All Ratings and Reviews for Christopher Smeenk
I took Smeenk for Philosophy of Science and came away very impressed. His lectures were a bit boring in the beginning of the course, but once he stopped using Powerpoint presentations they were great. He presents every topic, both simple and difficult, clearly and completely, and it is always evident that he wants the students to understand the material. The material itself was excellent for the most part, which is good... because there was a lot of it. expect to read 3 standard sized books, as well as another 2 or 3 books worth of material from the course reader. All of the articles and excerps from the course reader were great, and all of the books, except the one by Hempel (which I though was very dry in style) were excellent.
For the exams,he does expect you to know the material well, but he is very fair. He makes sure to not test on any topics that he feels might not have been completely clear to the students (such as some of the details of quantum mechanics), and the exams are designed to see if the students know what is important. He doesn't put obscure, unimportant or trivial questions on the exams. If you have paid attention during lecture and done some of the reading, you should do fine, and if you did all of the reading, you should do very well. Just know the important components of each philosophers arguments, and which philosopher was a proponent of which argument. There was also one medium- sized paper, and to do well on it one just needs to make sure that they make a clear philosophical argument and support. No fluffy language or fuzzy logic. If the paper makes a clear argument and supports it, you'll do fine.
Overall, I loved the course. I enjoyed the material, did the reading, went to lecture and ended up with an A+ without ever having to kill myself with work. Smeenk is a very kind man with a bit of a boyish, country charm (he grew up on a farm), and for his first quarter, he did an outstanding job. He was more organized and a better lecturer than most of the other professors I have had here. Highly reccommended if you're even remotely interested in the subject. Not to mention, that a course in philosophy of science is invaluable, and after taking it, it will penetrate and enhance your understanding of almost every other course you take, especially other science courses. You won't ever think about science in the same way... and that's a good thing.
Smeenk is a nice guy. Very helpful. His class, on the other hand, is an entirely different story.
Philosophy of Science, right? Wrong. Try "History of Science" or "Science of Science". I actually think the best name for the class would be "Science, with Interesting Questions". If you are generally bad at science: BEWARE. In this class, we use vector calculus and other things that I haven't heard since high school calculus and have mostly forgotten. Math/physics majors are better suited for this class than Philosophy majors.
If you are planning on taking one of his classes, I encourage you to talk to him before the course begins and ask about the specific content of the class and what sort of a knowledge base he is expecting from his students. If I had known that "Philosophy of Science" was going to focus on quantum mechanics and theory, I would have never signed up for it. But I'm there, I'm stuck, and my GPA is going to take a serious thrashing.
If Prof. Smeenk ever reads this, PLEASE add more philosophy to your philosophy classes and make the material, itself, more accessible. I am worried that the actual philosophy of science is not being discussed in any undergraduate courses at UCLA; which is a shame because it is really a very interesting subject. Also, Prof. Smeenk, on behalf of those who had to drop Phil 131 because of its content, you need to add the appropriate prerequisites to your courses. I know two people that dropped because they didn't know calculus, which was necessary for the class but not required to enroll. It's only fair to make those things required if your course depends on them.
Awesome professor, awesome class! Reading-intensive syllabus, but he's a fair grader on the papers and the final is not designed to trick you. I heart Smeenk.
I took Phil 124 (Philosophy of Science-Historical) thinking that it would be an interesting Philosophy class. Instead, I wound up taking an incredibly tedious history of science class that wasn't the least bit philosophical. I approached this class from the angle of a philosophy student and worked very hard, but still only walked away with C material. This course should not be listed as a philosophy course, but instead as a science or history one, its dealings with philosophy were almost non-existent. Prof. Smeenk isn't a bad guy, but if you're looking for a good Philosophy elective, keep looking.
There is almost no excuse to not do well in Professor Smeenk's class. He and his ta's for philosophy 124 were very approachable and helpful in office hours for the 2 papers that were assigned (they tell you what to write!), which totaled 70% of the grade. The final exam was worth 30% and was a take-home set of short answer questions (4 pgs total). Go to office hours for the papers and you can be assured a B+ or better on them. As for the material, I have to admit 124 was a bit lacking in the philosophy I was hoping to get out of the class. It was the first time he taught this class (Spring, '05), and I think he had trouble balancing out the history, science, and philosophy, all of which were necessary to get the whole picture. It was my first upper division philosophy class and I'm satisfied, though I'm sure there are better classes out there. I would recommend this class in a few quarters, after Smeenk has a chance to experiment with it and adjust the curriculum.
Smeenk is one of the most genuine people you will ever have as a professor. When you will go up to ask questions he will unconsciously assume the same level with you and would never even think to brush you off or feel the need to talk down to you. He sparkles with enthusiasm and unassumingly invites you into the complex beauty of philosophy of science that is a formulation of epistemology itself.
Wow, awesome professor. Lectures were very interesting, as he went over many views and concepts. He's a very organized, enthusiastic, and engaging lecturer. Expect to be assigned lots of reading, even though much of it (especially the course reader and Kuhn's Scientific Revolutions) isn't really necessary to do well on the midterm, paper, and final. The class made me very interested in philosophy. There's a book by JP Moreland called "Christianity and the Nature of Science" which goes over essentially all the concepts and philosophies we went over. It's surprising how closely the book followed the class. I didn't even read any of Kuhn's book, which was summarized in 7-8 pages of Moreland's book. I still learned all the key points and ended up with an A. I highly recommend the class and the supplementary book, which is very useful for homework and the paper.
Smeenk seemed nice enough, but the class was horrifically boring. you really needed to either go to the class or do the reading, because he would just go over the reading and use the same EXACT examples from the reading. This drove me crazy, because if you didn't understand the examples in the reading then the lecture was no help.
We had a guest lecturer one day because Smeenk couldn't be there, and that guy was really interesting and made me realize that it wasn't the subject matter that was boring, it was the way Smeenk presented it. I felt bad for him because it seemed like he was passionate about the subject, but it was like impossible to stay awake in lecture. I ended up rarely going to lecture and got a B+. I was really disappointed though, because I really enjoy philosophy, and that class was terrible.
prof smeenk is a great prof. he is always organized and usually clear. however, when topics become difficult to understand or unclear to the students, he's more than happy to clarify in class or during office hours because he is very friendly and approachable.
as for papers, i feel that he grades them fairly easily. he's very helpful during office hours for starting up papers. you can sit in his office and run through any of the author's or your own arguments until you feel you have a good grasp on the material. also, he doesn't make you feel like an idiot when you don't understand something; he's very sincere about hearing you out.
exams are a little different: they require sufficient knowledge of the reading material. the only difficult thing about his courses was the amount of reading he assigned. so when you have passage id's, you will need to know your text. but for the most part, there are never any surprises on the exams. he will pull important points from the lectures.
one-page homework assignments were given for 130, but not 119. these are very similar to the one-pagers that normore and kelsey assign. they're no big deal, though i thought these were more confusing in that i had no idea what he (or the grader) wanted in these.
all-in-all, i think prof smeenk is one of the best profs at ucla and definitely a rising star among ucla philosophy's heavyweights. if you're serious about philosophy of science, then he smeenk's for you. if you hate science and all things connected to it, the subject may be harder to grasp in spite of smeenk's instructive talents. however, my opinion, which i'll reiterate again, is that he's an awesome prof and person.
He seems to be one of the more casual philosophy professors in terms of his lecture style,maybe because he's younger than most of them. He seems to present each topic so that everyone can understand. For those interested in math or science previously to this class it seems a little easy and you see a side of math and science you never saw before. Learning the philisophical side of Galileo, Newton, and Einstein can be very interesting. For those not interested in science or math at all, his lectures and examples are still fairly basic and clear. His reading may be a bit much, and is complememtary to lectures, it is not entirely necessary for the papers, but it is for the in class tests. So depending on his grading style, mainly whether or not he has an in class final, the reading can be simply complementary, or necessary.
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