Although I have never taken philosophy before, I did not find this class impossibly challenging. Difficult, yes, but also very engaging - Neuhouser is a great professor and very considerate and welcoming to students, not condescending at all. Going to lecture is essential to understanding the occasionally opaque and difficult material (especially Hegel). Neuhouser is amazing at making concepts easy to understand and clear. The reading isn't overwhelming, although at times I found it helpful to go to lecture first and do the reading later, as that was the only way it made any sense. Altogether this was the most interesting course I have taken at Columbia so far; I woke up at 8:40am for this class every week, which for me is usually impossible as I sleep around 4am, and I don't regret it at all. Take this class if you can.
Knows his stuff very well and is a very good lecturer. If you ask a question he'll say "That's a good question," but I'm not too sure he really thinks that all the time. Is VERY Hegelian--avoid him if you're a Kant scholar, even though he's really informed about 19th century German philosophy. Nevertheless, he has a Kant gap there in his knowledge. He's sort of the poor man's Frederick Beiser. Is a semi-fair grader. Just give him what he wants. Few people get A's.
Ok, this class calls for commenting. It was at 9:10 AM: Ew..... Professor Neuhouser is known to impart his knowledge quite well, and there is no doubt he does this. He is, unlike certain professors, the type who will lead to your writing notes just about every second in class. He's just that effective at saying things of importance which you want to keep. His lecturing is generally quite incredible. This comes partially, if not mostly, from the fact that the philosophers studied are quite fascinating. Unfortunately, I don't know what to tell you about taking the class. It went from Kant to Hegel to Feuerbach to Schopenhauer and to Nietzsche. Interestingly, a lot of important thinkers and issues are left out, but since the course is 2000-level, what can you expect? Anyway, Neuhouser was pretty effective with Kant and Hegel, and maybe with Feuerbach too...With Schopenhauer and Nietzsche he seemed to be a bit more improvisational, no doubt about it. He would recognize it, I think most notably, with Schopenhauer. His main thing, after all, is Hegel. (At the end of the class, though, he appeared to imply he sided with Nietzsche a lot more than with Kant and Hegel) His relation to students is pretty special. He tried learning the names in a lecture class (pretty odd, right?) and was generally polite answering the barrage of questions he received in every class. He was also somebody who you could contact outside of class and somebody who actually did a large part of the grading. Speaking of grading, here I'd like to linger. There is probably no harsher grader than Neuhouser in the philosophy department and perhaps, who knows, in the college at large. I believe in the first assignment, a short Kant paper, only 1 of approx. 50 students got an A-. This was the first sign. I believe that, because of his excessive harshness in grading, taking Neuhouser only once in your college career (if you have already done it) is enough. Ok, he may be a "great lecturer" but if his standards of "great student" are far higher than you imagine, and it may make little to no sense to re-take him. Maybe if you take his class P/D/F it may make sense, but even then watch out for that D! Some people are fans of him, I know a few and I don't understand them--maybe they've learned how to write stuff Neuhouser likes...Who knows? Or maybe they don't care about grades and value "learning" so In any case, if you are hubristic and think you know a lot of Kant or Hegel or Nietzsche so as to think you're pretty ready compared to your future peers when taking this course, let me tell you this: ---------------------------------------------------------------------- HIGHER GRADES are only possible if A) You agree with Neuhouser a lot and use your notes (i.e. his interpretations) for just about everything you write in your essays. B) You quote very little, and when you do, you explain that quote-- what it means in your own words. C) You write in a no-fluff way. Neuhouser hates fluff. Shave your papers and remove ANY unneccessary word/sentence. D) You don't write essays with a wide, semi-general scope. Keep it narrow. Narrow and meaty makes it good for the 'Houser. NOTE: You might think that's what every teacher likes, maybe so...But I can almost 100% guarantee you that you'll get a really low grade if you deviate from that and maybe even if you do follow that. ----------------------------------------------------------------------- Some may say that Neuhouser can covert you into a philosophy major...The lectures were certainly fascinating..But if anything, I think he can also hurt it. That's the truth. You have to watch out and believe what I am saying. I have taken many, many philosophy courses with tons of professors and Neuhouser is a very unique type in ways both good and bad. To use some Nietzsche, his ability to teach material = GOOD, his grading = EVIL. Unfortunately, he does not go beyond this.
Carman's a good professor. He knows his stuff and you can tell he loves what he teaches. His lectures can get a little boring/frustrating when you're not sure where he's going with them, because he does tend to go off on a lot of tangents, usually sparked by a student's question. This can be good if you want to debate the nuances of philosophy, but, like I said, it's frustrating if you just want to learn what he's supposed to teach you and what you're going to have to write about. He does enliven his teaching with lot's of subtle humor, though. He finds lots of philosophical things hilarious and talks about them in a strangely academic tone for jokes. As far as how tough of a grader he is and all of that, I think he is made out to be a lot harder than he really is. I will confess that I literally did about five percent of the reading and even fell asleep in class a few times (it was at 1030 in the morning and i took the class pass/fail, give me a break) and I still managed to pull Bs on my essays just by reading what I had to read in order to get something written. My essays were seriously pretty horrible, and he still gave me Bs. Furthermore, his comments on these bad essays were totally fair and accurate - he pointed out the flaws that I knew were in them. I think if I had really tried my best and written essays that I had been happy with myself, that he totally would have given me As, because I think he is a fair and not too difficult grader. I passed the class, btw.
What a fantastic survey introduction to 19th-century philosophy! I was worried, at first, that in spending a mere four months in reading and discussing centuries' worth of thought (think of all the accumulated and processed knowledge and thought that Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche gave the world) the course would resemble something like a skipping stone. But Prof. Carman has been able to a tremendous amount of good work with very little time. But let me be more organized about this: I'll start with a full listing of the syllabus, because I know that I would have liked to have known this before I started. We read: most of what, in Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason", is important to later philosophy with the exception of specialists' concerns; Hegel's notoriously difficult Introduction and Preface to the "Phenomenology of Spirit", as well as his lectures on aesthetics; meaty selections from Schopenhauer's "The World as Will and Representation"; Kierkegaard's "Sickness Unto Death" and "Fear and Trembling"; and Nietzsche's "The Gay Science" and "Beyond Good and Evil" plus healthy servings of other works like "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", "Genealogy of Morals" and his essay on "Truth and Lies in an Extra-Moral Sense". What Prof. Carman does with this is pretty impressive. He is always prepared, coming to class with a detailed set of notes and yet familiar enough with the texts (he's a Heidegger expert) to extemporize. He's the sort of person who immerses himself in philosophy and academia from all ages, and he will not infrequently highlight connections between these philosophers and those of ancient Greece (Plato, Aristotle, Sextus Empiricus, etc.) as well as those of the 20th century (Wittgenstein, Allison, Westphal). Thus, he really gives you as thorough a context for appreciating these thinkers as can possibly cram into two sessions a week... His explanations of exceedingly dense and circuitous prose (like that of Hegel) are manna from heaven for someone struggling to understand these pivotal works. While he is extremely open to fielding questions, even from those who it seems don't do the readings or come to class with preconceived notions of what these philosophers or ''philosophy en generale'' are about, the structure he imposes on class time is usually adhered to, enabling us to get a reasonable amount of depth. Prof. Carman is affable and extends himself a fair amount in meeting students after class and engaging in impromptu post-class discussions with those students eager (and impertinent) enough to accost him before he's out the door. My only problem with this class was the choice of TA, (who KIND of approachable and yet rather abrupt with me on the two occasions I asked him about things) though I'm thinking Prof. Carman didn't have much to do with that decision. If you want a solid teacher with a well-planned course, take History of Philosophy: Kant to Nietzsche. Don't expect it to be easy, just because it's a survey. His papers demand a lot of thinking and work and he grades with a demanding eye. I (without intention, I swear) scanned his gradebook when he was telling me my grade for the first paper (my paper was with the TA, who wasn't in class that day) and I noticed that most of the papers had gotten B's and B-'s. The final exam is just like doing his papers, only with harsher time restraint.
Professor Carman has a terribly frustrating teaching style. He fields questions from everyone and gives a ten minute answer to each (I'm not exagerating). He does so even if the questions are entirely irrelevant. This means that he isn't able to go into much depth and is always running behind, usually keeping the class five minutes late. His lectures are also somewhat disorganized and overly simplistic. His grading, however, is very severe. He assigned paper topics on subjects that he only briefly covered and then pounded each paper with correctives. He seemed to expect a lot more from papers than he was willing to give in lectures. I had a grad student who is specialized in Nietzsche look over my paper on Nietzsche before I handed it in, and she thought it was worthy of an A. He only gave me a B on it. He does, at least, read papers thoroughly and give extensive comments. I feel that I learned much from the readings themselves but very little from Professor Carman.
Taylor Carman is probably the best person to learn 19th and early 20th century philosophy from at this school. His lectures are always extremely coherent, well-rounded, and reasonable, and he takes students' questions and comments seriously and answers them directly. His lectures are quaint and charming enough so that usually I didn't fall asleep. The reading load for the class was very manageable: no more than 40 to 50 pages per class, and often much less. He knows how hard this stuff can be and wants you to take your time reading it. I would take most anything he offered, especially Heidegger, which is his specialty. Again, a very solid professor.