Tag Archives: Lectures

MYTHOLOGIES OF THE WORLD

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Great Mythologies of the World

Written by: The Great Courses

Narrated by: Professors Grant L. Voth, Julius H. Bailey, Kathryn McClymond, and Robert Andre LaFleur

GRANT L. VOTH (PROFESSOR EMERITUS AT MONTEREY PENINSULA COLLEGE IN CA.)
JULIUS BAILEY (PROFESSOR OF RELIGION AT THE UNIVERSITY OF REDLANDS, CA.)
KATHRYN McCLYMOND (CHAIR AND PROFESSOR IN THE DEPARTMENT OF RELIGIOUS STUDIES AT GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY)

After beginning the “Great Mythologies of the World”, there is a temptation to move on after several hours of listening.  However, 30 hours later, still listening; one marvels at the inventiveness of human beings seeking life’s meaning.

ROBERT ANDRE LAFLEUR (PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AND ANTHROPOLOGY AT BELOIT COLLEGE, WI.)

It is no surprise to find two of the four narrators are religious-studies scholars.  One might conclude religion falls into the category of “Great Mythologies…”.

MESOPOTAMIA MAP VS. PRESENT DAY NATIONS

Depending on one’s definition of civilization, Mesopotamia is considered the oldest civilization on earth, dating back to 6500 BC.  That seems somewhat plausible based on its nearness to Africa but one wonders if there is an undiscovered civilization in Africa that predates Mesopotamia.  After all, Lucy’s bones (found in South Africa) are two million years old and a human jawbone in Ethiopia is 2.8 million years old; i.e. 6500 BC is not so long ago.

In any case, there are some fascinating stories about civilization myths in this “Great Courses” series.  Whether sun, moon, stars. and life came from exhalation of a supernatural being, the Big Bang, God’s seven days, or evolution, it is interesting to hear stories of minds’ past.

EGYPTIAN PYRAMIDS AT GIZA ( From left to right, the three largest are: the Pyramid of Menkaure, the Pyramid of Khafre and the Great Pyramid of Khufu. The three smaller pyramids in the foreground are subsidiary structures associated with Menkaure’s pyramid.)

There is no question that stories change based on tellers of tales but, according to these lectures, there are many insights to cultures from which they came.  In stories of Mesopotamia, belief in an afterlife drives Pharaoh’s to create monuments and accouterments for passage to the next world.

COLOSSEUM IN ROME

Rome’s adoption of many of the Greek gods lays the frame-work for one of the most powerful civilizations in the ancient world.

In stories of China, principles of leadership are laid out in myths of early dynastic change.  In one instance, merit supplants familial inheritance to expand a prosperous empire.

India’s rise in the world is equally filled with gods and goddesses reflected in classical Hinduism which came from the Vedic civilization.  Interestingly, India’s early mythology is not as burdened by a caste system as later society.  A common myth that pervades all mythologies is the importance of fire and its introduction to civilization.  The God of Fire is the messenger between gods and human beings in India’s mythological history.

AGNI (INDIA, GOD OF FIRE)  The God of Fire is the messenger between gods and human beings.
TRICKSTER GOD IN AFRICA (ESHU-ALSO KNOWN AS ELEGBA OR LEGBA, CARRIES SACRIFICES OF THE PEOPLE TO THE GODS)

In Africa, the critical value of water for life and the arbitrariness of survival are couched in stories of trickster gods.

In North America, early Inuit and Indian tribes adopt obeisance to nature in ways similar to African cultures.

HAWAIIAN TRICKSTER GOD (CAPABLE OF TURNING LAVA ROCK INTO FERTILE SOIL-KNOWN AS THE HOG-CHILD)

In Hawaii, human dependence on nature is reflected in stories of gods that rule sea, land, and sky.

 

The most interesting myths are of tricksters who exist in every culture.  Tricksters are amoral gods that have two literal or figurative faces.  Their actions result in unpredictable consequences.  One face is evil; the other is good.  They are usually gods with goals for tricking society–to either amuse themselves or teach a lesson to those who violate social mores. They provide the notion of life’s unpredictability.

It reminds one of science’s discovery of quantum mechanics.  Life seems predictable in the nineteenth century, but becomes unpredictable in the twentieth.  Quantum mechanics seems like a modern version of ancient mythology’s tricksters.

In the end, one is left with the same questions seemingly answered by ancient myths.  How did the world begin?  Why does evil exist?  Is there an after-life?  Is there a God or gods, or are we on our own?  What is life’s purpose?  Does every effect have a cause or is life a matter of luck and circumstance?

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The A.I. Frontier

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Philosophy of Mind: Brains, Consciousness, and Thinking Machines

Written by: The Great Courses

Narrated by: Professor Patrick Grim

PATRICK GRIM (PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY)

Patrick Grim cogently describes the frontier of artificial intelligence in “Philosophy of Mind”. The concluding lectures argue that the closest we have come to defining consciousness is the “Hot (acronym for higher-order-theory) Theory” proposed by David Rosenthal. Though Grim has reservations about Rosenthal’s concept, he suggests it is the nearest functional definition with an inferential suggestion that computers can pass a Turing test.

DAVID M. ROSENTHAL (PROFESSOR AT THE GRADUATE CENTER CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK)
ALAN TURING (1912-1954, PIONEERING ENGLISH COMPUTER SCIENTIST)

To back up a bit—Grim goes through the history of mind-body theories from Aristotle through modern times.  Grim tries to answer the question–What is consciousness?

History shows philosophical theories of mind revolve around duality, materiality, thought, and in more modern times, functionality.  Some theorist postulate consciousness is made up of the relationship between mind and body.

Some others believe in a yet-to-be-identified physiological building block that provides consciousness, and others theorize nothing material exists except in the mind of the perceiver.  Still others suggest consciousness is the cognitive relationship between the material world and the mind.  Grim suggests Rosenthal’s idea of consciousness as functionality comes closer to the mark.

WATSON COMPUTER DEFEATS BEST JEOPARDY PLAYERS 2011

The import of all these theories becomes eminently important when Alan Turing suggested–It seems probable that once machine thinking started, it will not take long to outstrip our feeble power— They will be able to converse with each other to sharpen their wits. Turing suggests, “At some stage, we should expect machines to take control.” To many, this is a threat to humanity; to others it is the hope of humanity.

To Turing, the turning point will be when human beings are unable to distinguish between human to human conversation and machine to human conversation; i.e. that is the Turing Test.  To date, the test has not been passed.  Grim implies Turing is not concerned about whether computers will ever become conscious or not.  To Turing consciousness is beside the point of a machine being able to surpass human capabilities.  The fact that computers show the capability of exceeding human abilities in some areas proves Turing’s point; without being able to pass the Turing test.

Grim does not believe computers will ever have consciousness that achieves awareness by the mind (a CPU in the case of machines), of itself, and the world.

  He does not think machines will ever be able to comprehend their being-ness.  Grim suggests only a living thing will have a sense of being itself based on its form, learned experience, and function.  Grim somewhat hedges that belief with Rosenthal’s concept of consciousness as self-awareness which incorporates both material being and mental function.  To Grim, there is no building block or Lego piece that will be discovered for consciousness.  Without that type of elemental discovery, Grim is skeptical about human being’s ability to create conscious machines.

To some, Grim’s argument is superfluous.  Considering Turing’s 1940’s observation, consciousness is an unnecessary computer accoutrement.  To someone like Ray Kurzweil, technology is on the verge of discovering the building blocks of consciousness; in fact, Kurzweil suggests some computers already have some level of consciousness.

Whatever the answer is about computer consciousness, little question remains about the impact computers have had, and are having in the world.  Quantum computing adds another dimension for potential computer consciousness.

Professor Grim’s lectures are excellent.  He provides a clear explanation of the history of “…Mind: Brains, Consciousness, and Thinking Machines.”

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SCIENCE FICTION

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

How Great Science Fiction Workshow-great-science-fiction-works

Written by: The Great Courses

Narrated by: Professor Gary K. Wolfe

 (REVIEW IRONICALLY WRITTEN THE DAY AFTER DONALD TRUMP’S ELECTION AS PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.)

GARY WOLFE (AMERICAN WRITER, PROFESSOR, EDITOR, CRITIC OF SCIENCE FICTION)
GARY WOLFE (AMERICAN WRITER, PROFESSOR, EDITOR, CRITIC OF SCIENCE FICTION)

“How Great Science Fiction Works” is a rapid-fire exploration of what Professor Gary Wolfe argues is great science fiction.  No work of science fiction has achieved the heights of great literature represented by authors like Dostoevsky, Austin, Dickens, Nabokov, Roth, and others.  However, Wolfe shows that science fiction fires imagination by taking readers outside the boundaries of day-to-day human’ existence.

the roadRarely does a work of science fiction create characters that evoke deep emotion in a reader, or understanding about the individual.  Though one may feel a passing sympathy for the plight of Frankenstein or shed a tear for the fate of a child and his father in Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”, a reader moves on to think about the story’s societal implication.

DOSTOEVSKY'S MURDER OF THE PAWN BROKER IN "CRIME AND PUNISHMENT"
DOSTOEVSKY’S MURDER OF THE PAWN BROKER IN “CRIME AND PUNISHMENT”

Science fiction creates characters in alternative realities.  The societal outcomes of imprecisely understood scientific discoveries make science fiction work.  Adding action to an alternative reality, enhances a work of science fiction, but not in the same way as a murder of a pawn broker in “Crime and Punishment”.  Science fiction’ actions are not focused on a character’s individual insight but on revealing more about an alternative reality based on partly understood science.  Science fiction’s action is not to evoke individual emotion like revulsion, love, guilt, or hate in a reader.  Character development is not a primary objective of science fiction writers (not to suggest these authors are incapable of eliciting those emotive qualities but character development is a secondary objective).  Science fiction drives to illustrate societal change from discoveries that go beyond current scientific proof or knowledge.

Names of science fiction writers and their stories are spread throughout the lectures, some well-known and others less famous.  Few readers have not heard of Shelley, Verne, Orwell, Herbert, Wells, Heinlein, Bradbury, and Asimov.  For the non-science fiction amateur, tidbits of information are offered by Wolfe.  Information like Asimov’s “Foundation” series being based on the history of Gibbons’ “Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire”.  Also, Wolfe recounts the “War of the Worlds” to explain that, contrary to myth, there is never a city-wide panic caused by Orson Wells’ 1938 telling of the tale in a radio broadcast.

A.E. VAN VOGT (1912-2000, CANADIAN BORN SCIENCE FICTION WRITER)
A.E. VAN VOGT (1912-2000, CANADIAN BORN SCIENCE FICTION WRITER)
KONSTANTIN TSIOLKOVSKY (1857-1935, RUSSIAN ROCKET SCIENTIST AND SCIENCE FICTION AUTHOR)
KONSTANTIN TSIOLKOVSKY (1857-1935, RUSSIAN ROCKET SCIENTIST AND SCIENCE FICTION AUTHOR)

For knowledgeable fans, Wolfe resurrects vintage science fiction stories like “Slan” (a book about a race of super beings) by A. E. Van Vogt and the development of space-ship science fiction by Russian rocket pioneer Konstantin Tsiolkovsky.  Of course, no lecture series on science fiction is complete without robot and cyber science stories.  Karel Capek, a Czech writer, and later Isaac Asimov, are early writers in those categories.

Another category noted by Wolfe is planetary exploration and earth invasions (noted above in Wells narration of “War of the Worlds”).  Wolfe suggests WWI and the earlier Franco-Prussian war leads to apocalyptic science fiction stories.  The advent of mechanized murder is first recognized in the 1870-71 war.

FRANKO-PRUSSIAN WAR, BATTLE OF MARSLE TOUR VIONVILLE, AUGUST 16, 1870
FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR, BATTLE OF MARSLE TOUR VIONVILLE, AUGUST 16, 1870
MARY SHELLEY (1797-1851, AUTHOR OF FRANKENSTEIN, WIFE OF PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY)
MARY SHELLEY (1797-1851, AUTHOR OF FRANKENSTEIN, WIFE OF PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY)

Professor Wolfe surveys the field of science fiction from its beginning with Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” through today’s authors.  Wolfe describes some science fiction that slips in and out of fantasy with thematic cohesiveness that ranges from religion, to science, to philosophy.

DIANETICS PUBLISHED MAY 9, 1950
DIANETICS PUBLISHED MAY 9, 1950

L. Ron Hubbard’s science fiction’ writing leads to the pseudo-science of Dianetics that morphs into a religion called Scientology; attracting famous people like John Travolta and Tom Cruise.  Wolfe reflects on science fiction’s history and how category’ markers mature as it grows.  What is meant by markers are discoveries; i.e. like an alien artifact on earth, an imaginatively created alien planet, or an invading alien force that precipitates human actions or reactions.

MARY SHELLEY'S ORIGINAL INSIDE COVERS FOR FRANKESTEIN
MARY SHELLEY’S ORIGINAL INSIDE COVERS FOR FRANKESTEIN
PAOLO BACIGALUPI (AMERICAN SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY WRITER, WON HUGO, NEBULA, AND SEVERAL OTHER AWARDS.)
PAOLO BACIGALUPI (AMERICAN SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY WRITER, WON HUGO, NEBULA, AND SEVERAL OTHER AWARDS.)

Moving on to the sixties, Wolf notes science fiction addresses nuclear war and its destruction of civilization.  In the seventies, nuclear war fears are replaced with stories about environmental destruction caused by insecticides, tainted food and water, and other disasters.  “The Water Knife” by Paolo Bacigalupi is noted as a modern science fiction writer that raises issues of global warming and writes about the exploitative use of the Colorado river by Las Vegas, Nevada, and Phoenix, Arizona.  At the end of his lectures, Wolfe speculates about science fiction’s future.

Wolfe offers a lot of information about the origin and growth of Science Fiction and recounts interesting stories drawn on new scientific discoveries that are only imprecisely understood by experts in the field; let alone, society at large.  Though this genre of fiction may not reach the level of Pulitzer Prize recognition, it certainly entertains its readers.  Fans of science fiction and dabblers in the science of the 21st century will be entertained by Professor Wolfe’s lectures.

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MORE OR LESS FREE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Privacy, Property, and Free Speech: Law and the Constitution in the 21st CenturyPrivacy, Property, and Free Speech

The Great Courses Series 

Lectures by: Professor Jeffrey Rosen

JEFFREY ROSEN (AUTHOR, AMERICAN ACADEMIC, LEGAL HISTORIAN, PROFESSOR AT GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL)
JEFFREY ROSEN (AUTHOR, AMERICAN ACADEMIC, LEGAL HISTORIAN, PROFESSOR AT GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL)

Are Americans more or less free in the 21st Century?  Professor Jeffrey Rosen in “Privacy, Property and Free Speech” leaves the question unanswered.  However, he clearly frames the question for listeners to draw their own conclusion.  It is difficult to give a definitive answer for three reasons.  One, new technology redefines freedom.  Two, September 11, 2001 redefines security.  Three, globalization redefines nationalism.

INTERNET LOGO
INDOCTRINATION (Education and the internet influence every aspect of one’s cultural life.)

Technology encroaches on privacy with internet access by the public and private sectors.  The public sector continually revises laws regarding the internet.  Laws passed by government attempt to regulate internet use, ownership, and censorship by redefining freedom of speech and expression, the freedom of religion, and the freedom from want and fear.  Government classifies organizations and decides which can legally access the internet.  Government is in the process of defining who can own the internet and how access can be regulated.  Government has the power to censor information that it views detrimental to the freedoms historically held by Americans.  Control of internet use, ownership, and censorship by the government encroaches on freedom.

GOVERNMENT INFLUENCE (All forms of government encroach on human freedom.)
CONSUMER BEHAVIOR (The private sector uses the internet to define consumers.  What an internet user purchases becomes a profile factoid used to pander to consumer desires.)

The private sector uses the internet to define consumers.  What an internet user purchases becomes a profile factoid used to pander to consumer desires.  The detailed profile can affect the price advertised and the personalized pitch made by a retailer.  Private sector search engines use consumer profiles to pitch private sector businesses for advertising.  Web-based profiling steers the public by profiling individuals and algorithmically congregating personal information. Consumer manipulation by the private sector encroaches on freedom.

NORMA LEAH McCORVEY (PLAINTIFF IN THE 1973 ROE v. WADE COURT CASE THAT PERMITS ABORTION, A POSITION McCORVEY REGRETS LATER IN LIFE)
NORMA LEAH McCORVEY (PLAINTIFF IN THE 1973 ROE v. WADE COURT CASE THAT PERMITS ABORTION, A POSITION McCORVEY REGRETS LATER IN LIFE)

Professor Rosen addresses the issue of property by lecturing on women’s rights and the right of government to claim eminent domain on property owned privately but taken by the government for the public good.

In addressing women’s rights, Rosen reviews the history of Roe v. Wade and implies that the judicial system may have acted too quickly by not allowing the States and the general public to fully address the issue.

BALTIMORE'S INNER HARBOR
BALTIMORE’S INNER HARBOR

Rosen is equally conflicted by the government’s right to claim eminent domain.  He notes how confiscation of private property at fair market value has a spotted history of success when claimed by the government for the public good.  In some cases, the taking results in failed projects; in others, like Baltimore’s revitalized Inner Harbor, the taking revitalizes a neglected and deteriorated landmark.

The American judicial system encroaches on the freedom of women to choose and the fifth amendment’s clause that says private property shall not be taken for public use, without just compensation.

NEW YORK WORLD TRADE CENTER ATTACK
NEW YORK WORLD TRADE CENTER ATTACK 9/11/2001

The Trade Center tragedy redefines security for America and the world.  September 11th convinces the world that there are no unbreachable terrorist constraints.  Terrorism is like lighting in a storm; i.e. it is a force of nature that can strike anyone at any time.  Governments have changed the world of travel by invading the privacy of minds and bodies to reduce the chance of a terrorist act.  Rosen suggests governments cross the line when citizens are detained or incarcerated for what they think rather than what they do.  The fear one has is that thought becomes grounds for prosecution.  To the extent that terrorism is like lightning in a storm, one can only wait for the storm to pass.  Invading one’s privacy and arresting citizens for what they think is a slippery slope to totalitarianism.

Despite Brexit and nationalist sentiment of aspirants to the American Presidency, Congress, and Supreme Court–all human beings are citizens of the world.  There is less and less room for nation-state nationalism.

Encroachment on privacy, property, and free speech are inevitable in the 21st century (and beyond).  In reality, freedom’s encroachment is an inherent part of civilization.  When the first man and woman joined together as a couple; when the first tribe became a hunting and gathering troop, and when the first hunter-gatherers became part of a farming community, freedom diminished.

FREEDOM TOWER AND NEIGHBORING BUILDING AT THE TWIN TOWER MEMORIAL SITE

The last lecture in Rosen’s series is about the right to be forgotten.  Now, we are citizens of nation-states; tomorrow we will be citizens of the world.  With each regrouping, there is a diminishment of freedom.  The last bastion of freedom will be “the right to be forgotten”.  It will be a programming code designed to volitionally erase one’s identity.  This volitional reboot will offer temporal freedom but the nature of public engagement will once again encroach on that freedom.

Professor Rosen offers an excellent and informative outline of America’s history of privacy, property, and free speech.  A listener will draw their own conclusions about present and future freedoms from Rosen’s lectures.  My view is that freedom has always been limited; thankfully so.

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A MISOGYNIST SEA

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

A Room of One’s OwnA Room of One's Own

Written by: Virginia Woolf

Narration by:  Juliet Stevenson

VIRGINIA WOOLF (1882-1941, BRITISH AUTHOR, A WOMAN AHEAD OF HER TIME)
VIRGINIA WOOLF (1882-1941, BRITISH AUTHOR, A WOMAN AHEAD OF HER TIME)

Virginia Woolf is a woman outside of time.   As Woolf implies in the early twentieth century, women are drowning in a misogynist sea.  Woolf is born when female inequality breaches that existential threat with a first wave; i.e. American Women’s Suffrage in 1920 and British Women’s Suffrage in 1928.  The preeminent feminist, Betty Friedan, is just born (actually, 1921).  (Friedan later writes “The Feminine Mystique”–published in 1963.)

UNCLE TOM'S CABIN
UNCLE TOM’S CABIN

“A Room of One’s Own” contemplates –“why women are not great poets or fiction writers?”  With the exception of Harriet Beecher Stowe, there are no 19th century women renowned for fiction.  Apocryphally, the unlikely story of Lincoln saying “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this Great War” is an apt coda for the public’s view of women writers.

EMILY DICKINSON (1830-1886, AMERICAN POET, PRODUCED 1,800 POEMS IN 40 HANDBOUND VOLUMES)
EMILY DICKINSON (1830-1886, AMERICAN POET, PRODUCED 1,800 POEMS IN 40 HAND BOUND VOLUMES)
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING (1806-1861, ENGLISH POET, FAVORABLY COMPARED WITH SHAKESPEAREAN IMAGERY)
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING (1806-1861, ENGLISH POET, FAVORABLY COMPARED WITH SHAKESPEAREAN IMAGERY)

Woolf wittily skewers male paragons of the pen and their misogynist comments about women.  She sets the table for an explanation of why there is no female Shakespeare, erudite Johnson, or Longfellow word smith.  (As one listens to her complaint, one thinks about Emily Dickinson and Elizabeth Barrett Browning but they did have rooms of their own.  They had time for contemplation.)

Woolf’s point is that women had no money because they were dependent on men or family inheritance.  (Dickinson is supported by her family and Browning eloped with a writer.) Often, young ladies are discouraged from college by their families who feel marriage and bearing of children are their primary duties.  Without educational support and few opportunities for gainful employment, women (on their own) had little money.  Without money, there is little opportunity for independence; without money, there is little chance of having “A Room of One’s Own”.

MICHEL de MONTAIGNE (1533-1592)
MICHEL de MONTAIGNE (1533-1592, Michel de Montaigne’s essays are spectacular observations of life and living but the key to his success is in wealth that allows him time for observation and contemplation of life in a room of his own. )

Michel de Montaigne’s essays are spectacular observations of life and living but the key to his success is in wealth that allows him time for observation and contemplation of life in a room of his own.  In Woolf’s lifetime there were few women that had such luxury.

In the last section of her lecture on women who write fiction she notes a woman’s first book with a mixture of disdain and admiration.  Disdain from implied colorlessness in the writing but admiration for a twist in the story that suggests this first-time author has potential. However, for realization of potential, Woolf suggests the author needs money to have a room of her own; to have time to think and reflect.  To prove Woolf’s bona fides, she ends “A Room of Her Own” with short stories; presumably, in a room of her own.  They are beautifully written and worthy of the theme of which she writes.

BETTY FRIEDAN (1921-2006,At $.79 cents to the dollar in 2016, there is still a long way to go. )

Misogyny still roils the sea but more women writers have a room of their own.  The second wave is forty years in the future but Friedan steadies the helm-bearing toward equality.  At $.79 cents to the dollar in 2016, there is still a long way to go.  As Aristotle once said, contemplation is the highest form of activity for the soul.

Woolf implies great literature; great fiction, and poetry come from authors who have money and a room of their own.

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TALKING THERAPY

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Techniques for Retraining Your BrainCognitive Behavorial Therapy

Written by: The Great Courses

Narration by:  Professor Jason M. Satterfield

JASON SATTERFIELD (PROFESSOR AT UCSF SCHOOL OF MEDICINE)
JASON SATTERFIELD (PROFESSOR AT UCSF SCHOOL OF MEDICINE)

“Cognitive Behavioral Therapy” reminds one of “talking therapy” that dates back to the 19th century and became famous with the popularization of Freudian psychology at the turn of the century.  Professor Jason M. Satterfield refines the principal of “talking therapy” by explaining that CBT adds a layer of scientific investigation and statistical analysis to the process.  One can argue that the precursor to this therapy began when Socrates first questioned ill-informed fellow citizens for their thoughts about life and living.

Satterfield explains the process of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in treating patients with anger management issues, depression, PTSD, and addiction.  Though Satterfield does not discourage drug treatment for these maladies, he argues changing one’s behavior holds promise and measured success in curing rather than just treating symptoms of mental dysfunction.

Satterfield psychoanalyzes three patients in several lectures to explain how patients become part of a curative process that changes neurotic habits (developed over a life time) that are triggered by current events.  Satterfield acknowledges CBT is no magic bullet for psychological imbalance but that it shows statistically significant improvement in some patient’s mental health.  As noted by David Morris in “The Evil Hours” CBT does not work for all people.

DAVID MORRIS (EX-MARINE OFFICER, REPORTER 2004-2007 IN IRAQ,AUTHOR)
DAVID MORRIS (EX-MARINE OFFICER, REPORTER 2004-2007 IN IRAQ,AUTHOR)

Morris is an ex-Marine suffering from PTSD.  His book explains that CBT made his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder more rather than less debilitating.  Satterfield argues that discussion of a traumatic event with a patient allows the traumatized to re-image its impact on their psyche.  In re-imaging trauma, Satterfield shows patients analyze past events differently and experience varying degrees of psychological relief.  Morris, in contrast, suggests talking about the day he and his team were blown up by an IED only aggravated his symptoms.  After listening to Satterfield, one wonders how much of Morris’s negative results are related to a particular therapist rather than the therapy’s effectiveness.

What makes Satterfield’s lectures interesting is his successful elicitation of patient’ participation in structuring their own treatment.  There appears to be a buy-in by the patient that motivates changes in behavior.  Satterfield explains how those changes in behavior must be measurable to provide feedback on the success or failure of the therapy. Fundamentally, Satterfield encourages patients to participate; i.e. to act and measure their actions against goals they establish in concert with their therapist.  Satterfield measures a patient’s success based on baseline improvements in patient explanations of what does or doesn’t work for them.  He begins with patient questionnaires to set a baseline for measured improvement.

Some interesting notes in Satterfield’s lectures are admonitions about the threats of addiction.  He suggests alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco are threats for addiction at lower levels of use than one might expect.  Having more than one glass or one beer at night, toking marijuana regularly, or smoking a cigarette a day are possible gateways to addiction.  He argues behavior modification can reduce or eliminate their addictive potential.  One of the suggested behavioral modifications is structured exercise, ranging from walking, rather than driving, while measuring the number of steps taken per day. Satterfield reinforces arguments for regular exercise and “fit bit” measurement of performance to change and encourage more healthful behavior.

Not too surprisingly, Satterfield believes meditation is a behavior that can be learned to improve one’s mental health.  He notes that meditation has been proven to reduce anger and improve sleep habits.  Those who meditate report statistical improvements in hours of sleep, reduced addictive substance use, and improved feelings of well-being, based on a scale of 1 to 10 or 1 to 100.

What seems clear to a listener of these lectures is that behavioral change is not easy but possible.  Satterfield touches on different types of intelligence people have; i.e. particularly social and interpersonal intelligence.

MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES
MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES

He implies there are behavioral changes that can be learned through repetition to improve social and interpersonal intelligence.  With those improvements, Satterfield argues mental health is improved.

CBT can help a psychologically troubled patient.  However, one concludes from Satterfield’s lectures that a knowledgeable therapist is essential to success of the treatment.  The therapist must be conversationally capable of getting a genuine buy-in by the patient.  Without a patient’s personal motivation and participation, there seems little chance for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy success.

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DARES TO KNOW

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

The Meaning of Life: Perspectives from the World’s Great Intellectual TraditionsTHE MEANING OF LIFE

Written for: The Great Course: Intellectual History

Narration by:  Professor Jay L. Garfield

PROFESSOR JAY L. GARFIELD (AUTHOR AND PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY AT SMITH COLLEGE)
PROFESSOR JAY L. GARFIELD (AUTHOR AND PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY AT SMITH COLLEGE)

Jay Garfield dares to know “The Meaning of Life” in a review and analysis of thoughts and writings recorded in ancient and modern texts.  In 36 lectures, ranging from the Vedas (Sanskrit scriptures of Hinduism) to “Discernment and Happiness” (Dalai Lama XIV’s teachings as noted in the Pali Canon of the earliest records of Gautama Buddha), Garfield offers over 3,700 years of philosophical belief.  He offers a qualified answer to “The Meaning of Life” in his last lecture.

A listener’s journey from first lecture to last is enlightening but troubling.  Philosophy offers many ways for one to be happy, content, and fulfilled but each seems a matter of personal choice, rather than universal truth.  Garfield summarizes Buddhism, secularism, Hebraic religion, Hinduism, Daoism, Zen, and Native American belief about “The Meaning of Life.  Garfield distills common characteristics of philosopher’s understanding of “The Meaning of Life”.

Garfield’s presentation of “The Meaning of Life” is troubling because philosopher’ definitions are dependent on the machinations of human beings living in the same Socratic’ cave.

What troubles listeners are speculations about “The Meaning of Life” that are jumbled by conflicting philosophical details.

Garfield’s approach is to identify similarities of philosopher’s views about “The Meaning of Life”; e.g. the acceptance of life’s temporality, life’s social context, and life’s desire for freedom.  As Garfield notes, the Stoics explain death is inevitable.  Death should not be feared but celebrated.  Every person dies alone; i.e. with their own thoughts, their own fears, misunderstandings, and revelations.  No one escapes death’s reality; no one takes a dying person’s place; i.e. death is a stage in life’s journey.  Death is an end to life well-lived, or a release from burden.  It can be either one or both, but the inference is that it should be a celebration; not an event to be feared or reviled.

Every life lives within a social context.  Happiness grows or diminishes based on involvement or isolation from society.  Empathy for others enhances the meaning of life.  Self-absorption diminishes the meaning of life.  Knowing one is a part of something greater than oneself, a part of an eternal and infinite universe, gives meaning to life.  Like a grain of sand is an elemental part of a mirror or a beach, humans are an elemental part of the cosmos.  Without sand there is no mirror; without sand, there is no beach; without humans, there is no cosmos.  (It is anthropocentric to say there is no cosmos without humans, but without humans, who is left to care?)

One is inclined to disagree with parts of Hume’s, Kant’s, Mill’s, Tolstoy’s, Nietzsche’s, Gandhi’s, and Lame Deer’s philosophies because details of their philosophies deny truths of history.  Garfield shows that Hume represents a turning point in pursuit of “The Meaning of Life”.  Hume insists that knowledge of anything is limited to the senses of the individual; i.e. without the human senses, Hume suggests there is nothing.  Before Hume, the search for life’s meaning revolves around societal norms like duty, obedience to authority, and social relevance; after Hume, the five senses of the individual are added.

Hume’s focus is relevant but seems too narrow to encompass the great arc of history. Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” emphasizes the spirit of the Russian army as the primary determinant in Napoleon’s defeat at Borodino and his eventual retreat from Russia. Tolstoy clearly means spirit in a societal; not individual sense.

Kant’s belief in human’ rationality is too idealistic.

Mills belief in liberty ignores the nature of man as both good and evil; driven by emotion as well as logic.

Tolstoy idealizes peasantry and ignores the consequence of poor education.

Nietzsche’s criticism of conformity is overblown.   As flawed as democracy and capitalism are as forms of government and economy, they afford meaning to life because they are vehicles for the health, education, and welfare of society.  With societal’ health, education, and welfare, there is potential for genuine human freedom; i.e. freedom to live in the truth of the sun’s light.  Garfield notes that philosophers like Nietzsche believe freedom is a myth in modern society because governments and economies chain people in a Socratic cave; i.e. they base their lives on shadows of the true meaning of life.

Gandhi’s advocacy of peaceful resistance is counter productive in the face of Hitlerism or Stalinist totalitarianism.  Peaceful resistance has value only in the context of a nation or society of laws that endorse human rights, liberty, and equality of opportunity.

Lame Deer’s symbolic view of life infers meaning is based on communal comity rather than confrontation and resolution.  Lame Deer’s concept of circles versus squares ignores the value of sharp edges that clarify differences.  In clarification, there is the potential for cooperation that builds more socially accommodating structures.

Garfield infers Dalai Lama XIV is the bridge between ancient and modern belief in “The Meaning of Life”.  The Dalai Lama believes that when religion and science are in conflict that science is the path to follow.  How interesting that thought is in light of the latest Cyclical from the Pope about earth’s environment.

There is a great deal of wisdom in Garfield’s lectures on “Perspectives from the World’s Great Intellectual Traditions”.  No single philosopher convinces a listener, but Garfield’s analysis of many philosophers gives one a useful guide for pursuit of “The Meaning of Life”.

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