TOK: #9 – Intro to Natural Sciences

Reflecting on our discussions in class, and with inspiration from the TED video, what distinguishes Natural Science from other AOKs? Identify any potential issues or questions that may arise when you consider your definitions.

The Natural Sciences is an area of knowledge including subjects such as chemistry, biology and physics. It is distinguished from other AOKs in a few different ways. Firstly, as discussed in class, the Natural Sciences is only limited to the natural world. The natural world includes everything in our physical world. This means that any idea that cannot be explained by the natural world is not a part of this AOK. Ideas relating to the supernatural world exceed the limits of the natural world and cannot be answered by experiment, and thus is not part of the Natural Sciences. Questions regarding the natural world, such as how rocks are formed, or the speed of light can all be answered or investigated into through experiments and solid evidence. However, questions relating to topics such as life after death are not part of the natural world and thus natural science cannot explain these ideas.

The Natural Sciences is constantly aiming to disprove an existing theory instead of aiming to seek truth in something, as discussed in class. This distinguishes it from other AOKs as other AOKs such as history or math aims to find the correct answer. For example, in the development of the atomic model, scientists conducted experiments to disprove a certain point of the existing theory presented by another scientist. Through the gold foil experiment, Rutherford disproved the Thomson model and showed that there was actually a concentration of positive mass in the atom. Thus, this shows how scientists only strive to understand concepts and theories more rather than find the one true answer. In History, historians are seeking to find what truly happened and gain a better understanding of it, instead of placing more priority poke holes at facts that are already presented.

The idea of the Natural Sciences being testable and being built upon theories inferred from solid evidence also distinguishes it from AOKs where there is no single correct answer. For example, in the arts, there is no right or wrong answer regarding how a certain piece of artwork should be like, or what message the artwork communicates. Thus, if one were to try and disprove information in the arts, or test a certain piece of information, it would be difficult because technically nothing is wrong. Even though knowledge gained from the arts can be supported by evidence (e.g. supporting how a piece of work communicates a certain emotion), one cannot test it to see whether it is correct or not, as the arts can be interpreted different for each individual. Therefore, it is important that knowledge in the Natural Sciences can be tested in order to allow scientists to further seek understanding.

 

TOK: #8 – Faith & Intuition

Present a simple outline of the basic ‘problems’ of faith and intuition as WOKs

Faith:

  • Is not based on any solid evidence, rather it is a belief based on our feelings and thoughts – difficult to prove which belief is more “correct” in cases where beliefs contradict each other
  • Can be regarded as irrational to others who don’t share the same belief
  • Doesn’t have a strong level of certainty – even though someone may claim to feel something deeply or believe in something strongly, that doesn’t mean that it is true
    • Ex: someone may feel like they won’t succeed in life, but this doesn’t mean that that is necessarily true
  • Feelings and beliefs are personal, and therefore can be very subjective. This means that sometimes we tend to believe things that we would personally prefer or things we wish to be true, even though they may not be true
    • Ex: when Charles Darwin proposed the theory of evolution through natural selection, many churches and Christians refused to accept this theory because this theory went against their belief in God and Christianity. Thus, this shows how they held their belief in God because they wanted to keep believing that God was real, rejecting the theory of natural selection.

Intuition:

  • Often referred to as a “snap judgement”. In other words, it is a claim made without processing any information to justify the claim (no evidence to support the argument)
    • If other pieces of information had been taken into consideration before making the judgement, the result may be different
    • Ex: Someone taking a multiple choice test may run out of time and select a random answer based on their intuition, or their gut feeling. This is not a reliable way of selecting the correct answer because if the test taker had actually solved the question they may have selected a different answer. Thus, intuition is not always a reliable way of knowing.
  • Some may argue that because intuition is based on your instinct, it is unreliable because we don’t consciously go through a mental process to say something based on intuition
  • Influenced by past experiences, however, past experiences cannot always accurately predict what will happen, and thus intuition based on experiences will not always lead to the best conclusions
    • Ex: Our intuition may tell us that something bad would happen if one particular action was carried out based on past experiences, but what happened previously may not happen every single time, so in this intuition is unreliable

TOK: #7 – Language

“The vagueness and ambiguity of language always limits the production of knowledge”.

The vagueness and ambiguity of language may limit the production of knowledge in some contexts, but may also enhance the production of knowledge in other contexts. In some areas of knowledge, it is the vagueness and ambiguity of language that may in fact help enhance the production of knowledge. In the discussion of this claim, “production of knowledge” will include the knowledge learned/gained from language and the different ways of interpreting something.

One example of vague language limiting the production of knowledge is in the natural sciences. There is a lot of subject-specific vocabulary used in subjects like chemistry or biology. If someone were to describe a very specific concept or topic in the natural sciences with vague language, it would inhibit the production of knowledge (i.e. communication of information) because it would be difficult to describe something accurately without using the subject-specific terminology. Also, especially since many things in the natural sciences have similarities, such as the physical properties of different elements, if one were not specific in describing the one element, then it would be easy to confuse it with another. Thus, the vagueness of language can pose problems with regards to the production of knowledge in the natural sciences.

However, in some cases, the vagueness and ambiguity of language can in fact be a benefit to the production of knowledge. In the arts, things are often open to interpretation and is up to the viewer to find their own meaning within a piece of work. Language does not only include text, but also includes visuals. In the arts, a piece of artwork will not explicitly and specifically communicate what it means. The viewer must read between the lines to figure out what it means to them personally, which is part of what makes art special – it has the power to reach out to the audience in more than one ways. In this case, the vagueness and ambiguity of the artwork (the language) has benefitted the production of knowledge because if the piece of work were not open to interpretation, it would have taken away the audience’s experience of appreciating the artwork and finding out what it means to them. Therefore, vague language does not always inhibit the production of knowledge.

The claim presented at the beginning makes a very extreme argument that knowledge always inhibiting the production of knowledge. As seen in the second example, there are times when this type of language is not a problem in the production of knowledge. Thus, I disagree with this claim, but I do agree that there are certain circumstances where vague and ambiguous language may be and inhibition. However, a question that arises with this is “what is considered to be vague and ambiguous language?” This can be quite subjective as someone might think a certain word has a very specific meaning, while someone else could argue that it is open to interpretation and does not specify anything. Hence, it is important to first define what exactly is “vague and ambiguous language”.

 

TOK: #6 – Imagination & Memory

  1. Create a simple ‘cheat-sheet’ for both imagination and memory.

  1. Despite the imperfections of imagination and memory as ways of knowing, the Areas of Knowledge have developed in such as way as to overcome them. Discuss this claim with reference to at least two AOKs.

The arts is one AOK that has developed ways of overcoming the imperfections of imagination. While new ideas in the natural sciences may be sometimes regarded as delusional, artists are often encouraged to use their imagination to come up with innovative ideas. In fact, it is usually the more innovative or unheard of ideas that make the artist more unique and liked for their art. For example, if there is a class of 20 art students, and they have been asked to draw an apple in any way they wish, most students may choose to do a pencil sketch. However, the few students who use their imagination to approach the task in a more creative way (e.g. using different media) would stand out more, and their artwork would be more unique and interesting for others to appreciate. Thus, in the arts, the preposterous ideas that come with imagination are accepted and even encouraged for an artist to be more successful.

History has also developed ways of overcoming the imperfections of memory. Some may argue that memory can be unreliable and bias as it can be influenced by personal experiences or feelings, restricting memory from being able to recall events factually. History has overcome this by accepting the different interpretations of a single event that can be recalled from memory. For example, during the World War II, there were many different groups in conflict (e.g. Allies for Axis), and thus many different interpretations of the event. Historians have taken these different perspectives and used them to better understand what happened during World War II. For historians, it is extremely valuable to investigate into multiple interpretations of an event as it allows them to be able to gain a deeper understanding of what actually happened, especially since many historical events involve conflicting parties and it is vital to understand the perspective of each party. Therefore, history accepts the imperfections of memory by finding the value within having multiple perspectives regarding the same event.

TOK: #5 – Reason

Pure logic is only concerned with the structure of arguments. The validity of an argument is independent of the truth or falsity of its premises.

Simply post your thoughts with reference to at least one AOK.

I agree with this claim because an argument can be logical and come to a valid conclusion even if its premises are false. A valid argument only assumes that the premises are true, and therefore the conclusion must be true as well. A logical argument does not mean it is a sound argument (have valid and true premises). The logical flow of the argument is independent from the truth of the premises, and only depends on the order and construction of the argument.

Take mathematics as an example supporting this claim. Mathematics heavily relies on deductive reasoning to come to conclusions. For instance, when trying to solve for the 4th angle measurement of a quadrilateral with three known angles, it is important to know the sum of the angles in a quadrilateral. If this is known, then it would be possible to find the measurement of the unknown angle as you could subtract the sum of the three angles from the total sum. In this case, whether or not the premises (sum of angles in a quadrilateral and sum of the three known angles) are true will not affect the validity of the conclusion (measurement of unknown angle). For example, let’s say the sum of angles in a quadrilateral is 200 degrees, and the sum of the three known angles is 150 degrees. Assuming this is true, the fourth angle would measure 50 degrees. Even though the premises are false, the conclusion is still valid because by using deductive reasoning we can come to the conclusion that the fourth angle measures 50 degrees. Thus, this shows how the validity of an argument is independent of the truth of its premises, and that knowledge cannot be gained from pure logic as the conclusion can be false even if it seems to make sense.

This can also be applied to inductive reasoning. In the natural sciences, experiments are conducted and data is collected to come to a conclusion about a certain topic. For example, a scientist conducts an experiment to investigate how much force is required to pull brick across a wooden surface, and uses the data collected from the numerous trials to draw a conclusion about how much force is required. The conclusion drawn from this experiment can be considered valid, regardless of whether or not the data collected was reliable. If the data were not reliable as it was not collected in a controlled manner (e.g., maybe a different method of measurement was used each time), then the truthfulness of the conclusion would be weakened, even though it would still be valid as it follows the logical flow of the argument, or in this case the data collected. Since the data was not collected by a reliable method, the premises would not be as truthful. Thus, this shows how the knowledge gained from pure reason may not always be the most reliable as an argument can be logical but still come to a false conclusion.

Therefore, although reason can be a useful way of gaining knowledge, it can often lead us to coming to false conclusions even if it may be valid (premises are assumed to be true). An argument can have logical flow and still come to a false conclusion as well. Thus, in order to make sure an argument is sound, the truthfulness of the premises must be carefully evaluated.

 

TOK: #4 – Sense Perception

“Even though there are problems with our perceptual systems, this doesn’t mean that knowledge gained from our senses is completely unreliable.”

Discuss this claim with reference to at least one Areas of Knowledge.

Knowledge gained from our senses isn’t always completely unreliable. For example, while looking at a piece of abstract art, there is no right or wrong answer as to what the viewer sees in the painting. One might see a particular object, or one may only see it as a mixture of colors and shapes. Both of them are interpreting the piece of art through their senses, and although they are different they are neither right or wrong, meaning that neither of their knowledge gained is unreliable or reliable. They may have interpreted the piece differently to what the artist intended, but that doesn’t mean what they saw was unreliable because there are many different ways one piece of art can be interpreted. Similarly, while creating a piece of art, the artist might see a mixture of colors and think it looks aesthetically appealing, while someone else thinks the opposite. Since visual arts is a rather subjective topic, the knowledge gained from our senses isn’t unreliable because different people interpret the piece in their own way, based on their experiences and emotions. In this case, the knowledge gained is more opinion-based, which cannot be right or wrong.

On the other hand, it can be argued that knowledge gained from our senses can sometimes be unreliable. For instance, while playing music one might play a note and think it is in tune while it is actually not. In this case, the information gained from hearing would be unreliable because it is difficult for us to tell by hearing when a note is exactly in tune. In the same case, if a note that is out of tune is played before a note that is in tune, the second note may sound out of tune compared to the first note even though it is actually the note that is in tune. In this situation, the knowledge gained from hearing is unreliable because it has been influenced by past experiences. Thus, there are problems with our perpetual systems that makes the knowledge gained from them unreliable at times because our senses are not always the most accurate, or the knowledge gained can be influenced by other pieces of information.

Although there are times when knowledge gained from sense perception is unreliable, this isn’t always the case. Knowledge gained from our senses isn’t always complete unreliable as there are situations where there can be multiple “answers”, where any knowledge gained from our senses can be considered reliable.

TOK: #3 – Emotion

Claim: The arts are all about emotional expression: emotion is the most important thing in this area of knowledge. 

  • Outline arguments that supports the claim.
  • Put forward a counter-argument with supporting examples
  • Decide what your view is (come to terms between the two competing claims)

Assuming art is a creative expression of the self, then emotion is the most important thing in the arts because the arts are a way for people to express what they are feeling. Without emotion, it would be difficult to create a meaningful and expressive piece of artwork. For example, Van Gogh’s famous painting, Wheatfield with Crows, is most well known for the way it captures the loneliness and sadness felt by the artist before his suicide, and is largely debated about what Van Gogh really wanted to express in this piece. Without looking at the emotional aspect of this piece, the painting would simply be of a wheat field, and may not be as well known. Not only would this piece have been significantly less important without emotion in the creative process, but emotion is also needed to truly understand and appreciate the piece. For instance, if a viewer was not able to understand the emotional aspect of this piece, the audience impact would be much less as they would only be seeing a plain field, not knowing what the meaning behind it was. Therefore, without emotion, it would be pointless to have art as art is only “good” when it encompasses some sort of emotion. Otherwise, it would be meaningless to both the creator and the viewer.

On the contrary, it can be argued that skill and technique is the most important in this area of knowledge, rather than emotion. Without the correct skills and techniques, one would not be able to create the piece of art, even if they had emotions to express. Take music composition as an example. If the necessary skills & knowledge, such as music theory, aren’t acquired, then the composer would not be able to produce a piece of music, regardless of whether they have something to express or not. Although art is about emotional expression, a large part of it is also about having highly developed skills and techniques. Thus, without skill and technique, having emotion in this area of knowledge is useless as one would not be able to create the piece of art in the first place. Emotion can only be expressed through the skill that an artist has.

The claim makes an extreme assertion about emotion being the most important in art. Although emotion does play a key role in creating and understanding art, it wouldn’t be possible to produce art with the necessary skills and technique. The first argument argues that art is only meaningful when emotion is incorporated into the piece, but the second argument makes a much more significant claim by stating that art, no matter meaning or not, cannot be produced without having some sort of skill. Thus, emotion is not the most important in art.

IBDP Retreat Reflection

The IBDP Retreat was a memorable experience that allowed me to learn more about the Diploma Program and ways to develop myself personally. I certainly feel more prepared to enter the DP after this retreat, as it has opened my mind in many ways.

One of the highlights of the retreat for me was the Crossroads poverty simulation. This simulation really helped me realize how privileged we are, and how poverty is affecting countless people around the world. Although the simulation was only 30 minutes, it really let me learn more about what it was like for people living in poverty. It was really interesting to see how in such circumstances, we were willing to do anything to earn money for our families, whether it be giving up our personal belongings, sending our “children” away to work or stealing. While this may have merely just been a game for us, this is daily life for many others around the world, and “winning” or “losing” the game becomes a matter of life or death. I’m fortunate enough to not have to be worrying about money every second of my life, and can instead focus on my wellbeing. However, people in poverty wake up every morning worrying about whether they can keep their families alive for the day, not even having time to plan ahead for things that seem to be a top priority for us, such as education. Something else that struck me was the mental impact poverty can have on someone. Not only is doing manual labor every day physically demanding, but the stress of poverty is mentally very demanding as well. From this simulation, not only did I become more aware of the severe negative impacts of poverty, but I also learned that everyone can make a difference – even if its small – to help make our world a better place.

Through attending the different sessions on the second day, I feel more prepared to tackle the DP. Not only did I learn more about different aspects of the DP, such as CAS and the EE, but I also learned more about how I could challenge myself, find my passions and bounce back from failures or obstacles. For example, from Ms Safaya’s session, I was able to learn more about my peers’ and my own passions, and how we could take those one step further to make an impact on the world, even if it’s just doing something within the school community. Also, from the drama games, we were taught that failing is okay, which I think is something that all of us need to keep in mind. There are bound to be times when we don’t do as well as we hope to, and instead of simply giving up, it’s important to recognize that failing is okay, and is simply an opportunity for growth.

I found the TOK sessions to be quite positively challenging also. As TOK was still a fairly new subject to us, I wasn’t too sure about what to expect. However, I found them to be quite interesting as the discussions offer a new way of thinking. For example, in Mr Tyrell’s session, we discussed the relationship between our mind and our body. This was quite interesting as I had never thought of it this way.

Overall, I found this retreat to be a very valuable experience. Not only did I learn more about the expectations of the DP and how we can tackle it, but I was also able to bond with other people in my grade through the rooming arrangements and participating in the remix sessions in our houses. I feel more prepared to face challenges that will come my way within the next two years, and I know that even if I fail at times I will be able to bounce back from them.

TOK: #2 – Intro to WOKs

Outline the role of 1 WOK in 1 AOK in the production of knowledge. Knowing that WOKs are double-edged swords: they are sources of knowledge and are also fallible, how do any disciplines in the AOK you chose above guard against the weaknesses of the WOK you chose?

Imagination as a way of knowing plays a key role in the arts. The arts requires one to express their thoughts and come up with new ideas through creativity, which is highly dependent on imagination. For example, art is commonly used as a way to express abstract ideas, such as emotions, which requires the individual to think outside the box to create an original piece of work that communicates an abstract idea in a concrete way. Not only is imagination used when creating art, but it is also used when trying to understand a piece of artwork. Many art pieces tell a story through implicit and creative means, and understanding the piece requires the audience to think creatively and draw their own conclusions about the meaning of the artwork.

Although imagination sometimes a reliable source of knowledge, it has many weaknesses too. One of the main weaknesses of imagination is that it is unreal and not based on any facts, possibly leading people to drawing different conclusions. Imagination can be influenced by one’s unique experiences and emotions – after all, everyone’s mind works differently to others. Thus, when relying on imagination as a way of knowing, two people would rarely be able to draw the same conclusion, which may be a weakness in some situations. Letting imagination take over may also lead to unrealistic ideas. For example, if a team of scientists were working together to design an experiment, imagination, although useful, may present itself as a weakness as it may result in unreasonable and unrealistic ideas.

The arts guard against the weaknesses of imagination by accepting the different and seemingly unrealistic ideas.When viewers draw different conclusions about the meaning of an artwork, they simply share their opinions and learn more from each other, becoming more open-minded towards new perspectives. Artists are encouraged to think outside the box, and even when ideas may be unrealistic, they are able to use those as a starting point for a more practical idea.

 

TOK: #1 – Knowledge and Explaining

With reference to the class activity today about knowing and explaining, in what ways might it be reasonable to suggest that people who disagree can both be right?

It reasonable to suggest that people who disagree can both be right as it is possible for there to be multiple ways of interpreting a situation, with neither a single right or wrong answer. For example, if two objects are put next to each other, and there are two people viewing the objects from opposite sides, one person would say that Object A is on the left side, while the other would say that Object a is on the right side. They would disagree on which side Object A is on because they are looking at it from two different perspectives. However, they would both be correct, because the “right” answer depends on the viewer’s perspective. In this case, the “right” answer is simply what the respective person believes to be correct. Similarly, if two people were looking at the same piece of art, they may have different interpretations of the artwork, but neither of them would be wrong as a piece of art can have a different meaning for each person. There also isn’t only one way of interpreting a piece of art, and it can vary with each persons emotions or experiences. For example, if one person is feeling particularly happy while looking at the artwork, they may think the artwork is conveying a more positive emotion. Thus, it is possible that two people can disagree but both be right.

I believe being “right” does not only have to be an objective affair. While in some cases, there is only one definite “right” answer, such as the size of a certain object, there are many situations where being “right” is simply based on one’s own perspectives, beliefs, experiences. Everyone has a different perspective on life, and based on how they perceive the world, some things can be “right” for them and wrong for others. Therefore, being “right” can be a subjective claim that varies from person to person.