Introduction to Philosophy

Dec 2020

Professor Russell's Introduction to Philosophy class wasn't exactly what I expected, but by the end of the semester, I came to appreciate it for what it was. Professor Russell's lecture style isn't the most engaging, but it's very helpful if you didn't do the reading thoroughly, and she did her best to make the class less monotonous by asking discussion questions every so often and putting us into breakout rooms now and then. The most annoying part of the course IMO was the four-person discussion groups that we had to meet with weekly. They were randomly assigned and my group didn't cohere so well, so we were always forgetting to meet and there was tension about who would do the weekly write-ups. Content-wise, this course wasn't so much an introduction to the subject of philosophy as it was a review of some philosophical articles and texts, some recent, some classic, many of them centering around the subject of race and racism. For example, we read MLK's Letter from a Birmingham City Jail, DuBois' "The Souls of Black Folks", Audre Lorde's "The Uses of Anger", James Baldwin's "White Guilt", and several others. The workload was pretty manageable; you didn't necessarily have to do the readings for each class, although it's easier to gain participation points and participate in your discussion group if you do, and the reading responses are graded pass/fail. There's a lot of emphasis on how writing a philosophy paper requires an "argument reconstruction" rather than a "mere summary", a concept that I'm still not fully sure I understand. Nevertheless, the paper grading was pretty fair, and the professor and TA were very open to office hours and very accommodating around deadlines.

Dec 2020

This is gonna be a very emotional and outrageous comment. Taylor Carman destroys all my aspirations to major in philosophy. His lecture scarcely covers anything that he expects to appear in your paper, while his grading is, as mentioned in many previous reviews, incredibly harsh. Carman's ego-centric style is evident in both the selection of reading and his paper comments. Only take this class if you are enthusiastic about moral philosophy because there is little left for epistemology or metaphysics. He gives a bad grade once he doesn't like the argument you use, which makes an A only possible by writing the things that you know would please him. Plus, he does not like the inclusion of any concept which he does not teach on the paper. This is the class that I invested most time(and passion) in yet it gave me the worst grade. :(

Jun 2020

Super chill professor who is obviously passionate about what he teaches. I took his class in the first semester of my freshman year, and he was definitely the highlight of my first semester. The readings are super light, and the class discussions include a lot of interactive activities to better understand philosophical concepts. The homework was so light that I never missed any readings or anything, because I actually felt bad not doing my work considering how little he assigned and how chill he was about extensions. He's always open to meeting with you in his office before/after class if you have any questions. He even lets us call him Kyle! Overall just a really cool prof that I highly encourage you to take a class with if you can! I highly recommend taking Intro to Philosophy with Kyle to anyone who's thinking about it. The class differs pretty substantially according to who you take it with, so you can't guarantee it'll be this chill with other professors. Kyle is the best! His class was the only one in fall '19 that I was actually, genuinely excited to attend! Hoping that he continues to teach here for years to come.

Apr 2020

This class (which I took last semester, fall 2019) confirmed that I want to be a philosophy major. I'd definitely recommend it if that's what your'e looking for, or if you're just looking for an interesting intro phil class. I was a big fan of professor Carman's lecture style. Some might have seen it as disorganized but I thought his sort of stream-of-consciousness lecturing made the material very engaging as he really showed you the process of thinking through complicated ideas from the readings. He definitely rambled and entertained many students' questions even though it was like a ~60 person lecture, but I think he said what he wanted to say each class (though we were always behind the syllabus). During office hours, he was super friendly and willing to talk through ideas for your paper. The readings for each class were interesting so I did most of them, but I don't think they were absolutely necessary to understand the lecture and most of the essay prompts were specific to one text so you could easily go back and only read what was necessary for the prompt of your choice. We had 2 TA's that I think just helped him grade papers - there was no discussion section. Overall, he's a super funny and engaging prof even in a large lecture, and you can really see & respect how intelligent he is both in class and in office hours. Deserves the silver, and maybe even gold! Definitely will be taking more classes with Carman.

Nov 2018

I took professor Lewis' course last fall, but I was just searching her up in the course catalogue, hoping to take another class with her and I vaguely remembered that a lot of her CULPA reviews seemed pretty negative. I am here to clear the air: If you want to understand some basic philosophical concepts, this is the class for you. It is incredible that a year has passed and I'm still thinking about the "material/immaterial mind" or Descartes, because that was... a year ago. I feel like that speaks volumes to the competency of Lewis' lectures. Sure, I recall some classes being a bit dull or way too confusing, but I look pretty fondly at my time with Lewis. She reads from the slides and uploads the slides, but she would also go more in depth, offering good notes to look back on when it was time for the exam. She tried to learn every student's name and set up class time for students to work together in groups, going through the text. As for homework, it varied and you can get away with skimming a reading or skipping one, because she goes through difficult concepts in class. I would say this: for homework assignments and essays, KEEP IT SIMPLE. Yes, the concepts are difficult at times, but I know some people in the class did terribly on papers, because they would try to make arguments that you just can't make in an intro course. Flowery, "philosophical" language will get you nowhere, honestly. Keep. It. Simple. I got an A- in the class, but I think I could have done even better if I put more effort into my second paper. Study for the exams, go to her office hours if you're confused - but all in all, this class was straightforward and extremely informative. I highly suggest Professor Lewis!

Nov 2018

I loved taking Intro to Philosophy with Professor Dershowitz this year. She makes class really fun and engaging by encouraging class discussions and answering lots and lots of questions. If you're the type of person that likes organized, textbook learning then you probably won't like this class. But if you love discussing different opinions, going on some interesting tangents, and just generally talking in class, you'll love this class. I learned a lot about the philosophy of the mind, personal identity, and knowledge claims. This is a great class if you think you might be interested in philosophy but don't want to dive headfirst into thick, heavy readings. The workload was minimal and the exams were challenging but not too difficult. 10/10 would recommend this class to my friends!

Jan 2018

Good and passionate teacher. 8:40 am class is a killer though- don't take so early unless you really are into philosophy.

Dec 2016

Like all previous reviewers have said, Carman's an excellent lecturer who makes his points very clear and takes time to clarify and explain difficult concepts. He also has a great sense of humor and endless knowledge of both philosophy and subjects that might not seem to be closely related to philosophy at first glance, like neuroscience and classical music. His classes are a joy to be in, and you manage to get a lot out of them, though I can see that people with a bit of knowledge in philosophy already might find the style of his lectures a bit boring, as he tends to reiterate points quite a bit to make sure we really understand the concepts. Carman also takes time to answer more or less any question students might have, sometimes to good effect and clarifying valid confusions, and sometimes to just entertain the inquirer while trying to steer the subject back to the lecture at hand. This makes his lectures seem a little disorganized at times, though I think he always gets time to say everything he wants to say. As previous reviewers have also said, Carman isn't an easy grader. It's not impossible to get an A or A- in his class (I got an A- on both the papers I turned in), but he really makes you work for it, and if my peek at his gradebook was accurate, he's given out a few Cs and C-s to particularly bad papers, with the majority of grades being Bs. However, Carman more than makes up for his difficult grading with extensive and fair feedback on your writing. I never felt that I deserved better than I got in his class, though some might find Carman to have overly high standards.

Jul 2015

Professor Carman is very engaging lecturer. He patiently explains the concepts and, if you don't understand something, he is always available at office hours and will spend a lot of explaining things. I don't agree with the other reviewer, and I think that if you really work on a paper, you can definitely get a B+ or A-. That being said, in order to do well on the papers, you really need to ensure you understand the concepts, which can be difficult. That being said, the class was great - I would even say that it is life changing!

Apr 2015

I love Prof. Carman. I love him. He's a great speaker, never boring, and super kind. Sometimes he's even funny! The work load is simple and not too fast paced, and he makes it very clear in class. That being said, it's impossible to get anything over a B on your papers unless you ARE Plato. I mean- office hours, outlining, notes, constant revising of my paper STILL was a B. So, keep that in mind. If you want a simple class where you'll get a B and have a good time and not be stressed, take this class

Apr 2015

Thimo is an absolute sweetheart. He is very approachable and very human, which I appreciate so much when comparing him to various older, distant professors (though in the class I'm taking right now, [PHIL BC1001], the professor is likewise kind and approachable. He is the reason lecture classes should have TA's– he's very emotionally intuitive and he can spot the people struggling far better than most professors can. On the days where he gives lectures, he is alight with confidence and excitement regarding his topic. He is a joy to learn from and I will miss him next semester.

Jul 2014

I personally loved this class. Professor Lewis is very approachable and is a great lecturer; some of the readings, albeit light, could be a bit difficult to understand (e.g. Aristotelian virtue ethics, Kant) and Professor Lewis explained them very well in class. She gave a lot of guidance and was a pretty fair grader. She has a very objective points-system, so the grading wasn't arbitrary at all. This is a great class for people who might be interested in philosophy and are willing to take it seriously. You get as much out of it as you put in -- I spent a lot of time on the readings and put a lot of effort into the essays/projects, and went to almost all the office hours of both the professor and her TAs, and did very very well in the class. Students who slept through lecture/went on Facebook (and there were a number of those) did not enjoy the class as much -- which is a shame, because it's really a great class/a great introduction to philosophy.

May 2014

For the field he is in, Prof. Paul deserves a gold nugget. Let me put this in perspective, he is an active contributor to philosophy (just published his I believe second book) yet makes relatively old issues comparable with modern analogies. I'll even go you an example. "John Locke has a weird way of saying things. He'll be like Freedom, comma, what? It reminds me of Lil Jon." He's not only a great lecturer but an amazing listener. He gives students numerous opportunities to ask questions and will be able to thoroughly answer any of them. It is also obvious he is quite brilliant, which I found intimidating at first. However, after going to office hours I discovered him to be genuinely caring and interested in his students' progress in his course. One time, I had signed up for 20 minute slot to meet with him about an essay. It really needed help and so he had discussed it with me for about an hour. I also got an A on the essay so it wasn't like a waste of office hours. He knows names in his huge lecture classes which is impressive. He's the type of professor you will want to say hi and talk to you when you see him on campus. For the grading, I would say it is extremely fair. He gives you a study guide that covers about 90% of potential material that is on his tests. If you answer the study guide, you will be able to do well on his tests. The papers were graded by the TAs thoroughly fair as well and they tremendously appreciate thoughtful effort. All in all, if you want to delve into the realms of philosophy, I would take Intro with Paul. I am pretty sure I'm going to major/minor in this field because of this course.

May 2014

Elliot Paul rocks!! He is such a sweet professor and a really interesting lecturer- especially when he makes his unexpected but hilarious modern music references (ex. you know JayZ says the same thing in his song No Church in the Wild). For this class, all you got to do is go to lecture and take notes and study and make sure you know the material! The readings are helpful as well but going to lecture is kinda crucial because some readings are too complicated to understand all by your lonesome. All in all he's awesome and the TA's are always there for you. I really loved this class and recommend that you take it with Paul - he's the best!

Apr 2014

I enjoyed the class. It was pretty easy, and the topics were interesting. She's a nice professor but it was hard for me to stay awake during lectures sometimes. The polling system didn't bother me and the papers were fairly easy to write as long as you had done the reading and looked at her slides. The group project was kind of annoying though. I'd recommend the class if looking for an easy way to fulfill the EAV requirement at Barnard. It did spark an interest in philosophy for me.

Jan 2014

Course covered a lot of material like the last post says but was rushed. It would have been better to focus on one reading a class instead of two or three. The papers are manageable and you do not need to go to class or take notes to do well on them. They focus mainly on your opinion and an analysis of the reading. Some of the TAs were very picky graders. For example, my one paper he wrote that the organization did not work well and I received a B-; then on the next, which he also graded he wrote "you did a good job" and I received a B... That does not really make sense if he thought one was terrible and the other good. The teaching was annoying. Prof. Lewis is nice enough but it wasn't particularly interesting and I had a hard time paying attention. I personally hated her voice, she constantly stresses almost every other syllable (you'll see what I mean if you have her). The polling system was really frustrating too because it was finicky and asked very random questions from the reading. Even though I went to every class and mostly read all the readings, I only received half the points. I did end up doing well in the class so that's good but I will not be taking any more philosophy.

Dec 2013

Course seemed to try to shove too much information and topics into one semester. Professor Lewis never seemed to spend enough time on topics to fully divulge the meaning behind the theories. Class tended to be more of people just spitting out their own opinions than an actual entire lecture. Used a polling system for reading comprehension check each class. Manageable class if you learn three topics very well throughout the semester. Teaching wise, not the best. Let's just say I found myself skipping more classes than usual and still being able to write the papers.

May 2013

Definitely take Intro to Philosophy with Dr. Elliot Paul. He is extremely fair, and extremely understanding. He's not like most professors who think that their class is the ONLY class. Try emailing him your comments or questions about a reading, and I promise you he will reply with clarifications and make sure you understand the content and the debate at hand (ie. Skepticism, Free Will, etc.) Always willing to help and if you ask him a question after class, you will see how kind he is. It's a lecture but like the reviewer below said, he knows EVERYONE's name. Very impressive. Dr. Paul is very knowledgeable in the subject and makes the philosophy topics interesting. Try one class, and you'll see what I mean.

Apr 2013

Dr. Paul is such an awesome guy and a really good teacher. he is well organized and does not go too fast. he really tries to make sure that the class understands before moving on. he provides funny examples and just has a really pleasant personality. he truly cares about his students. he is a fair grader. i think that he wants all of his students to do well and understand the concepts that he presents. this class is a decent size, perhaps 50, and he knows everyone's name. that is awfully impressive. TAKE HIS CLASSS!!

Apr 2012

I had Professor Beardman for Intro to Philosophy this semester and became very fond of her and the subject matter. The material is difficult to grasp at times, especially for someone who has never taken a philosophy course before, but she really delves into each concept and is extremely articulate with her English so that if you listen and ask questions, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the concepts. She is usually available after class for office hours and is very casual and non-rushed about them. She also earned brownie points in my mind for making a solid effort to learn everyone's name (there were over 30 people in the class) and to address everyone by his or her name when calling on/responding to students who had questions. Overall, she is very sweet and knows the material extremely well, the reading and assignments are reasonable, and the exams are based on points from the readings stressed in the lectures. Do take this class either to fulfill a requirement, out of personal interest, or (and especially, I think) if you are considering majoring/minoring in Philosophy. Professor Beardman not only touches upon a wide range of topics in philosophy, but she also teaches and reinforces the key concepts and methods of thinking in philosophy through the different topics studied.

Dec 2011

This professor is incredibly humble and genuine. His excitement about the philosophers we read was tangible and the historical descriptions he supplied were well-researched but always presented as an "introduction" by someone who "doesn't really know about it, just read popular books on the subject" (Even though he clearly knew more than enough to teach the subject… probably a lot more than he indicated, since whenever he felt it relevant, he would mention studies, scientific discoveries, etc. which required a regularly updated wealth of information). He made us feel that he was always approachable and open to all questions, even after class. His conclusions about philosophers were always very logical but also very human and empathetic (hence his obsession with Hume). He has a reasonableness which takes into account all aspects of humanity and never sacrifices reality for an abstract and unattainable ideal. He summarized the readings very, very well, and I never felt at a loss when it came to writing his papers. But if you want more complex ideas you do have to actually read the texts he assigns (something I’m not sure most of the class did). I did sometimes think we might have been able to pack more information into the time given. He often ended class early, which was great if you had questions, but it might have been possible to allow for questions but still cover more (without adding any more readings!!). Sometimes I felt that we could have gone a little deeper into the minute points of each philosopher without sacrificing the broad "story" he wanted to tell, and was so successful at telling. All in all, I would definitely recommend his class as an instructive and insightful guide to a basic philosophical background. Two warnings in terms of content: First, if you've already read an extensive amount of Hume, don't sign up for this class. He loves Hume and spends the longest class-time on him, and the Hume readings were intense, to say the least. Second, Prof Darmstadter does not include readings from Aristotle or Kant in this class, giving instead an overview of each and how they fit in to the development of philosophy in general. He feels Aristotle was important in terms of effect but not particularly relevant nowadays in content. For Kant he feels somewhat the same, with the added problem of Kant being far too complicated to actually understand selections from without knowing the context of EVERYthing else Kant ever said. This seemed the more honest way to approach Kant--he deserves an entire course unto himself.