I took this class during the online Fall 2020 semester. I got an A- in the course without doing a single reading by religiously noting down nearly everything Bilgrami said in his lectures. He tends to have a very set POV and would rather convince others why he is right without really listening to / talking over other students. However, for all the pain of the "discussions" in class, if you take note of Bilgrami's viewpoint and his reasoning behind it, passing the exams is a piece of cake.
Akeel Bilgrami was a great professor. Very passionate about the material, and he explains very dense philosophical concepts in an extremely comprehensible manner for undergrads. The readings are very difficult to understand by themselves, but you don't even really need to do them because he will be explaining all of the important concepts in great detail during lectures.
Brilliant! You should def take it with him. I wish I was a philosophy major. He def inspired me to reconsider my current econ major.
Very focused and precise professor that gives pertinent information. The lectures are extremely focused and every word is important. If you stop paying attention for five minutes you will be lost. He grades very harshly on exams but is earnest in your improvement.
Akeel Bilgrami is one of the most fascinating and passionate professors I have had at Columbia. This was the first philosophy class I'd ever taken, and I really enjoyed the way he presented it. It was essentially a survey course on important topics throughout philosophy, essential philosophers' writings on Values, Freedom, Philosophy of Language, etc. The syllabus was extremely poorly defined, and he did a terrible job of even sticking to that. Out of the 6 proposed topics we had to cover, we covered about 4. He'd walk into class 10 minutes late for every class, and end his lectures abruptly, but what happened in those 60 mins was oftentimes nothing short of magic. His previous theater background can clearly be seen in the way he talks and carries himself. He would walk through concepts that seemed impossible to understand in the readings very slowly and carefully, repeatedly checking with the students if they were understanding each concept before he proceeded to the next one. He would often present long stories from his life (which always related to the philosophical topic at hand) with a gentle, dry sense of humor, which I always enjoyed. I looked forward to going to each lecture because of the way he would just capture the entire class' attention when he was in front of it. That being said, he can be quite blunt with students. If you ask a question, he will try to answer it as carefully as he can, but only if he wants to, really. However, he is extremely warm and kind in office hours, and pays importance to any questions his undergraduate students have. He does have an incomparable ability to go on tangents, though, in lectures as well as in conversation. I will agree with the previous reviewer that the stringency of grading for the exams did not at all match the casual format of his lectures and syllabus. The TA's were quite helpful in helping you understand how to write the exams, though. Take the class even if you're not interested in philosophy, and you'll leave a better thinker. I know I did.
My thoughts on Bilgrami changed constantly throughout the semester. Should preface this that I am a philosophy major already, so no matter what my thoughts were on the class, I'm pretty committed to that fact. Bilgrami, as other posters have wrote, is very quick to shoot people down. I asked a question on the first day of class, he condescendingly commented on how I phrased the question and (without answering my actual question) moved on. After this, I did not speak the rest of the semester. This is important, because I found his class not only enlightening but incredibly amusing. For example, telling a student that they "bring no distinction to class" was funny (because it wasn't me he was saying it to). The way he constantly show down kids, again to the quiet kid in class, was fun to watch. YOU NEED TO HAVE THICK SKIN TO SURVIVE. He can be quite pompous but once you look at his large body of work, you see that he has every right to be. It's a great class and I felt like I walked out of every class with more questions than when I walked in (which to a Philosophy major, is a good sign). My only complaint was the lack of communication he had with the TAs. If we mentioned something that the TAs had said during the review session, we would sometimes be marked down because it wasn't correct. The grading on the exams, to me, seemed pretty strict for a class with no set course (no powerpoints or anything; he just showed up, usually ten minutes late, and would often go off tangents). I enjoyed this except when it was exam time.
This is for Bilgrami's language course. I'll separate this into PROS and CONS. PROS Bilgrami's class is very interesting if you are very interested in philosophy and/or very interested in linguistics. The texts can be challenging sometimes but Bilgrami does a very good job in explaining them (he has a tendency to mumble early on but finds his groove after 10 minutes of lecturing). It is indeed a fascinating look at some of the more interesting open questions about language (how do meaningless sounds become meaningful communicators? is language inherent or learnt? can we fully understand language without fully understanding cognition?). Its definitely the sort of course which you come out with more questions than answers, but I do believe this is healthy. It's also cool that Bilgrami is very opinionated. Philosophy is about debate and Bilgrami doesn't just lecture you about the texts but provides his own insights about when he does or does not agree with something. Faculty-student relationship was very good. Robbie (TA) held regular office hours and gave very helpful pre-examination revision lectures. Bilgrami's OH were upon requests but (unlike previous reviews) I found him very inviting of student questions and dissent. He does indeed still arrive 10 minutes late but will hang around for a few minutes answering people who approach him. CONS There was a very large amount of miscommunication between TA and Prof. For example, Professor makes a point in class that Robbie disagrees with. Robbie insists on our revision session that we shouldn't mention it in the midterm as it was just a side note that's contentious to begin with. I don't mention it and Prof. removes points from my midterm. When I talk to Robbie about it he seems to backtrack and gets flustered when I press it. That aside, it generally felt like there was little leeway in terms of answers. The final incentivised us to agree or disagree with parts of the prompt but it still felt like picking between two canned responses. Together these created a perfect storm of poorly written exams. Strict expected answers but confusion (even between TA and Prof.) about what these expectations are supposed to be. So grading just felt like a black box and I never really understood why I got the grade I got (Bilgrami never explains his ticks and crosses other than a few brief comments written in an unintelligible scrawl). Which doesn't mean I got a poor grade (they were reasonable and even lenient to those who improved), but it definitely sucks out the purpose of even grading us in the first place with such a lack of transparency.
There are two basic kinds of philosophy courses at Columbia: Ones that show you what philosophers have said on a certain topic and ones that show you how philosophers have come to those conclusions. Professor Bilgrami's "Philosophy of Language and Mind" (lecture) course falls under the second category. If you are looking for a systematic introduction to PLM, which involves a textbook that has more than 3 editions, a syllabus that gives you the page number for the reading for your 16th class, and a professor who spoon-feeds you with the materials, do yourself a favor and look elsewhere. The review below that begins with "Professor Bilgrami is not an instructor for the faint of heart." perfectly captures my experience in the course, therefore I am not going to repeat my fellow reviewer. Instead, I would like to make a few clarifications: You have to have a certain collection of expectations and characteristics to appreciate the brilliance of Professor Bilgrami: 1) a thick skin 2) the understanding that - similar to math - a philosophy course (for philosophers) is more about how to approach a problem than about how the problem is solved 3) the belief that in class one-on-one debate with the professor is a fantastic opportunity to refine one's arguments and thoughts, even if that means you have to "lose" every time in front of your classmates 4) the attitude that small things (e.g. punctuality) don't matter. Is this course mainly about Professor Bilgrami's views on certain topics? Yes. But I think he does so more because this is the best way to show students how one could potentially approach the problems (through walking them through a philosopher's thinking process) and to represent those views ("I thinkâ€¦" is more reassuring than "I think Kant might response to this questions in X wayâ€¦") than because he is too in love with himself. Does he put you on the spot? Yes. But only because he treats you as an adult and takes your ideas seriously. For numerous times I was the "unfortunate" student who was on that spot, yet I have never felt "humiliated" or "being judged" in any negative way. Sometimes "humiliation" comes from the realization that more than half of the class have been putting up with your supposedly insightful questions, instead of from the professor's reaction. If you think you were humiliated, please double check if your question was on point. Chances are, Professor Bilgrami was not the only one in the room who thought it was irrelevant. Does he presents materials in a "circular" manner? This is the accusation I have least sympathy to. Firstly, please explain what "circular", in your sense, means. Does it mean "not straight forward"? Professor Bilgrami has already patiently slowed down the pace a lot in order to satisfy the needs of those who have "fallen behind the class". If you really think the presentation of the material is not straight forward enough, please take more philosophy courses before this one. Professor Bilgrami is actually a very warm person if you ever visit him during his office hours. It is, by the way, "by appointment" due to his irregular schedule instead of his purported indifference to students. He is not the kind who would bring cookies for the class, but is by no means an uncaring professor. Nobody is perfect (whatever that means to you). If it is your decision to stay in the course, please don't blame it on the professor.
I have never felt the need to write a review of a class or professor throughout my time at Columbia. However, Prof. Bilgrami's lack of organization and preparation for all but 2-3 of this semester's classes was so apparent that I'm upset. A few disclaimers about myself: I am a graduating senior who took this class for 'fun', not for elective credits but because I had read a couple of Bilgrami's essays and was intrigued and interested; I am not a philosophy major, but I am reasonably well read in philosophy and I've done rather well in the two other PHIL courses that I've taken here; and I'm a GS'er and as such I'm really mad that I paid over $5,000 for this experience. Ignoring the fact that he was always 10-15 minutes late for class, he rarely seemed prepared for lectures. His lack of preparation made it inevitable that many students fell behind the presented materials because he lectured in a circular and therefore confusing manner. It seemed that he would pick up on a related topic to where we left off last time and just BS his way through the hour of remaining class time. Sometimes we'd move forward in our theoretical studies, but often we would conceptually recede as the class became more and more confused regarding the presented topic. When a student asked questions he was hasty to pass judgement and humiliate them. Furthermore, he often conflated his own perspective with that of the students, seeming to forget that the student asked a question because they had missed a core concept of the work. I came into his class hoping to dive into Bilgrami's own viewpoints about belief, meaning, self-knowledge, and the roots of language but I can only report that he was defensive of his own published positions and focused on other more universally accepted philosophers like Frege, Kripke, and Bilgrami's mentor, Davidson (whom Bilgrami holds slightly different views from). At an institution of CU's caliber, I expect instructors and professors to be confident in their convictions and Bilgrami was not. This was the last course of my undergraduate career that I took for the sake of sheer curiosity and it left a very sour taste in my mouth. Also, to dissuade any fanatics of self-knowledge from impending accusations of my biases, I hold that the TA, Christine Susienka, was an excellent educator. She proved this in many classes as she redirected Bilgrami from his circular logic. Also, she covered for him in three out of four of his 'planned' absences by giving concise review lectures or "catch-up sessions," as I like to think of them.
Professor Bilgrami is not an instructor for the faint of heart. You have to be confident in your abilities as a philosopher, you have to be willing to think, and you have to be prepared to be challenged if you want to take a class with him. Rarely do I write CULPA reviews, but I felt compelled to do so after reading the ridiculously harsh reviews on this page. That being said, it took me the entire semester to decide whether or not I liked his class. In all honesty, almost every person I spoke to hated this class â€“ except for my classmates who are legitimately interested in philosophy and want to be challenged. I cannot overstate that last point. If you just like to hear yourself talk and you want a professor who will coddle every one of your (supposedly) spectacular insights, do not bother taking a class with Professor Bilgrami. He does not handle objections or misguided questions in a way that retains a student's dignity. Yes â€“ he can be harsh. There were several occasions where I left the class feeling very frustrated because I felt insulted. However, I did not take his response personally (rather I operated on the assumption that he was just giving me a hard time to challenge me). Then again, there were other students who were told â€œyou're wrongâ€ or â€œyou obviously weren't listening to what I was sayingâ€ â€“ maybe they would disagree with me. But, in all honesty, I appreciated his harsh responses in that it discouraged those people who just like to hear themselves talk. After the first two weeks of class, the amount of participation in the class significantly diminished because people were intimidated. I suppose that being intimidated is not necessarily a good thing to get out of a class. Nonetheless, Professor Bilgrami forced me to consider my question carefully before asking it. I had to think about what I was really saying, how he might respond, how I would respond to that, etc. He forces you to think several steps ahead. For that reason, this class helped me in my development as a philosopher. And if you take the time to meet with him outside of class, he's actually very receptive and very nice. He's willing to clarify issues with the material and discuss potential consequences of the ideas covered in class. This leads me to believe that he just doesn't realize that his classroom demeanor can be intimidating. Is he incredibly disorganized? Yes and no. He shows up at least ten minutes late for every class (which also means class will run over sometimes too). Don't bother with the syllabus, he will not follow it. However, it's not the case that he's pulling lectures out of thin air: they're part of a larger narrative that conform to his own interests. It doesn't even matter that he's disorganized because he gives you the questions for the midterm and the final a week ahead of time. You have to be a special kind of slacker to not get a decent grade in his class. Most of the information you need for exams will come from lectures rather than the readings; though it's worth doing the readings because they're absurdly interesting (or at the very least you'll need them for the exam questions). So do I know more about the philosophy of language and mind as a field in general? Nah, not really. But have I improved as a philosopher? Absolutely. Without a doubt, I would take a class with Professor Bilgrami again. It is clear from his instruction that Professor Bilgrami is extremely knowledgeable, has spent a lot of time thinking about this material, is a good philosopher, and he has gained my respect. Overall, I'm glad I took this class and it was one of the better (and more unusual) philosophy courses I've taken.
Bilgrami might not be the most interesting or caring professor, but he's not as bad as some of the reviewers below say he is. (Or maybe he's changed for the better.) I also disagree that you can't learn philosophy from a rambling and unorganized professor. I can honestly say that Bilgrami's lecturing combined with the reading has totally shaped a freshman's way of thinking. You just got to be receptive enough. About the course: One of the easiest to get an A in. I stopped reading and just attended lectures after the first "unit" (he said the exams are based on what's discussed in class, not strictly on the texts; he's right). It is true that he still posts the midterm and final questions a week in advance, so you really shouldn't find any surprises. For each exam I studied no more than three hours and certainly did memorize any answers (just thought about the questions) and did well. That said, this class is not very organized. Bilgrami picks what he wants from the course package of readings and essentially lectures what he wants each day. About the lectures/TA sessions: Bilgrami's lecturing has its highs and lows. Usually at the beginning of a class he's not "warmed up" yet. His thoughts are slow, he mumbles, there's a lot of meditation. But if he's on fire the lecture becomes very clear, focused, and energetic. He is great at summing up a philosopher's argument through syllogisms, and at presenting his own issues with those arguments. He could also be engaging; we've had quite a few animated discussions about how to interpret a philosopher's ideas. Bilgrami guides these discussions, providing some clarity to some students' rambling remarks and showing us where a hypothesis would logically lead us. We had a really good TA for Spring 2010 (I'll probably write a separate review for him). He is very kind, responsive, and brilliant in what he loves (naturalism and the philosophy of science in general). In his review sessions, the TA gives additional clarifying and also does a fine job linking together the different lectures on different philosophies. His sessions on the mind-body problem are the best and rival Bilgrami's lectures in my opinion. About Bilgrami: Yes, he could be an ass at times, but ONLY TO STUPID PEOPLE. And in my opinion he's quite tolerant and kind to anyone, as long as he/she doesn't disrupt the class with inane oppositions. I think that's quite fair. He is very encouraging to comments that are thoughtprovoking. In short, he does not take BS. Great class. Bilgrami is a good intro to philosophy.
In my opinion, Bilgrami doesn't care about teaching this class at all. He doesn't prepare at all for the lectures and as a result he ends up ranting through the whole class period. He comes in looking like he just crawled out of bed and would rather be doing anything other than teaching a room full of undergrads. Twice he stopped in mid-lecture to answer his cel phone, then had a conversation right in front of the class. By the end of the semester, we didn't even get through 1/3 of the syllabus. What's more, he's impossible to reach. As he finishes up his lecture he dives for his coat and runs out the door. Did I mention he habitually comes in 10 minutes late, on average? This guy doesn't seem to like students. Frankly, despite getting a very good grade in this course, I ended up learning almost nothing about philosophy. This professor is totally unmotivated and his class is a waste of money.
This class is a waste of tuition money. I learned practically nothing. Bilgrami does not prepare his lessons and ends up repeating the same lecture week after week. We covered less than a third of what was on the syllabus, but not because we were going in-depth. Even if he was saying something new each class, it wouldn't matter because he speaks so softly. To top it all off, in my opinion he is really obnoxious and takes pleasure in ridiculing his students and their questions/comments. This class was a miserable and worthless experience
I believe an earlier review describing Akeel as "brilliant but frusturating" sums it up best. Akeel is the type of professor who makes you feel honored to be in his presence. A Rhodes Scholar, he is clearly accomplished and he does all he can to demonstrate this. He doesn't use notes, a trait which is at first impressive but becomes irritating when he dwells on the same concepts for sometimes weeks at a time (we spent the first 6 weeks on two essays). Often times, I found the TA sessions much more clarifying than his lectures. I'm glad I took Akeel's class. But I'm not sure he was glad to be teaching to undergrads. His dry but incredibly clever wit made his class, at times, a delight and his intellect was quite motivating. However, I wish that he would spend a little bit more / any time preparing for the class.
Arrogant beyond belief. Don't take Bilgrami unless you're forced to (that's the only reason I took him against better advice from former classmates). Don't ask questions in class unless you're prepared to let his scathing replies roll off your back. Don't argue with him in the hopes of changing his opinion. I was appalled at the way he treated students when they asked questions. I don't mind appropriate sarcasm from a prof when a student obviously thinks he/she is smarter, but Bilgrami--I'm speechless. You gotta see it to believe it. You'd think he literally has something personal against the student; it sounds like he's defending himself. It's unbelievable. That said, if you find that you are indeed forced to take the class, simply take careful notes and regurgitate everything he said. Don't attempt to incorporate any ideas of your own (unless you know the TAs are grading and you think they'll be more lenient). If you simply regurgitate everything (but it's gotta be practically word for word regurgitation--that's the trick), you'll do reasonably well. And never mind reading the text; technically, you don't have to read any of it at all although it helps once in a blue moon to skim over it to fill in the blanks (god forbid you should have any) from your notes. But under no circumstances should you interpret the text yourself. To give Bilgrami some credit, I found him to have a quite sane attitude when I spoke with him outside of class. His demeanor was substantially different. Like he actually showed a hint of respect for you. I don't know why he's so different outside of class; maybe he thinks if you still have the guts to speak to him after his ranting, poor pitiful ignorant you deserves a certain iota of compassionate indulgence.
Wow... what a horrible semester of philosophy. I was actually excited to be introduced to philosophy seeing as there was nothing like it in my high school. After a semester with Bilgrami I can honestly say I hate every ounce of that subject. I would never in my life recommend anyone take that class with him... and if you do, I would suggest never raising your hand because all he will do is spit back at you how dumb your thought was and never actually tell you whats right. Dont expect for him to show up until 15 minutes past class time, if he shows up at all. There was obviously no rubric on how to grade. The people that never once came to class got A's and many of the others who always showed got low C's. (I believe the TA's were much more leniant) Save yourself... find a new prof. or maybe even better, a new subject.
Bilgrami is awesome. I started Methods and Problems thinking, "Well, CULPA says he's a jerk, but I want a good intro to philosophy." I ended the semester with Bilgrami being my favorite teacher, by far. He seems to have improved on the faults described in earler reviews. He was only five to ten minutes late for class, and he only missed one class (to visit an ailing friend). Yes, he still rhetorically pimp-slaps anyone making a shallow or just-plain-wrong comment, and I must thank him for that. His esoteric put-downs are always based on what a person says, and thus the person deserves to get owned (I know I deserved it at the start of the semester, but then I started making more intelligent comments). Don't come to class looking for your own intuitions and unfounded beliefs to be affirmed; you'll either become one of the droning morons who often slowed the class down with their idiotic questions and complaints (until Akeel administered the hilarious mental beat-downs), or you won't enjoy the class because you'll think his theories are "weird" and he isn't "friendly" enough. He said in class that he likes teaching undergraduates because they aren't afraid to present extreme (i.e. extremely novel or extremely stupid) ideas, and that having someone prove you wrong is basically the point of your undergraduate education. So if your ego can't take it, don't sign on for it in the first place. On the other hand, if you have an open mind and an odd sense of humor, you'll love his class. From the course booklet (which could be a little better organized - he screwed up the order of readings and simply deleted Descartes' proof of God's existence from the scepticism reading. He thinks God is a silly idea in this day and age, but no, he didn't jump-kick anyone wearing a crucifix necklace, chill out), we looked at each philosopher's main ideas, or where his/her ideas fit into the five philosophical topics we discussed. Bilgrami explained the readings' main points (his blackboard skills rocked pretty hard - scribbly writing, but he plots out ideas really well), then he presented other philosophers' objections, including his own. His real-life examples and weird sense of humor kept people awake and, if they cared at all, entertained and interested. We spent a little too much time on the first topic, so we had to skip the last topic, freedom of the will, but I don't think that mattered, for two reasons. First, the class is really an introduction to how philosophy is done, not to the specific concepts discussed. Second, a lot of the readings and discussion overlap and bring in issues from all the topics anyway, so we didn't miss much by not doing every topic. I enjoyed Bilgrami's informative (and completely improvised) lectures and his sarcastic dismissals of stupid comments a lot more than I cared about the specifics of the readings. Take this class if you want to see how philosophy works. It involves a lot of clever but meaningless mind-tricks, devil's advocacy, intellectual insults, "ism"-ism, and extensive conceptual categorization, but with Bilgrami, whether you like philosophy or not, it can be a lot of fun. You'll think he wants to kick your brain in its brain-ass, but he really just wants to give it a love-tap. Sounds weird, and it is, but his teaching style will win you over, and you'll really enjoy the class if you give it a chance.
It's tough to review Bilgrami - he's brilliant but frustrating. He clearly knows his stuff but ended up ranting half the time during lectures. The class was an undergraduate class but he couldn't help but approach it as a graduate class. The topic was moral philosophy but the content was Bilgrami's theory and thoughts, not a survey or overview. That was very interesting except he bristled at some questions as if they were attacking his philosophy. Didn't handle questions well, tended to criticize them rather than explain or provide context. He assumed alot of prior study and work in philosophy. He'll explain things to a point but gets frustrated if students continue to not understand or think he's wrong on a point. He leaves most students feeling stupid but I think it's more an indication of his teaching style and vocabulary than students' intelligence. Very difficult for him to downshift and teach at times, he was definitely in new theory mode. If you think you have an objection or question get ready for a lively response. Overall, I recommend him for advanced philosophy students (late Juniors or Seniors). Others should stay away.
All the bad reviews hit it right on the nose. I don't care how smart this guy is, he is totally out of line. Snapping at students for sitting a certain way in their desks, or interrupting the lecture to yell at a student who showed up late to class are all common occurences in his class. Also, he loves missing class. 20 minutes late to every lecture, and missing six classes over the semester all seemed normal and acceptable to this monster. I feel for any religious student who has been insulted by this professor's close-minded views about religion, period..... As for the teaching, dont try to understand anything, he wont explain it, wait for the TA's review sessions.
Unlike nearly everyone else who had posted, I really enjoyed Bilgrami's class. His analysis of and insight into topics is great, and I certainly learned a lot about texts and philosophers that I had already read and thought I already knew about. He is late all the time and sometimes just doesn't show up, and that can be humerous but annoying. Overall, he doesn't seem very dedicated to the class, but I don't blame him; he probably hated the idiotic questions and opinions he had to deal with for much of the class. His lectures are somewhat interactive and always interesting, becasue you dont' know when he's going to say something really wierd to someone in the class, and everyone else can never decide who he's talking about. Overall, he's pretty funny..
I'm the same guy who wrote the LONG review below (the funny parts of which were edited out by the damned censors here). [Note from censors: lawsuits are not as fun as they seem on TV] After speaking with the kid I mentioned in the review (the one who took prof B's senior seminar), we decided that despite all the negatives - and there are many more than I mentioned - we both somehow STILL managed to get more out of Bilgrami's class than out of almost any other Philosophy class we've taken here. The guy is obviously doing something right. Take that for whatever you think it's worth.
This guy is the living stereotype of ivy-league, ***** professor. The only thing cheesier than his misconstrued lectures is his phony, five-dollar, "I went to Oxford and you didn't" accent. He gave late students a hard time, even though he was habitually late himself. He skipped at least four classes over the semester. He routinely showed up fifteen minutes late, looking like he just woke up -- I think he sleeps in his office.... He very obviously didn't prepare his lectures and spent the majority of the class answering dopey questions from over-achievers. He has some interesting insights, but confuses and collapses much of the material because he relies on memory. The guy flat-out stinks. This is a turd that Columbia needs to flush.
the most arrogant prof i have had -- and that's a high standard to meet. someone who took a class with him when he first arrived at columbia, described an incredibly helpful, friendly and patient teacher, so i can't blaim oxford forhis current arrogant and sloppy behavior; he seems to have had some kind of personality break since he came to columbia. just don't speak in class and you'll be fine. also don't look at him -- you can't be sure what sets off one of his tirades. otherwise an interesting approach to some familiar philosophy topics.
Bilgrami started the semester by missing his first two classes, and then proceeded to miss two or three more during the semester, plus called in sick at the last minute for another class, leaving his TA's with no material or guidance for how to spend the class. If you're keeping count, that's around six absences. On top of that, he was over 15 minutes late for EVERY class, including a couple of times he was over 1/2 hour late. Why care about his attendance (besides that you're paying tuitition for him to be there)? Because it just shows how little he cares about his students. Not once do I recollect him apologizing for keeping us waiting. The closest he came was deigning to make up some excuse once about arriving on campus and thinking it was Wednesday instead of Tuesday or something. He thinks himself so superior to us pea brained undergraduates that he feels he is doing us a huge favor by just allowing us to hear him speak. He's so full of himself and his Oxford degree. I think the reason all the above reviewers think he's brilliant is that he speaks with a British accent. Anyways, even if he is brilliant, all you get from the course is Bilgrami showing off how brilliant he is (or thinks he is) and very, very little substantive knowledge about philosophical arguments. He went off on diatribes almost every class about how stupid other philosophers' arguments are and then presented even stupider ones of his own that the TA's had to patch together at the review session in order to explain to us - and they still never really made sense either to them or us. I really just don't like the guy and would recommend taking Methods and Problems with a different professor. Oh, some more stuff - we didn't get through any of the material, hardly. The course was supposed to have six topics, and we spent well over half the semester just on the first one and had almost no time left for the others. In case you think I'm just sour over receiving a bad grade, I actually got an A in the class. The grading was really erratic (mostly the TAs' fault I think), though, and some really intelligent people I know got C's on the midterm. A good friend of mine took his Senior Seminar last semester and now dislikes the man's (lack of) teaching as much as me. Oh, I could go on and on . . . like how he takes questions from the class, completely screws up (because of his brilliance? maybe I just didn't get it) the argument and confuses the person into submission. God forbid the person makes a logical mistake or asks a stupid question - Bilgrami will rip them apart (again, to show how smart he is). That's actually one of the fun parts of class - when he rips apart some pompous know-it-all. One last thing that I almost forgot: the guy has, like, mental problems I think. He just snapped like five or six times during the semester and, in the middle of lecture, started screaming about George Bush being a nitwit. Hillarious, but really scary. He also snapped a couple of times at students. One quote I remember was "I have a whiplash tongue, and I won't hesitate to lash you all over with it!" What? Oh, I almost forgot a doozy. THE MAN ANSWERED HIS CELL PHONE IN THE MIDDLE OF CLASS AND HAD A CONVERSATION. I mean, right in the middle of lecture he walked over to the window and had a conversation, leaving the students absolutely dumbfounded. I'm amazed that there are no other negative reviews of this guy.
first, the good. bilgrami is one of the most brilliant profs at columbia, probably in the world. on a good day, you leave the class floored by his ability to lecture without notes so clearly and humorously. has a talent for wisecracks and funny asides on contemporary affairs as well. now the bad. bilgrami routinely arrives to class late. we didn't even finish half the readings. and it's been a month and i still don't have my final grade! grading is lenient. regurgitate and you'll do fine. you don't even have to do all the readings. VERY mixed bag, but i think his brillance excuses his administrative ineptness.
This guy's brilliant, and he knows it. Condescending as he is, it's pretty refreshing to hear him shoot down some of his more arrogant students who think they know what they're talking about. He's also pretty entertaining.
Bilgrami is brilliant and his style is engaging. The class closely follows his interests and recent, acclaimed work in Philosophy of Mind and Language. "Closely" is an understatement--the class is nothing short of an enterprise in sustained, didactic dissent-throttling-with-extreme-prejudice. He'll start out by saying things that sound mad, mad, mad because they are so radical. When you protest he'll murderously cut you down. And in the end, you will emerge far wiser, having learned that he is quite right. Intelligent participation is rather important to him, and stubborn, inane protestations are poorly taken. Instead, prod him to explain his cryptic remarks and repeat, oh so knowingly, everything he says.
Bilgrami lectures without notes, yet he is still able to pick up approximately where he left off from the last class. This is a pretty good trick and creates two impressions: that he is paying to attention to what he is saying and that the class is going somewhere. Both are true. His favored class format is a mutation of the Socratic method made popular by televangelists everywhere. Bilgrami will present and defend an seemingly crazy argument until a majority of the class agrees with him, at which point he will change his mind and begin arguing the other side until the majority agrees with him again. Slightly unnerving, this is also a good trick which clearly demonstrates the techniques of philosophical argumentation and, of course, the fact that he is much smarter than any of you. On a good day, he may wax eloquent while standing on one leg for a full hour. The Methods and Problems class is a good introduction to philosophy and a great chance to sit back, listen and learn. Other classes demand quite a bit more, but will probably follow his own work very closely. Regurgitation is always appreciated and well rewarded. Lectures make detailed use of the readings and expect snappy, indignant answers to stupid questions. This man needs and deserves a talkshow.