Moral Philosophy

Apr 2011

Professor Vogt is a truly intelligent instructor who clearly commits a great deal of her time and energy to teaching undergraduates. That said, one should be prepared for a very tedious work load, and a teaching style that can frequently be infuriating especially at the end of a semester. Having had a year of professor Vogt (I took Ethics, which is called moral philosophy here, in the fall of 2010 and Plato in 2011), I will break down my experience based on class because I am of the opinion that her Ethics class is a lot better than the Plato class. Ethics: This class was a great way to get a good introduction to the major ethical systems which have influenced the Western world to date. You survey Mill's Utilitarianism, Kant's Groundwork, and Aristotle's Ethics. You also (and this is really a nice touch that I feel like many would not get if taking this class at another school or with another professor) read contemporary philosophers and get their thoughts about these three ethical systems. This all happens in the first half of the course and culminates in a midterm where you have to explain a certain number of passages from these philosophers and the contemporaries who comment on them. The second half of the semester is all focused on examining current ethicists in a field which professor Vogt calls meta-ethics (a topic I feel is very poorly defined). This is where the class became more frustrating because she began to solicit more student participation. When explaining an argument or an idea, Professor Vogt is great. She has a great way of distilling complex sentences and passages into understandable arguments both in class and on her outlines (which she posts right before each class). However, Professor Vogt is also obsessed with soliciting student participation. This would be fine if she was good at leading discussion and guiding the class towards the right answer, but she's not. Any time professor Vogt poses a question to the class, the discussion immediately grows unfocused to the point where I, at least, had a difficult time understanding what I was supposed to take from the discussion. Professor Vogt never concludes these discussions with any sort of thought but rather just proceeds to the next point, leave me puzzled and frustrated. The frequency of the discussion at the end of the semester made her classes literally worthless. As the difficulty of the texts we read went up (modern philosophy is a lot harder than it looks), the time professor Vogt spent on explaining them went down! Soliciting student particiaption is good and all, but I signed up for this class to learn the thoughts of other, smarter people, not just throw ideas out at the professor and see what sticks. So, while the class frequently became frustrating, the workload similarly was irksome. In addition to the midterm described above, there were two 6-8 page papers on topics that we had to come up with ourselves (a nice change from most philosophy papers) and 10, 1-page outlines that we had to do over the course of the semester. The papers were fine, but the outlines were frustrating because they forced you to do professor Vogt's job for her. If you could successfully outline a philosopher's argument and get a 100 on the outline, there was no point to going to class that day since you already understood the text. The idea of outlines is great, knowing how to do one is essential to one's success as a philosopher, but to grade them on a 1-100 scale I think misses the point of such an assignment. That said, the class was incredibly easy, 50% of the students got either A's or A-'s (as confirmed by my transcript) so don't freak out about this class being to difficult for you because it's not. Plato: Again, the first half of the course is a good rundown of the major Platonic texts that you would get in almost any other survey. During this first half, again, professor Vogt does a good job staying on topic, explaining important arguments, and really explicating these texts. The first half of the semester culminates in a midterm much like the ethics midterm. The second half, just like Ethics, contains much more challenging material, but also contained just as much frustrating and useless discussion. I learned nothing because professor Vogt refused to teach and instead asked us questions to which she never gave any guidance. It is important to say here that, in both classes, there are about 10-15 people who pack the front rows and manage to stay engaged throughout the entire semester despite the lack of concrete solutions or explanations of the texts. They will surely object to this review. I encourage them to look behind them and see how many people are no longer paying attention (or just not in class) because professor Vogt cannot keep the class organized enough to make any compelling or interesting points.

Dec 2010

If I had to describe Katja Vogt in one word, that word would be pleasant. This class is difficult, but as a 3000 level ethics course, that should be expected. Though the reading can be challenging, Professor Vogt prepares notes over every reading and puts them on courseworks before class, which makes things much easier. Class time is divided between clarifying texts and discussing their implications, with more emphasis on the latter. Professor Vogt is excellent at answering questions and addressing comments, which really encourages participation. She has the very rare ability to make a large lecture at times fell like a discussion.

Dec 2010

Nick is absolutely wonderful. First of all, he is ridiculously intelligent. He speaks very conversationally about extremely complex ideas, and comes to recitations with a library of outside knowledge to help clarify difficult concepts. His obvious command of the material is very impressive, and he always has an answer to students’ questions. Accordingly, visiting Nick during office hours is extremely rewarding, as he seems to really care that his student’s are on top of the classwork. He's also just a really happy person. He is always smiling, sometimes with no evident explanation, and recitations are consequently extremely pleasant. It is also worth mentioning that he is really attractive.

Oct 2010

Professor Beardman is a really nice person, however there's something very timid about her teaching style that made this class difficult to sit through. When I took it, it was capped at less than 20 students and it was heavily discussion-based. The readings are interesting, but kind of all over the place. It was hard to understand what she wanted from the papers. She's helpful and easy to contact, however I would say this class was a negative experience for the most part. Took it as a requirement for the philosophy major.

May 2009

He sure is a sweet old guy, and it is clear that he knows a lot, but this class is almost painful at times, depending on the day and depending on your mood. Sure, it's easy, and, sure, the readings are interesting, but it's almost impossible to not go to sleep some days; he goes off on tangents constantly and covers very little in each class (which can be a nice change from classes with thousands of pages of reading). Sometimes, I like this class, when what we're discussing is especially interesting or when students contribute their comments; other times, I find it to be a waste of time.

Jan 2009

Taking a class with David Sidorsky is absolutely worthwhile. He is one of my favorite professors at Columbia and definitely one of the most interesting and knowledgeable. Yes, I admit, he may be very old, loves going on tangents, and sometimes strays from the syllabus. Some students might be bothered by this lack of structure in his teaching style, I think it is one of the best things about him! He has so many stories and experiences, and does not hesitate to spend large amounts of class time enlightening us with some real world philosophical anecdotes. I seriously looked forward to his classes and just sitting back and relaxing. In addition, he reviews material a pretty slow pace, and usually covers important points multiple is nearly impossible not to get the main points if you just go to lecture alone and do not read anything at all. There are required readings, but they are hardly necessary for earning an A. Seriously...if you are interested in philosophy at all, take his classes!

Jan 2008

Stephanie Beardman really means well. But, frankly, when it comes to sitting through a professor's lectures for a semester, intention easily falls to the wayside. I felt that most of the time, the class was confused as to what this woman was even saying about the material. It seemed that she often contradicted herself. She was not clear about topics, concepts, etc. The only saving grace of this class was that it was small, and that she did (thankfully) allow for discussion and debate.

Feb 2006

David Sidorsky is a very nice man, and an extremely educated. He also teaches class at the absolutely slowest pace imagineable. You think I'm joking. We had reading assignments of ONE PARAGRAPH sometimes. I'm not joking. A typical reading assignment would be two pages out of the only textbook required for the class. In a way I applaud him for not overreaching the scope of a semester long college course (although that would be a bit of an understatement), because I do feel like most teachers try to cram in way too much reading and no one absorbs anything. However, it was simple too slow. We covered the major moral philosophies, but I feel like I could've learned about as much from 2-3 hours of reading on Wikipedia. Sidorsky was nice and sometimes told some great stories, but I only heard them when I could stay away. Students' heads were dropping like flies. I'd be whipsering to my friend for a minute trying to pass the time and then I'd realize that he'd nodded off. The class is pretty easy. He doesn't like to give below a B, and he gives plenty of A's and A-'s. But, you aren't going to learn that much, and it's really, really slow. If you think it's worth it to sacrifice your education to make a good grade and hear the occasionally interesting ramblings of a very very knowledgeable man, then take it. However, if I could time travel back to myself and advice myself on course selection, I would steer myself away from this one.

Jul 2005

First, a disclaimer: This course ruined my solid 4.0 at Columbia. But, in Beardman's defense, I've never taken a philosophy course which was a prerequisite and didn't exactly study for the final. Having said that, I don't think I would have liked the course even if I had done well because I came out not knowing how to write a philosophy paper (although I asked her how to improved during office hours). Also, the texts were really dry and uninspiring. While Beardman is obviously excited about what she teaches, I felt like her lectures didn't elucidate much of the reading but simply summarized a key point here and there before handing over the discussion to the class (which was rather boring). While Beardman is a very nice lady and probably an expert philosopher, it was rather awkward during office hours because she can be really condescending (probably unintentional). I know a lot of people really enjoyed the course although most found it rather challenging but I felt sick of it by the end and unmotivated to study for the exam let alone ever sign up for another philosophy course. If you really enjoy philosophy, perhaps you would do well and appreciate Beardman's penchance for rambling students. There's a lot of great courses at Columbia/Barnard; I suggest trying a different one with a different professor. If you are into self learning, very interested in philosophy and have an uncanny ability to write excellent papers as well as regurgitate minutia on exams, you will probably enjoy this course.

Jan 2005

The last three reviews I just read on Beardman sounded to me like sour grapes. Just because a class seems easy and involves fewer and shorter assignments on average doesn't mean that everyone is going to get a good grade. I certainly did not make off as easy as I thought I was going to. And I liked the text alot, even though it was like pulling teeth trying to get my hands on a copy. You'd think Beardman could have been more proactive on this front. Oh well. Yes, the discussions were, at times, tiresome. I think it would have been nice to have a separate and possibly optional discussion section. Yet, the time spent wasn't just all about students trying to make their 10 percent. I experienced the dronings of a large majority of student speakers but also enjoyed hearing the minority of well-read and interested speakers. It was better than sitting through some overdrawn rehasing of the readings. And, at times, Beardman's lectures were merely drawn out rehashings. But seven times out of ten, her lectures were enjoyable and thought provoking. Overall, I looked forward to class. She clearly loves to teach, and while her one-on-one style sometimes gives the impression of an upscale shopper talking to a salesgirl at Bloomingdales, those who approach her candidly will be rewarded. Most of all, my writing improved. The way she structures assignments forces her students to ACTUALLY SPEND TIME constructing, preparing, and refining an argument. I'm sorry that so many students felt they were cheated out of what they felt should be an easy grade in some lady's class. I look forward to another class with Beardman. She has at least as much to teach me as I have to teach her. That's pretty important.

Jan 2005

Seriously, just dont take it. Its boring and the guy needs a break. Sure, he's a "sweet man" with lots of experience but is that what you're paying for? Also, its not always an easy class: it depends on your TA and your willingness to repeat the profs. personal opinions from class (which differ significantly from the book). Not worth it.

Jan 2005

I tend to agree with previous comments, and I am perplexed as to why she is considered a "nugget" quality professor. Granted, Prof. Beardman does have a few positive qualites such as her enthusiasm and seemingly deep knowledge of the subject matter. However, Moral Philosophy was disorganized and unfulfilling on the whole. I took her class with the hope to getting something more out of it than I would have from Sidorsky's--who is notoriously boring and unenlightening. I will admit that I completed the class knowing much more about moral philosophy, but not to the credit of her teaching. I was generally so dissatisfied by our class discussion (as well as many of the poorly written articles) that I forced myself to learn everything on my own, which was painful and time consuming. Generally there are two problems with her format of the class: (1) She puts too great an emphasis on class participation, making about 10 or 15% of your grade based on this. As a result, class is a smattering of irrelevant comments, tangents, and inanities on behalf of the many students who, perhaps meaning well, did not read the material thoroughly. Students are so concerned with interjecting their thought for the day to keep the 'ole grade up that there is no coherence to the class. (2) All of this could be remedied if Prof. Beardman was able to lead cogent class discussion and realize when her attempts to help students become as enthusiastic about the subject matter as she is, are more distructive to the class than productive. I don't want to be overly critical over her aims, because they are well intended. However, that does not change the fact that the class is a failure. Most people leave knowing little more than they began with and many people become disillusioned by class discussion rather than animated by it.

Dec 2004

In my opinion, this guy REALLY should not be teaching anymore. I assume that at some point a few decades ago he was competent, but it's time for him to be put out to pasture. The ONLY reason to take him is for an easy 'A' - I couldn't imagine an easier class (the questions on the tests are unconventional, and the tests are waaaay to long, but if you have half a brain cell you should be able to bullsh*t your way through). I suppose another reason to take him would be if you enjoy listening to anecdotes and stories and if you want to impress your friends and family by knowing random historical trivia. Not only does he not cover much material, he screws up the material he does cover (I've never accused another prof. of doing this, so don't think I'm some thinks-he-knows-it-all undergrad. This guy holds the unique position of being the ONLY professor I do not respect intellectually. He seems to have just lost whatever intellectual ability he had - and I don't doubt that he used to have plenty). Oh, his stories may seem spontaneous but, having taken 20th Century Philosphy with him I can tell you that he tells the same damned stories in both classes (How can you trust the review of an idiot who didn't learn from his mistake and took two of this guy's classes? I admit that was really dumb. I needed an easy class on my schedule this semester and it doesn't get any easier than Sidorsky. Also, 20th Century was marginally better. If I had it to do over again, I may have still taken 20th Century, actually).

Nov 2004

I came to college convinced that I would be a philosophy major. After taking Prof. Beardman's class, I changed my mind. In fact, I plan to stay away from philosophy for quite some time. Prof. Beardman is a really sweet, intelligent, dynamic woman who clearly enjoys what she does. At the beginning of the course, her enthusiasm was contagious. By the end, it just got annoying. I can't speak for everyone because I know a bunch of people who really enjoyed the class, but I for one, did not. Most of her class is dedicated to discussion, which gets even more frustrating if you have to listen to endless amateur theories given by pretentious students. It's even more frustrating if you are not big on the class participation. As a result of the large amount of discussion that takes place, I found that we didn't actually get to go over the material as much as I would have liked. Granted, Prof. Beardman will make time for you during her office hours if you want to go over certain ideas. Nevertheless, I think she is so intelligent and involved in her microcosm of philosophy that she is never quite "there." I would have prefered more of a lecture-based class with a clearer sense of structure. I definietly feel ambivalent about this class. Prof. Beardman herself is a great woman who is extremely smart and always in a good mood. But I find her teaching style better suited for graduate level courses. Take her class if you like talking. Just remember that you will ultimately be competing with the other big talkers in the class--not just about who makes the more brilliant comment, but about how brilliantly it is delivered as well.

May 2004

WARNING: The reviews below largely ignore the fact that Sidorsky is probably not a good teacher for someone who has a serious interest in philosophy. In Moral Philosophy we covered a grand total of 7 papers (in the form of interpreted excerpts from the textbook), which were each boiled down to about 4 or so very basic points. Furthermore, the only meta-ethical paradigm covered was naturalism (how do you teach an moral philosophy class without even mentioning consequentialism?). Sidorsky barely touched on problems with the Authors' systems -- if you like to read philosophy critically, it will be largely impossible for you to stay focused on the lectures for more than 20 minutes. Moral Philosophy V3701, as far as the lectures are concerned, was largely a philosophy-qua-literature class in which memorization of the absolute basics of the authorsÂ’ ideas was the primary focus instead of using the ideas as a vehicle for coming to a deeper understanding of morality. The upside is I guess that youÂ’ll be able to say a few sentences about the historical context of these authors and their most basic points if their names ever come up at the dinner table. Oddly, however, the excessively long exams ask you to evaluate the authorsÂ’ ideas over and over and over again until you canÂ’t feel your fingers gripping your pen. Overall, itÂ’s a cinch to get a B, but pretty tough to get an A as its difficult to know what heÂ’s looking for. In conclusion: this class is not for philosophy majors. I repeat: this class is not for philosophy majors. Did I mention that itÂ’s not for philosophy majors? Annoyed? Just wanted to point out that itÂ’s not for people who canÂ’t stand repetition (and not really learning much for your tuition).

Dec 2003

In all honesty, my incredible experience with Professor Beardman likely has as much to do with my approach to philosophy at the time as her teaching style. I went into that class a fresh, engaged, newly declared phlosophy major - eager to learn and willing to work, and she met me at every step. She assigned readings for every class, I did them; she assigned papers, I wrote them, she asked for web-postings, I posted them. And, ya know what? It was phenomenal. If you don't like doing work, are looking for an easy A, or want professors to spoonfeed and pamper you, then Professor Beardman may not be the right professor for you. However, if you are truly interested in a given domain of knowledge, taking a class with Professor Beardman will be absolutely amazing.

Apr 2003

well, you already know...Sidorsky is OLD...he has a watch that talks to him so that he can tell time; he writes chicken scratch on the board that he randomly points to during class, and he REPEATS, REPEATS, REPEATS to the point where sometimes you feel like shooting yourseld. Nonetheless, at the end of the class, you come away with a REAL understanding of what these philosophers said...something I can't say about CC. Take the class if the subject mattter interets you; feel free to skip a few classes (But not too many) and you'll be fine.

Apr 2003

To all the faculty in the Philosophy Department who read these reviews (and we know most of you do), I have but two things to say: TENURE THIS WOMEN! Put simply, she is quite smart and unpretentious, a dyad one rarely finds in this department.

Apr 2003

Quite simply, Katja Vogt is a good professor. She always comes extremely well prepared for class. She is young and obviously does not share the jaded perspectives towards classroom time like most of her collegues. She has a fine grasp on the material, but is willing to genuinely listen to the opinions of students. The class material is presented in an excellent outline fashion, so it's free of tangents, concise, complete, and easy to follow, even on those sleepy days. Personally, I find it hard to rate her grading. I've heard others say she is difficult; however, I found her to be very fair. As moral philosophy really isn't my thing, I can't say I'd openly endorse the class; however, if you have to take it, by all means skip Sidorsky and Gaifman. Get the perspective of a professor who isn't 10 years past her expiration date!

Dec 2002

If thereÂ’s a moral to this course, itÂ’s probably post-final regret for having taken this course in the first place. Many people take this course because they think itÂ’s an easy grade. Some of these self-congratulatory pseudo-philosophers sit religiously in the front row to desperately attempt to probe SidorskyÂ’s infinite wisdom about moral philosophy with equally self-congratulatory questions. I also met a couple people who wanted to learn something more about moral philosophy besides Aristotle, Kant, and Hume from CC. Nevertheless, itÂ’s an easy grade if (1) you attend class on a daily basis (2) manage to pay attention to each nuance of his circumlocutive lectures (3) repeat everything he says in class and regurgitate it on the midterm and final. However, if youÂ’re looking to understand post-Kantian moral philosophy, take a rain check. If you manage to satisfy the first three criteria, keep in mind, he also has an annoying predilection for handing out class attendance sheets, writing extremely long midterms and finals, as well as pulling out nine students from taking the midterm because of lack of class attendance. His course is seriously lacking substance, depth, and coherence, but makes up for it by being a nice guy. After all, you have to give him credit for pushing seventy and still teaching.

Sep 2002

Yes, he looks and acts like an old, kindly grandfather. However, like your grandfather, he repeats things to death, as you finally understand what it was like to suffer through torture during one of the great wars. In those rare instances when someone actually asks a meaningful question, he unfailingly misunderstands his/her point, instead turning his answer back into that same, boring drivel he's been saying for the past hour. He may be considered an easy grader, but how can anyone do well when s/he doesn't care at all about the class? If able, you deserve an A for just having the stamina to sit through all his classes. Bring a taperecorder and play it back 5-6 times. Repeat every few weeks.

Aug 2002

Prof. Beardman is so enthusiastic about the material. You can tell she really emjoys her job. She's always willing to discuss during office hours and every class includes an engaging discussion as well. It's one of the best classes I've taken. Even if you're not a philosophy major, you'll probably like taking this class with her.

May 2002

Professor Sidorsky is awesome. He is an old-time Columbia professor who teaches class the way a philosophy class should be taught. He is a fantastic lecturer. He repeats himself A LOT, but this is his pedagogical style. He is extremely effective at communicating the material, though it is easy to drift in class. Particularly when he talks about 20th C. philosophy, he has fascinating anecdotes (mostly because he was friends with these philosophers personally). For a taste of what college philosophy should be like, take this class!

Mar 2002

I am taking this class in this semester (spring 2002), so I can't say anything about the final, etc., but I can say a lot about his teaching style. He sucks. He rehashes the same things over and over again until you want to shoot yourself. We move so slowly that it is unncecessary to stay after you've signed the attendance sheet, so long as you know someone in the class who will give you the dates of the assignments. I learned far more about each of the subjects from two CC classes than he addresses in the entire course. Worst of all, there are like three people in the class who raise inane questions that he misinterprets and debates with himself for 20 minutes at a time. The only plus is that it is total cake.

Jan 2002

Sidorksy is one of my favorite professors in the department. His course is excellent, and after taking it, I still remember the key philosophers and concepts. Basically, he is interested in providing a structure for understanding moral philosiphical thought by studying in depth 4 key philosophers. He is a brilliant and sweet man, and his course is excellent. I highly recommend it.

Jan 2002

Sidorsky is a kind old man who cannot see very well so attendance isn't necessary unless he knows who you are and may randomly call out your name in class. But he does pass a sign in sheet, and he might threaten to compare signatures to see if your friends sign you in, but he won't. He tells funny stories about the legacy of Columbia. He knows his philosophy very well, but he sticks with his own opinions. When he makes fun of people in class it is hilarious. He is softspoken and a good lecturer although he repeats stuff alot, which is good, because it instills the fact into your brain. Go to class, buy the little book. Don't read it, listen to the man, and you will do fine for exams.

Jan 2002

His philosophy is that if you're not able to to argue with him in the middle of the street after the course then he's not doing a good job. He really really really goes over the concepts - rather than trying to get through a long reading list. Some found his style repetitive and complained that we didn't read a lot, I didn't mind all - he places the readings in the context of a "paradigm" and draws in all these anecdotes and arguments that he could talk about the first paragraph from politics for the whole semester and make it fascinating. Plus, you'll actually remember some of the stuff , and for the exams there's really no cramming needed, just understanding the main ideas. I really recommend this class - as an intro. Or later course... but you might find other philosophy professors hurried and shallow after taking it.