Theories of Knowledge: How to Think about What You Know [TTC Video]
27 April 2019, 14:32
Course No 5701 | MP4, AVC, 1372 kbps, 960x540 | AAC, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 7.33GB
Humans have been attempting to understand for thousands of years what knowledge truly is and how we acquire it, but the more we learn about the human body, our brains, and the world around us, the more challenging the quest becomes. The 21st century is a fast-paced world of technological change and expanding social networks, a world where information is plentiful and cheap, but where truth seems in short supply.
When it comes to our never-ending search for the truth about knowledge, there are innumerable questions and considerations.
What is the best way to make a transformative decision, such as whether to have a child? What if common sense was diametrically opposed to rational decision theory?
If you see the correct time on a stopped clock, do you really know what time it is? Is that genuine knowledge or simply chance? And does the distinction matter?
Our memories are one of our primary channels for knowledge, but much of what we “remember” is actually false memories or confabulations. Where does that leave us?
Media organizations developed a strong culture of fact-checking in the 20th century, but can they continue to sustain this pursuit of truth in a world of “click-bait”?
These questions merely scratch the surface of “epistemology,” the philosophical term for our inquiry into knowledge: what it is, the ways we acquire it, and how we justify our beliefs as knowledge. Delve into these issues, and many more, in Theories of Knowledge: How to Think about What You Know. Taught by acclaimed Professor Joseph H. Shieber of Lafayette College, these 24 mind-bending lectures take you from ancient philosophers to contemporary neurobiologists, and from wide-ranging social networks to the deepest recesses of your own brain.
Epistemology is as old as philosophy itself. This survey takes you back to Plato, who defined knowledge in terms of “true belief”—a person’s belief that corresponds with some external truth. You’ll see how this relationship between knowledge, belief, and the truth aligns with what 20th-century developmental psychologists have learned about children and the way we first begin to access information.
It is these types of connections—between philosophical history and our world today, and between abstract theory and observed, real-world examples—that make Theories of Knowledge: How to Think about What You Know such a treat. This course will transform how you think about yourself, the world around you, and the very nature of reality.
Unpack Competing Theoretical Approaches
As you delve into this course, you’ll soon discover there are several competing frameworks for defining and validating knowledge. For an influential and widely accepted explanation of knowledge, a great place to start is Descartes’s “evil demon” argument. Descartes understood he could not be certain the entire world was not the fabrication of some evil demon. All he knew for certain, all he could say infallibly, was cogito, ergo sum—I think, therefore I am.
Epistemology has come a long way since Descartes, and while most philosophers take issue with much of Descartes’s reasoning, his theory still offers a foundational approach to understanding knowledge.
After reviewing this foundation, you will survey a number of key frameworks that will allow you to dive into a number of epistemological debates, including:
- The foundationalist vs. the coherentist understanding of knowledge;
- Internalist vs. externalist frameworks for justifying belief; and
- The rationalism of Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz vs. the empiricism of Locke and Hume—which led to Kant’s distinction between a priori and a posteriori knowledge.
By examining these debates, you’ll not only gain a sense of the breadth of epistemology, but you’ll also gain the language and the insights necessary to understand epistemology today.
Investigate Individual Sources of Knowledge
Regardless of whether you find the internalists or the externalists, the foundationalists or the coherentists more persuasive, there are two general ways of accessing knowledge: through personal channels and through our social networks. To bring the old philosophical debates to life and make abstract theories concrete, Professor Shieber outlines the individual sources of knowledge, including:
- Sensory Perception: The most fundamental way we encounter the world is through our senses, but we must also understand that our senses are fallible. Using examples from cutting-edge ocular field theory and neurobiology, you will find out just how rocky our knowledge would be if it were based solely on what we perceive.
- Memory & Self-Awareness: Surely, we know ourselves if nothing else about the world … right? Delve into the world of denial, false memories, confabulation, and more to challenge this key belief. See what advancements in computer science tell us about the very nature of the “self” as you take a foray into the “extended mind.”
- Logic & Inference: From syllogisms to inductive reasoning, logic tells us much about the world—but like all personal sources of knowledge, logic has its weaknesses. For instance, the “raven’s paradox” asks us to ponder the claim, “All ravens are black.” Logic suggests the converse is true: “All things that are not black are not ravens.” Does evidence for the latter claim count as evidence for the former?
Reflect on Social Sources of Knowledge
After exploring the individual sources of knowledge, Professor Shieber turns to our social sources of knowledge, which often raise the question of trustworthiness. How can we verify we are receiving reliable and accurate information? How do I know someone isn’t lying to me? How can I be sure? Your investigation takes you through:
- Social Testimony: Much of our knowledge depends on testimony from others. Even facts as basic as our names and the identities of our parents are based on information from others. How do we evaluate the truthfulness of social testimony? Or do we even evaluate the accuracy of what others tell us? Thinkers from David Hume to contemporary social psychologists have wrestled with this issue.
- Scientific Achievement: Much of modern science relies on knowledge via “socially distributed cognitive systems.” For example, a 19th-century French project to update mathematical tables depended on the labor of ordinary workers relying on basic arithmetic—but who couldn’t comprehend the project as a whole. This process lends credence to a “social externalist” view of knowledge from testimony.
- Media Reliability: We are living amidst a battle between fact-checking and “fake news.” How do you gauge the accuracy and reliability of the media? What role do our social networks have to play in our media consumption? And how do we incentivize a culture of fact-checking rather than “click-bait” and confirmation bias in our media institutions?
An Exciting Field
Professor Shieber closes the course with a look into the future of epistemology. While the field of inquiry has been around for thousands of years, philosophers are constantly opening up new areas of thought, from epistemic logic to issues of systemic injustice in the world. How do we combat cognitive bias? Who should we include in our social networks? How do we know we are not just brains in a vat?
As you will learn from the very beginning of this course, rationality and common sense often lead you to wildly different conclusions when it comes to making transformative decisions. But you don’t have to be making a life-changing decision to make use of the types of critical thinking epistemologists employ. We live in a messy, imperfect, and often irrational world, but Theories of Knowledge: How to Think about What You Know offers an excellent step toward becoming a better thinker, and a more engaged citizen.
The Roman Empire: From Augustus to the Fall of Rome [TTC Video]
26 April 2019, 08:49
Course No 3344 | MP4, AVC, 960x540 | AAC, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 8.18GB
In 31 BCE, on an otherwise unremarkable afternoon in the Mediterranean, the Roman general Octavian surveyed the aftermath of the ferocious Battle of Actium, where he’d defeated his rival Mark Antony in a war for control of Rome. This moment, in which a military leader rests and reflects on his next move toward becoming the sole leader of the Western world, is the germ out of which grows one of the most breathtaking stories in world history. This leader would soon ingeniously maneuver his way to become Rome’s first emperor, setting the stage for five centuries of Roman expansion; warfare; and, ultimately, collapse.
When Octavian, who took the title of Augustus as the first emperor of Rome, defeated Mark Antony to become the sole ruler of the Roman world, it was a major turning point in Western civilization. Not only did his decades-long rule completely transform the old Roman Republic into the Roman Empire, but it also profoundly shaped the culture and history of our world today. The Roman Empire: From Augustus to the Fall of Rome traces this breathtaking history from the empire’s foundation by Augustus to its Golden Age in the 2nd century CE through a series of ever-worsening crises until its ultimate disintegration.
Taught by acclaimed Professor Gregory S. Aldrete of the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay, these 24 captivating lectures offer you the chance to experience this story like never before, incorporating the latest historical research, perspectives, and insights that challenge our previous notions of Rome’s decline. Professor Aldrete examines the major events and familiar figures of the Roman Empire, including:
- The political innovations of Augustus—and his one major shortcoming;
- The mental instability and cruel acts of Caligula and Nero;
- Writers such as Ovid, Horace, and Virgil;
- The stoic philosophy of Marcus Aurelius;
- Attila the Hun, Alaric, and other “barbarians” who threatened the empire; and
- Christian philosophers such as Augustine and Jerome.
But this course also moves beyond the famous figures and delves deeply into the lives of ordinary Roman women and men. You’ll read the messages they left on tombstones or scribbled on walls as graffiti; examine what life was really like for average city-dwellers and the hazards they faced every day; spend a day in Rome’s spectacular public entertainments, such as gladiator games and chariot races; and explore some of the city’s marvelous architectural and engineering works, including the Pantheon and the aqueducts.
The more you learn about the ancient Romans, the more you will realize how much we still walk in their footsteps. From particulars of the English language to our system of government to our religious practices, we are still experiencing the echoes of the Roman Empire in our world today. Indeed, we cannot truly understand ourselves unless we comprehend the vital influences of Rome on the modern world—and the lessons the empire can still teach us. The Roman Empire: From Augustus to the Fall of Rome is an informative—and highly entertaining—guide to one of the most important periods in world history.
Study the Roman Emperors—Stable and Strong, Strange and Insane
One major theme throughout the Roman Empire is the tenuous nature of power. Because Augustus selected heredity as his succession plan, each emperor had to reckon with choosing—or, in some cases, adopting—his heir. Frequently, emperors who inherited the title were incompetent at best, and some were downright depraved.
Because history is ultimately about people, Professor Aldrete introduces you to the characters behind the names, and brings their stories to life. You’ll find out who stabilized Rome, and how; who spent money on useless projects such as a 100-foot golden statue of himself in the nude; who the citizens loved and who the citizens feared. For instance:
- Tiberius was dour and introverted, and was often tight-fisted, which didn’t endear him to the citizens, but he did secure the borders.
- Caligula, meanwhile, took the throne riding a wave of popularity, but his reign soon degenerated into madness, bizarre actions, and terror.
- Nero never fiddled while Rome burned, but he did murder senators, citizens, and even his own mother (a process that took numerous Monty Python-esque twists and turns).
- Domitian had a habit of shutting himself in his room for hours at a time, catching and impaling flies.
- Constantine founded a second capital city for the Empire at Byzantium and immodestly renamed it Constantinople after himself.
Discover Rome as Experienced by Everyday Citizens
While surveying the major figures gives you a broad look at the empire’s history, Professor Aldrete goes beyond the traditional “kings and battles” approach to show you what life was like for ordinary people—starting with the nature of the city itself.
Given the traditional historical emphasis on Rome as a civilized city of good governance, engineering marvels, and magnificent architecture, you might believe the city was a clean metropolis made up of beautiful marble and elegant baths. In reality, the city was dirty, dank, and disease-ridden. Professor Aldrete cites the five F’s: floods, fires, famine, filth, and fevers—not a place you’d want to visit.
Traditional history has relied on elite, upper-class, and primarily male sources to tell us about life in Rome, but recent historians have focused on additional sources to bring the story of everyday Romans to life. In this course, you’ll examine a variety of sources that were previously overlooked or unexamined, including letters; administrative documents; epitaphs on tombstones; and, perhaps most interestingly, graffiti.
The graffiti gives us exciting insight into the minds of people long gone—and long ignored in the history books. You’ll discover eerily modern-sounding commentary on the walls of Pompeii, preserved thanks to the infamous volcano: advertisements for rooms for rent, creative and amusing political campaign ads, complaints about service in the local tavern, vulgar commentary, and even simple announcements along the lines of “Septimius was here.”
Investigate Why and When Rome Finally Collapsed
Two of the most intriguing questions about the Roman Empire are why, and when, it collapsed. As you’ll discover, historians can make the case for numerous years, including:
- 31 BCE: The Battle of Actium, which marked the end of the Old Republic
- 180 CE: The death of Marcus Aurelius, the last in a string of “good” emperors during Rome’s Golden Age
- 312: Constantine’s conversion to Christianity, the next major force to sweep across the West
- 410: The Visigoth Alaric’s sack of Rome
- 1453: The fall of Constantinople to the Turks
- 1917: The Russian revolution and the final end of a system that had once considered itself the ideological heirs of Rome
Professor Aldrete does not give you an easy answer, but rather shows how history develops over time, driven by a multiplicity of factors. Forces ranging from barbarian invasions to economic collapse to climate change all played a role in the gradual end of the Roman Empire.
He also brings in a fascinating counter-perspective. The traditional story is one of collapse as Rome disintegrated and the gloomy “Dark Ages” emerged in the 4th and 5th centuries. Recently, historians have been re-examining the years from 200-600 and discovering a different story. They see in this era—“late antiquity”—invigorating change and a vibrant mingling of cultures.
Historians could debate the end of the empire all day, but Professor Aldrete simply presents the evidence and leaves it to you to formulate your own answers. One thing is certain: The Roman Empire may be ancient history, but it is far from over. The Roman Empire: From Augustus to the Fall of Rome gives you an exciting, informative, often-amusing, and always entertaining look at an era and a people who continue to astound and interest us today.
The Rise of Rome [TTC Video]
12 April 2018, 15:15
Course No 3350 | M4V, AVC, 854x480 | AAC, 160 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 2.68GB
The Roman Republic was one of the most breathtaking civilizations in world history. Over the course of about 500 years, a modest city-state developed an innovative system of government and expanded into far-flung territories across Europe, Northern Africa, and the Middle East. This powerful civilization inspired America’s founding fathers, gifted us a blueprint for amazing engineering innovations, left a vital trove of myths, and has inspired the human imagination for 2,000 years.
How did Rome become so powerful? This mystery has vexed historians from the ancient Greek writer Polybius to 21st century scholars. Today, removed as we are from the Roman Republic, historians also wonder what it was like to be a Roman citizen in that amazing era. Beyond the familiar names of Romulus, Caesar, Octavian, Brutus, and Mark Antony, what was life like for the ordinary people? And what did the Italians, the Greeks, the Gauls, and other conquered peoples think of this world power?
The Great Courses is pleased to shed new light on this history. The Rise of Rome explores what made this state so powerful—and offers insight into why the republic cast such a long shadow over Western civilization. Taught by Professor Gregory S. Aldrete of the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay, these 24 exciting lectures tell the captivating story of Rome’s astonishing rise, from the monarchy of the eighth century B.C.E. to the collapse of the republic and ending just before its rebirth into an empire. You’ll witness the historical turning points, meet the amazing players, and get a feel for what it was like for everyday Romans, all in an effort to understand the story of Rome as it grew from a myth into an empire, examining in detail the less familiar history of the republic prior to its world-altering imperial transformation.
Here, you will trace the early history of Rome from its modest beginnings, through its violent development, to the pinnacle of its stunning triumph over the Mediterranean, and finally to the moment the republic dramatically collapsed under the strain of its own accomplishments, only to rise again in the new form of empire. You will examine the many well-known dramatic events of early Roman history, from the skirmishes with the neighboring Etruscans to the assassination of Julius Caesar. You will also consider the ordinary aspects of Roman daily life—what they ate, what games they played, the religious rituals they observed, and more, all in an effort to understand the texture of daily life.
Along the way, you will encounter an array of intriguing figures from both history and legend, from Romulus and Remus to Lucretia to Scipio to Pompey the Great, as well as the lives of often overlooked everymen and everywomen—the slaves, soldiers, farmers, women, and children of Rome and its territories. Tapping into our latest historical understanding and leveraging new technology, The Rise of Rome takes you inside the breathtaking story of the Roman Republic.
Witness the Drama of Roman History
Rome is arguably the most influential city in Western history, and its influence is still present nearly everywhere one looks today—in our language, our laws, and even how we tell time. But one reason the Roman Republic has captured our imaginations for the past 2,000 years is that its story is filled with high drama: scandals and betrayals, love affairs and murders, battles and glory.
Professor Aldrete traces this thrilling story across the centuries, starting with the mythic beginnings of the city-state:
- See how Virgil’s Aeneid connects the rise of Rome with the legacy of Greek culture.
- Delve into the competition between the brothers Romulus and Remus for control of Rome.
- Consider how stories like the rape of the Sabine women and the tale of Lucretia offer insight into Roman values and culture.
- Explore the culture of the Etruscans to examine Rome’s relationship with its neighbors.
After witnessing Rome’s expansion over Italy, you will trace the wars that won the Romans far-flung territory—the Punic Wars, the conquest of Greece, invasions into Northern Africa, and expansion into Europe. Professor Aldrete does an excellent job of taking you into battles to show you the strategy and outcomes. For instance, after a devastating loss in the pivotal Battle of Cannae, you’ll discover how the Romans’ ability to rebuild and refocus their military power, even after defeat, made them such a formidable and resilient force.
Despite all this success, you’ll also see how competition among politicians, generals, and warlords back in Rome sowed the seeds for the Republic’s collapse. The course rounds out with a stunning series of lectures on the rise of Julius Caesar, his assassination, and the competition between Octavian and Mark Antony for control of the republic. Find out how the dramatic stories many of us are familiar with—like the love affair of Mark Antony and Cleopatra—were part of a larger unfolding of events that led to the fall of the republic and the beginnings of imperial Rome.
Go inside This Fascinating Civilization
Interspersed with the operatic narrative of Roman history are fascinating explorations of the texture of daily life within the republic, giving you a sense of what life was like for men and women whose lives played out against the backdrop of the events that fill history books. For instance, you will:
- Discover the different strata within Roman society—citizens and noncitizens, patricians and plebeians, soldiers and farmers, and more.
- Examine the institution of slavery to see who the Roman slaves were, where they came from, and what daily life was like for them.
- Explore what ordinary people ate, where they lived, and what types of employment they had.
- Survey some of the many social challenges society faced, including veterans who returned from wars penniless, having lost their farms.
- Find out what we know about Roman women and their domestic lives.
One common theme running through these lectures is that the Romans continually faced massive social and political challenges. For instance, the Romans professed to admire farmers as being natural, hardworking, salt-of-the-earth citizens, but throughout the years of the republic, farmers constantly struggled to make ends meet, often losing their land if they were called into battle. The social upheaval from political challenges eventually caught up to the leaders of the republic, and the concerns of daily life drove historic political changes.
Unpack the Rise—and Fall—of the Republic
One of the most fascinating questions in this course centers on the nature of Roman expansion. Was it deliberate or accidental? Was the Roman administration a well-run machine designed to expand into an empire, or did the Romans expand their territory through accidental circumstances?
As you’ll discover, a case can be made for either argument. By the end of the republic, it’s clear that whether it was accidental or not, Rome eventually became a victim of its own success. Professor Aldrete characterizes the factionalism and competition within the government—introducing you to the likes of Marius, Sulla, and Cicero—and he shows how these divisions culminated with the assassination of Julius Caesar, the competition to fill the power vacuum, and the dissolution of the republic.
From city-state to grand republic to tragic end, this course takes you on a thrilling journey through the rise of the republic and the dramatic changes that transformed a republican government into an empire of unprecedented power. Despite what you think you know about the Roman Republic, The Rise of Rome is sure to offer a bounty of new insights and can build a foundation for the next stage of Roman history: The Roman Empire and its eventual collapse.