professor
Lydia Goehr

This professor has earned a CULPA silver nugget

Dec 2016

Lydia's course Philosophy of Art begins with essentialist questions (what is art? what is beauty?) and ends with sociological and political questions (how does art figure in the political realm? how does the institutional art world wield its power to decide on questions of taste? why are there no great women artists?), using selected philosophical texts as markers. The readings are very enjoyable as are Goehr's lectures. Sometimes, however, her lectures are winding and discursive, in large part because she takes questions. So this class is part seminar, part lecture. I think Goehr is a very visual and abstract thinker. She often draws large abstracted maps of argument and history. And she is clearly very spiritually invested in art too; this makes sense as she comes from a family of artists, a fact she will make sure you know about her. The problem with this course is a lack of direction re writing and argumentation. You will be asked to write on a number of highly open-ended questions--to "make an argument," and yet spend most of your time "in exposition." TAs are open and helpful enough. However, it seems like they keep their standards intentionally esoteric which I don't approve of.

Jan 2015

This was my first philosophy class at Columbia and I absolutely loved it. Each week we dissected one work on the philosophy of history across two lectures. Professor Goehr effortlessly conducted the class towards a final, full understanding of the works through a combination of question-answer and lecture. As others have said, she is not afraid to call people out if their questions or answers are inadequate, but this never seemed mean-spirited. Instead, it forced the class towards pointed understanding of the philosophical ideas instead of falling prey to diversion, as sometimes happens in the hands of a less skilled and honest professor. Because of their brisk focus, I found these classes to be consistently engaging and downright intellectually thrilling.

Aug 2014

I have taken many of Professor Goehr’s classes while at Columbia, and the Philosophy of Music senior seminar was my final class with her before graduating. I have become accustomed to the pedagogic style, which is not to spoon feed and coddle, but rather to seriously engage with students, debate, provoke independent thinking, and illuminate misnomers and gaps in knowledge while the class is in session, (as opposed to after the fact, or not at all, which is very much the case with many other profs at CU.) I count the critical thinking skills, and rhetorical and argumentative methods that I have gleaned from Professor Goehr as among my most valuable assets acquired during my BA. This class is arguably one of the most difficult she teaches, music philosophy being a notoriously complex and evasive subject of study. It is advisable to take at least one of her introductory courses to begin to understand what the expectations are, and how aesthetics differs from other branches of philosophy, and perhaps more importantly, how philosophy of music diverges from the philosophy of art. Professor Goehr is a leader in this area of research, so the opportunity to study the subject with her means one is at the forefront of enquiry in the field. As far as I am concerned, this academic challenge is what attending Columbia is all about, and has served me extremely well in my postgraduate studies.

Jul 2014

I have taken many of Professor Goehr’s classes while at Columbia, and the Philosophy of Music senior seminar was my final class with her before graduating. I have become accustomed to the pedagogic style, which is not to spoon feed and coddle, but rather to seriously engage with students, debate, provoke independent thinking, and illuminate misnomers and gaps in knowledge while the class is in session, (as opposed to after the fact, or not at all, which is very much the case with many other profs at CU.) I count the critical thinking skills, and rhetorical and argumentative methods that I have gleaned from Professor Goehr as among my most valuable assets acquired during my BA. This class is arguably one of the most difficult she teaches, music philosophy being a notoriously complex and evasive subject of study. It is advisable to take at least one of her introductory courses to begin to understand what the expectations are, and how aesthetics differs from other branches of philosophy, and perhaps more importantly, how philosophy of music diverges from the philosophy of art. Professor Goehr is a leader in this area of research, so the opportunity to study the subject with her means one is at the forefront of enquiry in the field. As far as I am concerned, this academic challenge is what attending Columbia is all about, and has served me extremely well in my postgraduate studies.

Dec 2012

The absolute worst professor I have had in my 4 undergrad years. She was rude and self-absorbed. Sure, she is very intelligent, but she is unapproachable and condescending to students. The first 2-3 weeks of class, students actively tried to participate in discussion, but by the end of the semester, everyone was afraid to talk because she might wag her finger at you (which she actually did in one class). She plays off her rudeness as if it is just sarcasm, except her sarcasm is not funny. She somehow always managed to talk about herself when lecture on other philosophers, and she did not encourage discussion or critical thought from her students. Often times, when students were giving their presentations, she would interrupt them, tell them they were wrong, and even not let the student finish their presentation.

Jan 2011

I really loved Prof Goehr's lecture style. She throws up a "map" of ideas on the board and when you first sit down you're like "huh?" but by the end of class it all comes together. Part of your grade is participation but it was unclear how that was tallied. As with any large lecture class, it was usually the same four people speaking up. The papers were graded a bit harshly, I thought, but perhaps for a philosophy major it wouldn't be so bad. Define every term you use; even if you think you defined it, you didn't, do it again. Good class for philosophy students, but I also enjoyed it as a history major.

Dec 2010

Really good class, and probably the best 4 credit class you could ask for. Must write 3, 4 page papers out of 4. All of the papers involve a choice of which readings to do it on, as well as the question that you are going to answer. She's a good lecturer, her English accent makes her more interesting to listen to. I'd definitely suggest this class for non-majors as well. She is witty and you can tell she is very intelligent and well versed on the subject.

Dec 2010

I was a little concerned after I read some reviews on CULPA, and found that Lydia was a professor who did not tolerate BS at 9am in the morning, but I am pleased to say that I absolutely loved this class! The professor's lecture style is a bit scatterbrained, but she always provided the class with an outline on the board and always explained all concepts fully. The material is very challenging, and it's often supposed to be (this is a philosophy class after all!), but Lydia is able to effectively emphasize the general ideas of the readings without oversimplifying them. Still, you're going to have to do the readings on your own and grapple with them for some time if you want to truly understand them. Curiously, the professor announced in the first class that she did not want to have office hours with any underclassmen or juniors, only seniors. All non-seniors were directed to the TA, Isabel Lerer. Isabel was a great TA, obviously very knowledgeable regarding all of the material, and she really took an interest in the students that went to her for assistance with papers. She also graded most of the papers, and I found her to be a very fair and easy grader. My biggest complaint with this class is that it was at 9am and attendance was taken at every class and required. Since this class was 4 credits and didn't have a midterm, recitation section, or really anything besides 3 short papers, I guess it's fair that it requires attendance. As long as you can get up in the morning, you won't fall asleep in this class; it's too engaging. But if you can't even get yourself out of bed at 9, you might have to skip this one.

Nov 2010

I can't believe that Lydia is only listed as "silver." She is the most brilliant, engaging, and wonderful professor I have had at Columbia. Her classes are always interesting and captivating, no matter the subject being discussed. She relates the material in the most accessible way. Lydia, if you ever read this...you are worth a million gold ratings!! For the rest of you, your Columbia experience would be incomplete without taking a class with Lydia!!

Dec 2007

This was one of the best classes I have taken at Columbia. Professor Goehr is a fantastic teacher. She is engaging, funny, and informative. Her style for this class was to intersperse discussion with lecture. It keeps you completely engaged with the material. The material is sometimes difficult, but in class she is able to make clear even the most difficult concepts. She puts so much energy into each class that you cannot help but respond. The TA’s were always there to help answer questions, though their office hours were often a little crowded. Nobody really took advantage of Professor Goehr’s hours, but if you do she is always welcoming and willing to help even if your problem has nothing to do with her class. Class participation is essential, but don’t just throw your hand up and hope that you have an interesting point. If you’re wrong she isn’t afraid to tell you in no uncertain terms. If you’re close to right, but a little unfocused, she’ll push you (in a good way) until your argument is clear and well reasoned. Unlike other professors she is perfectly willing to hear ideas and opinions that counter her own. Her only stipulation is that you present a clear, well supported argument. Whatever your intended major, you would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t take at least one class with this professor while you are at Columbia.

Sep 2007

Very interesting class, Goehr is a great professor. Witty and comical, she makes the class intruiging and fun. This is definately a class that you get what you put in, as little or as much as you'd like. The papers are relatively short, graded fairly easily, and as long as you show improvement you'll get a good grade. As she said in one class, "Not everyone can write philosophical genius, but as long as there's effort one deserves an A."

Jul 2005

i thought this class was really something, and it would be a very good idea for all history majors like the previous reviewer (those interested in a modicum of the theory behind their field) to take this course. as for philosophy majors, bear in mind that this course has many people in it, and a great many of them are not philosophy majors and seem to get intimidated in the discussion sections (as noted previously, each week is divided into a Goehr lecture and a discussion section with prof Goehr and the TA alternating each week, between teh Junior senior group and the Freshman Sophmore group.) both of the T.A.'s (Felix Koch and Oran Moked) were fantastic anyhow, so it was basically a lecture a week and a seminar a week. at any rate, there is ample opportunity to engage in discussion and it is highly encouraged by both professor Goehr and her T.A.'s, but discussion often flounders based on teh difficulty of the texts, and the fact that the T.A.'s and professor will PUSH you extremely hard. that cannot be emphasized enough, DO NOT TRY TO B.S. because prof Goehr will publicly take you down and it will be unpleasant. that said, if she feels as if you are asking an honest question, not just --"Oh is this where hegel fits in?" where it is clear that if you read the readings hegel couldn't be farther from the point-- she will give you a perfectly fair chance and get into real dialogue with you. note: the above is not written very consisely, and if you write your papers for this class like that you will get stomped. the point is, we read a great deal of texts that boil down to an entirely new perspective on history each week. this is something that happens maybe ONCE in your regular history classes...for example that one time when some prof emphasizes "now remember kiddoes, NO HISTORIAN CAN FREE HIMSELF OF HIS OWN PRECONCEPTIONS ENTIRELY". if you thought that point was interesting the first time you heard it, or even the 5th or 6th, then definately take this course and enjoy your newfound understanding of the importance behind your historical study. philosophy majors, take this course just because Prof. Goehr is fantastic, succinct, and unwilling to b.s. or tolerate b.s. which is a HIGHLY HIGHLY admirable quality for a professor at columbia. furthermore, its a chance to take a course with her on a subject more accesible to those who don't study aesthetics. just because its about history doesnt mean it isnt LOADED with ethical, social, moral, political, and of course aesthetic philosophical concepts. blah blah blah. don't write your papers like this, just take the damn course!

Jun 2005

Goehr was engaging but intimidating to me because i'm not a philosophy person in the columbia sense of that phrase. On the other hand, she's quite scathing in her sarcastic comments about the general columbia philosophy type, something that i found endearing. I enjoyed this course as a history major specializing in a particularly theoretical area of historiographical work who was looking for a grounding in the philosophical debate over what history is beyond the "historian's craft" how-to seminar. the class was divided into two groups , junior/senior and fresh/soph. mondays were lectures together and wednesdays were seminar-style meetings with the groups split up and goehr alternating between the two. i was too intimidated to have a real conversation with her especially since she has a tendency to ask philosophy questions in response to student questions, but the ta for our group was great. beware that this is very much a survey-type course : we were reading marx/nietzsche/benjamin and then suddenly ppl like carl hempel and karl popper. one thing- we covered a lot of different kinds of philosophers/writers about history in a short span towards the end - kubler, danto, hayden white, and pierre nora. it was a little jumbled up and made it harder to write a sufficiently "deep" final paper.

Feb 2005

NEVER have you seen a Philosophy professor who is so CLEAR in her speech. One thing that makes her an expert lecturer is that while dealing with extremely vague and complicated concepts/texts, she will try to get through to you only one or two points that she thinks are important. Unlike your typical "Philosophy" person, she doesn't make infinite connections to infinite number of concepts and philosophers you will never understand anyway. Every lecture has a clear point and she'll make sure you understand at least that one. I agree with the other reviewers that she is quite arrogant and sometimes even nasty, but who cares.

Jan 2005

Excellent class, if somewhat superficial philosophically. Prof. Goehr is an GREAT lecturer, and the subject matter was fascinating for the most part. I'd recommend the course, especially if you just want to get a taste of what philosophy is like and are not too concerned with great philosophical depth.

Jan 2005

If only reviewing the professor I will agree that she is amazing. She's brilliant, funny and quick, and obviously knows what she's doing. I wish the subject matter had been different however. Her lectures were not difficult to follow, although the readings were a bit painful because I hated the material. The class made me realize I want to do human rights because aesthetics (to me, I realize some love it) seems so inconsequential, comparatively. If you want to sit around and talk about whether or not a work of art is immoral and how that affects its aesthetic value, take the class. Not for me.

Jan 2005

While charismatic and witty, Goehr is merely good, not phenomenal but good, as a professor when it really comes down to it. She re-words the assigned readings to make them easier to understand, which is helpful to a degree, but leaves a little more to be desired. I would always leave the class feeling that I understood the readings thanks to Goehr's outlines, but that an intelligent debate (and by that I am not refering to what seems to be the prevailing consensus among Columbia students that a debate or discussion requires using every multisyllabic word you have ever encountered or needlessly dropping names of every philosopher you've ever read) brimming just under the surface of the lecture was avoided in favor of Goehr's interpretation alone. I think its important for professors to understand that teaching does not so much require presenting their personal views, but providing varied ones which are left open for students to interpret and discuss. Goehr's love of her own opinions and interpretations is cemented by the fact that she includes one of her own essays in the course packet and constantly refers to lectures she has conducted around the world or to great minds that she has met over coffee or wine or whatever high-bow intellectuals are drinking these days. Be prepared to hear of some chat she and Danto had at least every other class. Her sly remarks about politics were also unappreciated and unecessary but did not detract from the topics at hand. The TA-led discussions (there are three required per semester) are only as strong as the TA leading them and as boring and pretentious as your fellow students, but do offer a great platform for presenting and developing any thoughts you came up with while reading the assignments.

Jan 2005

A few notes on Prof. Goehr, particularly in relation to this class... First, in my opinion Goehr does not care about her students. While it's true that most people like her dry wit and (sometimes) interesting lectures, she is not a professor that seems to be in it for the teaching side of things. She defers all her work to her TAs, and refused to read my papers (even though I am a upper division philosophy major who took both of her classes, and had multiple discussions with her outside of class throughout the semester). It's worth noting that she did promise me that she would discuss the concepts I developed in my paper, and would help me develop a reading list for my thesis, but when I asked her a couple weeks later to follow through, she refused, and made little or no attempt to apologize or explain (she did, however, remember our agreement). Although I defended her for most of the semester against friends of mine in the class who disliked her, I finally gave up when I realized that she cares mostly for herself and for Arthur Danto, or at least the sound of his name (which she mentioned every class throughout the semester). For those thinking that perhaps I can't handle her personality described in other reviews, let me make it clear that I could care less about any hurt feelings involved; rather, it was a simple, yet infuriating waste of time, clearly of hers, and apparently of mine. The second point is about the substantive nature of the class: while some of the readings were interesting, and represented a range of ways to discuss and interpret art and related topics from both analytic and contintental perspectives, the class should by no means be a 3000 level course. It is an introductory course, and while she warned the upper division philosophy majors to take her graduate lecture (which I did), with the rarity of courses focused on contintental philosophy or aesthetics, most people stayed in the class regardless, including juniors, who shouldn't be taking (or be forced to take) intro classes in their third year. The topics she chose for the class were pretty engaging, if broad; but the readings, lectures and discussions were deeply inadequate to do anything more than sketch out the problems posed by the topics. Although there were a couple bright spots on the syllabus (Benjamin, Adorno- although she picked a pretty boring essay of his-, Lowenthal, Danto), most of the syllabus was insufferably shallow. If you have any serious experience with aesthetic theory, particularly from the 19th or 20th centuries, I'd think the class will deeply disappoint you, especially because it sounds so interesting. And if you are seriously interested in continental philosophy, don't accept this class as a substitute for a course that offers real depth and insight- take Carman, or go over to the anthropology department. For the reviewer who mentioned that Goehr is the only continental philosopher in the department, while that may be true (not counting Carman, if you want to argue he takes an analytic approach towards some of the texts he teaches), she is a pathetic excuse for representing the real rigor, passion, and brilliance of continental philosophy. That said, if you want an intro course on Aesthetics, or if you're not seriously interested in the field, or if you're in the Cult of Goehr for whatever reason (that is distubing in itself), you'll probably agree with the positive reviews.

Jan 2005

It was an very good class overall and the readings are excellent. Certainly Prof. Goehr is not God; however, the praise often given to her is, in my opinion, well deserved. Her lectures were, although long, very engaging and very knowledgable. Like other lecture classes, participation by students is very limited (perhaps one or two questions at the end of class), which may disappoint some. Other students may complain that she simply recaps the readings in her lectures, but this criticism seems inappropriate. The readings are very dense and philosophically involved. If you think that you can figure out everything that is going on in the texts on your own, you are either extremely brilliant or extremely stupid. In either case, do not take this class. Her lectures do very well to clarify complex arguments and ideas. It is an excellent introduction to aesthetics in western philosophic tradition. If you are expecting deep discussion and involvement that one would get from a seminar, simply pay more attention to the fact to the course bulletin; its a lecture. I cannot agree with those who criticize Prof. Goehr as particularly arrogant. I did not get the same sense. Although she obviously doesn't want to deal with undergraduates in many respects, there is a reason for it: it is a graduate course. Yes, the TA is not the best, but Columbia is not know for its aesthetics, so you shouldn't expect brilliant graduate students in the subject.

Dec 2004

Most culpa reviews on Goehr and Aesthetics and Ethics are very praiseworthy. But, I found Goehr to be rather egomaniacal (beware of rampant name dropping) and her class unimpressive. The class tries to focus on too broad a range of questions and so nothing is ever focused. I left the semester feeling that none of the questions had been answered or even adequately addressed. The reading material is facinating, but the topics are all over the place. Goehr (while certainly charismatic and interesting in a dry British way) spends the lectures explaining the reading, rather than analyzing the essays or connnecting them to any broader them. In this way the class seemed disjointed. In addition, Goehr is always off parading around Europe giving lectures, so students are forced to deal solely with the pretentious and pissed off TAs.

Dec 2004

Wonderful, brilliant, engaging lecturer. The only continental philosopher in the Philosophy dept. A lucid introduction to the ethical implications of art. Highly recommended.

Dec 2004

It's true, Goehr's students idolize her (myself included) and she loves it. She can be intimidating, insulting, sarcastic, patronizing but she can also make you believe that philosophy, art, and maybe even you really matter. I wholeheartedly recommend this course for both majors and non-majors. But beware of one thing above all: Goehr relies on her TAs for grading and for leading classes when she's off lecturing somewhere else. The TAs my semester were terrible at both of those tasks. Nevertheless, an energizing, provocative, eye-opening class. If you feel that the philosophy major is the biggest swindle you've ever been duped into, take this course to help salvage your Columbia education.

Nov 2004

Someone needs to provide some qualification to all the reviews of Prof Goehr which portray her as a God. Goehr knows her stuff and her lectures do make some good points, but by the end of the two hour period, it was pretty clear from one glance around the class that at least 50-75% were sleepy, tired and itching to get out of the class.... In other words, she's DEFINITELY not the best lecturer I've heard. Also, while I always had pleasant personal encounters with Prof. Goehr, I found her to be a bit full of herself-she knows her stuff but she also knows that she knows it. She loves the way that so many students fawn over her and kiss up-it's not that you have to do this to get a good grade, but you would think that an intelligent professor would see through the fakeness of these brown-nosers.

May 2003

There is good reason why Professor Goehr is a cult figure. Who else could fill a lecture class at 9 am and have students begging to be included. Her teaching style is something akin to mystic revelation. You will be enlightened after her lectures, though I doubt you'll be able to recount how it happened. Though that doesn't much matter when your hopped up three cups of coffee and there is so much beauty in the world...

May 2002

Fabulous. Amazing. Fantastic. Words fail to describe Lydia Goehr's teaching abilities. No matter what course she teaches, whether it be philosophy or lit hum, she never fails to make you think, question your beliefs, and leave class realizing that you know absolutely nothing. Her class is challenging. She oftens puts you on the spot and makes you think. She's not afriad to say you're wrong and trust me, she won't spare your feelings. She is absolutely phenomenal. I never dreaded going to my 9 AM philosophy class because I knew that the subject material covered would be fascinating. She keeps you on your toes and never stops making you think. She is the type of professor you pay $38,000 a year for...too bad she is going on sabbatical next year. I recommend any class you can get with her when she returns from Germany.

May 2002

After taking Lit Hum with her, I think I want to BE Lydia Goehr. Not only is she an awesome person all around, but I feel like I've learned more from her than from most of my other professors combined. She's quite demanding in class and values our effort in discussions far more than papers and exams. Class NEVER feels dull or aimless with Lydia. Some people may feel intimidated when she responds to student's comments with "no, that's absolutely wrong," but you'll leave class much more knowledgeable than with professors who nod sympathetically at every random thought that's thrown out. If you're comfortable deferring to the opinions of a true scholar, you'll like any class she teaches.