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by Yi Nok Ryan on September 9, 2013


TOK: Certainty in History

by Yi Nok Ryan on April 25, 2017

What are some of the “problems” that may be a threat to “knowledge”?

What kinds of characteristics might historical knowledge have?

How can historians neutralise these threats to knowledge?

Are there different kinds of knowledge claims in History?


TOK: Why Study History

by Yi Nok Ryan on April 21, 2017

For the given work “Seven Reasons to Study History”, summarise each reason (least words as possible). Rank from most to least compelling. Suggest a refutation for the least compelling reason.

1. Augustin Thierry believes that history allows for the justification, strengthening and encouragement for patriotism, which allows for a better sense of security and confidence in the future.

2. Arthur Marwick believes there is a psychological need for history, where history allows for society to have knowledge of itself and to not allow society to go adrift, which ultimately means that history allows society to have some meaning of life. Personally, I believe this could go all the way to proving our existence (i.e. to know that what I am sensing and my perception is representative of reality and not, say, a dream).

3. R.G. Collingwood believes history allows for the definition of mankind (what a man is), the definition of being the man you are (what does it mean to be this type of man) and what makes a man unique. These definitions can only be developed if man knows what they can do, which can only be seen from the past (i.e. what they have done), therefore the value of history resides in understanding that (i.e. what man has done, what man is).

4. G.R. Elton believes history is a sort of intellectual training, that is, the practice of logic. And like science, history aims to seek truth, contributing to mankind’s development. This is done via rational reconstruction of the past.

5. Prof. Carl Gustavson says that history allows us to look at human behaviour from different perspectives and thus allow for speculations in the future. He also says humans in the present are a culmination of past events, but not completely finished yet (i.e. more development).

6. History allows for the analysis of modern society from different perspectives based on different stages of development of society, norms, etc.

7. Paul Russell believes that certain past events still have an impact on the present, meaning that analysis of present conditions/societies/norms may not be possible without knowledge of past events, hence supporting the value of history as a field of study.

Ranking: 2, 7, 6, 5, 3, 4, 1

Refutation for Reason 1: The study of history in a local (i.e. a country) context may achieve psychological satisfaction for individuals within that local area, allowing for development of collective identity and assimilating individual identity to the collective.


CAS: Reflection

by Yi Nok Ryan on April 15, 2017

A profound CAS experience that extended for more than several weeks would definitely be the new dragonboating team I joined in late February. Being a new sport for me, it seemed OK at first until the coaches really started correcting my techniques. Now it definitely requires more perseverance, determination, endurance and of course fitness if I am to meet/go beyond the expectations/standards set.

As I stopped swimming in Season 1 of the same academic year, our weekly motivational message sent by one of our coaches provoked a time for reflection. This was the message: “You will either experience the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The choice is yours.”

This caused a moment of internal reflection of me because I am aware of my low fitness levels. Most people saw me to be just a bit fat, if not fit (I agree with those views). However, upon numerical analysis I am, by classification, obese: at less than 170cm tall I weigh 75kg, placing me at a BMI of 25-26 (borderline obese, or overweight). My fat percentage removes the possibility of the “all muscle, no fat” justification for the high BMI. Thus, upon seeing this message, I changed from my reflection.

Before this reflection, I was not very active, and did not do anything outside of school to compensate for the lack of activity/exercise. Now, I am (and continue to) do High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout routines at home as well as with the dragonboating team, with the goal to complete 2-3 circuits daily. The overall goal is definitely to achieve a physical balance, so to speak. There has been signs of improvements: I used to weigh in at around 75-76kg, but currently has reduced that to 73-74kg. My goal (not accounting for realistic goals) is to reach around 65kg (short-term 70kg).


TOK: Can Human Sciences Use a Scientific Approach?

by Yi Nok Ryan on April 6, 2017

In the essay/paper “Can Human Sciences Use a Scientific Approach?”, a few key points were made regarding whether a scientific approach is suitable for HS. First, all humans are unique due to the various combinations of chromosomes/genes and therefore behavioural attitudes/responses. Also, free will allows for “variability” in humankind. Therefore, “laws” (such as those we see in the Natural Sciences) will never be able to be applied to every individual. Second, Human Scientists can’t make accurate predictions used to test theories. This is due to the nature of what is inside the Human Sciences. However, it is proposed that HS is just in its infancy, and that further development will allow for more accurate predictions than seen today. Third, HS cannot generate laws because the objects are always moving. Natural Sciences have constants, such as the speed of light. But HS objects are dynamic, such as the psychological condition of a person (it can’t be controlled per se). Fourth, most elements of HS (esp. social elements) cannot be measured numerically like Natural Sciences. The most obvious examples are things like “respect (for elders)” and “social harmony/unity”; any numerical data (like IQ) are questionable in absoluteness. Fifth, there is an unavoidable interaction between subject and scientist. As the subject is not just observed, but usually interacted with as well, it causes the “reliability” and “certainty” to differ from the standards of Natural Sciences. Lastly, social issues can’t be studied like the Natural Sciences because experiments can’t be 100% replicated. Nothing can happen exactly twice (in the context of a complex event like HS experiments).


TOK: Human Science Research Task

by Yi Nok Ryan on April 6, 2017

Post details about your research tasks

RQ for Natural Sciences (Physical Geography): How has the volcanic eruption impacted the overall geographic landscape of the surrounding area?

Hypothesis: In the short term, plants will be destroyed. However, lava and volcanic ash improves the fertility of surrounding landscapes; volcanic soil is very rich in nutrients, stimulating plant growth effectively. Pyroclastic flow (while in its molten state) may shape or alter the surface of the land, although changes are generally small. Rainfall will mitigate temporary damage done to the surrounding environment, and eventually plant life will regrow.

– Account for the blast radius of the volcano
– Take into account immediate changes in the surrounding environment (i.e. loss of plant life); an aerial photo of the landscape would be proficient
– Monitor changes in the ecosystem over an extended period of time (i.e. over the course of 1 year)

Techniques for analyzing your data: Aerial photos of the surrounding area; photos will represent continuous changes in the environment.

RQ for Human Sciences: How has the volcanic eruption affected infrastructural development in the local area?

Hypothesis: A clear hypothesis is hard to make due to the multitude of hazards a volcanic eruption can bring. Some basic predictions will be that non liquid assets in the immediate surrounding area can be vulnerable to some form of natural hazard damage dealt from the volcanic eruption, thus impacting the development, as buildings, cars etc, can easily be damaged. Furthermore, the formation of new surfaces within the area can impact the infrastructure that may be built, due to how new plans will have to be made to take into account any shifts within the earth.

– Through qualitative observations, we will create a list of all of the damages done by the natural disaster
– Asking for a range of experts to create an estimate on the infrastructural damage done to the current standing non liquid assets.
– Doing estimates on damage done to the currently still in development, including but not limited to architectural plans etc

Techniques: Qualitative observations done through a group of human geographers.

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

The reliability/certainty for the Natural Sciences expert will be very high. A lot of the method revolves around quantitative data (i.e. blast radius), and data that may be qualitative can be interpreted quantitatively (ex. the loss of plant life can be seen visually and numerically, such as how many plants were lost in the natural disaster). Therefore, the conclusion will be very numerically based, meaning the knowledge claim will be more absolute.

The reliability/certainty for the Human Sciences expert will be moderate. There is some quantitative element to the data (ex. damage loss in $) but the majority seems very qualitative or subjective (ex. list of damages via qualitative observation, estimates on infrastructural damage). Therefore, the conclusion will not be as numerically based, and will not be definite as well (as some of the data relies on predictions). This reduces certainty, and reliability (to some extent).

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

Numerical data contributes to reliability/certainty. Anything that focuses on predictions will reduce certainty and in some ways reliability. Subjectivity as well. Anything qualitative that is attempted to be interpreted quantitatively will reduce reliability/certainty.

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

Using data that is more numerical, focuses on the present/past without making predictions, objective data.

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

The Human Sciences, in general, is less definite/absolute and “fixed” than the Natural Sciences.


TOK: Math Discovered or Invented?

by Yi Nok Ryan on April 6, 2017

In your opinion, in which other AOKs does it make sense to ask this question of discovered/invented?

In my opinion, it makes sense to ask this question of discovered/invented in any AOKs which are not related to the physical yet natural elements of the world, yet at the same time not completely invented. Essentially, this category of AOKs would include most of the AOKs. The human sciences definitely have some definite areas to which it is invented, and perhaps some less so obvious. For example, psychology would most likely be invented: it studies human interactions, behaviour, etc. which all supposedly manifest within a part of the brain that cannot be physically mapped out (usually – some relating to physical parts of the brain usually fall under medicine). More “physical” aspects may include Economics: the supply-demand relationship is manifested in the real world based on consumption, sales, etc.

What do you make of the term ‘a useful fiction’? To which AOKs do you think this may apply?

I think this term “a useful fiction” is a good way of describing invented fields of Human Science because it may be all “made up”, but still can contribute to understanding certain aspects of life which cannot be physically measured. The first AOK this would apply to would definitely be psychology, followed by the more general sociology. Economics may not fit this description as well as psychology.


TOK: Proof and Axioms

by Yi Nok Ryan on March 13, 2017

To what extent can we consider the AOK of Maths as based on the WOK of faith instead of reason as its main WOK?


TOK: Math Scope

by Yi Nok Ryan on March 13, 2017

What is the difference between a conjecture and a theorem?

A theorem is a general proposition proved by a chain of reasoning (i.e. a truth established by means of accepted truths). A conjecture is similar to a theorem in nature, but is unproven or (in other words) is formed on the basis of incomplete information. In Eduardo Saenz de Cabezon’s TED Talk, he defines the difference based on demonstration.

In the video Eduardo Saenz de Cabezon uses the example of people being surprised that folding a normal piece of paper 50 times, will reach a thickness as high as the sun. He challenges us to ‘do the math’ and see that he is correct. What do you think meant when he said that Maths dominates intuition and tames creativity? Do you agree with this?

The paper example is an example of what Eduardo meant when he said that Maths dominates intuition. Intuition is based on instincts without conscious reasoning, so anything that doesn’t sound instinctively sound is automatically rejected until Maths is used. In essence, the Maths proves what sounds nonsensical sensical. In terms of creativity, I believe he means that Maths reduces the aesthetics of creativity by reducing what seems to be unique/original into something that can be easily interpreted via mathematical equations (ex. Fibonacci sequence, Mandelbrot set). I agree with this: the permanent flaw with intuition as an WOK is that it is not perfect. It is based on instincts and the capability of the human mind, neither of which are perfect; this means intuition is not always correct. As for creativity, I think it has some truth; math equations which interpret artistic patterns do make it seem a bit non-creative or non-artsy.

Saenz de Cabezon claims that the truths in maths are eternal. Do you think this gives maths a privileged position in TOK?

Yes. One of the main conflicts/areas of debate in TOK is Truth/truth. Truth (i.e. with a capital T) denotes absolute truth (i.e. it is “definitely” true, can’t ever be “proven wrong”), whereas truth (i.e. with a lowercase T) denotes relative truth (in the given situation/context, it seems to be true, but development in production of knowledge will almost always disprove it, replacing it with another relative truth; this process continues infinitely). In other words, there is no way of proving it is an absolute truth. By claiming the truths in maths are eternal, he is implying truths in maths are True; this gives maths a privileged position as the general consensus is that all truth claims in TOK are essentially true (lowercase).


CAS: CNY Challenge

by Yi Nok Ryan on March 9, 2017

As the new year has already started, the question of what I want to achieve through my CAS experiences has loomed over me. In other words, how will I challenge myself? This can take place in two ways: through the learning of a new skill, and/or the development and furthering of an existing skill in relation to CAS.

In terms of Action, I would like to learn dragonboating (a new skill). I have done this by trying out with the school Season 3 dragonboating team (and making it in). To proficiently learn this skill, I will be participating in all practices (every Tuesday) unless extraordinary circumstances clash with the practice. I will also try to participate in all the races; I have already signed up for all 3 races available at the moment (end of April – start of May). In addition, there are fitness training sessions which utilise HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) every Monday and Thursday lunch, and so I will attend the Monday lunch sessions (Thursday is reserved for my existing commitment to Symphonic Winds).

In terms of Creativity, I would like to continue developing my skill (mainly) with the piano. I am using the piano as my main instrument for the Music HL recital performances, so consistent practice with the songs that I’m required to perform will suffice.


TOK: Art and Truth

February 21, 2017

Art vs. Science Essay Summary Words can easily be seen as the best way to “tell the truth”, but that doesn’t mean the arts should be disregarded in this aspect. The term truth must be defined: if it only means veritable information, then history and human sciences do the best at “telling the truth”. However, […]

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