This is a rant - and I apologise in advance.
I enrolled in a new course provided at my university called "philosophy of religion". This course was essentially designed as a study of the history and etiology of religion and philosophy. It was to cover issues of god - arguments dating back through the ages up to the enlightenment and today. This sounded so interesting to me, I couldn't resist signing up despite the fact it was not in my area of study.

So today I just got back from the first two hour lecture and I UNDERSTOOD NOTHING! I am familiar with the English language but what came out of that lecturer's mouth was absolute babble!! He was referencing arguments I had never heard before by people I was unfamiliar with.. and pointing out flaws in books we were then told to read. I was also shocked by his inability to proceed in an organised and meaningful manner.. Not once did he define a word or pause to say "in other words".. He was reading this lecture out from his own notes (no notes handed out or a projector used). Someone interrupted at one point and asked what he defined 'religion' as and he said 'good question' and then continued to babble about the various philosophical arguments surrounding that 'controversial' concept. At one point he did say religion was not to be confused with theism, but then moved on without defining either.

We are there to learn - can a discipline really be such that there is nothing that can be defined? And the archaic vocabulary of law (or 'legalese') has been making its way into plain English for some time.. why not philosophy?
I will most likely be transferring out of that course. Two other students I spoke to afterwards were also surprised by the lack of understandable content. I don't want to risk my current healthy GPA on a subject run by a freak.

I am just so shattered because I was really looking forward to this course.
Is this the typical way philosophy is taught? Is it an area so rife with 'legalese' that it is nonsensical to anyone but 'the chosen few'? No wonder Socrates taught Plato who taught Aristotle.. only one person in a class 'gets it'. (i know, dont say it)
I am tempted to think that I just lucked out with a 'dud' lecturer but that isn't making me feel any better right now. The one subject I was really looking forward to has a lecturer unable to make sense.

I'm going to drown my sorrows in a cup of warm tea

Tags: angry, babble, lecturer, philosophy

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Can you go and have a quiet word with the department head? Maybe ask if they can sit on a lecture to see whether it's just you, or whether there's a problem with the teaching method?
If that fails, there's always good, old-fashioned planting drugs on him.
Kristy, I did think about having a word to the dean but the reality is that they just got this lecturer here from the UK a short while ago and the subject has only just been introduced this semester - which means it will go through teething problems for a while until it gets organised. Its just my bad luck that I wanted to do the course asap. next year I might give it another go.

Jared LOL that is always an option
Is this a first year unit? If so, then massive fail on the way the class was presented. If it's a 200/300 level unit then there may have been some expectation that the student would be familiar with some philosophical concepts and definitions. But even then, from what you've described, it's not a normal way of conducting a philosophy class. Seems like it's probably a combination of lecturer style and new-unit gremlins.

Before transfering out, I'd recommend at least attending a tutorial or two. They're the best place to ask questions and get clarification. And a cheap paperback Dictionary of Philosophy can help alot.
steven its a 3rd level unit. worth 4 credit points which means it was never going to be an easy workload but I have done a few of these optional units in other areas of study (this philosophy one didnt have any philosophy prerequsites) and they have all been difficult but understandable and I have not fallen below a distinction in any subject yet. I understood his 'words' but I couldnt understand the meaning of his sentences. I wish I recorded some of it. It was something you'd delete as spam. He is a scholar/academic who is terrible at getting his point across but most likely knows his stuff. I will go to a tutorial though (this afternoon in fact) and you have good advice. cheers.
It sounds like he's trying to overdo the language to make himself sound more informed, at the students' expense. Or more likely, I imagine he's read a lot of books and is informed, but doesn't plan out his lessons or relate to the students well enough to be understandable. Or both. A lot of teachers take a few years or more to get to a point where they learn to teach effectively. I would feel the same way as you do, especially since I'm as interested in the subject. What I've been more worried about, in taking the class, is the possibility of a lot of religious bias, but now I have something new to worry about.
The soft sciences are also frustrating to me. I didn't last a single semester in philosophy before changing my major to engineering.

It seems "philosophy" is often confused with "intellectual wankfest", and many so-called "thinkers" are nothing of the sort.

It frustrates me to know that philosophy deals with learning all the bad ideas as well as the good ones.

However, I was glad to discover the math/engineering department doesn't teach known wrong answers for the first 3 years of your education before finally moving on to some of the right ones.
Like any academic discipline, philosophy has its own set of technical vocabulary terms. Indeed, that toolbox is indispensible for what we do--because the concepts addressed in philosophy are often so slippery, a very precise and well-defined vocabulary is really necessary. You indicated that it was a 3rd level course; I assume that corresponds to a relatively advanced class. If it is an advanced (rather than introductory) course, then the instructor was right to assume some amount of familiarity with philosophical vocabulary: if every class had to have the technical terms redefined over again, it would be hard to get very far in most specialized topics. You wouldn't go into an upper-division chemistry class and expect to understand what was being said either--the concepts take practice to master.

You're certainly within your rights to talk to the instructor and express your concerns, but be prepared to be told that lower-division work in philosophy is assumed for the course. Philosophy is a rigorous academic discipline like any other, and advanced work builds on fundamentals.
Might I suggest that you read through Philosophy of Religion: An Introduction by William L. Rowe if you're interested in the subject? That was the textbook that was used for the Philosophy of Religion paper I took and what it lacks in thoroughness it makes up for in accessibility. It's a great starting point, in my opinion.

As Reality Apologist said, though, philosophy is quite specialized and as fond of its technobabble as any other discipline. I majored in it and took basically every philosophy course on the syllabus but I still find it damn near incomprehensible half the time (and I should add that I graduated in the top 5%, so I'm not just stupid XD). It's possible that the lecturer either assumed a degree of prior knowledge that you didn't have or simply didn't make allowances for the need for prior explanation/clarity of thought. I remember one paper I took on the Victorian Era in which the tutor apparently expected students to memorize every political event ever, without bothering to actually mention half of them - that was not a happy experience for my GPA. If you do a bit of poking around on your own - attend a tutorial or two, read some background literature, etc. - and still find that he's talking in circles, I'd say you should probably drop the class until a later date; the sad fact is that some lecturers just plain suck.


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