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As a transfer who has taken a lot of philosophy classes, this was one of the most painful I have taken. There were 3 essays (3-4 pages), and for all of them, I got no useful feedback. Part of it was the pacing; we had two of the three essays due in the last few weeks. The other part might have been just because of my T.A. Colleen, but for the last two essays I only received 5 comments in total that said either "good" or "nice" at different parts. I ended up getting a B+ on every essay. Yes I know, a B+ is not bad, but it is annoying because you can't improve on what you did wrong when you never receive comments about what you are doing wrong. The main gripe I had with the professor was that half the lecture was spent answering long unrelated questions that students should have asked during office hours and the other half of the lecture was the prof. reading almost word for word out of a text document. If you are looking for an easy intro philosophy class, this is not it.
I took this class because I found the proposed content to be the most interesting out of all the 'introductory' philosophy classes but my sentiment toward the course changed drastically as it progressed. Professor DeWitt is engaging enough, occasionally making jokes and incorporating funny examples into her discussion of theory, but her method of content delivery (reading almost verbatim from a word document) was rather drab and her tendency to accept any and all questions from students (regardless of their relevance or how behind we were in terms of material) forced her to rush the last theory we covered. I honestly liked the first theory we covered (Aristotle) as we were able to take our time with it and the reading was interesting, but as we progressed through the course, deadlines came faster (two of three final essays were due within a week of each other) and the professor rushed through and occasionally skipped material. That being said, the material itself is quite lengthy and I think the class would run smoother if we covered two instead of three topics. Readings were 20+ pages long and they were complex, which meant that I'd often spend hours before class annotating them to better understand them. The class is structured as follows: we had 3 final essays which count for ~24% of our grade each, 3 mini examlets/quizzes that count for 8% of your grade each, and some short reaction papers to the texts which count for 2% of your grade each. The quizzes were relatively easy, especially as they were open book and we could just search for the relevant information in the word document shared with us, but the essays, especially the second two, were genuinely difficult, as we were little substantive feedback on how to improve our writing. Overall, I'd recommend this class to those who are really, really interested in philosophy and who are willing to put in a significant amount of time into completing the needed readings, but I'd advise against taking it as an 'easy A' GE.
the theory is interesting enough, but in my view there's just a little too much work involved—hence, not an easy A or an easy GE by any means. for this quarter we were assigned three examlets, three short 'reaction' papers and three longer papers. two of said papers were stacked so closely together it was impossible to get feedback before the 'final' last paper. i think that this made it difficult to gauge progress and evaluate our understanding or knowledge of whichever ethical theory we happened to be studying. hence, pacing was definitely an issue!
that said, prof was engaging, her lecture notes were good, lectures ran long so i personally stopped watching them beyond the first 3 weeks—as long as you can understand the lecture notes, you're on track. i also feel that the extra readings she provided were interesting. i also liked that there was an automatic 'two-day extension' policy for most of the longer papers.
I took this class as a GE (biochem major). I had some prior experience with philosophical writing and am convinced that this helped substantially, as the schedule was super crammed and I didn't get much feedback on the papers that I submitted (more later). My TA was super helpful and attending his office hours proved to be very helpful, as he would usually give us concrete essay tips (i.e. tell us what we should include to get our paper from a B to an A).
Prof. split the final exam into three 'examlets,' which took place after we had finished the material for the philosopher we were studying. In total, the three exams were worth 24% of our final grade. I found them fairly straightforward, as the answers to ~80-85% of the questions could be found almost verbatim in the lecture notes. The remaining ~15-20% required a little bit more critical thinking (basically applying the theory, making inferences etc.). Even though I didn't do any of the reading, I found answering the inference questions manageable. Overall, if you read through the lecture notes and make brief notes right before the examlet, you will do fine. Prof. explicitly described these examlets as exams that test our comprehension — therefore, there are no trick questions, which was very helpful.
The three papers are worth the majority of the final grade. Although I found the length to be reasonable (3-4 pages, ~1000-1200 words), the crammed schedule prevented our TAs from giving us feedback on our second paper before submitting our final paper. This basically meant that for many students, they wrote their first philosophy paper ever, received some feedback and then wrote two papers without any additional feedback. Although it goes without saying that times during the pandemic are unpredictable, I genuinely believe that this prevented me from getting the most out of the course.
Having taken the TOK course in High School (IB student), I had some experience with the type of thinking that we were required to do when answering the paper prompts — and I believe that this carried me. ***For students with no prior experience with philosophy and philosophical writing, I would think twice before signing up for this class, as some of the material that you are expected to know goes beyond what I would classify as 'introductory.'***
The final part of the grade (6%) is comprised of 3 reaction papers, which are graded on completion. For these, you basically choose a section of the text that stands out and then write your response to it.
- I signed up for this class thinking that it would be an easy A. It turned out, however, that it was more difficult to obtain this grade than I initially thought. The crammed schedule that limited the amount of essay feedback that I received certainly increased the difficulty.
- Although Prof. was engaged during her lectures and frequently made jokes and answered questions, she basically was just reading off of a document that she was screensharing. This document was also posted on CCLE (which was helpful while reviewing for the examlets and writing the papers), meaning that attending lectures wasn't vital.
- While I think that the online format certainly didn't help Prof.'s ability to go through course material, I genuinely think she could have put more effort into adapting to the current norm (i.e. creating more engaging lectures by making use of breakout rooms, etc.) When I signed up for this course, I was expecting to learn a lot from discussions about interesting ethical questions. Although we did have such conversations in our discussion sections, the one-way flow of information during lectures was underwhelming.
honestly this class was straightforward and not that difficult. The essay grading seems to be a major complaint within these reviews, and I just have to point out that those are handles by the TA's, not Prof. Dewitt, so it doesn't exactly reflect her ability as a professor. Prof. Dewitt did exactly what she needed to do. She lectured, emphasized points of importance, was funny, witty, and clear. She did accept a lot of questions, which made us fall a bit behind, but.... on the groupme, those students were asked to refrain from asking those questions during lectures multiple times, and it didn't seem to have much effect.. I hate to say it but the questions were on us, and not her. She told us multiple times to come to office hours instead of asking during lecture. We didn't listen. That's not really her fault. Last note: a lot of my fellow classmates came in with very strong feelings about certain philosophies and philosophers. I just don't recommend it. Come in with an open mind, and learn from an expert! I feel many students became upset with the course because the prof did not represent certain parts of philosophy the way they wanted, and then they suffered in their papers and exams. Just listen to what she SAYS and you'll get an A. Don't take exams and write papers based on previous knowledge; she usually leaves the answers to exams and exactly what she might wanna see in an essay in her notes. Anyways, great prof, highly recommend Jungsuk as a TA if you can get him (he gave me an A on two trash essays and I love him for it).
The lectures would be interesting sometimes but for the most part I found myself unable to pay attention the whole time. She's not the most engaging lecturer, and she also answers too many questions during lecture which means there isn't enough time to cover the material. There were 3 essays in total ranging from 2-4 pages and I got virtually no feedback on them from my TA. A lot of the theories that she teaches get incredibly repetitive. The readings honestly weren't necessary, just really study her lecture notes for the 3 examlets (which were open note). Essentially, the whole quarter you will be learning about possible theories of why we act the way that we do through the lens of Aristotle, Kant, and Mill. That sounded like it would be interesting to me at first but the course wasn't really what I expected it to be like.
Professor DeWitt is clearly very knowledgable about the subject and provides ample resources for us to develop a solid understanding of the content. I found that her lectures often get sidetracked with her drilling the same points over and over again using more anecdotes/examples than probably necessary, as well as spending a lot of time answering tangential student questions about the material. This isn't necessarily bad, as it helps deepen my understanding of the content to a degree, but it can be a little frustrating waiting for her to get back on track and makes it more difficult to stay focused. Luckily this doesn't turn out to be a huge problem as she provides her lecture notes on the class website, which are well-formatted and great study resources on their own. Also, the professor tends to introduce her own biases into the lessons on philosophy--not political/personal ones; moreso her philosophical preferences for or against certain schools of thought find their way into the lectures. I believe that being a little bit more impartial would better serve her goal of teaching us how to think for ourselves and critically analyze philosophy from our own points of view.
Despite the minor qualms above, I still came out of the class satisfied in what I learned about philosophy. I had never taken a philosophy class before and this class was a great introduction to the field. Besides a few papers and examlets, there is not much work to be done in the class besides studying. I'd recommend this class for those comfortable in their writing looking for a solid GE or introduction to philosophy.
Professor DeWitt knows what she's talking about. But this course itself would only be really interesting to those who do really love philosophy. I thought I liked philosophy, after this class I realized not really, I found it a bit technical, like mathematics, and so I may stop taking philosophy in the future. But that aside, if you listen carefully to lecture and follow the professor you will know the philosophical theories well enough. The essays composed the bulk of your grade, I find it difficult to write them because I lack experience writing philosophy essays and struggled a bit. But for my Kant paper, after I talked with the professor about my ideas, she gave me really helpful advice and I got an A on the paper. At the end she curved everyone's scores up a little, my other two papers were A- and B+ and still I got an A in the end. So don't worry too much. Also, I actually didn't read any of the readings assigned because I couldn't really make sense of them, I only listened to her lectures (I didn't attend discussion either) and that's pretty sufficient for me to understand the material. Btw besides the three essays you need to turn in and three small exams (I find the exams super easy), there is no weekly homework or anything else.
I took this class as an easy A, it was most definitely not. The papers were not too bad but you barely receive clarity on any possible improvements that you can make, so there's not much to do. The examlets are also extremely hard and though there is supposed to be a curve, there wasn't one so that's doubly frustrating. Loved the teacher, but the way it's graded was just not it.
Professor Dewitt knows her stuff. She just gets really distracted a lot, making us all behind on schedule. She lectures by screen sharing her notes on word, which isn't so bad. She lets you use her notes and your own notes for her examlets (basically just quizzes for each philosopher we get through Aristotle, Kant, and Mill).
I personally got bored with this class. She tends to talk A LOT making you get really bored from lectures. I gave up in the end and didn't decide to put much effort into each of my papers. Her examlets were pretty hard because she requires you to understand the theories. Most of the questions are found in her notes, but there are a few that require hard thinking.
She is pretty disorganized and it felt like we kept having to cram time because we were always behind, but we did still get through everything in the end.
Would I recommend others to take this GE? Maybe if you really really enjoy Philosophy. If you don't, don't take it. I liked it at first but now I don't.