What is Philosophy?

Dec 2010

Okay so I am a big science and math geek. I took this class to fulfill a requirement and I'm actually SO happy I did. To be honest, at first, I hated the class. I thought the professor didn't want to answer our questions and I thought that she thought we were too dumb. She would respond in ways that would make me assume that she didn't think we were capable of higher thinking about philosophy. However, as the course progressed, I realized that she didn't answer those questions directly because she wanted us to start thinking philosophically. Also, she wanted to make sure that the class focused on specific arguments, not our own tangents of discussion. Once I realized this, I appreciated the class a lot more. She is very good at making sense of the dense readings that are assigned. She outlines some of the arguments beautifully on the board and she always encourages discussion or comments. However, she makes sure that we don't get too off topic [although sometimes it will digress]. She's also a very nice person in general and she has a very relaxed way of teaching. It doesn't feel like work to go to class because she is so friendly and loves to teach what she is teaching. However, if you don't do the reading due for the day, you will definitely be lost. She doesn't review much of the reading. Instead, she will delve into the details and outline the argument. So, you better do the reading before you go to class or else you'll be pretty lost. Her exams are very straightforward. That is, if you do the reading fully and you understand it all. If you use her notes and her comments, memorize them, and use them in your exam, you'll do perfectly fine. However, YOU CANNOT GET BY WITHOUT DOING THE READING. DO IT! And go to her office hours, she's very helpful.

Nov 2009

I took Professor Gabbey's class Spring of 2009. The class is not the most engaging class I ever took in college, but it was a good introduction to philosophy. I took a more advanced philosophy class at the same time and the topics flowed nicely. Gabbey is a very sweet man who will happily explain anything to you after class. He welcomes questions and will actually help you on papers. If you attend each class and do each paper, you will most likely get at least an A-. I would definitely recommend this class to anyone who is remotely interested in philosophy.

Nov 2009

You don't need me to tell you that this class is not the most exciting - in fact many in my class call it their 'nap time' - nor does he give the best explanations of any of the complex philosophical concepts discussed in class but he does grade better than any philosophy teacher I've ever had. He does not give out A+s or As very often. A- is a sign of an excellent job. But he does NOT pick a 'favorite' essay and then judge the rest of the essays based on that one student's essay. He does make a good attempt at grading each paper on its own individual merit. Now what he looks for and the elements he expects to see in 'good' papers are questionable and definitely not made clear at the beginning of the semester but by the second paper you should get his 'style' -- be clear, be simple, and don't use adjectives (he gets picky about adj.) Don't freak out when he goes on half-an-hour digressions or debates that don't apply to the topic you were talking about--he comes back to the topic...eventually... Also, use the restroom before you come to class -- he gives dirty looks to the kids who disturb the class (aka just him) to use the restroom

Nov 2009

This is an extremely boring class. Gabbey basically mutters to himself at the front of the class and he's so quiet you can't even hear him from the front row. HOWEVER: he's a sweet old man, very pleasant to talk to, and very friendly. Easy grader. You don't even have to really do the reading for this class and you can still do well. IF YOU WANT AN EASY (but boring) PHILO CLASS, TAKE THIS. The boredom is worth the A.

Oct 2009

I've got nothing new to add here because the previous reviews have basically summed Mendelson up in a nutshell, but I couldn't resist hopping over here to just express how much I ADORE this woman!!! She is the reason why I've changed from a Math major to a Philosophy major. She really cares about her students and is very accessible outside of class. She's the kind of professor whose office hours you just want to go to to spend more time with her! She's very clear and she will make sure that you understand the important concepts thoroughly. She likes to have her class as a discussion sort of style, and she makes her best effort to learn everybody's name. Not to mention that she is just absolutely adorable! I can't wait for her to come back next school year so that I can take a class with her again!

Apr 2009

LOVED HER!!!! I very much agree with the positive review. A total sweetheart and fabulous lecturer. Her brilliance shines through class discussion. I believe she went to Harvard but she is incredibly modest and not one of those stuck up teachers. She was always there for her students and wanted everyone to do well. All around an A + professor and person

Jan 2009

She is the most amazing person. I have never been in a class yet where the ENTIRE class absolutely LOVED her so much and only had positive things to say. Sometimes the philosophy works could be a bit dry but by the end of the class I had a great grasp of the basic major works. Take her if you want a pleasant experience with a professor!!!

Jan 2009

I don't understand how Alan Gabbey got tenure, I honestly don't. He is the single worst lecturer it has been my fate to suffer at this institution; he's inaudible in the front row of seats, he's unclear about his expectations (late papers either aren't accepted at all or are accepted until the end of the semester with no penalty, no one knows, not even the TA), his lectures consist of long quotations from the assigned reading interspaced with vague comments on the translation and other, unrelated philosophers, his responses to students' questions are tangential at best. The saving grace is that the grading is generous.

May 2008

I will be honest; I took this class because I imagined it would be Aquinas for athletes. I was partly right in my initial assesment. After all, this 9am thriller attracts Columbia's best and brightest...and people like me who show up to half the classes, write the papers the night before they are due, do not study for the final and end up with an A. If you need a filler class with some man candy and entertainment in the form of overzealous freshmen and those who literally snore in front of you, take this. Gabbey is nice enough if you're a morning person, and not someone who is going to track you down if you're not.

May 2008

Alan Gabbey is a very, very bad professor. Here's how he lectures: he stands in front of the class with the book open in his hands and READS THE FRIGGIN' TEXT. No explanations. No synthesis of the material to help you understand what the author of the text was getting at. No analysis of the arguments. He just reads the friggin' text back to you. Pretty much half the sentences he utters during a lecture are quotes from the text. But that's only half the sentences. What about the other half? Doesn't he offer some philosophical analysis? Nope. He does mumble on and on about his own thoughts about the text, but there's nothing helpful he says. For his own contributions to the lecture, he will either: A) He'll randomly relate the passage to another one from some other philosopher -- usually one we haven't been assigned. And he doesn't do anything more than just mention the relation -- it's not like he tries to illuminate the text by explaining the relation. No, he just mentions some other philosopher's name and that's it. This is entirely unhelpful. B) He might mumble on and on about some useless historical information which is at best tangentially related to philosophy. Again, entirely unhelpful. C) He'll very often go on long-winded asides about translation issues. He'll even admit that these don't really affect comprehension of the text, since they're such small issues. Yup - entirely unhelpful. The most philosophically helpful thing Gabbey will ever do is tell you where the philosopher we're reading got a particular term from. That's it. That's the only thing you will ever get out of the lecture (well, unless you like hearing passages from the text read to you. That might be nice for some people). He never -- not once in the entire semester -- stepped back from the text to explain what the philosopher was trying to argue for and how he went about arguing for it. He didn't, for example, explain what it means to say that Hume is an empiricist. And he very rarely analyzed the merits and faults of the argument. The only time I remember him doing the latter was with an article by Daniel Dennett, and in that case I'm pretty sure he completely got Dennett's argument wrong and tore down a straw man. It's a shame that this man is teaching philosophy at Barnard. He doesn't do the one thing philosophers are supposed to do -- analyze and produce rational arguments. Luckily, the rest of the Barnard department is really good. But you should avoid Gabbey like the plague!

Apr 2008

Without a doubt the worst professor I have had so far in college. You could hardly hear a word the man says and I was sitting close to him! He made no sense, never explained himself, and was rude. The most I learned in this class was the time I spent either at the TA's office hour or when the TA taught the class instead. He actually spend an entire class once trying to figure out who had frauded someone else's name on an attendance sheet he passed around. He counted the number of kids in the class and the names on the sheet about five times. Definitely an awful professor and teacher. I thought philosophy would be interesting but now I am scared from taking another course again.

Feb 2008

He's absolutely HORRIBLE! The worst professor in the philosophy dept, BY FAR. Stay away. And he's absolutely nuts - completely loony. For example, he doesn't let students leave the lecture to go to the bathroom. If you want to leave, he asks you to provide a doctors note proving that you're incontinent and you can't hold your pee through class. How friggin' insane is that - and how embarrassing for the students?. I've never heard of a professor not allowing students leave to go to the bathroom. I can't believe nobody's mentioned that little quirk of his in all these reviews. And that's just the tip of the iceberg with this guy. He's so nuts (and not in a good way) that he's off the charts. Nobody at Columbia or Barnard comes even close. The only redeeming quality: he's a super easy grader. Just don't make grammatical mistakes, and pay attention to the little stuff (putting the question # you're answering on the title page, numbering your pages - he really cares about the little crap like that) and you're guaranteed an A-minus at least. He doesn't care one bit whether you're trying to understand the material - but he cares a lot if you don't number your pages. And God forbid you have to go to the bathroom - you're in real trouble then.

Jan 2005

This class is very innocuous, you can go or not go, you can do the reading or not do the reading, and you can participate or not participate, it just depends how much you want to get out of it. Gabbey is very interesting and the class covers a wide array of topics which are discussed in class based on related readings. He does not force anyone to participate so if you haven't done the reading it's okay, you can still go to class and get something out of it, and just make sure you have some idea of all the topics in order to write your papers and do well on the final. He is a fairly easy grader, I did not know anyone in the class who got lower than a B- on their papers, most got B+'s and A-'s. Overall a great introduction to philosophy and a class flexible enough to fit anyone's schedule.

Dec 2004

Alan Gabbey is passionate and knowledgable about philosophy and comes to class with a certain enthusiasm about the material that he is going to cover. He encourages class participation, and sometimes the class discussions would get really interesting. We covered topics such as free will, death, the afterlife, morality, matter, the existence of God, and even the existence of oneself. Though the class discussions were interesting, Prof. Gabbey seemed to have trouble getting the entire class to join in the discussion. I don't think that this had anything to do with him, it was just that the class is currently being taught at the 9am time slot and many students, like me, weren't fully awake at that time. Prof. Gabbey doesn't demand much, making "What is Philosophy Anyway?" one of the easiest classes I've taken since I started college. He is very willing to continue explaining weird philosophical concepts until the whole class understands them. He is willing to meet students in his office hours if needed, and is very willing to go over papers if students have questions about the grades they received. He's also witty, which made for a few funny jokes in class. Overall, he's a good professor and I would recommend him to anyone who wants to take an introductory philosophy class.

Dec 2004

Professor Gabbey is clearly knowledgeable about and interested in the material he teaches, but his class is incredibly dull. Most assigned readings will be familiar to students with any sort of previous experience with Philosophy or even European History, and class discussion in unbearable. When Gabbey is able to lecture on the texts without constant interruption from talkative freshmen, class is interesting and informative. Unfortunately, this lack of interruption is rare. On the bright side, class attendance isn't really necessary, the reading load is light, and paper assignments are easy. A relatively painless way to fulfill a requirement, but probably not the best course for anyone with a genuine interest in the subject.

Nov 2004

Although Alan Gabbey is not the most riveting Professor ever, I do agree that the 9am time slot isn't helping him at all. If this class had started after noon I think I would have enjoyed it much more. Gabbey is a very knowledgeable professor who has his own subtle sense of humor which I personally found to be pretty amusing. Basically this class consists of some manageable philisophical reading and then class discussions which I didn't feel obliged to be a part of. He was very willing to answer questions, and make sure that students understood the material.