20th Century European Philosophy

Apr 2019

Was shocked to read that he has such positive reviews on CULPA, as everyone I spoke to in the class found his lectures disorganized and repetitive while his grading was overly harsh. Carman will often start the lecture with a "quick" recap that turns into 30 minutes of repeating exactly what he said last class, meaning that he is always behind on the syllabus. It is clear that he comes to class totally unprepared and often goes on long irrelevant tangents. He will pose essay questions on topics not discussed in class and will grade extremely harshly if he feels you did not understand the text. However, even if you write on a topic discussed in class and quote directly from his lectures, he will often still mark things that he himself said as incorrect. If you love philosophy, feel free to take this class. Anyone else: it will decimate your GPA no matte r how hard you work.

Nov 2017

Overall very good class. I am a philosophy major and this course helped steer me in the direction I feel like I am going in. Not sure if it's good for non majors since it deals a lot with the internal narratives of the philosophical tradition. We covered Heidegger, Gadamer, Foucault, and Derrida. Carman has lots of great things to say about Heidegger and Gadamer. He has some to say about Foucault, and while its not as inspiring and fascinating as his other lectures, it explains the material well. he has almost nothing to say about Derrida except in relation to Heidegger (which is important stuff.) Carman is and odd man who I like a lot, but many people find him annoying. He gets pulled off on tangents easily and that can be the worst. Fair grader, GO TO OFFICE HOURS.

May 2013

Carman is consistent. His lectures tend to be clear, although every now and then he does end up talking about thinkers and topics that seem somewhat irrelevant for the purposes of the class. I am also of the opinion that his lectures on Heidegger are significantly better than his lectures on Foucault. I don't know if this is because Heidegger is just more interesting than Foucault, or because Carman is Columbia's resident expert on Heidegger. Perhaps it is both. When lecturing on Foucault, he often seemed to be figuring it out as he taught it, which was definitely not the case with Heidegger -- although, again, this might be a consequence of Foucault's unnecessarily (and, I would add, sometimes annoyingly) obscure style. Only when reading Heidegger did Carman offer truly mindblowing lectures. In general, however, Carman will settle for being clear and consistent rather than mindblowing. (For the latter, maybe take Honneth or Neuhouser). The upside of this is that he virtually gave no repetitive, reiterative or unclear lectures. The best thing about this class is Carman's feedback. He reads at least half the essays in the class, and gives extensive, insightful and rigorous (but never harsh) comments. Office hours are very helpful, although he does seem more receptive to students' ideas in class than in office hours. All in all, a good class. Definitely take anything he teaches on Heidegger. If you want a class that will really improve your philosophical writing, take it as well. If you want mind-blowing, earth-shattering lectures, think twice. You will get some, but they tend to be rare.

May 2013

Professor Carman is a great guy, and that doesn't imply that he is not a fantastic professor (in fact he is), therefore I always wondered in the past couple of months why nobody had ever reviewed him since 2007. As I was attempting to write this review, I suddenly realized the challenges: Firstly, Professor Carman (after these 5 long years) still is an engaging lecturer: He is witty, humorous, a-library-of-interesting-examples, and of course very knowledgeable what he teaches. Sadly, his previous reviewers have already said those good things about him. And yes, he goes on tangents sometimes, either to give you one of the aforementioned examples or to (politely) respond to a student's (half of the times relevant and insightful) question. Unfortunately this has also been mentioned by my predecessors. In general, his lectures consist of: him talking plus Q&A sessions with a mixture of debates and anecdotes. If you have fetishism of highly "structured", professor-"dominated", "normalized" lectures, with little or none "deviation" from the textbooks, look elsewhere. If you don't, this is the most fascinating course you can take in the philosophy department(s), and I sincerely hope that you will enjoy it as much as I did. This, however, is the second challenge: It so easily attains the "great course" title that I find it difficult to articulate why it deserves it. Well: 1) The course material was (pleasantly) different from anything you would read in an orthodox philosophy course, in other words, "radical". Hence if you were, like me, frustrated about the stuff philosophers said before Nietzsche, you would probably find what Heidegger and Foucault said refreshing and liberating, and perhaps at the end of the semester feel frustrated again for a different reason. 2) This course seemed to attract a group of intelligent and well-read students, and risk-takers (like me) who didn't know anything about the topic but stubbornly decided to stay simply because Heidegger+Foucault+Kuhn+Carman were awesome. The classroom environment was therefore slightly competitive yet the atmosphere was perfect for learning. If you were up for the challenge you would learn a ton. To address a few concerns before I end this (ridiculously long) review: 1) Professor Carman is not a particularly harsh grader and the assignments are pretty straight-forward. What hinders you from getting an easy A is that you have to write much better than Heidegger and Foucault about what they intended to talk about after reading their writings and therefore getting confused about what they intended to talk about (<-- this is how they write by the way). 2) Don't panic if you didn't do well in your first essay. It gets better as you become more familiar with the language and literature. 3) Professor Carman is, as I said at the beginning, a nice guy. There is no need to feel intimidated to talk to him during office hours. But you do need to be prepared in order to get the most out of it.