Learning about Hegel from Prof. Neuhouser is truly a privilege. He is an expert on the topic and is clearly extremely passionate about it. Given the difficulty of the texts, we usually ended up fixating on like 20 pages of Phenomenology of Spirit or Philosophy of Right for two or three classes. Personally, this is the way I like to learn about philosophy. I am often frustrated by professors that assign 80 pages of reading per class only to give you a Wikipedia-style overview of the whole thing rather than honing in small portions of the text that are rich in philosophical detail. He also holds informal discussion groups every week, which just shows his greater commitment to undergrads than most tenured professors at this school. In regard to the grading, I would say Neuhouser is harsh, but this is also part of why I like him. Again, this to me is just evidence of his commitment to undergrads. Rather than give you an A on a mediocre paper and provide you with no feedback, Neuhouser will break down your argument and probably give you a B because he knows you are capable of better work. This seems harsh and unnecessarily disciplinarian, but I think that his reason for being like this makes a lot of sense. The works of Hegel himself and the works of many interpreters of Hegel are impenetrable at times, and it seems to me that Neuhouser's project (this is clear if you read his personal writings on Hegel) is to bring Hegel back down to earth. Thus, if you throw around words like 'sublate' or 'for itself' or 'absolute' without explaining what they mean in the context of Hegel, he's gonna penalize you for that. He wants your writing on Hegel to be able to be understood by someone who has never read Hegel before.
Seriously incredible professor. Like, the best professor you're likely to have at Columbia. He WILL make you want to be a Philosophy major. This class is no joke though, and neither is Hegel. It's more work than any other philosophy course I've taken, even though the reading is usually just a couple of pages. The material is difficult, and requires a lot of time to seriously digest. It is essential to go to every single class, and write down pretty much everything Neuhouser says. Only when you're writing your paper and go back to those notes do you realize how well he has deconstructed the text. Grading: he says on the syllabus that satisfactory work will receive a B, and only good work will receive an A. His grading is on the harsher side of fair, but still isnt too bad. If you put in the work, there's no reason not to receive at least an A-. Also, if you do better in the final than the midterm, the midterm isnt counted for your grade. If your second paper is better than your first, then it counts for double your first paper. The comments are constructive and helpful, and the midterm and final are seriously straightforward. The main thing to remember, as others have noted, is not to pad your writing. Be AS clear and succinct as possible, and write to the point. For inspiration, use his own paper on the Structure of Hegel's Philosophy of Right. Neuhouser will change your life. He is the most caring, giving and motivating professor most of his students have ever had. I only wish I had taken his class sooner so that I could take his other ones before graduating too.
Neuhouser is absolutely fantastic. Really, I can't say enough good things about him. He seems like a really good person, too - not just a good teacher. Probably the thing that really sets him apart from other professors is how much he genuinely cares about the ideas in the texts. How a person can attain freedom in the world is a really important question, and you can tell it matters to him to figure out what these writers (here, Hegel but he's also into Rousseau, Marx, Kant, Sartre and others) have to say about it. The excitement he brings to the course carries over to the students in the room. We all end up wanting to figure these texts out. The other thing that sets him apart is how good of a teacher he is. I can't really put my finger on what makes him so exceptionally good, but he's really fantastic. Lots of graduate students sat in on this undergrad-level (not even 4000) course. That should tell you something about how good he is. Also, if you go to Amazon, you'll see that students of his from Cornell actually wrote positive reviews about his books without having read them. They took a course with the guy and were so impressed that they actually went to Amazon and praised him! Wow, right? Okay, maybe that's a bit freaky, but it shows that he's inspiring. And he's not such a hard grader. I've taken a few courses with him now and found him to be really very fair. Just don't B.S. on the papers and finals. That stuff doesn't work with him. If you attend all the lectures (he always teaches 9am classes - ugh) and do the readings you should do well. Really - either repeat what he says or back up you're own ideas well and you'll do fine. Random B.S. without backing it up will get you nowhere with him.