May 16, 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'm guessing that the previous reviewer didn't take History of Philosophy I, because the first course with Katja Vogt was the same way - we studied the metaphysics of philosophers from Pre-Socratic through to Augustine, so personally, I didn't find this course weird or existentially crisis-inducing. Maybe the previous reviewer had a hard TA, but I pulled an A despite my horrible Spinoza paper.

With that said, I do have a few comments about Professor Mercer. For every philosopher we would cover, it's really either her way or the high way. If you can't agree with her interpretation (or her "standing by her man" as she'd call it - and trust me they are very strong/extreme opinions) then your opinions will be disregarded. And for the several lectures we would spend on a certain philosopher, she would only go over a few points about that philosopher's metaphysics, just in like 12 different ways. It makes studying for the exams easier because when you reread your notes and sort of reorganize them, you realize you have, say, a page-tops for Descartes despite the 7 pages of scribbling you did during the 2 weeks we spent on him. She also sometimes doesn't answer questions quite straight-forwardly. I often resorted to my TA to ask questions instead because her answers never seemed to help me all that much. Another note was that she would almost never remember when class finishes, so 80% of the time, she never really finished what she had wanted to say. Lecture notes or something that could be posted on courseworks so we have a guideline of what to expect + if we run out of time, we know what we'd have to catch up on would have been helpful. But that may just be me speaking from my experience with other professors who did something of this nature.

I can see how this would have been dissatisfying for philosophy majors - I'm one too and I took this to fulfill the requirement - but if you actually go to class, take notes and pay attention to what she's saying (because you'll immediately pick up on what she thinks is "cool" i.e. will be a big part of the exams) then you should be fine.

Workload:

3 short papers - Each are one-page, single spaced. You just have to basically explicate a passage from the philosophers that we're reading - she'll give you choices. The Descartes one was annoying to do because, unlike the other two papers, she didn't give us any sort of 'guide questions' to know which direction you should take the papers. I guess the passages were supposed to 'speak for themselves' or something?

1 longer paper - Five pages double spaced. It's on Kant/Hume, mainly. There was a choice to write it like a dialogue, a la Plato which wasn't appealing.

1 midterm - IDs, short answer, one 'long essay' which is really just like 2-3 paragraphs.

1 final - IDs (all post-midterm), a Kant 'essay', and a sort of comprehensive 'compare these 3 philosophers regarding x,y,z' type essay.

Why we had a paper due during reading week and then a final, I will never know.