November 10, 2003

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.

Just to respond quickly to the ridiculous polarity of these reviews..... I am a guy. I never said one thing in class. I took the class freshman year, with only one other intro class as my experience with Philosophy. I would say that this puts me somewhere in the middle of the rest of the reviewers- at the time of taking the class, I was certainly not a philosophy "jock" and expect to be one of her favorites, nor did I expect her to be a man-hating, cold, grade-ruining favoritist, as some of the reviews seem to imply. I never spoke to her enough to develop any sort of serious academic relationship during office hours, but I did go once. Like I said, I was somewhere in the middle, which most people, of course, usually are. So what do I think of her?
Well, first off, Mercer gives off an aire of subtle arrogance, which some people take as her assuredness of brilliance or as a sign of some smug, deluded self-righteousness.
Of course, this is Columbia, and most any professor teaching here with anything close to a "prestigious" position or history in their field is going to have a bit of an ego. Get over it. She's a professor, not a kindergarten teacher.

In terms of favoritism, I would argue it's more the fault of annoying philosophy majors and certain others that either want to become her pet or see her as some sort of feminist beacon in the philosophy world. I don't think that she necessarily encourages this, but she will respond when you ask a question in class, and unfortunately, those are the people who generally tend to ask the questions. And she does not hate guys- if you are threatened by someone saying that there is no true philosophical basis for sexism, or think that feminism means women hating men and wanting to bring about their ruin, then you have some issues to figure out on your own that really don't have anything to do with what she says. I was never offended by her views with regards to gender/ feminism/ etc etc, and I am by no means a femisit activist or anything along those lines.

And as to her grading policies- as some philosophy professors will, she allows you to write either in a dialectic or essay form, which is nice, since you don't have to be a philosophy major to write a critical dialogue.
With her grading- well, I didn't find any problem there, and thought she was thorough and fair. When I didn't understand a comment, I went into her office hours, and contrary to popular belief, she was warm, attentive, and responsive to my questions.
Eventually, with virtually no formal experience in philosophy, I got an A in the class. I was not one of her favorites, I am a guy, my GPA wasn't ruined, etc. etc. While I don't think that she is the most incredible professor I've ever had, she was great, and I enjoyed the class even though I hate the period in philosophy. I would definitely recommend you take her class, unless you are for some reason inclined to believe the extreme, often overly personal "Oh my god this is the best/ worst class I've ever taken" reviews or can't handle someone not holding your hand and softening up their words for you.

Workload:

A couple papers. Fair grading. I barely read, but if you understand the underlying concepts, which she conveys well, then you'll do fine.