TOK Post #4: Can you be more specific?

Image from taken by Petter Griffin

All my textbooks (not that I read them that much) have very clear and use un-interperative language when describing content. This makes sense since they want to teach me the information in the most accurate way possible. Sometimes I get frustrated while reading and wished they had made the writing simpler. But, if they dumbed it down for me, would the information retain it’s same quality? Today we’ll be discussing wether the vagueness and ambiguity of language always limits the production of knowledge.


The answer of the question depends on what kind of knowledge is being produced. If the knowledge is meant only interpreted in one way, such as topics in the Natural Sciences, I believe it’s best to use language that leaves little room for one to guess the meaning of it. For instance, a writer might use metaphors/smilies to spice up his/her text. Using metaphors/smilies however, might give the reader the wrong idea of how something works. For instance, if I say “computers process information faster than human brains” you might get the impression that computers and biological brains operate in a similar way, which is completely untrue and does not help one learn about the way the brain works. Further emotive language might skew the way we view something. For example, if I described World War 2 to be a “blood spilling mess” rather than “a war in which many lost their lives”, you might feel more strongly about the violence of World War 2.

So yes, vague language can limit our understanding of knowledge. And because you need to understand knowledge to produce it, we can safely say… BE CLEAR IN YOUR SCIENTIFIC REPORTS SCIENTSISTS!

But thats not it…

I was about to stop writing and listen to some music when I realised… singers managed to convey their message using language that is, very interpretative.

You see sometimes being clear and using un-interperative language might actually hinder our understanding of knowledge. Knowledge that relates to emotion and senses is better described in more emotive terms, rather than direct ones. Because people can relate more to emotive terms, they get a better feeling of what the writer is feeling. Look at these two statements and tell me which one you have more feeling or sense towards.

Joe walked down a road, beside him cars passed releasing smoke with foul odour.

Joe walked down a road, beside him cars rattled pass spewing out dark and black smoke that made his lungs tight.

Which statement is better for understanding how Joe is feeling?

It is for this reason, interviews, poems and music are so important to understand when studying history. Sure, you can read a bunch of reports with stats that will give you the exact situation, but you won’t fully understand what happened if you do not understand how people felt during those times.

So in conclusion, be specific and clear when dealing with information that requires preciseness, but when trying to communicate emotion, it is best to use vague language. This means vagueness and ambiguity of language do help with the production of knowledge in some cases.



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