Scope and Definition of Religion

Religion is one of the ways of knowledge, and I believe that religion is a faith in a the teachings of a higher spiritual being.

There are certain assumptions that are made with the definition that I created. An assumption made is that I am acknowledging the existence of a higher spiritual being, even though a lot of people disagree to the existence of such being. Certain philosophers like Harris share the view that religion was “probably created by a sand strewn men and women who thought the earth was flat.” Moreover, it is difficult to trust people who make false assumptions such as the earth being flat and trusting that there actually is a spiritual being at large. However, it is hard to say that a spiritual being definitely does not exist, because the human race hasn’t been able to prove otherwise through scientific methods.

One of the other assumptions and generalisations I made on about religion is that it is purely about the teachings of a higher spiritual being such as God. The same view is reiterated by Armstrong who describes religion as “summons to action” where you “begin to understand the truths of religion”. However, this view is refuted by some religious philosophers such as Prothero who believes that different religions have different goals, he compares this to the analogy of different sports having different objectives, and goals in mind. However, my definition also fails to consider the general religious notion of salvation, which is the moving away of the soul from the consequences of the sins we commit as humans.
One of the other assumptions I made is that one has to have a strong faith to be considered religion. I think this assumption is valid as a system does not work if no one believes in it, so it is a critical element for people to believe, and be loyal to the views of the religion and the teachings. However, our belief in the religion could affect the production of knowledge, as we have to accommodate and consider religion in the past when conducting research and gathering of information in scientific fields.

TOK – Map Like, and Story Like Knowledge Discussion

History can show characteristics of both map and story like knowledge. The most obvious distinction between the two are that information written on maps are discovered, and stories are created. These two distinctions will be discussed below in order to show where history lies on the spectrum of map like and story like knowledge. Some historians have also made the distinction between map and story like knowledge by comparing history to a science, and other historians comparing the study of history to a type of art.

It can be argued that historical knowledge is more map like knowledge simply because of the collection of factual evidence that occurs in history, that we collect from evidence from the past. Maps and factual historical knowledge share a characteristic of relative objectivity to facts.  Several historians argue that historical knowledge should be as objective and impartial as it can be, and maintained the moral dignity of the historical field. In this case, it makes history more map like, as both are relatively impartial in nature, and is something that is discovered by people and simply recorded as if it “speaks for itself”, as Lepold Van Ranke said.

It can also be argued that historical knowledge is more story like knowledge because of the presence of different historical opinions of a specific historian, as if the historian is telling a story of his own, adding in his opinion along the way. Stories are created by authors, and so are different historical opinions are created by different historians. A simple term to define this all would be the historiography. An example of prominent historiography would be the different schools of thought that was created to place judgment on the origins of the Cold War. For example, Orthodox historians believe the Russians were at fault for the build up of the Cold War, and caused the tensions between the two nations through their Marxist-Leninist driven expansionist policies. All of these historical opinions are created by historians based on their interpretation of the events of the Cold War, rather than information that is discovered by historians. This view can be partly backed up by the historians Charles A Beard and Carl Becker, who believed it was impossible for a historians to remain objective, and believed that history was more of an art than science, that involved some sort of personalisation in nature. EH Carr reiterates this view saying “interpretation is the lifeblood of history”
I think History would lie in between the spectrum of map and story  like knowledge; simply because it has to involve both the more art like characteristics of history, and also involve the more science like characteristics of history. Without the objective facts like science, there wouldn’t be any individual personalisation of the base knowledge that all historians work off. Personally, I believe that history is more of a story like knowledge simply because history would just be “a collection of facts” and mean nothing if interpretations and it’s more art like characteristics did not exist.

TOK – Empathy and History

We were presented with this claim: “The value of knowledge is lost when the lines between fact and fiction are blurred.”

There are some questions to be asked when we first think and consider this claim. For example: what are the boundaries of fact and fiction? Are the constructed opinions of historians fact or fiction? Some knowledge questions pop up from this claim for example: Are historical opinions considered fact or fiction?, Does a combination of fiction and fact impact the value of knowledge created?, Does imagination play a role in affecting the value of knowledge?

I believe this quote means that as we factor in less factual information, ideas and thoughts into our knowledge, the value of the knowledge is slowly lost. Value can possibly mean the validity and reliability of the information, and how much society or an individual places a trust on the information that is provided. I think the word “blurred” means that there is a combination between both fiction and factual information used to construct historical knowledge, arguments.

I think as there is more “fiction” within historical knowledge, more of the value is lost. I cannot seem to categorise whether historical knowledge is fiction or factual information, other than it is information that is created by the historian carefully with a lot of evidence. Basically, I believe historical opinion is an educated guess to what the most plausible answer would be. And as time goes by, this evidence gets lost, and there are more and more gaps in information, and historians have to make the best possible guess to what actually occurred. As less and less information is discovered by historians, the lines between fiction and factual information gets blurred, as the educated guesses by historians get less accurate. I think most historians try to remain to a degree impartial to the facts of the event, but are unable to construct personal historical opinions without stepping out of the boundaries of impartiality.

Although some people may argue that some certain ideas and labels such as the “Middle Ages” are constructed by historians, and is probably a historian’s interpretation of the time era, these ideas and labels help readers and everyday people to understand the past better. It begs to question whether empathy is an appropriate method to use in the gathering of knowledge in the area of knowledge of History. Empathy has been touted as a way for historians to understand the event from the eyes of the people who were there at the time, and be able to understand something beyond the impartial facts that are presented. Keith Barton and Linda Letvisk describes it being able to “contextualise actions”. And by contextualing other’s actions, we’re able to understand the situation better, and report and write a more accurate narrative of events.

Empathy could also lead to strong bias simply due to a personal involvement with the event you are writing about and blur the lines of fact and fiction. For example, Soviet historians typically believe US policies for being causes to the tensions rising between the USSR and the United States. Clearly, this isn’t the only cause of the war, and this bias and empathy torwards their own country can affect the construction of historical opinion. There are more extreme cases to this, but this example is more on the light side, as it is the different historical opinions held by different nationality historians.

Problems Faced by Historians – TOK

Today, we discussed the problems faced by Historians, whether it is the reliability of the information is reliable or not, whether history can have varied interpretations. Me and a partner discussed some of these problems associated with history.

1. Accuracy of Historical Knowledge (This could include the problems of memory, speculation (assumptions) of information, Exaggeration of Information.

2. Varied and Different Interpretations (Different schools of thoughts; Orthodox, Revisionist)

3. Conflicting Information (e.g. the facts of different accounts are different)

4. Significance of a certain historical event (E.g. the holocaust is a more significant event relative to the Serbian genocide)

The problems listed above are some of the problems that may have a threat to our knowledge. I think a lot of the knowledge in our world is considered “historical knowledge”, I think that it has to be somewhat significant to a specific community or the world to be considered “historical”. But I think this idea that historical knowledge is just events that are significant is a social construct, meaning historians choose and select information they want to present to the general public. I think it’s extremely hard to neutralise the threat to knowledge. There are some problems with accuracy of historical knowledge which I think can be “solved” by making the best possible, educated guess from the evidence that is available to historians. Although there are various other problems with knowledge in history such as the significance of a certain historical event, it is really difficult to solve these problems simply because there is simply events that are deemed by our society in general to be less important that are not reported or talked about as often.

In fact, I think these problems could contribute to the diversity and dynamic nature of history. For example, it may seem very bad to have varied and different interpretations of an event, but actually the different interpretations of an event help us develop a more objective view into an event.

Reasons to Study History – TOK Discussion

We were introduced to the 7 reasons we should study history in TOK class, and it got me thinking why did I actually choose history as an IB DP subject. These 7 reasons are reasons formulated by various historians. I will rank all the reasons based on how important I think they are. I think all of these reasons are legitimate, and the importance of each reason is really up for anyone’s own interpretation and can be influenced by their own experiences with history as a subject.

  1. Augustin Thierry believed that patriotism and nationalism were one of the main reasons that we should study history as it provides us with a sense of security and a better outlook to the future.

I do think it is somewhat to learn about your nation’s history and it gives students, historians a sense of pride in their history, culture. I’m particularly interested in Hong Kong history, as it allows me to better understand my own country and culture. But, I believe that we should not study history only from our own countries, or else you will have a very limited view of the world around you. Therefore I place it 6th out of 7th.

2. Marwick talks about the importance of self knowledge of an individual and important to have memory in a society, which helps maintain and provides a construct to the society.  

I think this is quite a legitimate reason to be able to have knowledge of our society as without knowledge there wouldn’t be a society. I think it’s important to pass down knowledge to each and every next generation. Some may argue this knowledge is passed down through texts written by historians, but without knowledge about society and past, society will just be a useless structure holding everyone together for no reason. Therefore, I place this reason as the 4th reason out of 7

3. RG Colingwood talks about the importance of self knowledge, being aware of one’s self, being able to notice the differences between self and others. This knowledge helps us learn about what mankind is.

I think this reason is very similar to having self identity via the learning of one’s culture. This is really similar to Marwick’s thoughts on the importance of “memory” in a society, or else there wouldn’t be really any society. As this is really similar to the reason above, I place it as the 5th reason out of 7.

4. GR Elton believes that history provides the mind with intellectual training. The nature of history forces humans to constantly seek the truth, which helps set certain standards, and provide the training for the mind.

I think this is one of the most important parts to the reason why we study history to most people. I think history helps us develop logical reasoning skills, and allow us to construct sound arguments. The abundance of different opinions by different historians also encourages us as humans to constantly question and find the real truth behind a past event. Therefore, I rank it 2nd of 7th.

5. Carl Gustavon believes that history provides us with perspectives on human behaviour, and be able to look into the future of the human race.

I don’t think it’s too important to make assumptions on the future as the other reasons on this list. I just don’t think the main purpose of history is to speculate about the future, rather to be aware of the present and the past. Though I have to agree that it is important to look at the progress and development of humans as a civilisation. Therefore I rank it 7 out of all 7 reasons.

6. The study of patterns, and the progression of human civilisation by looking into past society.

I think it is also quite interesting to also compare our lives with the people from the past, and identify whether there are similarities and differences between society now and before. I think this is important as it justifies our look into the past, and helps us make assumptions of future events, though less accurate than models in human sciences like economics. Therefore I rank it as the third reason out of the 7 reasons presented.

7. Understanding the daily lives of citizens during a specific time and during an event.

I think it’s important to understand the daily lives of citizens during a specific time during an event. I think this is an important source of information that is different from a conventional textbook. The daily lives of citizens is what helps us really understand the impact of a certain event on the population, the living conditions, in order to be fully immersed into what had happened. After all, I think history is just the chronicling and discussion of the interaction between people. Therefore, I rank it the top reason out of the 7th reason.

 

TOK – What is the AOK of History?

We started discussing and learning about one of the last areas of knowledge: History. History has always really been one of the subjects I’ve enjoyed at school, and is the subject I’m writing my Extended Essay on, so I think my understanding of history is good. We did a diagnostic quiz where we answered whether a claim was true or false and what you u

One of the claims presented particularly intrigued me: “Since historians write about past events, they are trapped in their own imagination.” I think historians do sometimes exaggerate events, facts and opinion but they obviously don’t come from their own imagination. Writing about past events is actually an advantage to a historian because there is a benefit of hindsight which allows the historian to go through different selections of sources and make a better interpretation than without the availability of certain sources. For example, the opening of Soviet archives allowed historians to make a better interpretation of the events surrounding the Cold War.

Some people may argue history is not worth studying because there is no one definite answer, and question whether a historian is qualified to give us his opinion, or is it just bogus imagination. I believe what historians say are definitely not bogus, as they are backed up with extensive research and evidence in support of his view and ideas. The different opinions of different historians are important to understand the full picture of the event. By learning about the different schools of thought, we are able to understand the event better. For example, there are different schools of thought for the cause of the cold war, orthodox for historians who believe the Soviet Union was the aggressor, or Revisionist for historians who believe the United States was at fault. By understanding the reasons behind the historian’s view, we have a better understanding of the full picture. Therefore, I believe historians are not trapped in their own imagination, but have evidence backed imagination.

Some people would still be confused to why historians are allowed to tell us what they think of the event. Should we, as a a population be only provided with objective facts and be allowed to make an interpretation on our own? This would allow the people to make their own judgement based on individual morals, ethics, while historians will attempt to instill their own values into the people through their opinions. For example, a Chinese historian’s view on the Chinese Cultural Revolution is going to be very different from a Western historian.

7 Threats to Ethics: Unreasonable Demands

I think the unreasonable demands is the most practical problem in the threat of ethics which relate to our everyday life. I think this has to do with the problems of our everyday lives. We place so many unreasonable moral principles on ourselves to follow. What is the use of moral principles if we often break them? This contradicts the idea that we need to be consistent in our moral decisions, and not to be different in one situation and be the other way in another situation.

For example, the common moral principle not to lie. Most people “claim” to be agreement to the moral principle of “one should not lie”. This moral principle is unreasonable as most people lie in certain scenarios for certain purposes. Is telling a white lie a bad thing, in order to protect one person. A lie of ill intent I think everyone would agree is morally unjust. For example, in a hostage situation, would telling a lie be wrong? Or would telling the truth be right. This begs us to question why we should have a universal code of principles, and who is obliged to follow these principles.

Another example would be the unreasonable demand for businesses to follow demands made by a certain group of people. An unreasonable moral principle would be “that it is unethically wrong to kill cows in-humanely.” This would be an unreasonable demands for businesses to increase costs of production because it affects one group of people e.g. vegans.

All these logical inconsistencies exist in our life which make us question whether ethics even exist, and whether it is just a set of rules. Why shouldn’t we just create our own morals or ethics? I believe this is the most significant threats to ethics as it relates to our real lives and how there are logical inconsistencies in our everyday lives.

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Claims in Maths and Ethics – Which One is More Justified?

Claims in maths and claims in ethics are inherently different, though they shared similarities. Some of the similarities that both share is the existence of assumptions; in mathematics it is axioms, and in ethics it is moral principles.  The claims in ethics makes judgements to whether something is right or wrong from the assumption that moral principles are always established, and correct.

We never question axioms, or moral principles whether in maths or ethics. Axioms are established facts in maths. Moral principles are claims established by our society to what is right or wrong.

Some claims in maths are a priori, which means that they are independent from experience, something that hasn’t been necessarily “proven”. To prove something in math, one would have to provide an algebraic proof to a concept in order for it to be considered a truth in maths. Many “claims” in math are a priori, as they are not necessarily algebraically proven, but still regarded as true at some times, through the deductive reasoning, and proof of exhaustion. For example, the prime numbers.

Both claims in maths and claims in ethics have flaws in the assumption that what we base our knowledge off is somewhat unquestionable.

Claims in maths are usually driven by evidence and reason. Ethics can also be driven by evidence and reason, but Lewis also states the existence of the “law of nature”, where moral laws don’t need to be introduced to people as they naturally understand them. Can we necessarily back up something that is just supposed to be “natural” or do we ever need reason in order to justify truths. If we incorporate reason into ethics, it would make the moral principles inconsistent. Reason in ethics is not about the “facts”, and create logical inconsistencies. It creates logical inconsistencies because a anti-homosexuality activist would say it is unnatural for humans to engage in these actions. Would this reason mean that he also does the support the notion of abortion?
Therefore, reason in maths do not encounter these problems, therefore I believe that reasons in maths are more justified, though there are advantages and disadvantages.

TOK Mini Presentation Wrap Up – My Take on Why Ethics is Not Relevant in Religion

Our response to the presentation was different because we split off the sections. I was in charge of responding whether ethical questions were not relevant in the AOK of religion. I had two thoughts on this matter; one being that every individual has their own interpretation of the teachings of the Bible and God, and there wouldn’t be any need for shared ethical code, as one would create his/her own ethical code by reading the Bible. Therefore, there needs to be no shared ethical code, as there are many interpretation of a religious text. For example there are many interpretation of jihad. Some Muslims interpret it as an internal struggle, but some Muslims interpret it as a holy war. The lack of consistency in interpretation creates a sense of the lack of shared ethical code among all believers of one faith.

My other thought that as that ethical decisions might not be completely relevant in religion being that religion is just a set of rules made up by higher being that we are forced to believe is ultimately fool proof and can certainly be deemed morally right or wrong. But in fact, in many cases the teachings of the Bible do not adhere to the current moral rights and wrongs of society. For example, gay marriage is becoming more and more of something that is not deemed morally wrong, but morally acceptable. This is a flaw in the ethical arguments, decisions that are set out by religion, as they lack adherence to societal morals. But how can an ethical decision change over time when a moral argument is supposed to be consistent? Are ethical decisions set out in religion eternal?
My impression from the other AOK’s my group members have thought about is that there are flaws in every AOK. But I do believe it is hard to omit ethics from religion even though there are arguments against the presence of ethics in religion.

Moral Judgements: Ethics

We were introduced to a set of criteria for whether something is a moral judgement or not.

For a judgement to be moral, other people’s interests must be involved, either directly or indirectly.

An argument for this would be the idea that “as long as it doesn’t affect others” then it is okay. Because morals are just a social construct, what is accepted in society, it would make sense for

For example spilling water on the ground would not constitute as a moral situation or even be a moral, and would not be considered morally incorrect at all. But if I spilled water onto someone else, it would make it a moral situation and obviously be morally incorrect.

A counter argument for this would be whether something that only affects an individual be considered a type of moral judgement. Everything we do has a in-direct effect on society, even if this indirect effect on society is small. It would be hard to determine whether a situation was a moral argument or situation. For example, if I kicked the ball around my room without anyone in my presence. Even though it seems like I am not affecting someone else, the people downstairs can hear me kicking my ball and would complain if I keep doing it over and over again consecutively. I wouldn’t consider it a moral argument, but since it does have an effect on the

An argument for “freedom of action” would refers to a situation where a person doesn’t have control over the situation. A situation that would support this theory and claim would be the train tack scenario where one’s decision either way would kill a person. Thus, one should be held responsible for his actions. Thus, making it not a moral situation, or making it morally just for him to choose between the two decisions.

An counter argument for freedom of action would be child soldiers and people are forced to fit under war lords. Would their actions of killing their parents and fellow villagers be deemed morally right because they didn’t have the freedom to chose what they did?I don’t think so the lack of freedom of action justifies the moral right of their actions.

One of the other criteria to determine whether an action is morally right or wrong would be the intentionality of something. Intentionality plays a large role in determine whether an action is right or wrong. For example, the difference between spilling a drink on someone accidentally and forcefully pouring it onto someone else. Forcefully pouring it onto someone would make it morally incorrect compared to spilling a drink on someone accidentally.

A counter argument would be the crime of manslaughter. Would manslaughter be morally right if it was not intentional? If it was morally right, it wouldn’t be illegal to kill someone, but clearly any form of death as caused by others either by a car crashes. Even though the manslaughter might have been unintentional in a car crash, the negligence of the driver  makes us question whether manslaughter would be considered morally right, though unintentional in nature.

The criteria also states that the fact that something is morally incorrect or correct has to stay consistent throughout. You can’t say that today it is morally right, and next year it isn’t. This consistency is shown in the english legal system where case law is extremely important,  where previous decisions made by judges are cited in newer cases to keep the judicial decisions consistent.

A counter argument to the consistency of moral acts would be the legalisation of illegal drugs such as marijuana in the United States. For many years, smoking or taking marijuana was frowned upon among the public. After the legalisation of marijuana, it is no longer morally incorrect to take the drug. This shows that it can’t be consistent because morals are a social construct, and social constructs frequently change.

It makes us question whether these criteria can determine what is right or wrong in morals. I think the implications of my observations would be that these criteria are not flawless, but are good indicators to whether something is morally right or wrong.

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