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TOK: #20 – Why Study History?

7 reasons ranked from most to least compelling:

  1. History teaches us about what humans have done in the past, and thus about us about the nature of humans, more specifically about what we can do and who we are.
  2. The study of history is a search for truth about the past, allowing for the improvement of man through the skills and reasoning required.
  3. History allows us to understand the present and why it is the way it is.
  4. Through studying humans’ behavior in the past, we are able to know more about how actions in the past could impact/lead to events in the future.
  5. History contextualizes the modern day society.
  6. History is part of a society’s memory and gives society more purpose.
  7. By studying history and understanding what people had gone through in the past, people’s sense of patriotism towards their own country would be strengthened.

Top Choice:

It is important to understand human nature because by doing so, we are able to better understand the reasoning behind our actions and also predict what may happen in the future. This can also allow us to improve upon ourselves and learn from past mistakes. Collingwood implies that not only does history teach us about the past, but it also teaches us about the present and future, and more importantly about ourselves. Self-knowledge is important because without understanding ourselves, it would be difficult to make any progression in society and learn from the past.

Bottom Choice:

In our modern day society, patriotism may not be as necessary or important as it used to be. History may also not necessarily lead to patriotism depending on the moral values of the individual – if they don’t agree with the actions people of their country had done in the past, they may not become more patriotic towards their own country. Patriotism may also in fact have negative consequences, such as encouraging unjustified distrust or hatred towards other countries.


TOK: #19 – Studying the Past

Since no one knows the past as it really was, there is no point in studying it.”

One could argue that there is no value in studying the past since we will never be able to know everything about it. It is not possible to know every detail about the past because there will always be information the gets lost over time, or is never shared with anyone else and kept personal. For example, there are many different sides of the story to World War II and it is impossible to know how everyone perceived the event individually, and how that may have impacted the outcome. Additionally, even if the person studying the past was present during that particular event and thus has a much clearer impression of what happened, they wouldn’t have been able to know every exact detail about what happened – they would only be able to know a fraction of the event. Thus, if complete accurate information cannot be gained regarding the past, then there is no value in studying it due to the lack of information proving to be useful.

On the other hand, one could argue that although every single detail of the past can never be known completely, it is still largely possible to gain some sort of truth about the past, allowing us to gain more insight into the past. For example, it may to valuable to investigate into why certain pieces of information are missing or inaccurate (i.e. what has influenced the inaccuracy of the information and what that may suggest about the historical event). For instance, if information about the Chinese Cultural Revolution is found to be inaccurate due to the influence of the communist rule, it could be valuable for historians to study the extent of the impact of the communist rule. Therefore, even though it isn’t possible to know the past as it really was, the information gained can still be valuable for studying as it still reveals more insight into the past.


TOK: Economics

“All models are wrong but some are useful.”

Within the natural sciences and human sciences, models are used for similar purposes. One of these purposes is to represent abstract or complex ideas in a simple way to aid understanding. For example, in Economics, the supply and demand curve is used to represent the law of supply and demand and also show how relationship between the two. In the natural sciences, the Bohr-Rutherford model is used to help simply explain the structure of an atom. However, in both AOKs there are also limitations to using these models. These models simplify the concepts and also make many assumptions, meaning they may not accurately reflect what happens in the real world. For example, the supply and demand diagram is based on ceteris paribus, meaning it doesn’t account for other factors that may influence it. Thus, we cannot use these models to learn about what exactly happens in real life – they only provide a general overview.

Although these models are not completely accurately, they are still useful as they help explain intangible concepts and also usually apply to most situations, allowing us to make predictions based on generalized trends. In the human sciences, many of these models help us make predictions about the economy’s behavior in the future, while in the natural sciences, many models help us understand more complex and abstract ideas. Thus, these models are still useful even though they may not be completely accurate.


TOK: #18 – Human Science Research Task

Natural Science:

Research Question:
How did the volcanic eruption impact the concentration of toxic gases in the air?

The volcanic eruption increased the concentration of toxic gases, such as sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide, in this area.

Methods/Tools for Data Collection:
– use a gas detector to detect what gases are present in this area over a certain period of time

Techniques for Analyzing Data:
– look at past data collected from a gas detector from the same area before the volcanic eruption (if available) and make comparisons or compare it to average concentration of gases
– see how the concentrations change over time with a graph

Human Science:

Research Question:
How were Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar communities affected socially and economically by the eruption?

Volcanic eruption led to the destruction of shelters and infrastructures, increased injuries and severe economic lost.

Methods/Tools for Data Collection:
– social aspect  – can be judged based on interviews and surveys that collected data from locals of Heimaey, video footage of the actual situation would also be useful
– economical aspect – can be measured not only by the interviews and surveys, but the statistics generated that looks at the economy (e.g. GDP)

Techniques for Analyzing Data:
– comparing statistics from after the eruption to before
– write up an essay that analyzes how the society was affected with statistics supported

Compare the reliability/certainty of the knowledge your experts will acquire.

Knowledge acquired from the natural sciences will be more reliable and certain due to the fact that it is quantitative, so it cannot be impacted by personal feelings or thoughts. It will also be reliable because the gas detector is meant for detecting gases so the right tool is being used to obtain accurate measurements. Knowledge acquired in the human sciences may not be as reliable because if the data was collected through surveys, personal emotions or judgements may have impacted the responses. It is also hard to verify that all participants responded truthfully. However, using statistics, such as GDP may be more reliable, because the quantitative data may provide for more accurate comparison.

Identify the factors that contribute to (or take away from) reliability/certainty.

Factors that may contribute to the reliability of knowledge acquired in the natural sciences could be the tool used (e.g. different tools have different purposes, deciding which tool would best suit the purpose of the investigation) and empirical evidence (the more data collected the easier it is to verify the accuracy of a theory). Data collected in the natural sciences is also more quantitative than data collected in the human sciences. Factors that may take away from the reliability may be measurement errors that arise during the experiment.

Factors that may contribute to the reliability in the human sciences may be repeated surveys. For example, it would be more reliable to identify an overall trend and draw conclusions from a large number of survey responses as it shows that the trend applies to majority of the population. Although difficult to measure, the truthfulness of the responses would also contribute to how reliable the data is. Factors that may take away from the reliability of the data may be the influence of person experience. For instance, if someone had experienced a volcanic eruption/similar event before, they may not think the impact/shock is as great as someone who hadn’t experienced one before. The extent of the impact of the eruption on individuals would also depend on the person’s own circumstances, which is different for everyone.

Suggest ways that Human Scientists can increase the reliability of their claims.

Human Scientists can increase the reliability of their claims by looking at/collecting more data to draw conclusions. The more data there is that follows and supports the same trend of theory, the more reliable the claims will be. They should also try to control as many variables as possible when conducting experiments, although it is not possible to control every single variable, hence the many assumptions made along with claims in the Human Sciences.

What can you say ‘in general’ about HS as an AOK.

Compared to the natural sciences, knowledge in the human science is often less reliable due to the numerous factors that cannot be controlled during an experiments. However, theories in Human Sciences can still give us a good idea about human behavior in general, with many assumptions made.



TOK: #17 – Math: Discovered or Invented?

What do you make of the term ‘a useful fiction’? To which AOK(s) do you think this idea may also apply?

“Fiction” usually refers to something made up and used for entertainment purposes, something that doesn’t hold significant meaning in our daily lives. However, fictions can also be useful and meaningful. For example, in maths, axioms can be considered “useful fictions” because although made up, they help form the base of all math proofs and theories. Without axioms, it would be extremely difficult to make any progress in mathematics.

“Useful fictions” also apply to religious knowledge systems as the Bible story can be thought of as a fiction, especially for people who are not religious. However, this fictitious story is also useful for religious people as they have strong faith in the religion and live by the principles and morals taught in the story. This is similar to mathematics where something “made up” still holds significant meaning to people’s lives, despite not being completely true. If the Bible story was not made up then people would not have a religion to follow and believe in. Thus, “a useful fiction” applies to religious knowledge systems similar to how it applies to mathematics.

TOK: #12 – What is Art?

Knowledge within arts is not objective and therefore not meaningful.

Based on my interpretation, this claim is stating that only objective things are meaningful, and that subjective things are not significant because they do not provide a definite answer to anything, and is instead based off of one person’s point of view. Knowledge within the arts can include the creation of the art piece or the interpretation of the piece.

On one hand, it can be argued that knowledge within the arts is subjective and therefore not meaningful, especially if someone is looking at an artwork to obtain factual information. For example, if someone were to look at Francisco Goya’s The Third of May 1808 with the goal of learning more about what happened during the Napoleon conquering of the Spanish during the beginning of the 19th century, then this piece may not be meaningful in providing them with factual information about the event. This is due to the fact that the painting was created by one person, thus the depiction of the event is only based off of the artists’s personal point of view. Since the artist is Spanish, the painting depicts the Napoleon in a more negative way. However, someone from France may have a completely different perspective on the event. Therefore, the artwork is not meaningful because it does not allow people to gain an accurate idea of what happened through the depiction of the artwork.

On the contrary, it can be argued that subjective works are in fact even more meaningful than objective works. Using the same example as above, one could find the subjectivity of the piece to be meaningful as it would allow them to understand how people from different backgrounds interpreted the same situation differently. Similar to history, it is valuable to know about the different interpretations of the same event as it allows people to gain a more well-rounded understanding of what happened. Even though the arts are subjective, it can also be meaningful because it can allow people to understand more about the artist’s personal thoughts. One part of the arts are about expression one’s own emotions and feelings, so it can be valuable for people to use artworks to understand how people’s surroundings can influence their thoughts. For example, in Van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Crows, his emotions are clearly represented through the images. This piece is subjective as it only represents one person’s emotions. However, many people found this famous piece of work to be meaningful as it allowed them to understand Van Gogh’s emotions at the time more. Therefore, subjectivity can also be meaningful, depending on what the knowledge in the arts is being used for.

TOK: #11 – Science vs Pseudoscience

It is unsurprising when we hear that experts in Art can’t always agree what ‘is’ and ‘is not’ Art. We might say that the distinction between what ‘is’, and what ‘is not’ art, is not always clear. Similar to the question of what is art, the distinction between science and pseudoscience is also not clear. Analyze this claim. 

The distinction between science and pseudoscience can also be known as The Demarcation Problem. One approach to distinguishing between science is pseudoscience is using falsification, which was proposed by Karl Popper. Falsification distinguishes between the two by looking at whether something can be proved to be untrue, or falsifiable. In other words, according to this, science is anything that can be proved wrong. If something cannot be falsified, then it is not science. Popper also believed that science was based on disproving theories rather than searching for the truth. For example, according to falsification, the claim “Rocks form when melted rocks cool and harden” is science as it can be falsified. One can investigate into the formation of rocks, and see whether or not rocks actually form from melted rocks.

However, it can be argued that the distinction between science and pseudoscience is not simply this clear. There are aspects in the sciences that cannot be falsified, but is still considered science. For example, in chemistry, chemists are often trying to synthesize chemicals and create new ones. By doing this, they are not trying to falsify any existing hypotheses. The creation of a new chemical is also difficult to falsify, as if it has been created, then it must be true that it is possible to create it. It wouldn’t be possible to design an experiment aimed at proving that the creation of that chemical is not actually possible. There may be methods that would lead to the creation of the chemical being impossible, but if it has been created with one method, it must be possible again. Thus, using falsification to distinguish what is science is not very reliable as there are things in science that cannot be falsified/are not aimed at disproving existing theories.

There are also cases where the distinction between science and pseudoscience is simply a matter of personal belief. For example, herbalism, which is the practice of using herbal supplements to treat medical conditions, is something that does not clearly fall into the category of either science or pseudoscience. Some people may strongly believe in its effective this, and thus think that it works based on scientific evidence, while some people may think that it is not an effective way of treating medical conditions as there isn’t solid scientific evidence, and thus consider it a pseudoscience. Therefore, the distinction between science and pseudoscience is clearly very blurred, as there are many factors that come into play, and also many different ways of differentiating between the two.

TOK: Chinese

“It is not always useful or desirable to use neutral or objective language.” 

There are certain circumstances where it is desirable or useful to use connotated or subjective language. At times, people may not want to directly speak about a certain subjects, such as taboo subjects or topics considered rather harsh or inappropriate. For example, when talking about death, it is common for people to use euphemisms instead of directly talking about the subject. In English, some common phrases used to talk about death are “passed away” or “in a better place”; similarly, in Chinese, some euphemisms for death are ”去世“ or ”升天“. By using these phrases, the subject of death is presented in a less negative way as these words all have a relatively more positive connotation than simply saying someone died. Subjective language is also commonly used in the media and news to sensationalize events in an attempt to appeal to the target audience more. Thus, there are certain situations where it is more acceptable or preferred to use connotated or subjective language.

However, one may argue that at times it is desirable or useful to use neutral or objective language. Academic writing is one situation where subjective language would most likely not be accepted. When neutral or objective language is not used, people can interpret information inaccurately as words have different meanings to different people as well. For example, if subjective or connotated language is used to analyze or present research or data, then the information may be communicated incorrectly as people would interpret it differently. Although the media uses subjective language to appeal to the audience more, it could also be argued that neutral or objective language should be used to present information in news articles. The facts should simply be recounted, and the author’s own opinion shouldn’t influence the way the information is presented. Therefore, depending on the circumstance, neutral or objective language can also be more useful or desirable than subjective language.

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.