry!" Take a class with Christia Mercer and she will change your mind. If she doesn't then don't take any more philosophy classes because nothing in the major will be as exciting as having her explain Descartes' Meditations of how crazy Leibniz is!

Her lecture style is not traditional. You feel like you are either sitting by the fireside chatting about big ideas or you are on some great roller coaster. The class mandates your undivided attention if you want to keep up with Mercer. People find her tangents and repeated pauses for questions to be really frustrating. I understand their concerns. If you want a straight out of the book explanation of the history of philosophy from Aquinas to Kant then you may want to take this class during a year when Mercer isn't teaching it, but if you are willing to commit yourself to the course, then you will get a lot out of it.

The final aspect of any class is, as always, the grade. Mercer herself admits that her class is really hard. I find this to be untrue. The TA's grade everything and while some just want to get through their TA requirement and thus spend very little time critiquing your work, others will tear you apart. The TA's will probably change but, if they don't, stay away from Mark and try to take Daniel.

Workload:

3 one page (single spaced) responses to topics that are handed out well in advance. These can really hurt if you don't know how to write a paper for a philosophy class, but they weight your grade if you consistently improve on the papers throughout the semester.

Midterm-Honestly, studying for this midterm with my friends was one of the best academic experiences I have had at Columbia. It was great to make a study guide and go over it until 3 in the morning laughing the whole time at Mercer's examples from class. The test itself is really easy if you take good notes and spend 2-3 days going over them before the test.

5 page paper due at the end of the semester. It's a philosophical dialogue, It's about Kant. It's awesome.

Final-see Midterm.