Plato and Confucius: Comparative Ancient Philosophies

Sep 2015

I came into this class with a moderate interest and no idea of what to expect. I left it overawed, and no one but Marcus Folch could have made that happen. He intended for the class to consist of 20-30 students so it could be somewhat discussion-based, but someone forgot to set the limit on SSOL. There were almost a hundred for whole course. I don't know how he and the TAs felt about that, but they took it in stride. They got more TAs (obviously) and somehow kept on top of all of the papers and tests in a timely fashion. Folch was a patient, clearly spoken, insightful, and unbelievably witty. Somehow he was able to give his lectures some elements of discussion in spite of the class' size. We also held informal and guided discussion sessions outside of class. In all cases, I would leave those things feeling like I had gotten my money's worth. What higher praise can you offer than that when you go here? He assigned mini essay questions for each week, of which you had to do at least 3. The reading varied week to week between moderate (excerpts from Plato's work and some academic essays) to extensive (all of the Analects of Confucius). It's surprisingly doable, but you have to plan ahead so that you can take advantage of the lighter weeks. There was one big paper due by the end of the semester, and that was challenging (but fun!) because we could customize our topic with TAs. The midterm and the final: essays and terms (both fine), but super-extensive passage identification. You get all possible material on review sheets. If you haven't thought up and written out your answers in review then you are not going to like these tests. In summary: Tough. Worth it. Easily my favourite experience at Columbia. I look forward to his next class.

Apr 2015

Amazing intellectual. Incredibly knowledge and inspiring. Easily my second favorite professor at Columbia.