Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Rx: Knowledge

Welcome back to your knowledge home.  Take a look at the prescribed titles for your TOK essays, below.  For Tuesday, please write a response to one of these titles, beginning by quoting the title.  Whichever you choose, use examples from two areas of knowledge to explore your responses.  Consider multiple perspectives and center your response on knowledge issues raised by the title and the areas of knowledge you select.  In class, we will discuss in greater detail the structure and assessment of these essays.

Theory of Knowledge Prescribed Titles:

1.  In what ways may disagreement aid the pursuit of knowledge in the natural and human

2. “Only seeing general patterns can give us knowledge.  Only seeing particular examples
can give us understanding.”  To what extent do you agree with these assertions?

3.  “The possession of knowledge carries an ethical responsibility.” Evaluate this claim.

4. The traditional TOK diagram indicates four ways of knowing.  Propose the inclusion of a
fifth way of knowing selected from intuition, memory or imagination, and explore the
knowledge issues it may raise in two areas of knowledge. 

5. “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”
(Christopher Hitchens).  Do you agree?

6. Can we know when to trust our emotions in the pursuit of knowledge?  Consider history
and one other area of knowledge.


  1. 6. Can we know when to trust our emotions in the pursuit of knowledge? Consider history and one other area of knowledge.

    First I will discuss emotion in the pursuit of knowledge in history. I believe that there is no way to study history without the influence of emotion. Every individual has a bias while studying history. For example, in our class, while studying the Arab-Israeli conflict, everyone has taken a stand based on what their beliefs which are influenced by their emotions. For history specifically, we might not have to trust our own emotions but we must trust those of who is instructing as history is always biased in some form.

    I would also like to discuss when we know when to trust our emotion in the pursuit of knowledge in the study of science. In science more so, we can know when to trust our emotions. Scientists really need to trust their emotions when they are performing procedures or experiments that some may consider to be unethical. They have trust what their emotions are instructing them to do and then act from there.

  2. “The possession of knowledge carries an ethical responsibility.” Evaluate this claim.
    Without knowledge, the position someone holds upon an idea or happening may not hold as much conviction. As the knowledge influences someone’s ethics, the possession of this such knowledge is an ethical responsibility. What one does with that knowledge, from joining a conversation to adding knowledge to wikipedia, will be valued, But also, what a person may choose to contribute becomes a question of ethics.

    History: A CIA officer may hold the true knowledge that the United States has certain motives
    and goals on a mission that the public may see differently. That knowledge that this CIA officer possesses instantly become an ethical responsibility when the end goal of the United States may not take into account the welfare of the citizen of the United States. Does the CIA officer announce to the people that Pearl Harbor will take place, or do they continue to hold the information to themselves, costing 2,403 people their lives? The mere possession of this knowledge in fact becomes an ethical issue and responsibility.

    Science: We now have the knowledge of the terrors of Global Warming. From fossil fuels to overuse of power, there are many things that we are doing that are contributing to the problem our planet is facing. So what do we do with the knowledge? Do we sit around and continue not to monitor our care for our everyday routines, or do we actually make an effort to change ourselves? Again, this knowledge that we possess soon becomes an ethical responsibility, as it influences our ethics.

  3. “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” (Christopher Hitchens). Do you agree?
    This question is a controversial one throughout the world. Although we are always told that we have to support our knowledge with examples, experiences, and other types of evidence that is not often the case. Is it true that when someone presents an argument without evidence that one can therefore argue one’s point without proof in return? Or should one want to make one’s point stronger through the use of examples?

    Human Sciences: I would like to raise the point of religion (please note that I am not trying to be offensive in any way, shape, or form). When it comes to religion, much of it is based on a person’s faith and belief in a higher being or lack thereof. This means that no matter what religion you choose to follow (in this case I am categorizing atheism and agnosticism as religions) you are choosing to have faith in a certain belief system and way of thinking. Ultimately, the reason that the topic of religion is so controversial is because many people cannot back their opinions and beliefs with hard facts. Although a certain scripture, or lecture, or ideal may seem true to the believer, the opposing force will always repel the believer’s ideals on the basis that they do not think the aforementioned materials qualify as legitimate facts. But the repelling force will do the same as the believer, and the believer will respond in the same way. Ultimately, one cannot solve this issue due to the fact that the ideals asserted without evidence are always refuted without evidence, causing a large controversy that may never be solved.

    Mathematics: In mathematics there is almost always just one answer that is true for a certain problem. When working on a problem one must always follow a certain pattern or strategy in order to find the correct answer. Although this is true one is always able to cheat or find the answer without the work that should in fact be put into it. That being said, the answer is then not supported with the evidence that it should have to qualify it as true. It the then easily dismissible by the person grading or editing the work. The evidence that is generally presented by the grader for dismissing the answer is the lack of evidence. Can one therefore argue a claim that has a lack of evidence on the basis that there is a lack of evidence? Does lack of evidence make any statement less true? The answer is, in fact, correct. It just does not have a basis for it’s correctness, but does that make it any less right? And is the grader then marking a right question wrong without finding evidence for themselves?

  4. 2. “Only seeing general patterns can give us knowledge. Only seeing particular examples
    can give us understanding.” To what extent do you agree with these assertions?

    I agree with these assertions to a a moderate extent. I do believe that you need to see particular examples to lead to understanding, and general patterns as well. I do not, however, believe that the word "only" should be used in this context. Seeing general patterns and particular examples can give us knowledge and understanding.If I am given examples, I am going to need the general pattern of data to understand the concept fully. Both of these assertions need to work together and not apart.

    History: In history, everyday, we are introduced to a new subject. At first we are given the general idea of the topic. With this general idea learned, we have attained some knowledge. But after receiving that basic knowledge, one is going to need to be provided specific examples.
    Let's say that we are learning about the Cold War. At first we are given the general idea of the Cold War, in which it was a time of extreme tension between the Soviet Union and the USA, which included a space race, nuclear power, and political ideology. Then this general idea needs to be backed up with facts to be fully understood. So I could provide examples like the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the influence in the Middle East and in China. Now we a have a general pattern and then examples to provide knowledge and understanding.

    Math: In math class there is always the process of seeing the general patterns and then receiving specific examples to lead to understanding. For example, one day in class we might learn that the equation y=mx+b is the "slope-intercept form." I now know that that equation represents the "slope-intercept form". Now I need examples so I can understand this concept.
    Examples will help me learn how to acquire the slope and the y intercept to complete the equation.
    By seeing examples I can then fully understand this new concept.

  5. 2. “Only seeing general patterns can give us knowledge. Only seeing particular examples
    can give us understanding.” To what extent do you agree with these assertions?

    I fully agree with these assertions because of the areas of Mathematics and Science.

    Mathematics: In math, there are many patterns, such as multiples of 5 ending with either 0 or 5. There are also patterns when it comes to a sequence of numbers, trying to find the “nth” term of a set of numbers. These patterns give me the knowledge to find, for example the 34th term, but do not necessarily give me the understanding of how the pattern works. However, what does give me an understanding of how I gain this knowledge, is particular examples. When I look in my math textbook, if you are given a pattern to follow, it is hard to understand how it works without being given a specific example. When I am given a specific example, it helps me understand and apply it to other problems I am given. Therefore, I believe that these assertions are correct.

    Science: When doing labs in science class, we are given many tasks to complete in order to find a solution or create a hypothesis. We use the knowledge we gain from the lab to create examples and find an understanding of what is happening in the lab. While following the instructions of the lab we are creating the knowledge for ourselves, but when we analyze each data piece, that is a particular example which can give you a complete understanding of the purpose and methods used in the lab.

  6. 2. “Only seeing general patterns can give us knowledge. Only seeing particular examples
    can give us understanding.” To what extent do you agree with these assertions?

    Particular examples are essential to human understanding; it is difficult and often impossible to understand (at least at my level of cognitive development) any one idea, theme, issue, or concept through mere theory. Often, the examples given to help localize the knowledge and facilitate the understanding of it can provide, when taken together, a general pattern, from which knowledge may be gained.
    Natural Sciences: I, too, will mention global warming: studying a mere five pages on CO2 emissions will give depth to the reader’s understanding of the consequences of burning fossil fuels, but only by observing many examples—that is, by seeing general patterns—can he truly grasp the idea of global warming and its sources.
    Human Sciences: By studying a serial killer, one may understand how he operates; how he kills; how he thinks. This can give specialized understanding to the learning which mere theory could not. In order to understand the archetypical serial killer and in order to predict his behavior, however, one must observe patterns among many individual case studies. (Accuracy increases with sample size, does it not?)
    Ideally, from any one blog post here today, one could glean understanding of a student’s proposed main point or opinion through the examples she gives in different areas of knowledge, while knowledge of her answer must be reached through the examination of the common thread running through her examples, the pattern that can be found in her argument.

  7. 1. In what ways may disagreement aid the pursuit of knowledge in the natural and human

    I believe that disagreement aids the pursuit of knowledge in the natural and human sciences because disagreement can lead to further exploration and discoveries. I believe this because when people disagree, many of times they go and look for evidence to prove their point. In this way, an explorer/scientist may have a hypothesis that another person disagrees with. Those people would then go and experiment or observe in order to gain more knowledge about their subject and make a discovery.
    In another perspective, there is a lot of controversy about human evolution between the sciences and religion. Because both disagree with each other, the religious people may go and look for knowledge within their own texts to further prove their point, or the science people may do the same by experimentation. Regardless of the fact, both with encourage the other to pursue the specific area of knowledge that they are looking for.

  8. 3. “The possession of knowledge carries an ethical responsibility.” Evaluate this claim.
    To what extent are ethical responsibilities persuaded by emotion and perception?
    People who know some much about a lot of things are the people who others should be concerned about. People who know the secrets about certain things are important because they have to hold this information. It’s a responsibility they have for being allowed to hold this information. One who has information can either keep it to themselves or share it with everyone else, and sometimes it becomes an ethical question of whether or not to release certain information. One example of this would be if someone knew something that could affect the well being of others (like if there’s a bomb on the train). If one knows there’s something dangerous about to happen but doesn’t warn the people around them that would be bad ethics. On the other hand an example where keeping information would be helpful would be in terms of national security. If U.S. citizens knew about every possible attack on the U.S. there would be a state of panic here all the time. That would be considered unethical by some people because it causes mass fear and terror for people to live with. This kind of information plays on emotion because one has to wonder what this kind of information will do to the emotions of others. Both examples deal with emotions but the latter more than the first. They also deal with perception because one person’s idea on ethical and unethical may differ from someone else’s view of ethical and unethical.

  9. 2. “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”
    (Christopher Hitchens). Do you agree?

    I agree to a great extent that assertions can be dismissed without evidence due their lack of evidences but there are times when evidences are not needed to prove a point. As human beings, it is hard to accept a concept when it does not provide with facts or evidences. This urge increases as we get older, which is why we are more open to ideas like the existence of Santa Clause when we are younger (although the presence of gifts does reassure the principle). I think that it is easier for people to reject an idea- especially one that might contradict another idea that was already asserted into the mind, than it is to accept one.
    In History: Everything said or written in this subject comes from facts although it can be interpreted differently by different people. All topics in history derived from an event that seemed important enough to discuss. One can never truly make up a whole history if it does not correspond to the modern world. If an assertion like “the Cold War happened before World War II” was made it would make no sense since it was through World War II that the United States and the Soviet Union became super powers and competition among them that led to the Cold War.
    In Science: It is kind of hard to make assertions in science without evidence and for it to be accepted. Charles Darwin for example had to collect information to prove the obvious law on evolution although it was physically apparent. In science, it is easiest to reject any assertion without needing to justify oneself if the idea was not backed up by facts because scientific laws and theories are used to explain life. Therefore, any assertion with no fact in this area is hard to accept because it would be defining life in some sort of way.
    In English: After reading Emerson’s essays, “Nature” and “Self-reliance,” it was evident that his ideas were very opinionated. He hardly used any evidence to prove his points but made connections to human behaviors and what he thought of it. He did not need to use facts or anything that can be titled as concrete. For example, he said in “Nature” that children see nature while adults do not because children do not try to change nature (also his opinion). Although Emerson was low on his evidence, many people still followed and are still following his theories.

  10. 2. “Only seeing general patterns can give us knowledge. Only seeing particular examples
    can give us understanding.” To what extent do you agree with these assertions?

    I strong agree with this statement. As we are able to apply it in our daily lives. I want to draw a connection and relate it to dance class. As most people in beginner dance wait for the teacher to demonstrate the technique/ moves, we all sit around and try to capture it in our minds. At the beginning of last year, Miss Griffin sometimes got irritated with us, and would urge us to try the moves with her before dancing to it with the song. But after a long day of class, nobody really wanted to try new dance moves and look awkward while doing them. So when the time came to actually dance with the music, almost all of us did not know what to do. So by seeing and noticing general patterns where being elaborated, we only got a general understanding of the moves. But we did not really acquire the knowledge to be able to perform it when the music came on. We saw miss Griffin try it a couple of more times, but we could all agree that unless we had done it with her, we could not gain enough knowledge to be able to replicate her dance moves. So even when we see particular examples, unless one replicates them such as trying the dance moves to get muscle memories inorder to repeat them when the song comes on.


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