Nineteenth-Century Philosophy of Science, Stanford, Fall 2009

  • Professor McCaskey created the type of learning environment that makes a college experience: open discussion of all view points, an intimate engagement with the material, and demanding analysis of great works of scholarship.
  • Assignments were appropriately challenging.
  • This was a great class. With only four students, it can be difficult to keep a discussion going, but McCaskey ensured that every student contributed and was heard. He clearly knows and loves his subject, and his enthusiasm is infectious.
  • Professor McCaskey displayed an unbelievable amount of passion for the course, for its subject material, and most importantly, for the education of students in his class. He came to discussion every day with a clear idea of his lesson plan and how he was going to lead us to a better understanding of the texts we had read. While guiding discussion, he also listened to and genuinely learned from the points that students made. This impeccable combination of leading and listening, teaching and probing, makes him an excellent professor. He is the most exciting and talented instructor I have ever encountered in my life.
  • Have more class time so that we can gain even more from the excellent opportunities he provides.
  • Mill/Whewell was great
  • add Bacon
  • perfect
  • I am thoroughly satisifed with every element of this course and I would take it again if I could. I plan to take every class that Professor McCaskey teaches at Stanford, because I can imagine no better use of my tuition or time, than learning from this incredible teacher.
  • The focus on primary sources was absolutely spot on. The readings were well-chosen.
  • I would add some Bacon next time, and maybe reduce Whewell and Mill to two weeks combined rather than three. I would not lose the statistics, though maybe some Peirce on chance rather than Jevons.
  • I would not encourage less reading. More would be OK (but I’m an unusual case, I suppose)
  • Phenomenal class. Best educational experience I have ever had at Stanford. Can’t recommend it enough. Everyone should take it and enjoy McCaskey’s brilliance and passion for teaching.
  • I really can’t speak highly enough. Even students in the class who appeared to have no particular need for or specific interest in the 19th century philosophy of science were engaged and excited by what many might consider dry material. That’s got to be down to McCaskey
  • Professor McCaskey relates to students very well. He’s generous with his time, shares his enthusiasm for the material, and clearly cares about student progress.
  • I loved the emphasis placed on primary texts in the course.
  • I would include a few secondary sources that give a brief overview of the relevant history and major fault lines in the philosophy of science.
  • The flexibility allowed in choosing paper topics made the assignments enjoyable and more helpful as a result.
  • McCaskey is very engaging and helped drive the discussion to interesting places each class. I really felt like I learned alot about 19th cent. phil of science from this class.
  • I really wish we read some Bacon. We often talked about Francis Bacon but had no solid background in it. Also, Jevons was probably the least interesting author.
  • Short papers were great. They were challenging, but kept me engaged throughout the entire class.
  • I really enjoyed this course and I feel like I now have a solid background with which to approach further study of 20th century philosophy of science.

This is all (not a sample) of the unedited, written comments, both positive and negative, for “Nineteenth-Century Philosophy of Science,” a seminar I taught at Stanford in fall 2009. Students were upper-class undergraduates and grad students. The highlighting is mine.


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