This was my first philosophy class at Columbia and I absolutely loved it. Each week we dissected one work on the philosophy of history across two lectures. Professor Goehr effortlessly conducted the class towards a final, full understanding of the works through a combination of question-answer and lecture. As others have said, she is not afraid to call people out if their questions or answers are inadequate, but this never seemed mean-spirited. Instead, it forced the class towards pointed understanding of the philosophical ideas instead of falling prey to diversion, as sometimes happens in the hands of a less skilled and honest professor. Because of their brisk focus, I found these classes to be consistently engaging and downright intellectually thrilling.
I really loved Prof Goehr's lecture style. She throws up a "map" of ideas on the board and when you first sit down you're like "huh?" but by the end of class it all comes together. Part of your grade is participation but it was unclear how that was tallied. As with any large lecture class, it was usually the same four people speaking up. The papers were graded a bit harshly, I thought, but perhaps for a philosophy major it wouldn't be so bad. Define every term you use; even if you think you defined it, you didn't, do it again. Good class for philosophy students, but I also enjoyed it as a history major.
Really good class, and probably the best 4 credit class you could ask for. Must write 3, 4 page papers out of 4. All of the papers involve a choice of which readings to do it on, as well as the question that you are going to answer. She's a good lecturer, her English accent makes her more interesting to listen to. I'd definitely suggest this class for non-majors as well. She is witty and you can tell she is very intelligent and well versed on the subject.
I was a little concerned after I read some reviews on CULPA, and found that Lydia was a professor who did not tolerate BS at 9am in the morning, but I am pleased to say that I absolutely loved this class! The professor's lecture style is a bit scatterbrained, but she always provided the class with an outline on the board and always explained all concepts fully. The material is very challenging, and it's often supposed to be (this is a philosophy class after all!), but Lydia is able to effectively emphasize the general ideas of the readings without oversimplifying them. Still, you're going to have to do the readings on your own and grapple with them for some time if you want to truly understand them. Curiously, the professor announced in the first class that she did not want to have office hours with any underclassmen or juniors, only seniors. All non-seniors were directed to the TA, Isabel Lerer. Isabel was a great TA, obviously very knowledgeable regarding all of the material, and she really took an interest in the students that went to her for assistance with papers. She also graded most of the papers, and I found her to be a very fair and easy grader. My biggest complaint with this class is that it was at 9am and attendance was taken at every class and required. Since this class was 4 credits and didn't have a midterm, recitation section, or really anything besides 3 short papers, I guess it's fair that it requires attendance. As long as you can get up in the morning, you won't fall asleep in this class; it's too engaging. But if you can't even get yourself out of bed at 9, you might have to skip this one.
Very interesting class, Goehr is a great professor. Witty and comical, she makes the class intruiging and fun. This is definately a class that you get what you put in, as little or as much as you'd like. The papers are relatively short, graded fairly easily, and as long as you show improvement you'll get a good grade. As she said in one class, "Not everyone can write philosophical genius, but as long as there's effort one deserves an A."
i thought this class was really something, and it would be a very good idea for all history majors like the previous reviewer (those interested in a modicum of the theory behind their field) to take this course. as for philosophy majors, bear in mind that this course has many people in it, and a great many of them are not philosophy majors and seem to get intimidated in the discussion sections (as noted previously, each week is divided into a Goehr lecture and a discussion section with prof Goehr and the TA alternating each week, between teh Junior senior group and the Freshman Sophmore group.) both of the T.A.'s (Felix Koch and Oran Moked) were fantastic anyhow, so it was basically a lecture a week and a seminar a week. at any rate, there is ample opportunity to engage in discussion and it is highly encouraged by both professor Goehr and her T.A.'s, but discussion often flounders based on teh difficulty of the texts, and the fact that the T.A.'s and professor will PUSH you extremely hard. that cannot be emphasized enough, DO NOT TRY TO B.S. because prof Goehr will publicly take you down and it will be unpleasant. that said, if she feels as if you are asking an honest question, not just --"Oh is this where hegel fits in?" where it is clear that if you read the readings hegel couldn't be farther from the point-- she will give you a perfectly fair chance and get into real dialogue with you. note: the above is not written very consisely, and if you write your papers for this class like that you will get stomped. the point is, we read a great deal of texts that boil down to an entirely new perspective on history each week. this is something that happens maybe ONCE in your regular history classes...for example that one time when some prof emphasizes "now remember kiddoes, NO HISTORIAN CAN FREE HIMSELF OF HIS OWN PRECONCEPTIONS ENTIRELY". if you thought that point was interesting the first time you heard it, or even the 5th or 6th, then definately take this course and enjoy your newfound understanding of the importance behind your historical study. philosophy majors, take this course just because Prof. Goehr is fantastic, succinct, and unwilling to b.s. or tolerate b.s. which is a HIGHLY HIGHLY admirable quality for a professor at columbia. furthermore, its a chance to take a course with her on a subject more accesible to those who don't study aesthetics. just because its about history doesnt mean it isnt LOADED with ethical, social, moral, political, and of course aesthetic philosophical concepts. blah blah blah. don't write your papers like this, just take the damn course!
Goehr was engaging but intimidating to me because i'm not a philosophy person in the columbia sense of that phrase. On the other hand, she's quite scathing in her sarcastic comments about the general columbia philosophy type, something that i found endearing. I enjoyed this course as a history major specializing in a particularly theoretical area of historiographical work who was looking for a grounding in the philosophical debate over what history is beyond the "historian's craft" how-to seminar. the class was divided into two groups , junior/senior and fresh/soph. mondays were lectures together and wednesdays were seminar-style meetings with the groups split up and goehr alternating between the two. i was too intimidated to have a real conversation with her especially since she has a tendency to ask philosophy questions in response to student questions, but the ta for our group was great. beware that this is very much a survey-type course : we were reading marx/nietzsche/benjamin and then suddenly ppl like carl hempel and karl popper. one thing- we covered a lot of different kinds of philosophers/writers about history in a short span towards the end - kubler, danto, hayden white, and pierre nora. it was a little jumbled up and made it harder to write a sufficiently "deep" final paper.