not to be dramatic but this is the best class I've ever taken. I took it my first semester of college and have seriously used the stuff I learned from Prof Mercer in every class since! It truly gives you a framework that you can apply to everything and makes you see the world differently. Whenever anyone asks me for a class rec I always say Phil and Fem. Not to mention Prof Mercer is kind and hilarious and a genius. I love that woman!! If you are debating between this and an intro WGSS class I would say take this— gave me a very comprehensive foundation for gender studies classes and I don't think any other professor can compete w/ Mercer in this area. PLEASE COLUMBIA MAKE THIS A PART OF THE CORE!!
I am in love with this woman. She's smart, incisive, uproariously funny, and unapologetic about her sailor's mouth and radical agenda. The course was life-changing for me, already a die-hard feminist. Every reading challenged my perception of myself and the world around me, from queer theory to prison abolition to philosophy of science. I took it my first semester at Columbia and it made me even prouder to go to this school than I already was coming in, and I applied ED. No matter your gender identity, TAKE THIS CLASS. The world would be a better place if everyone studied with Christia.
This is THE BEST CLASS you can take at Columbia with one of the most intelligent, thoughtful, brilliant, funny, revered professors here. It was tough for sure, but stay close with your TA and meet with them often to discuss the material and make sure you have a good grip on all the concepts. It takes time and genuine effort to do well, but the course is so interesting that I never felt super pressured. Everyone NEEDS to take this class, no matter your background, major, gender. Seriously life-changing!!!
If you're looking for a class that rationally and logically assesses feminist and other ideologies, this is not the class for you. This is more of a gender studies/critical race theory class than it is about philosophy, and that was a big let down for me personally. Prof. Mercer touches briefly on the history of philosophy and some misogynist/racist underpinnings and then switches to modern day social justice issues. The class is very homogenous in its views, and there is little room for contrary discussion if your opinion differs from the norm. Most of the time it feels more so like I am being told what to think rather than being taught how to think for myself. If you're interested in social justice. gender theory, race, class, and power, then you'll love this class. Otherwise, I wouldn't recommend. Prof. Mercer is a pretty cool professor nonetheless. She cusses in class and is unapologetic about her opinions, and I can appreciate that. The class was fairly easy as long as you go to lectures, and the guest speakers are really interesting and have great stuff to say about their personal experiences and views. Prof. Mercer's powerpoints can be a little bit confusing and difficult to navigate sometimes, but the readings and homework content tends to be very clear. Overall it was an enjoyable class, I just wish it was named differently so I'd have a better idea of what to expect from it.
I just took this course and let me tell you, EVERYONE should take this before graduation. I am not kidding. When I saw the previous reviews, I went just to meet Professor Mercer, and although she will try to scare off people in the first lecture by showing the amount of work we'll have, its worth it. This course will teach you how to think, how to see things differently, to consider things you've never thought of, to analyze, to challenge, it gives you a different mentality. This class should be a requirement. I've never written a review on Culpa, but Professor Mercer is so good that it made me want to write one. I do not understand how this woman does not have a gold nugget on here. She is the best professor I've had in my 4 years at Columbia. She is amazing at explaining philosophy and super complex concepts in a simple manner, repeats things to make sure everyone understands, and includes current events as examples to ground these abstract theories on. The discussion posts really help you understand the material and apply it to your daily life. The papers help you think concisely. It is an amazing amazing amazing class and I wish everyone would take it. And GUYS, don't be scared of the "Feminism" in Phil and Fem, this class is genderless –– everything applies to everyone, and you will not be sorry for going. Trust me.
Christia is absolutely amazing. Besides possessing a wealth of knowledge in different areas of philosophy, she's one of those professors that truly cares about her students and will encourage them every step of the way. She's not afraid to voice her opinions in lecture, especially about politics (as some have already stated). This may bother some students, but I found her openness very refreshing and endearing. She's very clear about who she is and what she stands for, which goes a long way in making her more approachable as a person and mentor. Philosophy and Feminism provided a good introduction to philosophy, as well as the changing attitudes about sex and gender throughout history. She said on the first class that the course was Philosophy AND Feminism, not Philosophy OF Feminism or Feminism IN Philosophy. She definitely stuck with this idea, as the course began with philosophical ideas (think Plato) and eventually turned more sociological near the end (like discussing the Prison Industrial Complex or Anita Hill case). The class was definitely geared towards more introductory students, as all of the papers had very clear and direct prompts and the class consisted of a midterm and final with passage IDs (which usually doesn't happen in upper-level philosophy courses). That being said, I'd definitely recommend the class to other philosophy majors (as well as other students), as Christia covered a lot of very complicated texts (like Judith Butler's Gender Trouble or Foucault's History of Sexuality), albeit at a very approachable level for the rest of the class. Regardless, the choices in her syllabus are definitely worth reading, and if you're interested delving further, going to office hours to meet with Christia about them. Also I don't think I would have been introduced to such a sheer diversity of topics in another philosophy course (epistemic justice, objectivity in science, discourse-power, feminist epistemology, prison industrial complex, Augustine's impact on feminism, performative gender, etc etc). Christia does a very great job of weaving these ideas together. Christia definitely wanted all of her students to succeed and actually take away something from the course. I'm not sure about the exact grading distribution, but I think it's very likely that if you put in effort and genuinely think about these texts and ideas (as you should be doing anyway), you'll do well in this course -- and hopefully leave having become a more aware person. Also if you're given the chance, take a seminar with her too! She's great in lecture, but she is even better in smaller more intimate setting (as are most professors). As a last note, Christia shares this Foucault quote a lot in class, where Foucault says his philosophy is like a toolbox and he "writes for users, not readers." This is definitely the focus of Christia's class and she leaves all her students very well-prepared to apply the knowledge gained from this class to various different fields and aspects of life. In short, TAKE THIS CLASS. Also shoutout to TA Conor Cullen! He's great, helpful, kind, and made himself readily available to his students!
I always said that the main reason I wanted to come to Columbia was for the incredible professors, but even then, I couldn't have imagined the privelege of having such an incredible teacher as Professor Mercer. Everyone I spoke to in the class worshipped her, and, as many often said, hoped "to one day become half the person professor Mercer is". She was funny, charming, and highly encapturing. Anyone could tell that she was thoroughly passionate about her work, as well as about the general state of affairs at Columbia. I can honestly say that Professor Mercer changed the way I see the world through her lectures on oppression, power, change, etc. Take this class, any class, with Professor Mercer if you can. It will be one of your best experiences at Columbia, guaranteed.
What an amazing class. I will admit that Professor Mercer's can be a bit scattered and seemingly unorganized at times, but I came to realize while studying for the final how well everything fit together, and the reason her Power Points overlapped were to emphasize how everything we were learning was intertwined. I left the final exam feeling inspired, and actually enjoyed taking the test, which is not an easy thing for a professor to make happen. Professor Mercer is brilliant and bold, and has such an inspiring presence. This was my first semester at college, and it was such an amazing way to start it. I highly recommend this class!
I'm glad I took this class, even just to realize I am not as interested in Philosophy and Gender Studies. Class was huge, over 100 ppl, and there was no space for any kind of discussion, unfortunately. So, basically, you get talk at for 3 month, any questions you have you can discuss with TA during their OH (once a week). Even though TA I had was wonderful and very helpful, the communication circuit constructed in this class was weird to me. Professor Mercer makes it a point to be a tough grader, so only small portion of the class will get As, and if you are just starting out you'll be set for a failure because you have to compete with kids who are finishing their undergrad in Philosophy and taking this as an elective. You have to be really good writer to get an A, reading all assignments and just doing your work is not enough, you have to be mezmorizing:) I know girls who barely skimmed though readings but got an A because they were better writers. I'm P/F this class because I had a lot of P/Fs left to use and didn't want a B. Readings are very interesting, well-selected, you should make sure you read them to get anything out of the class, because lectures are not always well structured, Mercer gets sidetracked a lot. I guess it would be fine, but then again she demands perfect structure in essays. If I were to do it again, I would just audit the class, I got more out of readings than lectures themselves.
Philosophy and Feminism changed my life. You might think this is an exaggeration, but no! Quite the contrary. As Professor Mercer said, this course will give you the tools you need to shape and better understand the world you live. And, better yet, change it! I decided to become a Philosophy Major because of this class, and it was the best decision I've EVER made. Not only are the readings and discussions interesting and relevant to the subject matter, but also Professor Mercer does an incredible job at explaining them and putting them into perspective/contrasting them with other issues. If you haven't taken a philosophy (or gender studies) course, this is a must! If you have...this is a must too! Just do it. Last, but not least, Professor Mercer teaches the course with enthusiasm, tries to get to know each one of her students and strikes the perfect balance between class discussion and lecturing. It's a pleasure to be in this class. At least, sit on the class the first week just to see how you feel about it.
I took this class a few years ago and and now doing my Master's at SIPA, to date it is still one of my FAVORITE classes of all time!! The subject matter and Professor are both engaging and thought provoking! I would recommend that EVERYONE take this class as it will stimulate your mind! The class readings are a bit difficult to understand if it is your first time reading books on this subject matter, but in class Professor Mercer reviews the readings in class and you come away feeling silly that you didn't understand the readings...but fret not, they ARE difficult readings!
Professor Mercer is definitely one of the best professors I've had so far at Columbia (I am a junior). While she demands a lot from her students, it's not a huge burden and it's only because she's clearly passionate about the texts. Plus, it's worth it because her teaching style is engaging, laid back, and (gasp) fun because it's infused with a sense of humor. She's incredibly open to different opinions and questions, and encouraging and instructive regarding analysis and paper writing. She even had our class over to her home for a delicious Italian dinner and casual discussion of what we were reading. Additionally, it's obvious she knows her stuff--chair of the department and incredibly knowledgeable in the fields of philosophy and feminism as well (plus I'm sure others I don't know about). You will learn a lot from her--it might come from constructive criticism or the pop quizzes, but either way your quick reading/analytic skills and writing skills will improve.
Seeing that two of my classmates have already written some very enthusiastic and positive reviews, I scarcely think it necessary for me to write another one. But I canâ€™t help it. Professor Mercer is just too brilliant as a teacher and as a person in general. She is one of those professors who are able to stamp their marks on you, changing the way you think and feel. With her affectionate (sometimes maternal, and not in a creepy way, mind you) personality and unique sense of humor (she tells jokes that range from cutely awkward to head over heels hysterical), she makes it an absolute pleasure to go to class and discuss the readings, and you truly get the feeling that she cares about your learning from details such as the way she listens to and comments on your remarks in class and the cookies she brings to keep you focused. The class itself is not a breezeâ€”the readings can be tough and the weekly quizzes make skipping them pretty much an impossibility if you care about grades. But if you simply do the reading and pay attention in class there is not much else you need to do to get above an A-. Bottom line: if you are looking for an easy class, look elsewhere; if you are looking for a stimulating and hilarious learning experience, look no further.
Christia Mercer is an amazing teacher, and really made me appreciate the core and what it has to offer. She is an extremely knowledgeable woman, who not only teaches about the amazing literature we have to read in Lit Hum, but also the important lessons in life. I have learned so much from her, and would recommend everyone that takes Lit Hum to try to get into her class (if she ends up teaching it sometime soon). Nonetheless, she's is a very compassionate professor, and always thinks about her students. The class was very enjoyable, especially with the cookies we get to eat every time! There is one thing to keep in mind. It would be a lie if I said Mercer is an easy grader. You really have to work hard in the class in order to do well. The quizzes are made specifically to test if you have read the 300 page book last weekend and can remember the details. However, her methods work because she does make you read everything, which is the least you can get out of the class if you're taking it, right? Although the class was tough, I would gladly take it over again (I know this review is really cheesy, but it's straight from the heart!).
Best teacher of all my first semester classes. gives very insightful comments. one of the only classes i enjoyed. go to her class, listen, go to office hours, talk to her. she's really nice even if you say somethings stupid. she makes lots of jokes in class and brings cookies to keep everyone awake. Best teacher of all my first semester classes. gives very insightful comments. one of the only classes i enjoyed. go to her class, listen, go to office hours, talk to her. she's really nice even if you say somethings stupid. she makes lots of jokes in class and brings cookies to keep everyone awake.Best teacher of all my first semester classes. gives very insightful comments. one of the only classes i enjoyed. go to her class, listen, go to office hours, talk to her. she's really nice even if you say somethings stupid. she makes lots of jokes in class and brings cookies to keep everyone awake.Best teacher of all my first semester classes. gives very insightful comments. one of the only classes i enjoyed. go to her class, listen, go to office hours, talk to her. she's really nice even if you say somethings stupid. she makes lots of jokes in class and brings cookies to keep everyone awake.Best teacher of all my first semester classes. gives very insightful comments. one of the only classes i enjoyed. go to her class, listen, go to office hours, talk to her. she's really nice even if you say somethings stupid. she makes lots of jokes in class and brings cookies to keep everyone awake.Best teacher of all my first semester classes. gives very insightful comments. one of the only classes i enjoyed. go to her class, listen, go to office hours, talk to her. she's really nice even if you say somethings stupid. she makes lots of jokes in class and brings cookies to keep everyone awake.Best teacher of all my first semester classes. gives very insightful comments. one of the only classes i enjoyed. go to her class, listen, go to office hours, talk to her. she's really nice even if you say somethings stupid. she makes lots of jokes in class and brings cookies to keep everyone awake.
Christia Mercer is one of the best teachers I have had at Columbia. She is truly brilliant, and her classes are not only clear but also fun, which is something remarkable when you are studying philosophers like Descartes and Kant. I always looked forward to her lectures. In response to an earlier review, which complained that Professor Mercerâ€™s classes do not contain enough historical information, I say that studying the history of philosophy is different from studying history. The history of philosophy has to do with the evolution of human thought, not with historical details about individual philosophers. Professor Mercer focuses on a the central questionâ€”What is there really? The reason we study questions like this one, is that in order to understand and write about philosophy, we must know what other philosophers have said, and how they said it. For example, we have to know what Cartesian dualism is in other to engage in a meaningful discussion about the mind/body problem. It is not just that the opinions of these philosophers are relevant today, but also that we need to know what has been said by others in order to formulate our own opinions. I too was once frustrated by having to study the arguments of outdated thinkers, but I now understand why we do it. Furthermore, Professor Mercer actually provided a good amount of historical context for the philosophers she introducedâ€”much more than in my previous history of philosophy course. In addition, Professor Mercer enriched the class by including female philosophers, who often go overlooked in this type of course. Her class was taught at the right level, and her lectures were stimulating and entertaining. She explained the topics thoroughly and with care, spending extra time on the more difficult arguments. She also had amazing PowerPoint slides and, almost every class, had something extra like a puppet, a painting related to the subject matter, a comical text, etc. I highly recommend her class. It is well organized, well taught, and a lot of fun. P.S. I am also a philosophy major.
I'm guessing that the previous reviewer didn't take History of Philosophy I, because the first course with Katja Vogt was the same way - we studied the metaphysics of philosophers from Pre-Socratic through to Augustine, so personally, I didn't find this course weird or existentially crisis-inducing. Maybe the previous reviewer had a hard TA, but I pulled an A despite my horrible Spinoza paper. With that said, I do have a few comments about Professor Mercer. For every philosopher we would cover, it's really either her way or the high way. If you can't agree with her interpretation (or her "standing by her man" as she'd call it - and trust me they are very strong/extreme opinions) then your opinions will be disregarded. And for the several lectures we would spend on a certain philosopher, she would only go over a few points about that philosopher's metaphysics, just in like 12 different ways. It makes studying for the exams easier because when you reread your notes and sort of reorganize them, you realize you have, say, a page-tops for Descartes despite the 7 pages of scribbling you did during the 2 weeks we spent on him. She also sometimes doesn't answer questions quite straight-forwardly. I often resorted to my TA to ask questions instead because her answers never seemed to help me all that much. Another note was that she would almost never remember when class finishes, so 80% of the time, she never really finished what she had wanted to say. Lecture notes or something that could be posted on courseworks so we have a guideline of what to expect + if we run out of time, we know what we'd have to catch up on would have been helpful. But that may just be me speaking from my experience with other professors who did something of this nature. I can see how this would have been dissatisfying for philosophy majors - I'm one too and I took this to fulfill the requirement - but if you actually go to class, take notes and pay attention to what she's saying (because you'll immediately pick up on what she thinks is "cool" i.e. will be a big part of the exams) then you should be fine.
If this review can dissuade one person from taking this course, then the time it takes to write this will be time well spent. Full disclosure, the grade for the final has not yet been submitted, but up till now I have a B+ in this course and as far as I can tell, a great deal of the class is doing significantly worse than this. I only put this first in order to state clearly that I'm not someone that got a terrible grade and then sought revenge by posting a negative review on Mea Culpa. Professor Mercer is a true scholar of philosophy.There can be no doubt about that. But the point I want to put forward is that the subject material covered in this class is almost totally irrelevant for anyone that doesn't hold a deep, abiding interest in antiquated metaphysical systems. Based on the title of this class, I had assumed that I would be taking a history of philosophy class, meaning the reconstruction of historical events that help to put the course of later developments in philosophical thought into a better context. I was thus quite surprised that the semester more resembled the following: a new philosopher every week, of whom we were expected to memorize the intricacies of their particular views on metaphysics. What's the problem with this? Simply that the majority of these people held views that are silly if not outright laughable within the context of modern scientific thought. Why is that a problem? Well, learning the ins and outs of Leibniz's ludicrous views on causation or memorizing Kant's now discredited thoughts on the analytic/synthetic propositional distinction just holds little relevance for the contemporary undergraduate. Real history of course does not. The moments when Professor Mercer actually delved into the historical currents of the time and what impact they might have had on the philosopher in question were among some of the most interesting moments of the class. But these moments were sadly few and far between. So, my warning is essentially as follows: this is not a course concerning the events that influenced historically important philosophical thinkers. This is a course concerning what those thinkers thought about metaphysics. What this has to do with anything beyond a narrow niche of historical study I don't know. As an undergraduate philosophy major even I know that many of the points made by these historical figures have no standing within the contemporary philosophical body of knowledge. They influenced but were superseded which is it should be if philosophy is actually a science. And my final point is this: if philosophy is a science (and this premise is assumed because why would it be a major offering at a prestigious research facility if it were not?) then this class either needs to be re-configured and moved to the history department or be simply done away with. As it stands it is not philosophy (as there is no mention of the contemporary body of philosophical knowledge) and it is not history (as there was almost no effort to provide information on the actual relevant and contextual history that influenced and was influenced by these thinkers.) So what is it then? A waste of time. Spare yourself the existential crisis I experienced from time wasted on rote memorization of utterly irrelevant concepts.
I am in complete agreement with everything the previous reviewer said regarding Prof. Mercer, who is a wonderful and engaging lecturer who made this a fantastic and interesting class. But the comments about the TAs could not be more wrong. I can't say for sure whether any one of them gave worse grades than the others. Prof. Mercer seemed very concerned about grading standards (she did say usually no more than 1/3 of the class gets an A or A-), so I would assume she would be comparing their averages to keep it consistent. But personally I found Daniel to be a VERY difficult grader, and his comments, while not exactly unkind, were certainly blunt. I'll be honest and admit I never went to his office hours. Maybe it's unfair to judge by appearances, but he seems completely unapproachable. Have you ever had a graduate student TA who actually wears a jacket and tie to most every class? Me neither. So I went to Mark and Ariadna's office hours instead, a couple times for each of them, and found both to be extremely friendly, knowledgeable, and willing to help even though I wasn't in their section. If I would have thought about it ahead of time, I would have switched over at the beginning of the semester. I think I would definitely have come out with better grades if I'd had either of them.
There are two kinds of students who take Philosophy and Feminism: philosophers, and feminists. I would caution anyone in the former category who is considering taking this class to think about it again. Before I begin, let me explain the many "disagree" votes that will surely be cast upon this review â€” I took this class for the opposite reason that most others did (I was a philosopher, they were feminists), which from the outset doomed me to a semester of slight frustration with this class. Our spring 2010 section was, unsurprisingly, 92% female. Most of these were the Barnard, fair-trade-coffee-drinking liberal elitist type who went to SXSW for spring break. I don't dislike these women â€” I, in fact, a lot of the time more or less fit into this stereotype. However, I had taken philosophy classes before and was planning on being a philosophy concentrator and was taking the class to do philosophy, whereas most of my classmates were there to learn about women and their struggle. This general characteristic of my classmates led to the almost universal worship of Christia Mercer. I don't dislike Christia â€” she is a fairly cool woman, she tells funny stories, she swears, she's not married to the father of her children out of solidarity for gay marriage rights. She is also a fairly interesting lecturer. Okay, great. But the one big problem I had with Christia was how often she repeated the phrase, "Sorry, now I'm just ranting, BUT..." It is wonderful that she is so interested in feminism and is invested in what she is teaching us, but when her lectures so frequently collapse into Christia Mercer's Very Strong Opinions About Topic X, I think there is something fundamentally wrong with the structure of the course. Therefore, for those who agreed with Christia's opinions simply by virtue of the fact that they were feminists who hadn't taken the time to really think their reasoning through, the class was wonderful. But for those of us who held alternate opinions, her lectures were slightly frustrating. Our unit titled "Ethnicity, Gender, and Truth" was perhaps the best example of this: we spent two weeks reading essays about the Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas debacle, and it was clear by the end of the first lecture on this unit that there was only ONE correct interpretation of the events. In other words, Christia's Way or the High Way. There was an incident during one lecture in which some particularly strong-minded students openly disagreed with her; everyone else in the class was of the opinion that these students were simply being belligerent troublemakers. The way they addressed Christia was indeed a bit hostile, but Christia's equally brutal response to their points made me cringe. It was clear to me that several months' worth of pent-up frustration with Christia's teaching style had simply gotten to them. However, let me finish this review with the good news (?) that even if you disagree with everything Christia is saying, you will still probably be able to do reasonably well in the class. The only thing graded is your papers, and as long as you argue convincingly you'll do fine. The only thing you should think about before taking this class is whether you'll be able to stand a semester's worth of Christia's opinion-spouting. It's not impossible to get something out of the class, but if you're a proponent of approaching philosophy objectively, I would caution you against taking this class.
I cannot begin to sing professor Mercer's praises high enough. She is incredibly passionate about the material. She can take things as dry as Aquinas' principals of nature and transform them into living, breathing (often hilarious) real-life examples. She makes you appreciate philosophy as a logical, meaningful, and sometimes beautiful way to think about the world. I too often hear, "what's the point of taking philosophy courses, it's just pure sophistry!" Take a class with Christia Mercer and she will change your mind. If she doesn't then don't take any more philosophy classes because nothing in the major will be as exciting as having her explain Descartes' Meditations of how crazy Leibniz is! Her lecture style is not traditional. You feel like you are either sitting by the fireside chatting about big ideas or you are on some great roller coaster. The class mandates your undivided attention if you want to keep up with Mercer. People find her tangents and repeated pauses for questions to be really frustrating. I understand their concerns. If you want a straight out of the book explanation of the history of philosophy from Aquinas to Kant then you may want to take this class during a year when Mercer isn't teaching it, but if you are willing to commit yourself to the course, then you will get a lot out of it. The final aspect of any class is, as always, the grade. Mercer herself admits that her class is really hard. I find this to be untrue. The TA's grade everything and while some just want to get through their TA requirement and thus spend very little time critiquing your work, others will tear you apart. The TA's will probably change but, if they don't, stay away from Mark and try to take Daniel.
Although she seemed intimidating at first, I gradually warmed up to Mercer by the end of the semester. Compared to many of my friends' Lit Hum professors, Mercer was a relatively tough grader and expects a lot out of her students. We had a difficult detailed quiz about 75% of the time we had new reading, however, she does give you (some) credit despite many wrong answers and, because we had quizzes over the reading all semester, we did not have to do the identifications for the final. We also had three short papers, all of which were graded harshly (half of the class got C's on the first paper), and she is experienced enough as a professor to know how much effort the student has put into their paper. Her midterm was difficult as well, asking students to analyze 4 passages in less than 2 hours, which was a ridiculous task for all of us to begin with, and was difficult to get an A on as well. On the positive side, however, Mercer is a very approachable professor. She is helpful in office hours, and even encourages students to just stop by and chat. She uses analogies like "Emory the Tree," which ultimately became a class inside joke, but nonetheless was relative to all of the works we read regarding human capacity and excellence. She brought us food on several occasions, and even brought cookies and grapes to the final exam. She lets you go outside on nice days to discuss the books rather than sitting in the classroom. She even took the class to Hamlet with Jude Law and took us out for soda after, and also invited us over to her apartment for dinner. I will truly miss Mercer next semester. Sure she interjects her social and political views into class discussion, but this didn't interfere too much with the class. Sure she has her favorites, but this doesn't get in the way when she grades. Sure she isn't afraid to give you a worse grade than maybe another professor would, but she makes you work harder and helps you to become a better writer and student. If you are really into getting A's like free lollipops, she is not the professor for you. But if you really want to learn something, she is a professor that you shouldn't miss out on.
Philosophy and Feminism is absolutely amazing.Furthermore, Christia Mercer is absolutely amazing. She is an incredibly bright philosophical mind, yet the most humble professor I have encountered at Columbia. More than anything, she wants her students to fully grasp the material at hand (and hopefully, be affected by it as well). She recounts personal (and often, humorous) anecdotes in attempting to illustrate concepts from the texts. She'll often sit on the front table, knees crossed, as she listens to students share their thoughts about the class material. She has the most miraculous way of making a 60+ lecture very, very, intimate. Absolutely Nothing is boring with this woman. This might also be because the class material is so exciting. While the texts are not very philosophically demanding (some philosophy majors get frustrated with this, but i wasn't), they are all very gripping. Once again, I just have to illustrate how humble and wonderful Mercer is. She teaches for everyone. Please, please don't graduate without taking a class with her.
Although I refuse to take any more philosophy after this class, I recommend it to all students. I had taken neither philosophy nor womenâ€™s studies previously and thus found the subjects in conjunction eye-opening. Though not my favorite, of the classes I have taken in college thus far this one has most changed how I think about myself, my authority, how people treat me, and how I treat others. Mercerâ€™s tension rises visibly when an account of sexually-based injustice prickles her but she can also laugh at such accounts for their absurdity. The reading is dense, dense, dense, but usually fascinating, if you can get through it. Likewise papers are challenging and itâ€™s demoralizing to think youâ€™ve turned in a winner only to learn your foundational assumption was wrong. Generally you can salvage your grade by writing well and being consistent (even if you are consistently wrong), and if youâ€™re ambitious there are many T.A./prof hours of which you can avail yourself. Nonetheless, you will likely earn your lowest grade or close to it in this class and Mercer makes sure to remind you of that, which became annoying. Her lectures are generally quite clearâ€”studentsâ€™ comments less soâ€”except on the occasions she refers to other philosophers or ideas unfamiliar to students new to philosophy. Nietzsche? Marx? Meta-physics? Sure, Iâ€™ve heard of themâ€¦ The final exam proved much more difficult than her repeated admonitions to â€œrelaxâ€ would suggest. Having done nearly all the reading, I found it harder than any other exam I had, and I was agitated by how, after two hours taking the test, she worsened a high-pressure situation by telling the class, â€œIt shouldnâ€™t take this long.â€ Regardless, her quirks and humor sandwiched between integral issues of gender, sexuality, race, and power make the class worthwhile and will make you question the accuracy of yours and othersâ€™ claims to truth and authority within and beyond feminist issues.
I took this class hoping for an interesting intro to philosophy and briefing on/critique of feminism. It ended up being a pretty limited look at philosophy, and Mercer laid on the feminism pretty thick. Mercer would constantly repeat statements like, "Don't worry, we all agree here," driving home her point that there would be no dissension (grading of papers reflected this view). The readings were pretty interesting, and Mercer was certainly passionate about them, but she basically repeated the same couple of points all semester and continually interrupted students during discussion. She also tried way too hard to be profound and inspiring, and her metaphors to this effect were pretty strange. Some students went for it and seemed deeply inspired, but I'm not quite sure why. Her lectures sometimes got ridiculous (she tried to teach us Plato by naming the tree outside the window Betsy, and also told us that an excellent way to challenge societal norms was to run up to our uncles and scream "Blow job!"). The papers were interesting and challenging, and reviewing them with the TA helped, but Mercer was more interested in being a tough grader in theory than in actually challenging us and making us better writers. Most people in the class got a B, and there were few As. All in all, it wasn't a waste of time (the readings were cool), but Mercer was a dud.
This class was a nice introduction to both feminism and philosophy. Would have been nice to have at least one intro class in either under my belt, but it wasn't too bad without. Mercer is a particular personality, and I wouldn't want to cross her, but she's mostly an engaging lecture. She rambles a bit, and expects a lot. I was occasionally dissapointed in the her attempts to foster disscusson in a fifty person class. Overall though, the material she covered has proved invaluable not only academically but also in everyday life. While this class did not lead me to a huge epiphany, I do see the world in a different light from time to time because of the topics covered. She's a tough grader, and passes those standards on to her TA's. The reading is dense and MUST BE DONE in order to get anything from this class.
Pretty terrible experience. This class is a great example of how a core class SHOULDN'T be. It was not terribly work intensive, but no matter how much effort students put in, everyone got the same grade (based on how much Christia liked them). She also does little to teach you about art and just expects you to know all of the concepts. This translates to an B-/C+ for just about everyone with no prior art experience (I am a political science major so you can just guess how I did). She gave almost no guidance at all, papers were written on our own (the instructions for the final paper were to 'just write one'), with no outside sources given or allowed. Nobody had any clue what would be on the midterm at all but we were given a review sheet for the final 24 hours in advance. I also want to add that on a personal level I was very disappointed that Christia insisted on frequently sharing her political views with the class. Irregardless of whether you agree or disagree with her this simply has no place in the classroom, particularly an art class. Bottom line, if you're looking for an easy class and don't care how your grade turns out (or if you learn anything) go ahead. Otherwise, stay away.
Professor Mercer is by far one of the best Columbia professors IÂ’ve had. I took the course to fill a gen ed requirement, and it ended up being my favorite class. She is so brilliant it hurts. I always left her class inspired, and thinking about the things she taught. Material that may have seemed irrelevant to feminism all came together by the end of each unit. If you have any interest in philosophy or gender studies, I highly recommend this class. Even if you donÂ’t, you will still learn a lot. This is not an easy class, so you do have to work hard. I think the majority of the class got a B, and only a few students got A's. There is a lot of reading (which you really do have to keep up with), and the grading is pretty tough. While thereÂ’s a lot of reading, itÂ’s all interesting and relevant to the discussions. I recommend going to see her with an outline of your paper before you write it. This is the kind of class that makes the ridiculous cost of tuition worth every penny.
I took this class first semester of my first year, and Professor Mercer was everything I thought college professors would be like. In fact, I didn't really appreciate it that much until I had some obnoxious classes. Her lectures were interesting, exciting, funny, and relevant. Everything we read kind of tied together in the end, and at times you felt like you were on an intellectual exploration with her. She was a nice person as well, not too dogmatic (as some womens studies professors can be). The readings were varied and good, take this class if you have an interest in philosophy or feminism, but be warned that most classes in these feilds will be a disappointment after this one.
Take this class. I signed up for it completely unaware of the many things it would make me reconsider. She'll honestly tell you that she has every intention of changing your opinions on some of the topics - as long as you're aware that you're being indoctrinated, accept it. I left class everyday (never skipped) wanting to call someone and discuss the topics and ideas. The paper grades were frightening at first but as long as you show improvement and understanding your final grade will reflect it. Her lectures are stimulating and often entertaining. This is one of those classes that you'll remember and be glad that you took long afterwards.
This course is a must-take for any budding feminist (and for all those generally curious in the feminist approach to philosophy). Philosophy and Feminism offered a comprehensive review of religious and intellectual movements that contributed to the misogyny-zation of Western culture. Prof Mercer has an insightful grasp on the subject matter that will illuminate the most slippery of concepts. I highly recommend this course - in fact, it should be required.
This class and Mercer are AMAZING! I missed one lecture due to an intense week and realized a) how much i missed her wonderfully entertaining/informative/organized lectures and b) how much more lucid the reading was when accompanied by her explanations (which made it crystal clear as to which nuances of the texts we should pay attention and how to interpret them). My only regret is not also taking Philosophy and Feminism (despite the fact that I find other subject matters in the philosophy department infinitely more interesting) this semester, as she is going away next year. I never once fell asleep, despite a 9 am right before her lecture, I thought the grading was extremely fair (perhaps a bit easy), comments on the exams and papers were very helpful (especially in directing how to study/write on subsequent topics/examinations). I never once went to office hours, asked maybe 2 in-class questions, never had outside contact with her, and ended up with a very good grade--clearly, the "favorites" comments are very misled, if not simply bitter. It is important to be familiar with the reading, if not during the course then at least before the exams, and to write very clearly (if not too simply) on papers. I enjoyed the class immensely and hope that she comes back to the Philosophy department in 2006-2007 teaching numerous other courses so I can have her as a professor again. As for the course material, it's based in metaphysics and epistemology (as aforementioned in others' reviews), which was not only a great choice for narrowing down topics in view of the time period covered, but also interesting and very useful as an intro philosophy class (which it is considered to be). In all, I recommend that aspiring philosophy majors, or even just students interested in the subject, seriously consider taking this course.
For the first couple days of this class I hated Mercer--she seemed arrogant, cold, and not much of a teacher. Right off the bat she told us that it was very hard to get an A in her class, that she would not be impressed by people, usually men she said, who try to "do philosophy" in front of the whole class, and she admonished us not to plagiarize or try to buy papers on the internet. So being a male and one who values education and would never have thought to buy a paper on the internet I was somewhat offended. If I'd stopped going to the class after that I'm sure I would have the same negative view of Mercer that some reviewers have expressed. But the fact is Mercer is a pretty good prof. I'm not sure if her initial harshness is a product of her personality or an intentional device to get students to respect her, but either way she does warm up a lot as the semester goes on. She's actually a bit of a comedian--well, ok, more than a bit--and this can sometimes be annoying, but at other times she'll really get the class to crack up. She's also much more approachable then she seems. I never went to office hours, but the few times I went to ask a question after class she was very receptive and not at all scary. She also gave pretty good review sessions that you should definitely go to--she doesn't tell you exactly what's on the test but she'll give you some clues as to what to reread and what issues to think about. I thought she did a good job of outlining the key ideas in a way that made the texts more comprehensible. Her lectures usually got me excited to read the texts, and definitely helped me understand them--plus I never once came close to falling asleep in class, which is more than I can say for some profs at this school. As to the comment that she focuses on minutia, I completely disagree. If anything I would have liked a bit more detail on certain philosophers, (yes, the Descartes circular argument thing is a bit confusing, but that was the only idea in the whole course that felt less than essential. also you were never required to write about it--I didn't). As far as the accusations of sexism, I saw no evidence of this except for that one comment the first day. Maybe twice during the semester she mentioned that women philosophers had had a hard time getting heard, and she had us read Anne Conway instead of Locke. Big deal. I actually avoided the class last year because of these accusations, but they are hugely exaggerated. I wouldn't be surprised if she'd read the reviews on this site and made that comment just to mess with us--she's definitely a bit mischievous. Anyway, it's no reason to avoid the class. And as far playing favorites goes, if it's true I never saw it and I definitely wasn't one of them, but I worked hard and ended up with a precious A. This class is definitely worth taking.
I think the polarity of these reviews is very interesting. Personally, I found Mercer to be a very educated, gifted instructor. I felt like she made clear many points in the more difficult texts like Aquinas and Kant which I would not have comprehended otherwise. Sparknotes, after all, can only take you so far. I also felt like the tests were fair. I mean, come on, you read the texts, you go to the lectures, you learn their specific views and that's it. Oh, you didn't understand the circular problem in Descartes the first or second time? Well, read that &*^% again until you do. A lot of these reviewers seem like they need to GROW UP and remember that we are in college now. Anyway, as far as Mercer's presentation goes, maybe she threw around a lot of chalk to get her points across, but at the very least it woke me up.
This class was a good breathe of fresh air. It really gets your mind going and you start to question the things that are not usually to be played around with. In Mercer's Class nothing is sacred. You tear apart the lies and get to the good stuff. Mercer is excellent in keeping the class on its feet and keeping the students involved. Mercer is also extremely funny and well learned. I strongly reccomend this class to anyone that is willing to leave with a whole different perspective on life.
I agree with the reviewer on the first page on all respects, although I have to emphasize on the focus on minutiae, which besides being boring is agonizing and hazardous to one's grades. "grading inconsistency" is not to be trifled with.... if you get the 'other' TA like I do. After inquiring about Descartes' circular logic problem on the midterm, I was depressed to discover how trivial the emphasis of the basis of right and wrong actually was: somehow i had 2/35 points taken off because I didn't include the argument for God, which is almost superfluous to the logic being circular. In conclusion, it's not a hard course, just a bad one.
Mercer is as bright as any professor in the outstanding philosophy dept, and perhaps the very best I've had in terms of teaching ability. Her lectures are crystal clear and impeccably organized, always beginning with a review of the last lecture and the overall context in which you should be prepared to take in the next one. Important points are thoroughly explained and (necessarily) repeated to iron out their complexities. Her grading is fair - the TA's grade based on the guidelines she puts forth when she discusses a paper/exam. She genuinely cares about teaching undergraduates in a way that many of the dept's fine professors seem to neglect as a result of their celebrity-like status in the philosophy world. She shares this status and it is reflected in the confidence with which she delivers the material. Some may misinterpret this confidence, but it is definitely warranted in my opinion.
Very interesting class. Prof. Mercer is clear, concise, and provocative in her explanations and questions. She stays on topic and her examples provide areas for research or fun reading. I highly recommend anyone, philosophy major or not, to take this class. On the other hand, the Prof. Mercer has a lot of students come during her office hours so it is difficult to have discussions with her on class texts. Though she doesn't shoo you out the door, she does give brief explanations before you feel the peeping heads of other students looking through the crack. I think she's a fair grader. The majority of the class got B's. She looks for a clear, well developed and argued point. You can't crap your way through her papers, short as they are. Also, she'll warn you not to choose topics outside her recommended list unless you confirm with her first. Please take that advice if you're in the class. Prof. Mercer does come off a little prim and proper and she does argue her point if she doesn't agree with you, but I think that's a good thing. She articulates her reasons for her argument and you can critique her response if you like. Some students did seem to get on her "bad side" but I think it's only because they either didn't do the reading or gave a long speech with little evidence from the text. Yet even those students get a nod for good dissenting arguments. In the end, Prof. Mercer is not my favorite person in the world, but she is a wonderful teacher who lets you know her expectations and provides you with interesting and intellectual materials.
Prof. Mercer is probably the best professor I've had at Columbia. She is insightful and funny and laid back AND approachable. After you finish this course, you will want to be her friend and hang out with her and her kids after class. Seriously. The lectures were not boring at all (contrary to the art hum stereotype) and the premise of the class was actually to learn the material rather than read up on it and memorize names and dates. Instead of reading every night, she instead encourages students to "look" at the paintings to understand them on a personal level. It's great. And Since she is the head of the Philosophy department as well, she does a great job in bringing the paintings into the larger context of the thought process of their time periods. If you end up in Prof. Mercer's Art Hum class, feel blessed. After I taking Art Hum with her, Im now contemplating majoring in Art History and I'm trying to register for any other classes that she teaches. You will really come out with a true understanding and appreciation of the material after her course.
If I had some extra time I would start a Christia Mercer fan club. She made this class enjoyable and entertaining. She really is an amazing woman and professor. She knows a ton about both philosophy and art which led to interesting discussions about the two. She also has a great sense of humor and isn't lacking in self-confidence. She was never shy about letting us know how busy/important she was or how many committees she was on. But that's half the fun. She grades fairly, is very accessible to students, and leads very thought provoking discussions that get most people in the class involved. I thought art hum would be a drag but I was pleasantly surprised...and I have Christia to thank. I'd like to nominate her for CULPA Gold Nugget status.
It is worth taking a class with Professor Mercer. She is funny, smart and irreverent; she knows her material and she is fearless in the classroom. Her class can be a lot of fun, but she will make everybody work for it. The LitHum class I took with her was by far my best experience with the Core. More than any other class I took at Columbia it affected the way I read books to this day. MercerÂ’s approach to philosophy is different from what you will encounter with most of the other Professors in the department. As far as I know, there is nobody else in whose class you will find that philosophical insight is second to (or at least on an equal footing with) historical study. While it is true that most of us philosophy majors did not choose our major with that sort of thing in mind, Mercer makes her approach interesting and engaging. In part, she knows a tremendous amount and finds it so interesting herself, and, in part, because she will offer you an argument (if you are willing to listen) about why what she does is as important to the discipline as straight-up philosophical debate. Mainly though, she makes it work because she is spectacular in the classroom. Her lectures are informative and certainly held my attention, but I think she is one of the best when it comes to leading a discussion. She gets people to say interesting things, and it is not just the usual suspects saying the usual, predictable stuff. She gets all kinds of students involved because people feel compelled to participate. Professor Mercer takes a genuine interest in her students. She wonÂ’t coddle you, and donÂ’t expect too much sympathy if you feel talking without having much say, but she will listen if you are sincere. She will also argue with you if she disagrees. I found Prof. Mercer helpful as a departmental advisor (especially in comparison to what I heard about other departmental advisors). She made the program flexible and seemed to be concerned that I get the most out of my course of study.
Just to respond quickly to the ridiculous polarity of these reviews..... I am a guy. I never said one thing in class. I took the class freshman year, with only one other intro class as my experience with Philosophy. I would say that this puts me somewhere in the middle of the rest of the reviewers- at the time of taking the class, I was certainly not a philosophy "jock" and expect to be one of her favorites, nor did I expect her to be a man-hating, cold, grade-ruining favoritist, as some of the reviews seem to imply. I never spoke to her enough to develop any sort of serious academic relationship during office hours, but I did go once. Like I said, I was somewhere in the middle, which most people, of course, usually are. So what do I think of her? Well, first off, Mercer gives off an aire of subtle arrogance, which some people take as her assuredness of brilliance or as a sign of some smug, deluded self-righteousness. Of course, this is Columbia, and most any professor teaching here with anything close to a "prestigious" position or history in their field is going to have a bit of an ego. Get over it. She's a professor, not a kindergarten teacher. In terms of favoritism, I would argue it's more the fault of annoying philosophy majors and certain others that either want to become her pet or see her as some sort of feminist beacon in the philosophy world. I don't think that she necessarily encourages this, but she will respond when you ask a question in class, and unfortunately, those are the people who generally tend to ask the questions. And she does not hate guys- if you are threatened by someone saying that there is no true philosophical basis for sexism, or think that feminism means women hating men and wanting to bring about their ruin, then you have some issues to figure out on your own that really don't have anything to do with what she says. I was never offended by her views with regards to gender/ feminism/ etc etc, and I am by no means a femisit activist or anything along those lines. And as to her grading policies- as some philosophy professors will, she allows you to write either in a dialectic or essay form, which is nice, since you don't have to be a philosophy major to write a critical dialogue. With her grading- well, I didn't find any problem there, and thought she was thorough and fair. When I didn't understand a comment, I went into her office hours, and contrary to popular belief, she was warm, attentive, and responsive to my questions. Eventually, with virtually no formal experience in philosophy, I got an A in the class. I was not one of her favorites, I am a guy, my GPA wasn't ruined, etc. etc. While I don't think that she is the most incredible professor I've ever had, she was great, and I enjoyed the class even though I hate the period in philosophy. I would definitely recommend you take her class, unless you are for some reason inclined to believe the extreme, often overly personal "Oh my god this is the best/ worst class I've ever taken" reviews or can't handle someone not holding your hand and softening up their words for you.
Evil and great. In my opinion, she is absolute, pure, evil, but she is a fantastic teacher with amazing command of the subject. Much as she might attempt to crush every student's hope, much as she might destroy every piece of work you hand her, she is nevertheless amazingly dominant in the classroom and ingenious at the desk. Never looking at a single note, she can speak excitingly for hours on virtually any topic. But pure evil nonetheless.
As the last reviewer felt compelled to emphasize Professor Mercer's alleged gender-favoritism not once, but twice, I'll begin my review by pointing out that I am (gasp!) male. I took her class as a sophomore, with only a poorly-taught Methods and Problems class and a generally disfavorable impression of the department under my belt, and the experience encouraged me to eventually major in philosophy. In-class discussions did what historical surveys are intended to do: introduce, elucidate, and contextualize, and all in an engaging manner. She didn't go incredibly in depth, but, ummm, did you read the course title? That's a pretty hefty chunk of material to cover. While I sympathize with students eager to plunge deeply into a particular text of interest, I also think that it's fair to point out that it's nearly impossible to reconcile the desires of hardcore philosophy jocks taking a required-for-the-major course, and sweaty, nervous, first-time philo kids. *CULPA edit* It's ludicrous to pronounce on how a professor would teach an upper-level seminar based on how they teach an introductory survey. The reviewer also points to the abundance of positive reviews as evidence of Mercer's alleged favoritism, and that Mercer "so desperately wants" us to see her as caring. That seems like a bizarre interpretation. Maybe, just maybe, a professor that wants us to think of her as a caring professor, and a bunch of students thinking that she is a caring professor, is actually evidence that Mercer IS a caring professor. That was certainly my impression. I received my first paper--which, incidentally, I had turned in late--back with lengthy and thoughtful comments about specific points of my paper, as well as an invitation to discuss it and any other general questions during office hours. Since then, I have found her to be unfailingly generous with her time and advice--a helpful and, yes, even caring, professor in an aloof and sometimes difficult department.
The wave of recent reviews praising Prof. Mercer don't surprise me. They don't surprise me one bit. That Mercer's selected students- mostly women from what I'm told- find her inspiring, witty and brilliant is nothing short of predictable. Helpful, on the other hand, is another story altogether, particularly to those students trying to figure out whether they should enroll in any of her courses. Not one of her select students, I naturally see Mercer in a different light than the chorus. But as I said, it doesn't surprise me that THEY are so impressed. It's easy to laud someone when they occupy a prestigious, powerful position and count you among their favorites. And that's precisely what Mercer does in the classroom: she picks favorites, more so than any other teacher I've ever had, from kindergarten onward. If you happen to be one of the select few, then you'll likely have the time of your life in Christia's class. The feeling of acceptance that attends winning ChristiaÂ’s good graces allows these students- again, mostly women- to see her as a liberated motherly type figure, empathically looking out for their best interest. For the rest of us, though, life with Christia isn't so good. In fact, it can be downright dreadful at times. Ask a genuinely motivated question, criticize a view she happens to agree with, argue against another, more well liked student, and Christia will summarily dismiss you and your point. Once relegated, you can do no right. Seek her advice, go to her office to discuss an issue you find interesting, and youÂ’ll find no compassion, no wit, and no brilliance. What you will find, I suspect, is precisely what I did: a cold, unyielding professor who doesnÂ’t care about you at all. But that's only half of it, I'm afraid. Apart from playing favorites, Christia doesn't seem to be a very good philosophy professor either. In her area of expertise, she of course is brilliant- quite brilliant. As Christia's latest book on Leibniz demonstrates, she has a remarkable gift for combining highly creative historical insight with probing philosophical analysis. Unfortunately, though, her scholarly talents don't translate well into the classroom. Christia seems more concerned with her image than with doing good philosophy, which perhaps explains why she plays favorites. Her favorites, as evidenced by their latest reviews, are more than willing to reflect back the image Christia so desperately wants to see: the caring, but brilliant philosopher who isnÂ’t too pretentious to use Â“zanyÂ” examples in the classroom. It would be nice if this image faithfully duplicated reality. But it doesnÂ’t. Not even by a long shot. Rather then delve deeply into an issue, she would prefer to move on to the next topic. I canÂ’t tell you how many times students, myself included, tried to get her to go deeply into an issue, only to have her say, Â“If you want to talk about this further, youÂ’ll have to come to my office.Â” Or, Â“we can talk about this after class.Â” As if the five minute window you have to talk to a professor after class is enough to untangle the knots in the Cartesian Circle, or the inadequacies in the Marxist defense of feminism. Of course, teaching a survey class seems to be a struggle between trying to find the right balance of breadth, depth and time. Perhaps there are simply objective limits to what one can do in a semester long survey; perhaps sometimes a cursory glance is the best balance one can strike all things considered. Yet from what IÂ’m told her graduate seminars share the same, philosophically disappointing complexion. Whatever the case may be, the point that emerges is clear: if you want to take a more substantive class in philosophy, look elsewhere, because you certainly wonÂ’t find it in any class Christia teaches, whether her fault or not.
Professor Mercer is both witty and compassionate in the classroom. Her secure knowledge of her subject matter allows her to bounce complicated ideas back and forth between of her students, while at the same time providing an excellent introduction to philosophy and feminism. At first I was skeptical about this combination of topics. I was worried that looking at philosophy through a feminist lense would do damage to either one discipline or the other. However, Professor Mercer tackled epistemology, virtue, and science by discussing flaws in the methods used long ago and today. I realized quickly that there was plenty of important ground to cover. The combination made so much sense that I've selected much of my thesis writing material directly from her syllabus. Mercer is very willing to meet with students outside of class. She expects her students to have done the readings, and rewards those who have with good conversation, and valuable explanations. If you are willing to work reaosnably hard and show intellectual respect for the course material, you will enjoy being Christia Mercer's student.
Professor Mercer is fantastic- easily one of the best profs IÂ’ve had at Columbia so far. Her lectures are entertaining, upbeat, and witty. Most remarkably, she manages to keep even the driest and most theoretical philosophers relevant (which sometimes entails throwing things across the classroom). If you take her feminism and philosophy class, you might get a few funny stories about her son. SheÂ’s also incredibly approachable and helpful outside of the classroom (I visited her office hours pretty frequently throughout the year and IÂ’m usually terrified of talking to my professors). Mercer often doesnÂ’t entertain self-indulgent remarks made by students who donÂ’t really know what theyÂ’re talking about- which perhaps explains some of the complaints made about her not tolerating criticism. I canÂ’t recall her ever shutting a student down unfairly, and IÂ’m pretty sure most of the class was relieved when she occasionally chose to cut a student off. I also donÂ’t understand the complaints about MercerÂ’s grading- I found her to be one of the least arbitrary graders IÂ’ve had. She has fairly high but reasonable standards- if you demonstrate a good grasp of the material, youÂ’ll get an A. And the workload is not bad, either.
Professor Mercer truly inspired me, however corny that may sound. The fact that I was enthralled by discussions of Augustine's Confessions and Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment is amazing to me. In the past, I'd never been overeager during class discussions of novels, but the engaging discussions led by Prof. Mercer in my lit hum section kept me involved and interested, and even moved me to consider a major in English or Philosophy. This class was a nice balance between Prof. Mercer's thought-provoking ideas on our readings and open class discussions. Look elsewhere if you want an easy, mindless Lit Hum experience, but I would recommend this class for those who really want to get something out of readings that could otherwise be considered boring and irrelevant to our lives.
Mediocre, mediocre, mediocre. The course was fine, but there are so many better classes in the philosophy department that I cannot recommend it. Although Mercer made many attempts to enliven the class, her delivery seemed forced. The conflict between dogmatic rationalism and empirical skepticism was frequently superceded by the conflict between pleasurable slumber and agonizing consciousness. Mercer seemed to be afraid of going too fast. The result was a superficial discussion of the basic themes of the texts with repeated emphasis on basic points (for example, people use skepticism to undermine dogmatismÂ… duh), which left little time for discussion of the subtleties. Also, the course left out a lot. No discussion of monads or the principle of sufficient reason for Leibniz (especially strange considering she is a Leibniz scholar). No discussion of Locke at all. On the good side, Descartes, Hume, and Kant are covered well (principally because the readings for these three were the most extensive). Mercer limited the class to metaphysics, which was a good choice since there is so much stuff during this period. Also, Professor Mercer is incredibly nice and unbelievably accessible outside of class. There should be more reading in this course, especially for Bacon and Leibniz.
Professor Mercer is an enlightening teacher and an incredibly knowledgeable historian. She made the relatively dry material covered in this required course easy to learn by offering some of the most comprehensive, smart and witty lectures I have had at Columbia. She is a true expert and she is personable and down-to-earth during office hours and with regard to grades.
This woman is amazing. Whether she is throwing chalk at the blackboard to make a point about our expectations of cause and effect, or ranting about how stupid squirrels can be, there is never a dull moment in her class. She presents material in such a way that it seems relevant and we never lose our sense of context because she frames all of the philosophers in the same way. She is also incredibly knowledgable about her field, and comes back after international conferences to enlighten us by sharing stories of philosophers debating Plato over beers. She's really just an excellent professor. Anybody interested in philosophy should take a course taught by her. And there is nothing scary or mean about her, despite what others say.
I write in response to some of the negative reviews of Professor Mercer. Contrary to some of the negative reviewers (who presumably were the recipients of Professor Mercer's alleged inconsistency in grading), Mercer is perhaps one of the best undergraduate professors on the philosophy faculty. She takes a real interest in undergraduates, as demonstrated by her serving as the DR for Columbia College. Her lectures are very easy to follow, and quite pleasant to listen to. Sure, she brings up some crazy examples sometimes to illustrate some of the more difficult philosophical theories. But she achieves her purpose, in explaining the meaning of these texts. For philosophy majors, I should also point out that you are not going to get a better history of philosophy professor in the department--your alternatives are Gabbey, Kitcher, Mann.
Professor Mercer is one of the best professors I have had in the philosophy department, and as a concentrator in philosophy, I have had quite a few teachers in this department. In her lectures, she detangles the often ambiguous and complicated structures of a philosophical argument, enabling the non-philosophically oriented student to grasp the topics at hand. She is extremely upbeat and positive, and she thoroughly enjoys interacting with her students. This course had approximately 40 students, and Professor Mercer was able, with ease, to run the course like a seminar. She encouraged myself and other students to question, critique, and dialogue about the topics. Feminism and Philosophy is the best course I have taken in the philosophy department, and I feel that my feminist foundation has been strengthened, as well as my critical thinking skills sharpened, as a result of Professor Mercer's teaching. I highly recommend her and this course.
An excellent survey of early modern feminist writings. Mercer has done a fine job balancing the important literary, political, and philosophical texts written by and/or about women that have made an impact on history and on the feminist movement. Discussions were lively, Professor Mercer encouraged everyone to speak, not just the 'loud' people. She demands a high level of scholarship, but because weekly written responses are a required part of the course, we were all familiar with her expectations of us when it came time to write our graded papers. Mercer is also a very accessible professor outside of class. She never rushes you during office hours and is usually willing to make an appointment to see you if need be. Furthermore, Professor Mercer always gives prompt and thorough responses to email questions. All in all, I recommend this class, or any of the philo history classes that she teaches.
If you don't want to ruin your GPA, or if you're not ready to recieve the first bad grade of your life, you might want to give a lot of thought before signing up for Prof. Mecer's class. Her lectures are interesting and clear, so that they succinctly summarize and convey the essence of the assigned readings, although some of her anecdotes may strike you as self-congratulatory (ie.- what her grad school advisors said about a certain paper she wrote). Yet, even if you manage understand the ideas well, this does not guarantee a good grade on her exams. Other classmates too seem unsure ahow they get their grades. The saving grace is that for papers, in which you have more leeway to sum up the ideas in words slightly different from the ones she is looking for, Prof.Mercer tends to be a much kinder grader.
Although she attempts to maintain a discussion based class, she fails miserably with her uninspiring and often boring lectures. Quite frequently, you will want to take a gun to your head and blow your brains out during her asinine diatribes. If your class is unmotivated, expect references to her graduate school days at Princeton, but you shouldn't take any stock in to what she says. Don't let her convince you that she is smarter than you, as you will discover that she really doesn't know philosophy.