Dan Cohen

10 Most Popular Philosophy Syllabi
Posted to Google and the World of Search on 21 May 2006, 10:44 PM EDT

Google and the World of SearchIt's time once again to find the most influential syllabi in a discipline—this time, philosophy—as determined by data gleaned from the Syllabus Finder. As with my earlier analysis of the most popular history syllabi the following list was compiled by running a series of calculations to determine the number of times Syllabus Finder users glanced at a syllabus (had it turn up in a search), the number of times Syllabus Finder users inspected a syllabus (actually went from the Syllabus Finder website to the website of the syllabus to do further reading), and the overall "attractiveness" of a syllabus (defined as the ratio of full reads to mere glances). It goes without saying (but I'll say it) that this methodology is unscientific and gives an advantage to older syllabi, but it still probably provides a good sense of the most visible and viewed syllabi on the web. Anyway, here are the ten most popular philosophy syllabi.

#1 - Philosophy of Art and Beauty, Julie Van Camp, California State University, Long Beach, Spring 1998 (total of 3992 points)

#2 - Introduction to Philosophy, Andreas Teuber, Brandeis University, Fall 2004 (3699 points)

#3 - Law, Philosophy, and the Humanities, Julie Van Camp, California State University, Long Beach, Fall 2003 (3174 points)

#4 - Introduction to Philosophy, Jonathan Cohen, University of California, San Diego, Fall 1999 (2448 points)

#5 - Comparative Methodology, Bryan W. Van Norden, Vassar College, multiple semesters (1944 points)

#6 - Aesthetics, Steven Crowell, Rice University, Fall 2003 (1913 points)

#7 - Philosophical Aspects of Feminism, Lisa Schwartzman, Michigan State University, Spring 2001 (1782 points)

#8 - Morality and Society, Christian Perring, University of Kentucky, Spring 1996 (1912 points)

#9 - Gay and Lesbian Philosophy, David Barber, University of Maryland, Spring 2002 (1442 points)

#10 - Social and Political Philosophy, Eric Barnes, Mount Holyoke College, Fall 1999 (1395 points)

I will leave it to readers of this blog to assess and compare these syllabi, but two brief comments. First of all, the diversity of topics within this list is notable compared to the overwhelming emphasis on American history among the most popular history syllabi. Asthetics, politics, law, morality, gender, sexuality, and methodology are all represented. Second, congratulations to Julie Van Camp of California State University, Long Beach, who becomes the first professor with two top syllabi in a discipline. Professor Van Camp was a very early adopter of the web, having established a personal home page almost ten years ago with links to all of her syllabi. Van Camp should watch her back, however; Andreas Teuber of Brandeis is coming up quickly with what seems to be the Platonic ideal of an introductory course on philosophy. In less than two years since its inception his syllabus has been very widely consulted.

[The fine print of how the rankings were determined: 1 point was awarded for each time a syllabus showed up in a Syllabus Finder search result; 10 points were awarded for each time a Syllabus Finder user clicked through to view the entire syllabus; 100 points were awarded for each percent of "attractiveness," where 100% attractive means that every time a syllabus made an appearance in a search result it was clicked on for further information. For instance, the top syllabus appeared in 2164 searches and was clicked on 125 times (5.78% of the searches), for a point total of 2164 + (125 X 10) + (5.78 X 100) = 3992.]

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