TOK – Personal and Shared Knowledge Insight

Our TOK discussed the concepts of both “personal” and “shared” knowledge. Our group came up with very similar definitions as given to us by the teacher after discussion. Shared and personal knowledge is a tricky thing even though the definitions lead us to think it’s something extremely straightforward, but is not straightforward at all. Some of the questions posed to us from the worksheet really made us compare both personal and shared knowledge. After some discussion, we really thought that “something” (an idea) can be shared and personal knowledge, and that shared knowledge is personal knowledge accepted by a wider range of people.

One of the confusions is whether there is personal knowledge we cannot explain. I can’t really think of something that is necessarily impossible to explain, but I can think of things that are extremely difficult to explain. For example, it seems hard to explain why someone is afraid of spiders. This could be because they think they are poisonous, large and scary insects. In a way, someone could be naturally scared of spider for no other reason they can’t explain. For example, I used to be scared of the dark younger but there were really no legitimate reason to that fear. I guess anything can be explained, but it just can’t be explained fully due to the other person not experiencing it themselves. I think this was the most confusing thing we discussed together today. As for usual, it led me to think more about how we share our knowledge and what is actually right and wrong.

Shared knowledge as we discussed can also be false, and have many different perspectives. For example, different scientists may have different interpretations or views on results of a specific experiment or even the start of the universe. If shared knowledge is something “accepted” by people, then which interpretation or which perspective do we believe in. This could also apply to many other subjects like History etc.

Is it really possible to have knowledge of a culture in which we have not been raised?

It is possible to have knowledge in a culture we have not been raised. Being raised in a culture definitely gives a person plenty of personal knowledge. This is because the person would have experienced a lot of customs, food and all the other things connected with a specific culture by themselves. This personal knowledge could have been derived from shared knowledge as other people in the community could have taught him/her about the culture through cultural stories which would be deemed shared knowledge.

Theoretically, it would be possible for a person to learn about a culture. He or she can experience it themselves and have personal knowledge of the culture. This can be done easily through traveling. For example trying other people’s cuisines, visiting temples/churches, learning about history from visiting landmark monuments. Someone can always gain knowledge of something unfamiliar but not necessarily be extremely proficient or have enough knowledge. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines knowledge as being “: information, understanding, or skill that you get from experience or education”. Technically, this means it is completely possible for anyone to gain an understanding of a culture. But I think there is always a grey area in which it doesn’t make sense for someone to truly understand the culture that they had not been raised in. There are many things like cuisine, customs, and local secrets/jokes/myths that are not always published in books or even told to a foreigner that would differentiate the different knowledge processed by a local and a stranger. I think that’s one of the questions to think about, what really is the definition of knowledge in this context? Is it actually to just “know” or to “fully understand”.

One thought on “TOK – Personal and Shared Knowledge Insight

  1. The last question you pose also intrigues me, and that it why I have begun to form a spectrum of knowledge in my head from superficial knowledge to deep understanding, this could in other words be from knowing to fully understanding. As the term “know” is so broad and encompasses many different levels of knowing, I feel in its basic self it means to know the what and where, but once someone understands the how and why it becomes more of an understanding.

    I agree with your discussion on becoming knowledgable about different religions and how there are some aspects that outsiders will not be able to know, for example specific customs. However, what if there was a person who converted religions by him/herself and had no family to teach the wisdom of the culture. Would the person still not fully understand the culture of the religion, although he/she calls the religion his/her own?

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