This was definitely one of the more rewarding classes I took over my time at Columbia. To put it in succinct words, at the end of the last lecture prof. Neuhouser got a standing ovation, and he deserved it. In terms of the class structure itself it was a really good mix of lecture and discussion. Neuhouser knows the material so well that he can really engage with students when they ask questions and often understands what the student is saying even when he/she doesnt fully know what they dont get. He is pretty smart in applying the concepts to thought experiments and real world scenarios, even ones that students come up with on the fly and this gives one a more intuitive sense of the material that can be pretty complex and abstract. He really is a great lecturer in this sense and going to class was always interesting and rewarding. However, one criticism I have that it is difficult to disagree with him in class. He seems pretty convinced of his ideas and that Marx is right (he has a set of hammer and sickle cuff-links that he wears to class) about a lot of things and engaging him with other models of economic thought or bringing in ideas not classically within the realm of the material he covers usually meets with being quickly dismissed. The students in the class as well tend to be of the communist/activist variety and there is an unspoken agreement in the class that modern economic means of production and 21st century capitalism is evil. In this sense the class can be a little ideological, so if you're the type to get offended by that you should avoid it. As someone who generally disagrees with that line of ideology, myself I found that this class really helped me develop a more nuanced view of social issues through this lens and even led me to change some of my beliefs. So if you are thinking of taking it as a fun class or as an elective outside your major or have found yourself curious to delve into Marx and Hegels views on the world and social theory, this is a pretty great class. Its rigorous enough to be satisfying and accessible enough to allow you to participate effectively. In terms of grading, I do not know why people are upset. As someone who had not read most of the stuff before and as an engineer I did pretty well in the class with the usual amount of effort. I didnt have to try super hard or struggle or anything. Doing the readings and spending maybe 10 hours on each paper is good enough to get you an A-. Although people well versed in philosophy were the ones that probably got A's. He says he has a strict grading policy and gives average work a C, good work a B and excellent work an A. But if you write a paper that makes sense you will definitely get at least a B+. Neuhouser himself is a great guy, very approachable, and will always engage with you whether your question is basic or well-informed.
If you're interested in continental philosophy at all, take this course. Honneth is an amazing professor who knows a shitton of social philosophy. Grading depends almost entirely on the TA, which means it fluctuates a lot. In any case, it isn't too bad. Honneth himself does grade some (very few) papers, and I think he's a little harsher than one would expect (but this is probably due to differences between the American and the German grading system... I imagine there is less grade inflation in the old world.) He is, however, sometimes painfully slow in lectures. He also repeats himself a lot, which can be frustrating. He's also not terribly fluent in English, which takes some time to get used to. I also think he gets more fluent as the semester goes by. And if you do take this class, GO TO OFFICE HOURS. Honneth is incredibly nice for the academic rockstar he is, and will probably blow your mind.
Professor Neuhouser is the reason I became a philosophy major. His eloquent, straightforward, and fascinating lectures gave me an incredible amount of knowledge and appreciation for the subject matter. But what was more impressive, is that taking this class with Neuhouser and struggling (yes, they are a true struggle) over his assignments, really made me think in a more complex and articulate way. If you say something stupid, he'll call you on it. Trust me, I passed through that fire once and came out better because of it. Like I said, I credit Neuhouser with my decision to beome a philosophy major- a decision I will never regret. Unfortunately though, I haven't found another professor in the philosophy department that equals or surpasses his skill. Take this class if you want to leave college more intellectually refined than you came in.
Professor Neuhouser has been the single best instructor that I've taken at Columbia. The workload for his courses is HEAVY but very rewarding. This is evidenced by the many graduate students attending lectures and countless undergraduates opting for pass-fail grading. The class, at an ungodly 9am, was very stimulating. Prof. Neuhouser was very adept at drawing the entire class into a detailed discussion of very complex readings (Hegel's Philosophy of Right is impossible to understand at first). By carefully posing questions to the class he is able to skillfully allow students to arrive at the conclusions themselves. Yeah, yeah, the Socratic Method. Big deal, right? Yet very few philosophy professors care to instruct using this method; fewer still are proficient. Professor Neuhouser is exceptional. The readings, drawn from Smith, Hegel, Marx, and Weber, vary from easy to impossible. Nevertheless, Prof. Neuhouser's explanations made even the most convoluted writing (Hegel) accessible. Yes, accessible -- not easy. This is not a course for the faint-hearted. The papers will require extensive research and revision, and the exam responses will require concise and detailed answers. This takes time. Coupled with the readings, which can require many re-readings (again, Hegel), this course will require a lot of effort. But, if you are here at Columbia to learn, then this is a class for you. I certainly walked away a very in-depth understanding of the progression from Smith to Marx, and would unhesitatingly take another course from Neuhouser. Regardless of the subject. If he offers it I'll be the first to enroll!
He is one of the most prepared lecturers you'll ever meet at Columbia. In an hour of half of lecture, he hardly wastes any words. He chooses them carefully and conveys his ideas precisely. You'll appreciate this ability of his when you read impossible texts like Hegel's Philosophy of Right. They start to make sense. What's also good about this class is that Neuhouser not only delves into the texts from Smith, Hegel, and Marx, but also contextualizes the main themes to the contemporary times. His lectures are engaging but so too are the ensuing discussions. By no means, this is an easy class. If you're thinking about winging a class, don't take this one. But as the previous reviewers said, this class can really be tremendously rewarding if you're prepared to put some serious effort; you'll come out of this class heck of a lot smarter than before (really.) About his papers: start early, as you can't put subjective BS and expect to get away with it. Consulting with the guy beforehand helps a lot. About his finals: there are no real surprises. It consists of passage identification, a few short essays, and one long essay. If you've been attending his class regularly, you really can't do badly. (btw: try not to miss a class, because you miss one, say on Hegel, you'll be completely lost afterwards.)
sitting in neuhouser's class made me want to major in philosophy. writing papers for neuhouser made me want to drop out of college. he's a good prof and a good person, anal grader
I agree with the last review: Neuhouser is a phenomenal lecturer and I learned more in the class than I have in almost any other. I can't recommend him highly enough. He and Taylor Carman are, hands down, the best professors in the philosophy department. I didn't think he was a very harsh grader at all, though. But I may have just gotten lucky and said what he wanted to hear. For all you procrasinators: his policy on late papers is on the generous side of fair (no extensions, but less-than-harsh penalties).
I'm torn between my ultimate opinion on the class. I learned more in this class than in any other at Columbia, much (if not all) of this is because of Professor Neuhouser. His lectures were well organized, concise, and yet still offered incredibly developed perspective on social discussion. Class discussion is encouraged, and he enjoys watching students figure out the material, though he has no problem telling you you're wrong (favorite moment in class: watch Neuhouser look at a student with this huge smile, shake his head, and say "You couldn't be more wrong!") This atmosphere provides a great learning opportunity, but it can also become intimidating and stressful. I did have a difficult time with the grading system. I was less concerned with my grade than the fact that I couldn't improve. I spent more than twice the time on my second paper (both by myself, and in consultation with him), and yet I did substantially better on the first. More to the point, I could not figure out what I could do to improve, and I was even marked down for comments that we had discussed should be put in my paper. If I had to decide whether to take this class again, I would sign up in a heartbeat. In spite of difficulties with the written assignments, I learned more from this class than I ever thought possible. Professor Neuhouser was a phenomenal and interested lecturer, and the work that goes into this class will pay off ten-fold. If you are interested by Smith, Hegel, Marx, and Weber; take this class. Don't take it as a requirement- the value of this class is found soley in personal enjoyment.