Tuesday, January 23, 2018

--- Links and lectures ---

This blog is about active lifelong learning - getting out and experiencing your world - but I don't want to completely dismiss audiovisual and other kinds of more passive experience. After all, opencourseware and other Internet resources, lectures, books, and documentaries can certainly prepare us for real life adventures and enrich our activities. Here, I'd like to tell you about some of my favorite podcasts and lecture from the Internet and commercial sources.

Let me first dispense with my favorite commercial source of audiovisual lectures. The Teaching Company provides college (and some high school) level courses. The lecturers are auditioned and, typically, I would call the some of the best I have ever seen and heard. More recently, they have partnered with organizations such as National Geographic and the Smithsonian Institute to offer visually rich, fascinating, and informative series. One thing I like about these lectures is that most tell me quite a lot that I have never heard before and the lecturers are active in their fields so that much of the information is current.

On scanning their website (https://www.thegreatcourses.com) the prices seem pretty steep. A course on photography is listed at $234.05, but there are 24 half hour lectures. A new movie costs $20 or more. It's like 6 movies. Still a little steep. On sale the lecture series is only $59.95 and every title goes on sale at least once every year.

In psychology and philosophy, the Teaching Company has The Great Ideas of Psychology, presented by Professor Daniel Robinson. My1997 copy is a little out of date but is still a great introduction to the subject.

The Great Ideas of Philosophy is presented by the same instructor. He does quite well in both fields.

Plato, Socrates, and the Dialogues is narrated by Professor Michael Sagrue. This is one of my favorite lecture series in philosophy. I always enjoy hearing a presenter who is passionate about their subject.

There are several series on logic and problem solving that make the difficult subjects clear. The Art of Critical Decision Making, presented by Professor Michael Roberto of Bryant University is sold as a business course but provides a useful coverage of decision making strategies for any field including everyday life.

Argumentation: The Study of Effective Reasoning, presented by David Zarefsky, and Tools of Thinking: Understanding the World Through Experience and Reasoning, presented by Professor James Hall of the University of Richmond would be a great start for anyone interested in sharpening their reasoning skills.

Now, on the free download side, one of my favorite series in philosophy is Peter Adamson's, The History of Philosophy without Any Gaps. Professor Adamson is the Professor of Philosophy at the LMU in Munich and King's College in London. When he says "no gaps" he means "no gaps". This is the most complete presentation of philosophy I have ever seen (well, up to the Renaissance, anyway. It's an on going project). The website is at https://www.historyofphilosophy.net .

Academic Earth (http://academicearth.org) is an excellent website for lifelong learners. Like The Teaching Company, they look for the best video college courses. Unlike The Teaching Company, they are mostly filmed in classrooms so you generally won't see many of the beautiful cinematographic bells and whistles on Academic Earth, but they're free downloads! I don't want t give you too much in the way of recommendations. All the courses are great and you'll want to look through them. But I do have some favorites.

By far, my favorite psychology course is Yale's Introduction to Psychology presented by Professor Paul Bloom. Professor Bloom's presentation is insightful and surprisingly humorous. Just go to the Academic Earth website, open the "Psychology" list form the "Course" menu from the top of the page, and find Yale's Introduction to Psychology course on the alphabetical list that appears.

You won't see philosophy courses in the Courses menu - you have to use the Search box, but there are some good philosophy courses. Peter Mullican of the University of Oxford presents a great series of lectures on the Introduction to General Philosophy.

I keep an eye on MIT's opencourseware (https://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm) and occasionally donate because...whoa! The courses are absolutely up to date and range from web pages that tell you what books they use - go read them - to full, everything-you-need assemblages of video classes, printed materials, complete textbooks - the whole shebang.

Professor John Gabrieli presents a great Introduction to Psychology complete with video classes and transcripts, lecture notes, problems to solve and their solutions, and more.

If you want a good overview of ethology (animal psychology and sociology) and biological anthropology, take a look at Professor Gerald E. Schneider's class, Animal Behavior.

The philosophy courses tend to vary widely in subject and not be very introductory, but there are some enthralling courses, such as the several courses in logic. If you want to dig deeper just look through the philosophy courses and select one. And if you ever decide to devote the time and effort to fight your way through the adventure of Douglas Hofstadter's Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, certainly check out Robert Speer's presentation - It'll make the fight considerably easier.

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