TOK: Being ‘Right’, Knowing and Explaining

by 042690 on August 15, 2017

Is being ‘right’ a rather objective affair, or is it more complicated than this?

Being ‘right’ is definitely not an objective affair but however there are certainly some instances when it is. Being ‘right’ almost always is subjective. Of course, there are certain times when everyone will agree that you were right. For example, there was a woman who killed two people and was sentenced to life in prison. People will think that this is the ‘right’ punishment and she got what she deserved. Now, at this point, it seems that everyone is happy because the punishment was ‘right’. However, a new fact is introduced that she only did this because they were the ones who killed her family. All of a sudden, the outlook on this changes. There are some people who still believe that the punishment is ‘right’ yet at the same time there are some who agree that she did something wrong, but don’t think that the punishment is the ‘right’ one.

Another case where being ‘right’ is subjective is in culture. For example, most Hindus do not eat beef but someone who lives in the middle of the rainforest might say that eating these meats are alright. In this case, I’d say both of them are ‘right’ because morals not only vary from culture to culture, they also vary in different situations and from person to person. In India, the cow is a sacred animal so Hindus believe that not eating this animal is ‘right’. At the same time, people living in a rainforest might say that this is their only source of food and therefore eating cows are ‘right’ because it is the only way for them to survive.

In terms of facts however, being right is a little bit more objective. For example, doing a math problem, most of the time, there aren’t multiple correct answers to the same question. For example, if the question was 8+3-4. The answer is obviously 7. There is no other answer that you could possibly come up with that would be considered right.


With reference to the class activity today about knowing and explaining, in what ways might it be reasonable to suggest that people who disagree with the statement:  You don’t really know something if you can’t explain it to someone else?” can be right?

People who disagree with this statement can be right in a few instances. Take the AOK (Area of Knowledge) of math as an example. There could be a certain math problem and formula that you understand in your own way but are unable to explain this concept or formula to someone else. The concept makes sense in your brain and you know what you are doing but you are unable to explain it to someone else because you understand it in your own way. Another instance where you may know something but can’t explain it is when you are trying to explain it to a 6 year old. You could know lots about the history of the world and try to explain it to a six year old, but they are not going to understand it because their brain has not developed as much yet which means that they are not able to understand what you are talking.

This also brings up the question of what does it really mean to know something. The dictionary on Google tells us that to know is to “be aware of through observation, inquiry, or information”. In simplistic terms, I believe that to know something is to understand it. You may not be able to explain it to someone but that doesn’t always necessarily mean that you don’t know it (sometimes it does, it depends on the situation). But to know something is to understand it. That may be in a way that you can explain to everybody but that also may be in a way that makes sense but only makes sense to you.

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