Ensuring learners fully understand Knowledge claims, the Areas of knowledge and Ways of knowing, students will actively employ their skills, developing a strong foundation to draw on in assessment. Learners will develop the ability to contextualise knowledge claims within distinct intellectual movements and cultural factors, sharpening critical and independent thought. Step-by-step guidance on TOK essays and presentations support top achievement, while real-world connections keep learning fresh and fully in line with the learner profile. Build a strong TOK learning base that will help students confidently tackle the complex TOK ideas Focus on developing all the crucial skills with a practical learning scaffold to progress student confidence and achievement Develop confidence right from the start and ensure comprehensive, assured understanding Demonstrate best practice with sample student material that connects all the concepts and supports top achievement Support learners through the syllabus - comprehensive syllabus match that fully covers all the new AOKs, WOKs and more Build strong assessment potential with targeted skills work to ensure learners can apply TOK skills in subject assessments Designed to support the TOK Course Book.

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The problem of knowledge 1 The greatest obstacle to progress is not the absence of knowledge but the illusion of knowledge. Daniel Boorstin, — The familiar is not understood simply because it is familiar. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, — By doubting we are led to enquire, and by enquiry we perceive the truth.

George Berkeley, — Properly speaking, there is no certainty; there are only people who are certain. Friedrich Nietzsche, — Common sense consists of those layers of prejudice laid down before the age of Albert Einstein, — It is the customary fate of new truths to begin as heresies and to end as superstitions.

Huxley, —95 There are two ways to slide easily through life: to believe everything, or to doubt everything; both ways save us from thinking. Alfred Korzybski, — We know too much to be sceptics and too little to be dogmatists. Blaise Pascal, —62 Introduction Introduction W e live in a strange and perplexing world. Despite the explosive growth of knowledge in recent decades, we are confronted by a bewildering array of contradictory beliefs. We are told that astronomers have made great progress in understanding the universe in which we live, yet many people still believe in astrology.

Scientists claim that the dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago, yet some insist that dinosaurs and human beings lived simultaneously. Apollo 11 landed on the moon in , but it is rumoured in some quarters that the landings were faked by NASA. A work of art is hailed as a masterpiece by some critics and dismissed as junk by others. Some people support capital punishment, while others dismiss it as a vestige of barbarism.

Faced with such a confusion of different opinions, how are we to make sense of things and develop a coherent picture of reality? Given your school education, you might think of knowledge as a relatively unproblematic commodity consisting of various facts found in textbooks that have been proved to be true. But things are not as simple as that. This suggests that knowledge is not static, but has a history and changes over time.

So what guarantee is there that our current understanding of things is correct? Despite the intellectual progress of the last five hundred years, future generations may look back on our much-vaunted achievements and dismiss our science as crude, our arts as naive, and our ethics as barbaric. KT — common sense: cultural beliefs and practices generally considered to be true without need for any further justification When we consider ourselves from the perspective of the vast reaches of time and space, further doubts arise.

According to cosmologists, the universe has been in existence for about If we imagine that huge amount of time compressed into one year running from January to December, then the earliest human beings do not appear on the scene until around Since we have been trying to make sense of the world in a systematic way for only a minute fraction of time, there is no guarantee that we have got it right.

Furthermore, it turns out that in cosmic terms we are also fairly small. Yet we flatter ourselves that we have discovered the laws that apply to all times and all places. Since we are familiar with only a minute fraction of the universe, this seems like a huge leap of faith. Perhaps it will turn out that some of the deeper truths about life, the universe and everything are simply beyond human comprehension.

While there may be something to be said for this view, the trouble is that much of what passes for common sense consists of little more than vague and untested beliefs that are based on such things as prejudice, hearsay and blind appeals to authority.

Moreover, many things that at first seem obvious to common sense become less and less obvious the closer you look at them. KT — mental map: a personal mental picture of what is true and false, reasonable and unreasonable, right and wrong, beautiful and ugly Yet we need some kind of picture of what the world is like if we are to cope with it effectively, and common sense at least provides us with a starting point. We all have what might be called a mental map of reality, which includes our ideas of what is true and what is false, what is reasonable and what is unreasonable, what is right and what is wrong, etc.

Although only a fool would tell you to rip up your mental map and abandon your everyday understanding of things, you should — at least occasionally — be willing to subject it to critical scrutiny.

To illustrate the limitations of our common-sense understanding of things, let us make an analogy between our mental maps and real geographical maps. Consider the map of the world shown below, which is based on what is known as the Mercator Projection. If you were familiar with this map as you grew up, you may unthinkingly accept it as true and be unaware of its limitations.

Figure 1. Think of as many different ways as you can in which the world map shown in Figure 1. Do you think it would be possible to make a perfect map of a city?

What would such a map have to look like? How useful would it be? Among the weaknesses of the map in Figure 1.

It distorts the relative size of the land masses, so that areas further from the equator seem larger than they are in reality. The distortion is most apparent when we compare Greenland to Africa. According to the map they are about the same size, but in reality Africa is fourteen times bigger than Greenland. It is based on the convention that the northern hemisphere is at the top of the map and the southern hemisphere at the bottom.

The map is Eurocentric in that it not only exaggerates the relative size of Europe, but also puts it in the middle of the map. The fact that most people find this map disorienting illustrates the grip that habitual ways of thinking have on our minds and how difficult it is to break out of them. The point of this excursion into maps is to suggest that, like the Mercator Projection, our common-sense mental maps may give us a distorted picture of reality.

Our ideas and beliefs come from a variety of sources, such as our own experience, parents, friends, teachers, Figure 1. Furthermore, it can be difficult for us to think outside the customs and conventions with which we are familiar and see that there may be other ways of looking at things.

Finally, there may be all kinds of cultural biases built into our picture of the world. If you ask an English person to name the greatest writer and greatest scientist of all time, they will probably say Shakespeare and Newton. If you ask the same question to an Italian, they are more likely to say Dante and Galileo. Meanwhile in China they will boast about their four great inventions — the compass, gunpowder, paper-making and printing — and urge you to read The Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin — One final point to draw out of this discussion is that, while different maps may be more or less useful for different purposes, there is no such thing as a perfect map.

A perfect map of a city which included every detail down to the last brick and blade of grass would have to be drawn on a scale of Such a map would, of course, be useless as a map, and would in any case quickly become out of date. We might call this the paradox of cartography: if a map is to be useful, then it will necessarily be imperfect.

There will, then, always be a difference between a map and the underlying territory it describes. What do you think of the title of the painting? What has this got to do with our discussion? For it has often been thought that certainty is what distinguishes knowledge from mere belief. The idea here is that when you know something you are certain it is true and have no doubts about it; but when you merely believe it, you may think it is true, but you are not certain.

At first sight, this seems reasonable enough; but when you start to look critically at the things we normally claim to know, you may begin to wonder if any of them are completely certain!

Can you come to any agreement? Is it reasonable to believe in UFOs? Consider, for example, the following four statements: 1. I know that Neil Armstrong landed on the moon in I know that strawberries are red. I know that if a is bigger than b and b is bigger than c, then a is bigger than c. I know that murder is wrong. I imagine you would say that all of the above statements are true. But how do you know? You might say that you know that Neil Armstrong landed on the moon in because you read about it in an encyclopaedia or online; you know that strawberries are red because you can see that they are red; you know that if a is bigger than b and b is bigger than c, then a is bigger than c because you can reason it out; and you know that murder is wrong because it is intuitively obvious.

However, if you ask yourself whether you are per cent certain that these statements are true, doubts may begin to creep in. A quick look at four key ways of knowing — language, sense perception, reason and intuition — suggests that they cannot simply be taken at face value.

KT — ways of knowing: the eight possible ways of acquiring knowledge outlined by the Theory of Knowledge — language, reason, perception, intuition, emotion, memory, imagination, faith 1 Language Language enables us to acquire knowledge from other people, and we claim to know a great many things because we have been told them or we have read them somewhere. If you are into conspiracy theories, you might ask how we can be sure that the alleged American moon landings were not an elaborate CIA-inspired hoax.

For example, if you are colour blind, you might not see strawberries as red. We shall have more to say about this in Chapter 5. For the time being, you might like to consider Figure 1. This suggests that we should not blindly trust our perception and assume that it gives us certainty.

In practice, however, people do not seem to be very good at abstract reasoning and they are liable to make all kinds of errors. To illustrate, assuming that some dentists are drunkards and no cyclists are drunkards, does it follow that some cyclists are dentists? The answer is that it does not — but we may well struggle to see that this is true. The trouble is that what is intuitively obvious to me may not be intuitively obvious to you. You only have to consider debates about such things as abortion or capital punishment to see the extent to which people may have conflicting intuitions on important issues.

And it would surely be arrogant simply to assume that my intuitions are right and yours are wrong. We can mention four other possible ways of knowing which, like those listed above, are important sources of knowledge, but may not be entirely reliable.

Indeed, there is a sense in which all of our knowledge — intellectual as well as autobiographical — is based on memory. If we literally forgot everything, we would know nothing. Despite their 8 Radical doubt importance, our memories are notoriously unreliable and we often complain about them.

A person without emotions who was, say, unable to see a terrorist attack as frightening would surely be deficient in knowledge. At the same time, emotions can easily distort our perception of reality and act as an obstacle to, rather than a source of, knowledge.

When angry people argue with one another, they produce a great deal of heat but very little light. A great deal of intellectual progress is the result not of discovering new things but of new ways of looking at existing things. Consider, for example, the famous insight by Copernicus — that the earth revolves around the sun rather than vice versa.


Theory of knowledge for the IB Diploma.




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