Philosophy with John Searle: Three Free Courses

You can't dabble in the world of philosophy very long without encountering John Searle. One of America's most respected philosophers, Searle did important work on "speech act" theory during the 1960s, then later turned to consciousness and artificial intelligence, out of which came his famous "Chinese room" thought experiment. Searle has taught philosophy at UC-Berkeley since 1959, and, until recently, his courses were only available to matriculated students. But this fall semester, the good folks at Berkeley recorded three courses taught by Searle, and made them available online. We have added them to the Philosophy section of our big collection of Free Online Courses. Or, you can simply access the courses below, using your computer or your smart phone.

  • Philosophy of Language - iTunes - John Searle, UC Berkeley
  • Philosophy of Mind iTunes - John Searle, UC Berkeley
  • Philosophy of Society - iTunes - John Searle, UC Berkeley

Note: All of these courses can also be accessed on YouTube (in audio format) using this big playlist.

The Top Five Collections of Free University Courses

Last week, the launch of Stanford Engineering Everywhere, featuring 10 free computer science and engineering courses, got no shortage of buzz on the net. This led me to think, why not highlight other major collections of free university courses/resources. As you'll see, each collection offers countless hours of free, high quality content. Download the audio and video to your iPod or computer, and you can get lost here for days, weeks, even months. A perfect way to distract yourself on the cheap during the recession. For many more free courses, be sure to see our larger collection of Free Courses, which now includes over 250 free classes from leading universities.

1. UC Berkeley -- Stanford's neighbor to the north makes available a large number of courses online. The collection features lectures taken directly from the undergraduate classroom. And they can be accessed through multiple means -- that is, through the web/rss feed, through Berkeley's iTunesU site, and via YouTube. Overall, this is probably the deepest collection of free academic content out there. And here you'll find one of the most popular undergraduate courses at UC Berkeley: Physics for Future Presidents, taught by Richard Muller. You can download the course in audio (iTunes - Feed - MP3s) or watch it in video here.

2. Yale - Last fall, Yale launched an open course initiative known as Open Yale Courses. The university initially came out of the gate with seven courses, and it plans to release another eight this fall. As you will see, Yale’s project is high-touch. Each course features a syllabus, reading assignments, class notes, and polished lectures, which, when taken together, contribute to a well-rounded learning experience. The lectures can be downloaded in one of five formats (text, audio, flash video, low bandwidth quicktime video, and high bandwidth quicktime video). And quite notably, Yale has designed the courses to be downloaded fairly easily, which means that you can put the lectures onto an mp3 player, even if you’re only a little tech savvy. Here's a list of the course titles that you will find: Frontiers and Controversies in Astrophysics, Modern Poetry, Death, Fundamentals of Physics, Introduction to Political Philosophy, Introduction to Psychology, and Introduction to the Old Testament.

3. MIT - By now, MIT's OpenCourseWare project is no secret. Leading the open course charge, MIT has put online materials from 1,800 courses, including syllabi, reading lists, course notes, assignments, etc. If there was a downside to the MIT initiative, it was that it originally lacked audio and video lectures. These days, however, MIT has started to fill that gap by adding audio and video components to a number of courses, including Walter Lewin's very popular and publicized course, Classical Mechanics. Download the course lectures in video via iTunes or in various formats here.

4. Indian Institutes of Technology - In India, there are seven institutes dedicated to training some of the world’s top scientists and engineers, making the country an up and coming world power. They are collectively known as the IITs, or the Indian Institutes of Technology. And now more than 50 IIT courses are being made available in English on YouTube for free. (The main page is here; the courses are actually here.) Some of the titles featured here include: Introduction to Computer Graphics, Core Science Mathematics, Computer Networks, and Introduction To Problem Solving & Programming.

5. Stanford - Yes, last week we mentioned the 10 free courses coming out of the Engineering School. But we should also mention the open course collection maintained by the larger university. Stanford's iTunes site gives you access to dozens of lectures and lets you download close to 30 courses in their entirety. Clearly, the thinking public loves physics (witness above), and among the Stanford courses you'll find a multi-course overview of modern physics by Leonard Susskind, who has waged a long-running “Black Hole War” with Stephen Hawking (see his new book on that subject here). The lover of the liberal arts will also find some gems, including: The Historical Jesus, History of the International System, Geography of World Cultures, and African American History: The Modern Freedom Struggle. Lastly, I'll mention that many courses can also be found on Stanford's YouTube collection in video. Visit here.

We’ve integrated all of these courses into our own meta list of Free Courses from leading universities. It now includes roughly 250 courses, and we’d encourage you to bookmark the page and use it often. Enjoy.

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Physics for Future Presidents: Buy the Book, or Watch the Free Online Course

Richard Muller teaches one of the most popular undergraduate courses at UC Berkeley: Physics for Future Presidents. You can watch it on YouTube (above). And now you can buy Muller's new book. Just published by W.W. Norton, Physics for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines gives citizens the scientific knowledge they need to understand critical issues facing our society -- is "Iran's nascent nuclear capability ... a genuine threat to the West," are there "viable alternatives to fossil fuels that should be nurtured and supported by the government," and should "nuclear power should be encouraged"? These issues (and more) get tackled here. For more info on the book, you can listen to a good interview conducted this morning (mp3) here in San Francisco.

Muller's course, Physics for Future Presidents, has been added to our collection of Free Online Physics Courses, a subset of our collection, 1,500 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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Neuroscience and the 2008 Election

How does modern neuroscience make sense of the current McCain-Obama race? Have a listen to Christopher Lydon's fascinating conversation with George Lakoff, a professor of cognitive linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley (iTunes - MP3 - Feed - Web Site).

Lakoff is the author of the new book, The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brain, and he's essentially arguing here that the Democrats have traditionally framed their arguments with a cold rationalism .... and lost ... while the Republicans have grounded theirs in a kind of emotionalism that squares with how the brain functions. But, with Obama, things are starting to change...

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Physics for Future Presidents

Just a quick fyi that we've added a popular UC Berkeley course, Physics for Future Presidents, to our collection: Free Online Courses from Great Universities. You can download the complete course to your MP3 player. Just scroll down the page and look under "Physics."

If you'd rather experience this course in video, you can watch the course on YouTube. I've posted the first lecture below, and you can find the rest of the lectures here.

YouTube Gets Smart: The Launch of New University Channels

Updated: See full collection of University Video Collections on YouTube.

I heard rumors something like this was coming, and now it's here. YouTube has struck deals with major universities, creating dedicated channels from which schools can distribute their media content. Not surprisingly UC Berkeley, always at the digital forefront, has taken the lead and launched an ambitious channel with over 300 hours of videotaped courses and events. You can check out their channel here. The other major university to sign on is USC (University of Southern California).

Back in March, we lamented the sheer dearth of cultural content on YouTube. (Listen to our radio interview here and also see our related blog post.) Since its inception, the now Google-owned video service has been awash with home-brewed videos of guitar riffs, dormroom lip sync sessions, and pet tricks. Meanwhile, videos of greater cultural substance have been harder to come by (and that's why we've tried to flag the good ones for you. See here, here & here.) YouTube's new university initiative begins to remedy that problem. It shows a perhaps burgeoning commitment to higher-minded media. But let's not get too carried away. When you go to YouTube, it's not clear how users will find/navigate to these channels. If you look under Categories, "education" is not an option (although I think it used to be). Perhaps YouTube has plans to tweak its navigation. Or is this just a case of letting a tree fall in the woods? Let's stay optimistic and we'll check back soon.

Please visit our collection of 250 Free Online Courses

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25 UC Berkeley Courses Available via Free Video

Not long ago, we wrote a popular piece about UC-Berkeley's iTunes initiative which, to sum it up,allows anyone, anywhere, to download complete university courses to their iPods for free. Amazing. Today, we want to point out that Berkeley also makes available full-fledged courses via video/webcast. You can find the complete list of courses here, but below we have listed below 25 courses that figure into a "core" undergraduate curriculum. In short, this list includes many good nuts and bolts courses, which will teach you a lot and, even better, cost you nothing. Each of these courses, coming straight from the classroom, can be accessed with Real Player, and some can also be accessed as MP3s.

On a related note, our University Podcast Collection and our collection of Free Courses will give you access to many more university lectures and courses, so be sure to give them a look. You may also want to check out our “playlist” of intelligent videos on YouTube as well as our recent piece: 10 Signs of Intelligent Life at YouTube.

UC Berkeley Courses:

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