Achille Varzi

This professor has earned a CULPA gold nugget

Apr 2021

I had a positive experience with Prof. Varzi. He was extremely kind and accommodating during the pandemic. Even though the class felt slow at times (especially when he went off on his infamous tangents), I appreciated how he always stopped and answered every question before moving on. That being said, this felt like a course where you could skip the lectures, teach yourself everything the night before an exam, and still do well. The class averages for the take-home assessments ranged between 86.8 and 93.5, so there was no need for a curve. As such, if you’re looking for an easy GTE with an extremely light workload, I would recommend taking this class with Prof. Varzi.

May 2017

Note: Don't take symbolic logic unless a) you're really passionate about it b) you're good at math or c) you need to take it as a major requirement. It's definitely one of the harder philosophy classes. Kind of boring professor. Reads off slides he cribbed from the textbook instead of teaching. Really funny though and your best option for symbolic logic because of how easy his class is. To do well in his class, you DON'T need to attend lectures (I attended only when we had a test) but if you don't go, you have to be disciplined enough to read and understand the slides on your own. In addition, you MUST do every homework thoroughly, even though they're optional. Also go to all the recitations and talk at least 4x in them because participation is 10% of the grade. I recommend Sebastien Rivat as a TA because he's a clear explainer; however, he has a fairly thick Swiss French accent so if you're not used to that go to Manuel Kaeppler instead. Grade Received: A

Jan 2017

Varzi is really funny and metaphysics is super interesting, but Varzi tends to get off topic in lectures. Sebasien Rivat is the better TA but Simon Brown is also pretty good. I was in Simon's recitation and his only problem is that we never had time to go through all the week's material, although it's really Varzi's problem for being unclear in lectures and therefore necessitating a complete review of all the material in recitation. I got an A in the course but I feel like I understand max 60% of the material. Also the course catalog claims the course has no prerequisites but it would have been helpful to have taken logic before this course.

May 2016

This is an awesome class. Definitely take it. Professor Varzi is a phenomenal lecturer and a nice, approachable guy. It's a great introduction to analytic philosophy in general and metaphysics in particular. It's extremely theoretical. It's not until the second to last week in which you learn something that actually seems relevant to the world. Nevertheless, the material and method of analysis are rigorous and interesting, and maybe you'll come to really care about some of the more theoretical, abstract topics (like, maybe the world should have a coherent description of identity or the possibility of backward time travel). Grading is not bad and the workload is very light. If you've been to class you'll be able to do the take home assignments. Going to class is highly recommended. He covers everything in the reading in class and will test specifically about things he talked most about in lecture.

May 2015

Time for a Gold Nugget. Professor Varzi is the archetypal Philosopher. Heavy accent, wild hair, and surrounded by eager Grads and Undergrads pretty much everywhere he goes. Strikes a perfect balance between humorous and maniacal genius. Very approachable, and thoughtful, and known within the Philosophy community as one of the best teachers available. The course itself, Varzi will tell you, ascends and descends along a linear plane of difficulty. He's not afraid to tell you when the difficulty is increasing dramatically so you can be extra prepared/cautious in the work. First Order Logic is pretty much the equivalent of doing complex calculus in an alien language. Nevertheless, you'll start out slow, and TA sections are extremely beneficial. I struggled with the material nearly the entire course - most students did - but I left with a sincere appreciation for the tradecraft, and quite refreshingly aware of the pitches and turns in many complex philosophical arguments. Taking any course with Varzi is going to be a worthwhile experience, and I would highly encourage Symbolic Logic as an excuse to do just that.

Dec 2011

I agree with the positive sentiment around Varzi: he's very entertaining and funny, teaches clearly and does as good of a job as possible at making a boring subject tolerable. I won't expound much on his positives because all the other reviews have already addressed them. I'll just point out a few flaws with the class. First of all, you never get your homework assignments returned, which is frustrating. Second of all, for the first many weeks of the class, it moves absurdly slowly for anyone with a somewhat mathematical inclination. I understand that many people find the material difficult, but I found the stuff at the beginning is mind-numbingly simple. (My apologies to the philosophy majors in the class who found it difficult.) On a related note, he has a tendency to go on long, rambling tangents -- they're sometimes amusing, just be prepared for it. Finally, Varzi can get somewhat terse/rude when people asks questions. There were a couple of times where he misunderstood someone's question and instead of being apologetic, he got annoyed at the student for not having phrased his question differently. All in all, it's not a bad class, I just wanted to give a slightly different view from everyone else.

Feb 2009

Professor Varzi is an ideal teacher--he is brilliant in his field, he teaches it extremely clearly so that people new to the subject can learn easily, he is extremely friendly and approachable. The only negative comment that I might give about this class was that it could have taught more of the strictly formal uses of non-classical logic. Most of the formal training was in the mid-term and final exam. The assignments were not difficult, but it would have been more informative if we went over lots of proofs in class. And, though this was not necessarily the subject of the class, I would have been very interested to learn some metatheory about the logics that we studied.

Jan 2009

Varzi definitely deserves the praise for being a strange and good lecturer, but Symbolic Logic is definitely a boring class. I couldn't help but doze off almost every class because the material isn't that interesting. Varzi engages with it well, and his anecdotes are amusing, but the core of the class is like any other math course. It's pretty good if you are trying to fill an science requirement, since the class isn't that challenging or heavy on work load. I do have one major quib though—the final had a lot of trick questions that I missed, which I felt was unfair since I knew the core of the material and simply did not expect there to be questions out to get me. Otherwise, decent class on boring material.

Dec 2008

SIMPLY AMAZING. Varzi is so wonderful! His classes are incredibly entertaining and you learn SO much from him. He's hilarious, witty and absolutely brilliant.

Apr 2007

After reading all the great reviews about Varzi, I had to take a class in logic with him. However, be warned, If you dislike math or tedious problems with symbols, do not take this class. Varzi is a nice guy and clear lecturer, but his charm fades off with the boring subject of the class. I expected to leave this class having somehow improved my logic, but ended up hating logic and its seamingly pointless material. Honestly I feel that I have gained nothing from this class. The textbook is also useless, but Varzi posts all his lectures, which makes attending class unnecessary. The problems sets aren't too hard, what is hard is trying to understand the vague instructions in the book. For a book on logic, the intstructions aren't very logical as they are unclear and oddly worded. Ultimately, this is the least enjoyable class I have taken at Columbia, except perhaps Statistics, but at least statistics is useful for something.

May 2006

I've never written a CULPA review before, but Varzi's too good to pass up the opportunity. I knew a number of people in each class who were not philosophy majors--I strongly recommend that no matter what your field, you take a course with Professor Varzi. If you're interested in logic and/or philosophy of language it will be a good way to further your interest--since even metaphysics has become in a number of important aspects a mainly linguistic field. If you're not particularly interested in these areas, he will surely interest you in at least a few of the topics covered in the classes. For instance, we talked seriously about time travel for a week in Metaphysics--he's written some very funny stuff about it himself. (Of the few of his own publications on the syllabus--most with a co-author as he humbly points out whenever he mentions them--one was a case-study of groups involving the Chicago Bulls; another was a humorous exchange about time travel.) In class, he always cracks a few jokes and has the entire class laughing--even in Logic. He makes each new topic very clear and guides the class through their major interpretations and problems. After class and in office hours he is extremely approachable, friendly, and helpful. I'm afraid I don't have much to add to the reviews here since everyone seems to agree on his greatness. Definitely, whether or not you're a philosophy major, take a class with this guy. Not a single better professor in the department as far as I can tell, and he is among the best at the university I'm sure.

Apr 2006

If you need to take logic for a requirement or even if you have no idea what logic is, take one (or both) of these classes and take them with Varzi. He is a very clear teacher. I think having taken Elementary with Varzi first is really helping me in Symbolic. Elementary: I only attended on test days and I barely did work and I got an A. The textbook is co-written by Varzi and is really good for practicing problems, which I think is a good way to learn the material. Symbolic: I do attend regularly but it is not so hard. The courepacket sucks and is very unclear, but he provides lecture notes which are clear and very helpful.

Apr 2006

The denotation of the logic teacher and the denotation of the idol of students everywhere both name the philosopher also known as Achille Varzi. Only Varzi could make such otherwise complex material so easy to understand... I once tried to read the logic book by Gaifman and thanked the gods I didn't take the class when Gaifman himself was teaching it. Having a professor like Varzi alter the entire way you think is the reason people decide to take philosophy classes and then to become philosophy majors. Only Varzi could discuss the subject of the existence of holes with such... um... depth...

Jan 2006

I really enjoyed this class. Prof Varzi is a really cool guy and he presents the material clearly. Also, some of the funny little comments he makes are priceless. Though it would have been nice to move through the material at a faster pace... it was not boring at all. Even though there were like 30-50 people who actually attended the classes, the room was packed with well over 100 on test days. I would definately recommend going to the classes, because if you go to all the classes and do all the homework... there is really no need to study very much--or even at all. I had two minor issues with the class (neither of which are Prof Varzi's fault). First: the TA's. Maybe they really were intelligent and knowledgeable people, but they certainly didn't prove it when they tried teaching the class one day. They were saying stuff that was obviously incorrect and it made me really appreciate Prof Varzi. Thankfully, that was the only time I ever dealt with the TAs. Second: people do ask some really stupid questions. Especially when they start contributing retarded hypothetical situations that are completely ridiculous (but then again there are people like that in most classes). Even though those 2 things were annoying, the class was great and I would absolutely definitely recommend it! It's light in terms of workload, but you still feel like you are learning something, which is always nice.

Dec 2005

Probably the nicest guy in the entire world. He isn't the best teach I've ever had, but he was so understanding and willing to help out students that you can't help but love him. He's incredibly generous with his grading and really loves teaching it seems. The TA's are always available for help and definitely assist in making you understand. While I didn't like the material in the class that much, Professor Varzi was really kind, and it was refreshing to have a teacher like that.

Dec 2005

Professor Varzi is an extremely nice man and a great professor. He is at ease in the classroom and more than willing to help outside of the classroom. He often goes off on tangents and tells funny stories--the one about his book on holes is pretty funny. I have seen him get a little impatient at people who ask really stupid questions, but I have to say... so did I. I think this is because he does not want to waste time, but he still answers them anyway... albeit abruptly. All of this being said, regardless of how great the professor is, I found this class to be extremely difficult. If you do not have a background in math and are not interested in learning a new and weird code language that you will never in your life have the opportunity to use, then I really dont recommend taking this class. Try statistics, maybe economics... anything.

Dec 2005

I absolutely loved this course! I was looking to fill that quantitative reasoning requirement and I found just the right one. I hate math but this one was so interesting that I actually did all the homeworks. The professor is funny and extremely nice althought the first couple of classes are pretty slow. Great course overall!

Dec 2005

Yes, take this class! Varzi is simply the best. He is clear, funny, rigorous, patient, knowledgeable, smart, well organized. This was a huge class (I counted about 100 students at the beginning of the semester, and about 120 took the final) and each and every student I spoke to liked it. The lectures were impeccable, the tests fair, the homework helpful. Varzi can entertain students with very different background and can talk about philosophical subtleties and logical technicalities with the same easiness with which he gives precious advice if you want to score well in the LSAT. His motto: "In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is." He's not handsome, but beware: you can easily fall in love with him.

Nov 2005

Varzi is good. This is something you realize right away. I am a philo major, and have taken quite a few courses in the department, and let me tell you, this class is EASY. The 'math' required for E-logic is practically nonexistant. The class is big, but you don't miss out on learning b/c he is a clear, thorough lecturer. He answers questions and emails himself! Really nice, funny, caring guy. I am notorious for never showing up to my classes--and I busted my ass to be at every one of his (almost made it too). He is just a good teacher. I will take more classes with him. I highly reccomend any course this man teaches.

May 2005

Professor Varzi is one most brilliant professors in Columbia I've ever met. Most of the time, he is on top of his material and he readily answers whatever questions you have in class (even if they are dumb. Trust me, sometimes people ask really dumb ones). As for the lectures, you can technically skip all of them and go over them yourself, but I would recommend you to attend them simply because Varzi takes what is written in the lectures a step further with his eccentric examples. What was really memorable about the course was this question he gave to the class near the end of the semester: <Br><Br> 1. Logic is better than nothing.<Br> 2. Nothing is better than sex.<Br> 3. Therefore, logic is better than sex. True? In any case, based on what I heard from people, do take Varzi over Collins.

Nov 2004

I think the only bad thing I have to say about Achille Varzi is that he gave me a woefully inadequate example of what the other philosophy professors on campus are really like, or philosophy as a whole. He inspired me to pursue the subject as a major, which in retrospect may have been a mistake, but more the credit to him. Elementary Logic should be an easy A so long as your homework's kept up with, and though Symbolic Logic is far harder (essentially like an intensive Elem Logic class) I was still able to pull off a C+ throughout a lengthy heroin binge and relying on what I knew from Elem Logic two years prior. Hey, it's anonymous posting, so what do I care? I kid you not - a junkie could (and has) passed this class.

May 2004

What a great class! Prof. Varzi is very cool, and goes through everything you're expected to know in great detail. His explanation of everything is thorough and clear. He makes the class very enjoyable. The homeworks are not hard and directly relevant to the material... in fact, there's no better practice for the tests. Take this class!

Jan 2004

One of the best professors in the philo department by far. He is witty, organized and articulate. More importantly, he teaches Logic with a certain zest that is hard for one to ignore. He also teaches Logic in an organized and user-friendly style that makes an otherwise difficult subject seem less so. HIs lectures are extremely organized. He uses powerpoint presentations but only as a guide and not the sole basis of lectures. You will appreciate these presentations after trying to read that dreaded Logic book written by our dear Gaifman. The sections aren't that helpful, but the review sessions (right before the exams) are. I suggest you do the problem sets religiously and redo them before the tests.

Mar 2003

Any one who would answer a petulant studentÂ’s objection to a fundamental law of logic with the phrase, "it must be a difference in our intellects" is worth listening to. Varsi is always entertaining, which is merciful considering the subject matter. He will make you respect Logic, even if you enter with a few...reservations. He, or rather the material, is not as much of a push over as advertised; however, the clarity logic adds to any type of analysis is invaluable. And no better time can be had with this stuff...

Nov 2002

Probably one of the harder classes you can take at Columbia, Symbolic Logic is a treat with professor Varzi. He is engaging, animated, intelligent, conversational; one of Columbia's better staff members. His tests are challenging but fair. His lectures are done via powerpoint, but they are mostly to show proofs and not to serve as his crutch (like almost EVERY other professor). He shows a genuine interest in his students and will talk to you outside of class with enthusiasm and not distain. Best of all, he's not Haim Gaifman -- who, for those who don't know, rules the grade book with an iron fist and a heart of steel. The class is actually so good I would go so far as to suggest it to non-philosophy students. Yes, you do need somewhat of a math mind -- you need to be able to work in the abstract -- but you'll probably find the experience rewarding. The one downside: Bad TA experiences in this class. One had a serious attitude problem (which he even displayed with Varzi) and another had a language issue which made it difficult to... well... be helpful. Thankfully this wasn't a class where the TA's were essential!

May 2002

Professor Varzi is great- humorous, friendly, honest , and relaxed. But I warn all who are mathematically inept: this class requires math skills. If you are like me, and have a hard time remembering your multiplication tables, this class is not for you. It doesn't even fulfill the math requirement. Don't bother with it.

Jan 2002

After this class I was thinking maybe I could become a symbolic Logic prof. Maybe I just really liked the subject and I am a philosophy major, but I think Varzi is so funny and clever it's hard not to like it. The course material is clear and he spends class doing a lot of examples and going over the stuff from the text. One of my all-time favorite courses.

Jan 2000

This course is really easy, especially for anyone with a math background. The homeworks take 10 mins and the professor is fun.

Jan 2000

Clear, funny, generous and kind. And even slightly repetetive, in case you didn't catch it the first time. Pleasant similarity to High School algebra -- do the homeworks and the exams will go fine. Straightfoward expectations, though trig. knowledge is still necessary. Definitely the choice for symbolic logic classes.