TOK Task #1 – “If you cannot explain something, you do not know it”

“If you cannot explain something, you do not know it.”

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?

In reference to the claim itself, it might be reasonable to suggest that people who disagree and agree can both be ‘right’. This is because to be ‘right’ doesn’t always mean to arrive at the same factual definition, and that it pertains to beliefs. For example, some people with Christian beliefs may believe that abortion is wrong and that may be the ‘right’ for people that share the same set of beliefs. However, for atheists, for example, they may believe that abortion is a fair and justified choice, and to other people that share the same belief, this is ‘right’.

However, what does it mean to be ‘right’? Does this mean that one is correct, and that their belief or statement is true? To be ‘right’ could mean to have the current, widely accepted belief about something. To be ‘right’ means that to be appropriate; to know something as morally justified. To be ‘right’ is to follow the common thought that is perceived to be ‘right’ until it is proven opposite, and thus, is not considered ‘right’ anymore. I believe that what classifies as ‘right’ is ultimately what you choose to believe and that you think it is ‘right’. If you believe something is ‘right’, there is a high chance that your belief will not be swayed, because the way you have chosen to interpret something is how you perceive something to be ‘right’.

Therefore, this statement can not be reduced to being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. In the statement, the language itself provides many opportunities for people to believe if something is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. To explain is not limited to explaining something correctly and ‘factually’. It means to articulate an idea, even if this idea is absurd. Furthermore, there are limitations in terms of language as to how you can explain – just because you cannot articulate your idea does not mean that you do not know what it is. For example, in North Korean dialect, there is no word for ‘love’ – this does not mean that no one feels love, which counters the claim.

On the other hand, if we look at something as logical as mathematics, someone explaining a maths question needs to know what the question asks, and thus, needs to be able to explain it in order to teach someone else about it. This supports the claim that if you cannot explain it, you do not know it, because mathematics is very logical and one-sided (e.g. follows a set of steps), and if you know how to do it, then you should be able to explain it.

In my opinion, this statement heavily relies on the context given. ‘Knowing’ does not limit to only comprehending how to do something, it extends to meaning, purpose, intention etc. ‘Explaining’ does not limit to describing the truth and the fact. To be ‘right’ is not limited to having one overall, shared, belief, and therefore, people who disagree and agree can both be ‘right’.

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