Between Cross and Crescent: Jewish Civilization from Mohammed to Spinoza [TTC Video]
29 January 2016, 09:13
Course No 4652 | AVI, XviD, 640x432 | MP3, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 3.4GB
What is it like to practice your faith in an environment dominated by another? To evolve as a people when all of the world around you moves to religious and cultural rhythms very different from your own? To maintain your unity as a living community—and always to be aware of that sense of community—even when your numbers have been scattered across many lands, without a common government, a common country, or even a common language?
Moreover, how might these circumstances affect not only your own history, but also the history of those other cultures through which you move? What might you take from them? What might you give them?
For 10 formative centuries, the answers to questions like these helped define a developing Judaism, whose history was forever affected by its encounters with the surrounding social, economic, political, and intellectual environments of both medieval Islam and Christendom. As a result of those encounters, new pathways of philosophical inquiry and religious spirituality would be formed. The Hebrew language would find new ways of artistic expression. And the role of Jews in the life of the surrounding community would be changed forever, sometimes even increased, as was the paradoxical case in Italy, by the very ghettoization meant to keep them isolated.
Between Cross and Crescent: Jewish Civilization from Mohammed to Spinoza presents an overview of Jewish culture and society from its rabbinic foundations in late antiquity until the dawn of modernity in the 17th century.
In so doing, it places a special focus on Judaism's creative encounter with Christianity and Islam, giving us a unique perspective from which to examine the three major Western religions as they interact over time, and noting especially their ability or inability to tolerate and even appreciate the "other," as viewed from the vantage point of the Jewish minority.
The course is taught by Professor David Ruderman, a widely honored scholar and teacher whose extraordinary array of achievements in illuminating Jewish history includes coauthorship of the two-volume Heritage: Civilization and the Jews Study Guide and Source Reader, created to accompany the landmark Public Broadcasting System series, and whose last appearance for The Teaching Company was leading an exploration of Jewish Intellectual History: 16th to 20th Century.
An In-Depth Look at the Roots of Judaic Life and Thought
This time around, Professor Ruderman lets you experience the evolution of all of Jewish life during a critical period that also featured the emergence of two distinct intellectual threads: the rise of medieval Jewish philosophy and the appearance of Jewish mysticism and piety as the faith's primary expressions of religiosity.
His lectures presuppose no previous familiarity with Jewish, Islamic, or Christian history, and reflect a commitment to establishing always the historical context within which the events he is describing can be understood. Even when he material can threaten to be philosophically complex—as in his examination of the two approaches to interpreting the mystical and esoteric traditions of the Kabbalah, or of the intellectual provocation and enduring controversy posed by the towering writings of Moses Maimonides, 12th-century rabbi and philosopher—Professor Ruderman is always clear.
The result is an introduction that is both broad and detailed as it examines the leading Jewish communities of the period, their political and economic structures, the social relations between Jews and non-Jews, and Jewish cultural and intellectual achievements in a premodern world dominated by two other faiths.
"By embedding Jewish history within the larger social and cultural spheres of the Islamic and Christian worlds," notes Professor Ruderman, "the course ultimately raises the perplexing question of whether each of the three religious civilizations can learn to tolerate each other in our own chaotic and dangerous world, allowing each to live creative and dignified lives in the light of the mixed record of their past encounters and interactions."
To explore that question, Professor Ruderman first introduces the rabbinic civilization that defined Judaism prior to the rise of Islam and then moves his focus to the Jewish community of Islamic Baghdad in the 9th and 10th centuries.
This is a period for which a multitude of source materials have enabled historians to compile a rich profile of the political, social, and intellectual life of the Jewish community in and out of the city, especially as regards the community's relationships with the surrounding Islamic world. Professor Ruderman introduces you to the structures of both Jewish leadership and the forces of dissent before moving on to the Jewish experience in Spain and the political and cultural developments of what many have called that country's Golden Age, when a second center of Jewish life arose to parallel the establishment of a rival center of Islamic life in Cordova.
The height of that age, the 9th to the 11th centuries (the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492), saw an intellectual and cultural explosion unparalleled in Jewish history, including great works of philosophy and law and the emergence of secular as well as religious poetry written in Hebrew—a dramatic change from the exclusively liturgical poems that had been composed for centuries.
A Fresh Look at the End of Augustinian Tolerance and the Roots of Medieval Anti-Semitism
Professor Ruderman then moves on to consider the long relationship between Judaism and Christianity from the 1st century until the Middle Ages, exploring the paths of Jewish movement into Europe and the birth of what came to be known as Ashkenazic Jewry; the economic and social conditions under which they fashioned their lives; and the gradual rise of Christian hostility that eventually overwhelmed the established Church position of Augustinian tolerance.
That tolerance had been based on Augustine's position that the Jews had been decreed a life of misery for their rejection of Christ, and that their suffering as pariahs, unharmed and unconverted, would be testimony to that choice. But as the Crusades added the massacres of thousands of Jews—including many examples of deliberate martyrdom—to the Pope's call for a crusade against the Islamic "infidels," it was clear that a new aggressiveness against Jews and Judaism was coming to the fore, though the reasons were far more complex than mere religious hatred, as Professor Ruderman brings out.
These lectures span an enormous disciplinary range, moving back and forth among history, philosophy, religion, and art.
You'll learn the origins of the Talmudùthe body of rabbinic literature that is the primary text of Jewish study—and the enduring importance of Rabbi Solomon b. Isaac of Troyes, known to us as Rashi, to its discussion and understanding. You'll see how the Catholic Church, in elaborately contrived public "disputations" in which Jews were forced to participate, sought to lay an argumentative foundation for the increasing vilification of Judaism, even as violence against Jews was intensifying. And you'll see, as well, the resilience of the worldwide Jewish community as it adapts to ever-changing conditions in its efforts not only to survive, but to endure and prosper.
"The complex historical record we have tried to reconstruct in this course can hardly offer us a blueprint on how we might live together in our own time," notes Professor Ruderman. "But it at least offers the promise that coexistence is possible, that learning from each other is possible, and even appreciating each other is possible, as well.
"What it leaves us with ... is a sense of hope."
Understanding the Human Factor: Life and Its Impact [TTC Video]
27 January 2016, 15:00
Course No 1557 | AVI, XviD, 640x480 | AC3, 192 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | 4.58GB
The year is 8000 B.C. A man wanders across a field of prairie grasses in search of edible berries and roots and wild game to feed his family. As he walks, the tips of the grasses brush against him, releasing seeds. He collects a few of these seeds and brings them back to his camp. Later, he notices that when they fall on earth, they begin to sprout, and a new plant grows.
In small moments like these, the path of Homo sapiens sapiens is changed forever. The process of domesticating plants and animals reflects the greatest transition in the history of humankind—one that served to make us the humans we are today. This momentous innovation, which allowed human beings to become the dominant species on earth, sparked a chain reaction that laid the foundation for human civilization:
- By mastering the complexities of herding and farming, human beings secured their food supply indefinitely.
- These secure food sources led to settled communities and higher population densities around the world.
- With more highly concentrated and populated societies, humans developed complex systems in order to divide labor among individuals and groups.
- This division of labor eventually led to the creation of more specialized and essential human systems, such as government, law, and religion.
Today, we still feel the impact of this early innovation. Inasmuch as humankind has changed the species it domesticates, so have the plants and animals we cultivate and tend changed the shape of our history and lives. These interactions are the key not only to our rise but also our continued success on this planet. In fact, it's been suggested that if contributions from our domesticates suddenly stopped, civilization would almost certainly and instantly collapse.
In Understanding the Human Factor: Life and Its Impact, award-winning educator Professor Gary A. Sojka takes you on a journey through this fascinating story, surveying the remarkable innovations that transformed humankind into the sole agriculturists on our planet.
Over the course of 24 thought-provoking lectures, Professor Sojka draws on the latest science to offer a unique, multidisciplinary perspective on human life seldom available in a single course.
Bringing together insights from a wide variety of fields—including microbiology, genetics, archaeology, and sociology—Professor Sojka weaves a complex and remarkable tale, a fascinating synthesis of science and history that spans from the ancient roots of human culture to some of the most significant issues facing the modern world.
10,000 Years of Change
The course begins with the conversion of human beings from hunter-gatherers into farmers and keepers of livestock. As you explore more than 10,000 years of human history, you'll uncover the remarkable innovations, adaptations, and evolutions that have affected people and their plant and animal domesticates.
You'll view this grand story from a variety of perspectives. Through the lens of science, you'll explore the biological implications of cultivation and see how breeding practices have altered the genetic makeup of our domesticates. Focusing on history and anthropology, you'll examine how these changes, in turn, affected humankind and formed the foundation for the development of human civilization and culture. Your understanding of this rich story is enhanced with evidence drawn from many areas of study, including genetic research, archaeological excavation, carbon dating, mitochondrial DNA, and comparative linguistics.
As you explore this history, you'll trace a number of foundational ideas that lie at the heart of this field of study:
- Domestication is a mutually beneficial partnership between humans and the plants and animals they cultivate.
- Not any wild species can be domesticated. In each human-domesticate relationship, the plant or animal has "met us partway," exhibiting characteristics and behaviors that make domestication possible.
- Domestication is a two-way street. Just as we have changed the animals, plants, and microbes we have domesticated, so have we been changed through our relationship with them.
Along the way, you'll encounter fascinating facts and unexpected insights that bring this topic to life. Some of these intriguing details include these:
- The story of the domestication of dogs: Modern-day dogs originally arose from outcast members of wolf packs. Those animals that exhibited a weaker "flight response" could tolerate human communities and soon learned how to benefit from this interaction.
- Unexpected domesticates: Domesticates don't live only in the barnyard. Some important domesticates include the yeast used to brew beer and bake bread, the microbes that produce antibiotics, and mice that are bred to be used in the laboratory.
- The "expatriation" of species: While we may think of tomatoes as quintessentially Italian, potatoes as typically Irish, and horses as icons of the American West, all these species—and many others that we associate with particular regions—are actually foreign transplants whose identification with these regions is shaped by human intervention.
- The impact of domesticates on humans: Without sled dogs, Inuit peoples could not have moved into Arctic climates, just as desert peoples needed camels to thrive in their environment.
Glimpse the Future of Humankind
In addition to illuminating the distant past of humanity, Understanding the Human Factor also sheds light on current and future developments in the human experience. As you trace modern developments, you'll see how some of humankind's most advanced innovations—including such new technologies as artificial insemination, cloning, and interspecies gene transfer—are part of the ongoing relationship the human species has formed with its domesticates.
You'll also explore the repercussions and implications of humankind's "grand experiment" in domestication. As you'll see, the story of domestication serves as the foundation for some of the most hotly debated issues in the modern world, including sustainability, animal rights, agribusiness, pollution, and world hunger. Through his balanced and scientifically based discussion of humankind's history of food production, Professor Sojka provides you with the context to understand both these debates themselves and our species' capacity for contending with these issues.
An Unprecedented Perspective on Life on Earth
In Understanding the Human Factor, you'll gain a unique and valuable opportunity to grasp the full story of humankind's relationship to domestication. Through this single course, you'll encounter a synthesis of insights drawn from a wide range of disciplines.
As an award-winning educator and a practitioner of agriculture and animal husbandry, Professor Sojka is the perfect guide for this grand saga. Weaving together material from a wide range of scholarly viewpoints, he presents a one-of-a-kind vision of humankind's unique role on Earth.
Join Professor Sojka for this enlightening view of the human story, and discover valuable truths about one of the most important developments in the history of the human species—one that has laid the foundation for all of human culture and that will continue to have implications for our future.
Geometry: An Interactive Journey to Mastery [TTC Video]
26 January 2016, 09:37
Course No 1033 | WMV, WMV3, 640x360 | WMA, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 36x30 mins | 13.96GB
Inscribed over the entrance of Plato’s Academy were the words, “Let no one ignorant of geometry enter my doors.” To ancient scholars, geometry was the gateway to gaining a profound knowledge of the world. Today, geometry’s core skills of logic and reasoning are essential to success in school, work, and many other aspects of life.
Like other math fields, geometry teaches us how to think. It leads students to uncover new truths based on already established ideas and facts. It requires us to test and examine the conclusions of others. It teaches us to lay out our thinking clearly, describing each step so that others can follow along and verify our results.
This systematic way of thinking is essential in many fields. Drawing conclusions from experimental data is the basis of scientific discovery. Our justice system depends on compelling evidence to render a verdict in a court of law. And we use logical reasoning in everyday conversations to win friends over to our point of view.
In fact, the great Greek scholar Euclid demonstrated just how much you can do with logic. He worked out that basically all of geometry stands on just 10 core principles. You can build the rest using straightforward, logical reasoning.
In short, geometry is among the great intellectual feats of humankind. However, geometry goes far beyond being just an intellectual exercise. Its real-world applications extend to navigation, architecture, engineering, physics, technology, and even art.
- Botanists use the geometry of triangles to estimate the heights of trees.
- Astronomers use an understanding of ellipses to describe the orbits of planets.
- Quantum physicists use the mathematics of rotation to explain aspects of subatomic physics.
- Architects use principles of symmetry to develop aesthetically pleasing buildings.
- Engineers use the properties of parabolas to design headlights and satellite dishes.
With its powerful blend of intellectual accomplishment and practical application, it’s no wonder that most schools consider geometry a core subject. Yet as award-winning Professor James Tanton of The Mathematical Association of America shows in Geometry: An Interactive Journey to Mastery, geometry can be an exciting adventure at any age. Those who will benefit from his 36 clear and accessible lectures include
- high school students currently enrolled in a geometry class;
- their parents, who seek an outstanding private tutor for their students;
- home-schooled students and others wishing to study high school geometry on their own;
- collegestudents who are struggling with math requirements and who need to strengthen their grasp of this fundamental subject; and
- anyone curious about the intellectual challenge of logic and reasoning that underlies mathematics, the sciences, and our technological world.
Professor Tanton’s excellent teaching style makes the course ideal for those students who have ever believed they’re “not good at math” or have had challenges understanding geometry in the past.
A Different Way to Learn Geometry
Even students who have done well in other math courses such as algebra can sometimes find geometry a challenge. More so than algebra and other equation-based math, geometry places particularly strong focus on making logical inferences from facts and building a story of reasoning. Plus, geometry involves a more visual approach—working with shapes and patterns from the real world.
Many geometry courses begin by teaching the results of geometric thinking—by listing a set of beginning rules first. But how can one build the foundations of a house without first having a sense of what the house should be? Professor Tanton encourages students to start by playing with ideas of the mind (and acts of the hand!) to develop a feel for geometric rules and a context for those rules.
In Geometry: An Interactive Journey to Mastery, Professor Tanton guides students as they build an understanding of geometry from the ground up. With this approach, the instruction focuses on the intellectual play of the subject and its beauty as much as its utility and function. Students begin with elementary building blocks like points, lines, and angles and observe how those basic units interact.
From a clear understanding of the fundamental principles, students use logical reasoning to expand their understanding of geometry. Like building a house brick by brick, each new discovery stands upon the others—without any sudden or confusing jumps.
In the first part of the course, students
- develop an intuitive context for thinking about terms like point, line, angle, plane, and flat;
- grasp how to create logical proofs; and
- uncover the three deep and fundamental assumptions of geometry—the Pythagorean theorem, the parallelism postulate, and the similarity principles.
In the second part, students
- study common geometric shapes and their properties (such as triangles, polygons, and circles);
- explore the intersection of geometry and algebra;
- examine the basics of trigonometry; and
- learn how to calculate areas.
Once students understand the core principles, they are set loose to play in the third part of the course. Students ponder a range of fascinating and sometimes counterintuitive applications for geometry. They
- combine two seemingly disparate fields: geometry and probability;
- dive into the wild world of fractals;
- investigate conics and their many practical applications;
- use complex numbers to solve tricky geometry problems; and
- contemplate spherical and even “taxi-cab” geometry.
Delightful Real-World Examples
A beauty of geometry is its wide variety of fascinating and unexpected applications. Some of the examples students explore in this course include these:
- Width of a river: You're on a walk and come across a river. Can you estimate how wide it is? See how you can—with no more than a bit of geometry and a baseball cap.
- Geometry and nature: From the orbits of planets to the shape of your small intestine, geometric shapes appear in some surprising places throughout nature. See how geometry helps us better understand the marvels and mysteries of the world around us.
- Modern cell phones: Swiping the screen on a cell phone seems to be an ordinary activity. But did you know your phone is actually relying on some clever geometry? Find out exactly what your phone is doing and the mathematics behind it.
- Works of art: When people think of applications for mathematics, they often mention the fields of science or engineering. But geometry also has its place in the visual arts. See how great artists like M.C. Escher used geometric shapes and principles to create masterpieces.
- A game of pool: If you're playing pool and want to play a trick shot against the side edge, how do you need to hit the ball? See how you can determine this and more using the reflection principle.
A Teacher of Teachers
Professor Tanton is committed to sharing the delight and beauty of geometry and works with teachers across North America to develop more effective teaching methods for geometry and other math courses.
He is not only a teacher of math, but a teacher of the best ways to teach math. His experience has taught him where students most frequently flounder, which has given him the skills to explain mathematical concepts in a way that removes mental roadblocks to success.
Making each example come to life, Geometry: An Interactive Journey to Mastery engages students in a visual adventure. Professor Tanton uses bright and colorful slides, easy-to-understand whiteboard drawings, and interactive demonstrations to make his explanations crystal clear. And to help students better understand geometric principles, a workbook complete with sample problems and solutions accompanies the course.
Equipped with a firm understanding of geometry, students walk away from the course with the tools and knowledge to continue on to greater challenges in mathematics, school, and life. Your journey into this world of joy and wonder has only begun.