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I took this Spring of 2020 during the coronavirus quarantines/protests. This quarter was a bit different in design from the usual in-person class, so the grading may be different in future classes.
Overall, I'd say it was really easy: there were originally supposed to be 5 quizzes (about 1 every 2 weeks) worth 50% and 2 papers worth the other 50%, but Smith was very accommodating and dropped the lowest quiz and paper, so only 4 quizzes and the highest scoring paper counted for your grade. Since I got 100s on the first 4 quizzes and did well on the first paper, I was basically exempt from the last ones. All of the lectures were pre recorded and uploaded so we could watch them at our leisure. They were also shorter than in a normal 1.25 hr timeslot so you can watch on 2x speed.
The quizzes were 10 questions with a generous 20 min time limit that covered only material from the last lecture of the previous quiz to the most recent material, so it was mostly 2-3 lectures worth of material and was also open notes and book. The papers were also manageable, though it does depend on who you get as a TA and what they are looking for in your papers!
There is one book that you are required to get, but it can be found online free in PDF form. You'll likely need it for the papers, but the quizzes themselves were based mainly on handouts from Smith that accompanied lectures. There are also two outside source readings you have to do, but it isn't hard and as long as you take notes in lecture or discussion on them, you don't really need to read them either unless it is what you choose as a paper topic.
Overall, this class was an excellent and easy choice for a philos GE/pre-req compared to some other philosophy classes. The content is not difficult to understand at all either. I recommend taking it!
This was a super easy GE. Sheldon did a great job of moving everything online during the COVID quarter, and was a cool professor. Two 4ish-page papers, 5 easy quizzes, and he ended up canceling the second paper anyway. This class was cash.
I took the class my very first quarter here at UCLA, under the impression it was to satisfy one of the philosophical and linguistic GE's I needed. Turns out this class actually satisfies a physical science course for students in the college of LS so that's a plus.
Anyways, in regards to the class, it was extremely easy. One midterm, one paper, and the final. For the midterm we were provided a study guide that was completely comprehensive and had the answers to just about every question for the midterm... same for the final. Definitely collaborate on this in a Groupme with classmates. We had plenty of prompts to pick from for the paper, and it wasn't long at all, probably around 4-6 pages. Due to the TA strike, for the second half of the quarter many lectures were cancelled and bruincasted, and honestly I'm not sure if the paper or final were ever graded lol. Nonetheless, this class was highly enjoyable and Professor Smith is obviously deeply passionate about philosophy and just a kind, golden retriever like guy. Would definitely recommend taking this course when it's offered.
Professor Smith is really knowledgeable about this topic. I will say the topic was confusing if you are not well-versed in philosophy, let alone Philosophy of Science. And I also never went to class after week 4 with the exception of the midterm and final (because I could never get up before 9:30am LOL)... I ended up getting a good grade, primarily because my TA was so nice and helpful during office hours. Please go to office hours if you need it. My suggestion is weekly or biweekly, I regret not doing that. There are many concepts to grasp and it can be easy to get behind while it seems like your classmates understand everything right off the bat. There are also helpful quizlets to use and what not. We had an in class midterm, a paper, and an in class final. Each were 33% which is why it is important to finesse and focus solely on the things that matter. The readings were interesting to an extent but the length made them boring because they were so "academic" if that makes sense lol.
Highly recommend this class as a GE. Class consisted of 5 very easy and straightforward quizzes (each worth 10%) and 2 essays (20% and 30%), plus a point of extra credit (boost grade by 1%). Quizzes took questions directly from the lectures and were open note. Essays had somewhat complicated prompts and not a lot of guidance, but were doable if you checked your ideas with a good TA. Professor Smith’s lectures are clear, even though the material is difficult to fully grasp at times. Would not recommend buying the textbook, as it unnecessarily complicates the material. Overall, a very easy class with little work involved.
This class is alright. The quizzes were fair. Lectures were boring (at least for me). And writing the essays were annoying. I felt that my discussion section was not helpful at all so I stopped attending them. I also did not read the book (which I probably should have to do better on the quizzes) and I got a B+ so the class is not very difficult.
I AM SELING PDF VERSION OF "Theory and Reality, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science" by Peter Godfrey Smith. Send me a quick email:
Professor Smith is a kind and funny individual. He does a great job at explaining what can be quite complex concepts. He is always open to questions being asked and is known to be flexible and understanding if there a circumstances which require a deadline extension. I had no prior experience with philosophy but even with no error knowledge I felt the class moved at a steady and consistent pace. There is a textbook require but it can be accessed for free online. The readings, which are assigned as roughly a chapter before every lecture (2 lectures a week) could get to be a bit long but I found them pretty digestible and rather interesting, though the 2 philosophy articles assigned were a not as accessible in terms of language. I also recommend reading each chapter prior to lass as it helps lecture go more smoothly and feel more like review. The course was structured so that we only had 3 graded assignments our midterm, paper, and final exam. The final exam was online and open not due to the TA strike but the midterm which was traditional was identical in structure and filling out the study guide Professor Smith provides makes it entirely manageable. Lectures are recorded on burin cast but I recommend attending in person as the content is actually very interesting, and I found it to be more engaging in person as opposed to when it was recorded due to the TA strike. Overall I highly recommend this class as it was great and engaging course to have for my first quarter at UCLA!
Prof. Sheldon Smith is very passionate about Philosophy so if you genuinely like philosophy you will enjoy this course. I personally got stuck in this class and wasn't interested at all in the topics that were taught so the lectures were not very helpful for me, in fact I stopped going after 2 classes. Attendance is not mandatory and is not really necessary. There is a midterm, essay, and final each worth 1/3 of your grade. There is no homework at all and if you just complete the study guides before the tests you will do fine.
Preface: I took this class during the TA-strike; the whole class was awarded full participation points. You do not need to be a math genius to take this class. I took logic as a prereq but you don't need to be advanced.
The Prof: Dr. Smith is so great. His exams are exactly what he covered in lecture making the material feel a lot less intimidating. He's funny and clearly passionate about teaching. He's deeply invested in his students. I went to office hours every once in a while, he always answered questions clearly and in detail. He's a very popular professor.
TA: I had Alonso Molina. Honestly, I would get more confused when he explained things to me BUT I went over my study guide answers with him before the midterm and he helped a lot. He told me what I should pay close attention to and what I could improve on. Again this is just the study guide.. but filling out the study guide helps for the exam.
Material/Workload: not bad but not great. Definitely keep up with the readings, try to stay consistent with notes. I usually took notes after lecture but I think that taking notes before would have been an advantage. The material is DRY and convoluted as hell. McTaggart can eat his heart out, I can't stand his theories. Luckily Smith explains it very well. Things get better with Block theory, Growing Block, theories of space, and Minkowski spacetime. It's hard but lecture makes it easier. The material is hard but honestly, Smith makes it worth it. I love philosophy; I'm glad I took this class because now I know what this side of philosophy is. I still prefer Nietzsche, Fanon, and Korsgaard.
Exams: 1 Midterm, 1 5-6 page essay, and a final. Stressful but it's what one expects in a philosophy class. You need to keep up with readings though. Exams are generally composed of a series of essay questions (6-7) where you pick two to answer. You are well prepared for them in lecture but to get an A you need to expound upon what was taught in the book. I rephrased things and explained how I taught myself the concepts, I talked about it with my TA, and I created my quizlets. I practiced writing my answers and then I took the exam. It's not easy but you can have a system for it.
Overall: Definitely take it. The grade distribution is undeniable. The material is hard but it's digestible. Prof Smith is fantastic and the TA's want you to succeed. This class is much more interested in seeing you do well rather than pick you apart. I would definitely take it again.