Richard is one of those professors who makes you sweat all year long, and then gives you the grade you thought you were earning all year long. In this way, he truly challenges you (both your thought and your nerves). He cannot be blamed for the lackluster UWriting syllabus, and he will certainly attempt to extract the most interesting ideas from the texts. In fact, Richard's discussions are all about the ideas. He seems to appreciate heated dialogue that really pulls the meat out of any interesting text, and is not beyond appreciated an argument that hardly even seems to be there. In this way, his classes can seem incredibly annoying. The discussions, not concrete in nature, hardly arrive at a point. The essay assignments are immensely abstract--this is again, a part of the course, although other students I have spoken with have showed me other professor's versions of the same assignment, and sometimes they were much clearer. Richard's comments on papers are often unclear as well. Students had mixed experiences--some claimed he gave remarkably good feedback, including a good balance of prescriptive and well as stylistic and theoretical advice. My experience was not as good; I met with him on pretty much every available occasion (I spent much time with him in 301 Philosophy and/or Butler lounge), but typically left these meetings with no idea where to go with my papers. He said this had something to do with my style, and maybe it did. I did well in his class regardless.
Although a bit foggy, Richard is certainly a great guy to have a discussion with, he loves students who have probing ideas and are willing to write daring and exciting papers (versus standard, competent discussions). If you do have him, take advantage of his willingness to meet, and CHOOSE TO GET WRITTEN FEEDBACK unless you are amazing at keeping track of ideas and suggestions given to you during a meeting! You can probably get him to sit down with you over his comments anyway if you don't understand. You won't end up gathering much helpful feedback when you trek over to Philosophy hungover on a Friday morning (and I know several people who have had this experience).