TOK Reflection #14: Math Scope

The Differing Definitions of Conjecture and Theorem:

I’m not a mathematically oriented person, so don’t rely on me for the answer. Actually, no. TOK is not supposed to be subjective and biased, so I will answer it. According to the great Merriam-Webster founded by the great Charles and George Merriam, with the dictionary created by Noah Webster, conjecture means an inference formed without proof or sufficient evidence, whereas theorem is a theory. Actually, the official definition is: a formula, proposition, or statement in mathematics or logic deduced or to be deduced from other formulas or propositions. There we go. The meaning of the two words defined in several seconds.

Response to the mind-blowing TedX Video:

I believe what Saenz de Cabezon meant that ‘Maths dominates intuition and tames creativity’ is that numbers as a result of calculating a problem proves what your originally thought as the answer (intuition) as wrong. It’s a funny way how the cerebral grey matter works, because when we think of something as wrong, we stop thinking about it, but not in the right way, but the opposite. By doing that, that effectively destructs creativity as we are not thinking rationally. Do I agree with him? I might not me a mathematically oriented person, but I agree with him partially, not all the time. Whenever I do maths (thank god it’s not Maths HL), before I complete a math question or even start writing down my working, I use this process in my brain which is where I read the question carefully, then I think of what mathematical formula I might use, and then I proceed to write down my working. But even before doing that, I think about what result it will come out as. Will it be an OTT number or a reasonable number? This is where intuition works in math and it helps me greatly in knowing whether I’ve done correct math or not (math is a game, so even if I failed in previous years, I need to do well in Math Studies). But I do not believe that a math student, whether in Studies, SL or HL should guess the answer, because it can lead to wrong numbers and can flunk you in math (it only works in SAT when you don’t have time or don’t even know the answer). For creativity, math requires it, because who would have thought of all those weird formulae and symbols that we are not able to make sense of? We see math everyday, but it would only be the smart mathematicians that would be able to think of the deeper meanings of it through math.

Do I think maths are eternal and it gives maths a privileged position in TOK? No, I don’t think so. Why? Just because truths are eternal doesn’t mean that it should be given a higher status, whether math is a subject that most people take over the humanities. This is because every AOK, whether you like it or not has truths which one must accept forever. For example, in history, we all know that Hitler was a cruel and heartless dictator and that will be eternal. In physics, we all know that the law of gravity founded by Newton is eternal. In conclusion, just because something is eternal does not mean that we shouldn’t focus our attention on a single AOK, as other AOKs also gives us knowledge, but differently. And even if society collapses in the future, all the laws and theories that we created will still remain true for thousands of millennia. Unlike conjectures, theorems are applicate to infinite possibilities and will eternally be true and true until whenever.

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TOK Reflection #13: Art and Truth

Essay #1: Art vs Science

This fascinating essay written by a certain person describes how like science, art is able to convey information about human experience to the audience. Although non-linguistic art forms (such as painting, photography, music) are not able to convey truth by speaking in their language (they are not physical live objects), they can still convey truth realistically to the extent that the viewers can feel what is being portrayed. Furthermore, the essay also suggests that the ability to non/linguistic art to portray the real thing of something also depends on what it means to be truthful. Truth is more than a precise explanation or relation, it expresses the emotions, experiences and conditions of humans. Truth is what has happened to countless individuals, but how historical events ere perceived by humans, and what impact those events might have on different individuals.

Essay #2: Art and Truth

This essay argues that artists have the ethical responsibility to convey the truth, and nothing but the truth, because although art might not be valued highly, it is a powerful medium which goes beyond the range or limits of language, as art can convey the artist’s feelings and emotions when creating an artistic piece. Although all art that we see, read, hear, feel convey strictly truthful truths and nothing but the truthful truths (for example, a history paintings might tell us about a certain historical event, literature can tell us about the political, social and economical conditions of a society), art can at times exaggerate what we think to be truth as artists can censor viewpoints of certain things (for example, artists that might be prejudiced against something or strong about their political beliefs might decide to not include something that they don’t agree with). Furthermore, it also argues whether there is even the need to find truth in art and whether it’s necessary to find meaning and purpose. Overall, it argues that art just naturally exists and there is no need to name whether there is truth or knowledge in the artistic work.

How do the essays correspond to chapter reading?

In both essays, it talks about how art is not intended to convey the truth, and nothing but the truth. The chapter reading also suggests that no matter whether the artistic piece of work is real and nothing but really real, it cannot convey truths. Furthermore, it also suggests that art is nothing but itself (Magritte’s Ceci n’est pas une pipe). As Picasso once said, ‘We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realise truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies’. Here, he means that all art is a lie that only lets us know the truth, but the truth is given to us to understand, not to know. In conclusion, all three fascinating texts classify art as not serving the brain a favour, but to tell visual truths by communicating non-linguistically.

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TOK Reflection #12: What is Art?

Today, I’ll be exploring the claim “There is no real purpose for the arts”, providing an argument in support and one against.

An argument for this is the fact that art doesn’t have purpose, which is true, because knowledge is not being conveyed about something. Yes, there might be paintings of historical figures and scenes, but we are only shown what it is, not explained by the painting what caused the event. When we look at this statement, we know that we have the stereotypical view that knowledge can only come from the empirical and verifiable knowledge from subjects like science (because scientists observe and deduce). But art cannot be compared to this, as it is open to interpretation and in fact, it actually provides what scientists called proof through different types of medium, whether a painting or a poster or a flyer or a piece of toilet paper. A journal might inform us the state of the plants in the Amazon forest, whereas in art, a painter can possibly go to the Amazon forest and express this through either a simple sketch or painting. Although they might show the same things, one of these subjects (drumroll), in this case science, is more knowledgeable than art because you are expressing yourself through art, whereas in science you are expressing yourself based on facts (which is more logical and rational). In conclusion, although art can show the same things as what a scientist or historian tells you, art are objects or interpretations or expressions which doesn’t have a lot of function or intent, because of its limitedness in interpretation.

An argument against this claim is the fact that there is a purpose of art. Although we might think: Why do we like it? What does it do for us? It doesn’t keep us alive or safe. Is does not help us find the hottest and sexiest girl in the universe. It doesn’t help us advance our career goals. It doesn’t help me decide whether to vote for a misogynistic man or a corrupt corporate Democrat. Then why are we so enamoured by it to the extent that some of us marry objects (there have been several cases of this happening in the last few months and years)?

A simple response to this, which is common consensus in our society, is that there is a purpose in art, because it gives us pleasure. We can stand in front of a grand master’s painting or listen to Wagner and all the great composers to be delighted or watch Sergei Eisenstein’s Russian propaganda or Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho to be horrified and angry to some extent. Although we might weep or cover our heads with our bedsheets or shout because of the things that are portrayed, it is still art right? You can’t deprive a person’s right to express themselves or to view art. That is censorship, something that should not happen in a democratic society. But an even better definition for this is that art should move us, stimulating emotions. Of course, everything that we see, do, feel might not be art, but nonetheless art and the human psychology are causally connected. Good art is reliable in this, while weaker art is not. If nobody likes a sculpture, can it still be art? Yes, because you can admire why the artist decided to sculpt such a hideous sculpture. What if most people consider it bland and boring? It is still art, because you can admire why the painter or author might decide to craft such a piece. For example, Kafka’s works, such as Metamorphosis and The Castle are considered boring, because they are either slow placed, monotonous and they repeat the same information over and over again. But nonetheless, there are many that consider his works as a piece of art.

In creating art, the artist is an important part of the equation and their intent seems important if they are to move us. Some artists just produce what they feel without further thought, and many manage to communicate it well enough to the extent that we might want to kiss the painting or vent our anger at it. Some artists might use arcane symbolism to get across what they want you to feel, while other artists might just use standard techniques and devices to express their feelings. Furthermore, other forms of art may also stimulate thinking and even change minds, rather than just provoke emotion. Perhaps a broader definition again is needed. We have a basic need for arousal, something that is crucial for humans, because without that, how can we ever stay joyful and optimistic? This arousal can be emotional, intellectual or even physical, which is something that art seeks to satisfy. So is talking and talking non stop art? It can certainly be intentional and skilful. True, there is no physical trace to it as we are just moving our mouths to the extent that the listener doesn’t want to listen or doesn’t like your bad breath as with painting, but the same can be said in performing arts such as acting and dance.

Art also suggests to us that the artist is a creative person. Copying another painting may require us to train many years to achieve the quality of our Old Masters (famous European artists), but that is still art as you are expressing yourself too. Stimulation is far greater when there is novelty. A joke (for example your mom jokes) are not as funny the second time, as we get the joke and even the pleasure of good paintings fades, because we might have seen a piece of art multiple times to the extent that we don’t find anything pleasing about it. A characteristic of novelty is that it breaks all the rules in the book, yet it also follows enough other rules to be recognisable (which is perhaps why ‘art for artists’ is not appreciated by others).

Does art exist even without someone to look at it extensively? If arousal is required the answer must be no, not in the sense of the artwork’s success. And if the viewer’s opinion is a part of the process, then the art should create some kind of appreciation, mostly positive in tone but possibly also a grudging acknowledgement that the art made the person stop and think.

The purpose of art, then, is to stimulate arousal that is appreciated. Good art does this reliably, often in a novel way, and usually requiring deep skill. Art is a aspect of our culture that we can never understand fully, as there are multiple mediums to express ourselves to the extent where we question: Is that really art? It is an aspect of life that still makes us curious about it. Perhaps the question: What is art? can never be answered in the next millennia.

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TOK Reflection #11: Competing hypotheses with science

Before we answer the claim “With claims in science, there is always a trade-off between accuracy and simplicity’, we need to understand what accuracy and simplicity means. Accuracy is the state where everything is accurate, and being accurate means being accurate. The official definition of the word means the state of being correct and precise. Simplicity is the condition of being simple, and being simple means being simple. The official definition is the condition of being easy to understand or do. Whether I agree with this statement, I 1000% agree. Why? Because I believe that accuracy is directly proportional to simplicity and vice versa.

A good example of this is always in the field of history and politics. Many of us have some point in our lives taken history classes, whether in lower or upper grades, in kindergarten (probably not) or G12, at age 5 (bit too sensitive) or age 16 so on and so forth. When we are in lower grades, we might not be told a great amount of information, because number one, we might be too young to understand certain concepts and number two, we might be sensitive to certain aspects of the history. Thus, the history teacher will tell you the facts of the event, but not in great detail, or as we historians like to say, the why, the how and the what, or in other words, the cause and effect. For example, your history teacher might say that WWI was a war between the Entente (Britain, France, America, Russia etc) and the Central Powers (German Empire, Austro-Hungarian Empire, Ottoman Empire) that started in 1914 and ended on 1918, and then he or she won’t go any further than that. Here, the accuracy of information is simplified for simplicity. To make this more accurate, we will have to go back to the crises prior to the war, then to the Balkan Wars and to the alliances and all that information which most probably will make us sleep.

Like all the claims in the scientific field of PhiChemBi, this holds true, as scientific claims can also be simplified for better understanding among people who might not totally grasp the confusing aspects of some theories. And when ones have a heavily developed mindset and have studied the subjects profusely, the explanation of the claim can be greatly enhanced to include all these different variables. In conclusion, the field of accuracy and simplicity is one that interests most of us, because it allows us to not only understand things step by step, but to question whether what we get is accurate enough to be totally believed if its influenced by emotional factors.

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TOK Reflection #10: Problems with Observation and Confirmation bias

The claim that ‘Science is objective and descriptive, while the arts are creative and interpretive’ is interesting but controversial at the same time. In my own opinion, I believe that the upper half of the claim is not true, whereas the bottom half of the claim is spot on. Let us explore several real life examples which back up my opinions regarding this fascinating claim.

Sciences does not mean the usual PhiChemBi, it can be things like forensic sciences, political sciences, environmental sciences, areas which are not taken into account by the science field mainly because they are not the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment, as most of the knowledge derived is from personal knowledge or confirmation biases instead of legit scientific methods. The example we will be exploring to oppose the fact that science is objective and descriptive is forensic sciences, which relates to or denoting the application of scientific methods and techniques to the investigation of crime. We might all think that as a criminal defense attorney, nothing is as it seems. The exaggerated stories that you hear from witnesses? Totally happened. The stuff that you thought was fact? It actually is not. This is true for everything that you know about forensic ‘science’, where the truth is, apart from DNA testing, that there is virtually zero ‘science’ (zero if you didn’t get that) involved. But why is that?

This is because handwriting, bitemark, fire pattern, blood spatter, bullet and tool marking analysis are all open to subjective interpretation. This means that when we allow testimonies with the use of this ‘science’ during a trial, we’re allowing the jury to pit an expert’s credibility with the account of the defendant. Considering the fact that these supposed ‘experts’ are most commonly educated, middle or upper class, white and male, and most of the defendants come from disadvantaged backgrounds, you can guess how the jury (also made up of white folk) will decide the case. It’s usually for the accuser. But it’s not just the expert’s testimony that is skewed against the defendant. This is because requesting testing will skew the results too. Crime labs usually work for both sides in a trial, but the problem is that testing is submitted by the district attorney (in the States) of the particular jurisdiction where the crime was committed. Therefore, information about the case will be provided so as to perform testing on physical evidence. For example, say that you have clothing that you want tested for trace DNA, it would be helpful to know that the victim had been strangled, and so they should look for DNA near the collar of the shirt. But the problem with this is that it can be biased about the defendant, and thus what information is told is what the police suspect happened, and what they expect to find. Even more the fascinating lab technicians analyse the evidence, the prosecution is already looking for a particular outcome so as to get it done ASAP. Furthermore, when the prosecutor comes to the lab daily asking for tests, the lab will tend to treat these people better, just like how a barista might be friendly to his/her regulars. Saying this, the lab will tend to favour the prosecution, because it’s most often the State that’s asking for tests right? Not the disenfranchised minorities or the underprivileged, but the rich, white prejudiced folk. Because of all this, what results is a system that favours fraudulent science as a way of solving crimes and thus hinders the defence without giving them an opportunity to make their case towards the old man or woman judging the case.

As for the arts, the entire goal of it is for someone to express themselves freely using whatever medium they see fit, from posters to a simple drawing, and although some might not understand why the artist decided to draw such thing, for example Claude Monet, who was derided by critics because his paintings were formless and unfinished, a painting, no matter whether it is ugly or odd, can be open to interpretation. For example, The Ugly Duchess painted in 1513 by Quentin Matsys. Although we know that the Ugly Duchess had Paget’s disease, which explains the deformed bones, why Quentin Matsys decided to paint such a hideous painting we have no idea, and thus, because it generates intrigue amongst society, it is open to interpretation over what was the real reason for Matsys to paint such thing apart from the study of grotesquery. In conclusion, I do not think that there can be any other claim for art that can refute the above statement, because if you think about it, would descriptive art and uninterpretable art be appealing to us as humans? This is a question that can be interesting to answer.

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TOK Reflection #9: Pseudoscience

Today we will be briefly talking about the distinction between ‘what is’ and ‘is not’ Art and analysing the claim “Similar to the question of what is art, the distinction between science and pseudoscience is also not clear’. First of all, we have to make things clear first, that science and art have different characteristics, it is not because we don’t understand the concept well enough that we are unable to distinguish what is what and what is not, but because there are a variety of ways one can interpret the concept and also because these are highly complex fields where practitioners themselves have been questioned over the things that they produce or formulate, by that I mean artists criticising one another, scientists criticising one another, which can be heated and thus creates a lot of confusion and debate over whether fringe ideas or productions should be widely accepted. With that being said, let us explore two of the world’s most interesting and controversial subjects.

As mentioned before, natural science is different than art, as science requires objectivity to be able to be believed, while art is a subjective area of creativity, where everyone is able to criticise whenever or whoever they want just because something might not look appealing. That’s why these two subjects are so interesting. If someone’s art is denounced but other people call it art, then what really is ‘art’? If a scientific claim is denounced, but other people call it science because there is evidence, then what really is ‘science’? As mentioned, people debate ‘is’ and ‘is not’ art based on what they see visually and whether it is aesthetically appealing. For example, Claude Monet was derided by critics when he first revealed his famous landscape paintings, with many saying that they were formless, unfinished and ugly. But then people now study and appreciate it in art colleges, so does that not mean its art. Furthermore, Edvard Munch’s Scream might be ugly because of its bizarre expressiveness and because there is no form whatsoever because of its hasty use of colour, but it managed to be sold for $120 million in an auction because someone admired it as a piece of art. Again, what is art if ugly art is appreciated? Another piece of ugly art is The Ugly Duchess. We might be disgusted because of the wrinkled skin and withered breasts, but nonetheless, it is art that is kept by the National Gallery. Again, what is art if ugliness is appreciated modern day? What really defines art? Therefore, art, in my own opinion, is based on how one perceives it, but it doesn’t mean it’s not clear, because some people might be able to explain why something is or ‘is not’ art. But if one cannot explain why they think the way they do, then the distinction between two objects is not always clear.

As for science and pseudoscience, again, I do not believe that the comparison between them is not not clear, because what they believe or try to prove is based upon deductive reasoning, where through analysing a substantial amount of evidence, and adapting based on previous knowledge, conclusions can be drawn. If one cannot back up anything with evidence then it is not clear because there is no structure to it. An example of where science is able to be backed up by evidence is the highly debatable Theory of Evolution created by Darwin. His theory was based upon his speculation that a land mammal can be turned into a whale, which scientists know that Darwin had the right idea of a bear turning into a whale, just that he looked at the wrong animal. The story of the origin of whales is one of the best examples that scientists have of natural selection. After making expeditions, researching and experimenting, he came up with the theory that populations evolve over the course of generations through the process of natural selection, where organisms better adapted to the environment tend to survive and produce more offspring. Despite criticism from the church that humans and animals are unrelated and were all created by God, the scientific community has found evidence to support this, which suggests that any claims by creationists cannot render the theory of evolution as false. But if someone manages to actually prove that natural selection is not true and everything was derived from God, then what happens to all the knowledge that we’ve been taught in Grade 7, in biology about natural selection? By proving our fundamental understanding of biology as incorrect, that means everything we’ve been taught in biology, although backed up by evidence is also viewed as false! Then that would mean that we are not even humans or organisms or what not and we are just some random part of the universe that just came here without knowing what we were doing here. That would be a disaster.

Going back to the comparison between pseudoscience, again, like science, pseudoscience draws speculations and conclusions before testing, Although what they use is based upon inductive reasoning instead of deductive reasoning, the distinction is clear, because at times, some of their theories or beliefs have been backed up by evidence. For example, Chinese medicine fits into this. Chinese doctors believe that certain herbs and using sloughed snake skin and a variety of bizarre remedies will cure one of their diseases, which is backed up by the fact that it has existed for thousands of years and has been tested many times, for example, the use of sloughed snake skin to cure eye infections, sore throat, haemorrhoids etc was described in Shennong Ben Cao Jing (The Classic of Herbal Medicine), dated 100 AD. Although there is evidence that might disprove that their remedies work, they are able to find ‘reasons’ why it doesn’t work the way it is supposed to, for example, saying that it takes time and the healing process doesn’t occur right away. Chinese medicine’s ability to have dozen of claims around it and criticisms being able to be dodged helps it in distinguishing it clearly from science. Science is backed up by theory, whereas pseudoscience is backed up by inductions, but where is validity is hard to challenge because reasons can be made to prove that it works. Thus the claim that what ‘is’ art and ‘is not’ art and science vs pseudoscience is not clear I do not believe is correct, as there is evidence on both opposing sides as to why they think the way they do, making everything clear for people who wish to delve into such interesting debates.

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TOK Reflection #8: Intro to NS

Natural Science is an interesting AOK in that it differs radically from others. Instead of gathering knowledge from one method, it utilises multiple ones. But are the natural sciences reliable at all or are they just a bunch of conspiracy theories formulated through made up evidence that doesn’t exist? This is something that we will explore below, how different it is and whether it is reliable or not.

It is obvious that no matter whether we are science-oriented people or social science oriented, natural science is the most reliable out of all the AOKs and possibly even in science (disregard the conspiracy theory part, it was just a joke). This is because the natural sciences use  inductive reasoning in order to prove a claim or to create a theory out of nowhere that is backed up by circumstantial evidence. Inductive reasoning works because an observation is made and a hypothesis is created before a random brainy scientist concludes that what they were investigating is indeed true. Inductive reasoning also works for human sciences where hypothesises need to be made to come up with a conclusion. For example, economics and politics are the best in applying this. Right now, in the United States, we see the Trump administration trying to push forward a tax reform bill which they say will provide relief to the middle class which has been harmed by the high tax burden on them. That’s their hypothesis, as they are predicting something. Although there are various procedures and legislative measures that need to be done to pass this completely, if one reads the whole bill or reads the summary and listens to the Democrats, educators, tax attorneys etc, they will say that the tax reform is nothing more but a tax break for the wealthy and an increase in debt. There is a hypothesis, then after investigation, a conclusion is made. Simple as that. But the problem with inductive reasoning in these fields is that humans are unpredictable and results could be affected by free will, as there are no laws or whatsoever that control. But that is a whole other problem. None of that. We are doing a comparison, not an introduction to another concept.

Comparing natural sciences with history, history is about the past world, and analysing the actions and events of our past world. There is no knowledge in history that we don’t know if available to us, but up to one historian’s job to gather all this information and compile into his or her own subjective interruption of a past event. Furthermore, in history, the knowledge that is accepted is either not very flexible or is not the product of the work of the people who researched the topic beforehand. Therefore, we can conclude that natural sciences and human sciences are much more different as it focuses on our evolving world around us.

All in all, Natural Sciences is an AOK focused on helping us better understand the physical world around us through an experiment and induction based system focused on the physical world while the human sciences are based mostly on observations and fact based knowledge, as it focuses on the study of human behaviour, or to simplify it, analysing why humans act as they do.

 

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TOK Reflection #7: Faith and Intuition

Faith and Intuition. What do they even mean? The literal meaning of faith is when we have faith in someone, that is when we put our complete trust or confidence in someone or something. This is most commonly seen in religion, where one views things based on spiritual conviction rather than hardcore evidence. But it does not have to be limited to religion itself and can be applied in different sectors, for example politics, where one has a biased view on the world and is inclined to support one particular side of the political spectrum without compromising or being accepting of the other. As for intuition, it is associated with instinct, where we understand something without taking into account the need for conscious reasoning. It is the gut feeling or as the second Nanny McPhee film pointed out in one of the scenes where the character knew that their father did not die in the war, “I feel it in my bones”.

But sadly, as we all know, the world that we live in today was not designed to be 100% perfect. If it was, we wouldn’t have all these problems of religious and ideological extremism , bigotry, fake news, lies etc etc. But that’s a whole other story that is not TOK thinking (as it’s my own personal belief). The basic problem from both faith and intuition as a WOK is almost everything, from unproven scientific claims to outrageous conspiracy theories about the JFK assassination which is basically what I said would not talk about, but now I will talk about. As mentioned, our beliefs aren’t always true, but we feel with great certainty that it is true. But knowing does not make anything necessarily true, because our mental state only represents the way we see things, not controlling it. Beliefs that are strongly felt can be false. For example, I was inclined to believe that Reaganomics actually worked for America and stimulated the economy, but after reading articles about it, it seems that my belief is false and it actually contributed to income inequality in the US and the increase in debt (my political views have changed drastically from capitalist in G7 to socialist in G10-11 and infinity and beyond). But obviously how we feel is real, because if they weren’t, then we would be living in this dystopian world where there is no such things as emotion.

There are many valid reasons as to why we might question faith as a way of knowing knowledge. We want to believe things that we want to be true, and thus, as studies show, we interpret ambiguous knowledge that benefits our own interests (eerily similar to corporate greed). That’s perfectly fine as it is a common human trait. Also, it fits perfectly well with my one-sided political views, where capitalism is bad and needs changing, conservatives are stupid and lunatics, you get the point. As humans, we think that our abilities are above our own peers, because they can’t all be right (again, perfectly normal way of thought). We can test our abilities, we can trounce a person in an issues based debate by manipulating a lie into a way the audience buys into it. But we cannot test beliefs we have on faith. We have such beliefs because we want to hold them in our hearts forever, so that we will be ready to question them. Our beliefs are strongly influenced by our education, our living environment and our families. For example, because we stay with our parents most of the time, we intend to acquire their beliefs, attitudes, behaviours, habits. Most commonly is political leanings. If your parents are conservative and are traditionalists, you will vote for a conservative party in elections and have a traditional view on the world and vice versa. Faith-based beliefs are like all beliefs, influenced by the way we were raised. We might think that it is a result of our understanding of how the universe works, but let’s come clear to the fact that we believe in ones that we grew up with.

But even worse is the fact that our faith-beliefs cannot be changed. How do I know whether my present faith beliefs are better than the ones that I might have had when growing up? There is no correct or good way to choose between them, and thus, any belief we have can be wrong. Only non faith-based beliefs can be changed through thought and experience. Thought and experience is the best to let us know at least the truth, but not all truth, but faith doesn’t bring anything to the table.

So yes, faith is a bad way of knowing. Faith-based beliefs can be mistaken, as we hold them because we either have biases or because of family influences. Furthermore, they can’t be changed through thought and experience. Thus we will be stuck with an unorthodox view for the rest of our lives which we will be inclined to continue believing even if it already has been unproven.

But is it completely bad? Not necessarily, but they can be useful, because it can increase happiness. If I want something to be true and I believe that it is true, it can make me a happier person, even if other evidence disproves it. When we get what our heart contents, we are happier. Look at Denmark for example. Their GDP per capita is in the top 10, minimum wages are high and Danish trade unions mean strong workers right, there is strong social support, people can turn to a friend in times of troubles, life expectancy is high, they are generous, they are the less corrupt. And this is all because of the faith that the Danish people have towards social democracy and a welfare state.

As for intuitions, there are limitations again to every sector. Intuition, as mentioned previously is the ability to acquire knowledge without inference or reason. They mirror the advantages of logic based systems. As we don’t infer or read before knowing something, we cannot do long term predictions. For example, people always say that the world is going to end in a year or two. That’s because they are influenced by certain beliefs on the web (any kind of theory, no matter outrageous or not can be put on now), which leads them to have confirmation bias and then they start to feel for that theory because of something horrific they’ve seen on the news or in society. Leading back to the discussion, as intuition cannot do high precision predictions, they are not productive. They cannot generate any knowledge by manipulation of an existing theory that has already been confirmed (climate deniers….). Also, intuition requires experience. We acquire intuition through learning and the benefit of learning something in a certain situation is possible if we encounter it over and over again. If we don’t have experience with the situation, one has to make a guess or generalisation of a previous experience to guess what might occur. This fits right into the theories that the world will end suddenly. Because they don’t have experience of doomsday, they make a guess from a previous event that nearly caused global destruction to guess what might occur in the future. Finally, we as humans tend to have this funny trait where we overestimate the accuracy of what they know. There are recent surveys where managers overestimate the percentage of their organisation treating employees well, when employees had a significantly lower percentage who thought they were treated well by their bosses.

But the benefits of intuition is that it allows us to think before we act. For example, if we receive a curt email from a peer, we might have a small voice in our head that tells us to take a deep breath before responding so as to not escalate the curtness further. Furthermore, all humans are different, so when we meet different people for the first time, we need to pay attention to first impressions, as they are often the most accurate in telling you whether this person is someone to be trusted. Think of it this way. Rarely will your potential boyfriend tell you that he cheated on his last girlfriend, or the fact that he is looking for someone to cuddle up with when his girlfriend is out of town. Intuition can also help if we have concerns for others. We might have this feeling in our gut that because of something that occurred to a friend, we will be inclined to go and check to see if they’re OK. Also, intuition can allow humans to think of which route to take when driving. Do you want to take the fastest or slowest route if you are late for work? Do you want to take shortcut to the supermarket? Finally, intuition can help us if we have a health concern. If you start trembling uncontrollably and can’t hold a fork stably, you might want to consult with your doctor whether you have Alzheimer’s. Although Alzheimer’s is incurable, it will leave you a better person if you reveal it early to friends and family so that they won’t have to worry so much about whether you will completely deteriorate. Thus, intuition can be helpful if we feel uncomfortable about a particular feeling or when we need to make a quick decision when travelling.

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TOK Reflection #6: Language

What is language? It is the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured way. It plays a role in communicating what we know to the audience. Also, it can only be understood if we are able to bring out the message successfully. The claim we will be focusing on today is: “The vagueness and ambiguity of language always limits the production of knowledge”. Two Areas of Knowledge that fit well into this are the arts and history.

In the arts, there is this matter about translation of literary texts. There are two ways in translating literary texts. One, translating the text word by word, and secondly, translating the meaning of the text. Our logic leads us to take the second way, because to understand a translated text, we need to understand the message that is being brought out. But that’s not enough. It is possible that there is in need of a third way, which is conveying what is beyond the text, that is the whole expressive style and its ability to convey the vision of the author, That is because language is very ambiguous. Different countries have different cultures and what is translated might be different from the original text. Language can be used in translated texts to alter people’s thoughts and emotions through persuasive words, euphemisms, grammar, revealing and concealing. And as a result of that, the translated text is confusing because there is no coherence. Also, the translator can miss the underlying rhythm of the text (if he is not creative) and this can cause crucial information to be left out. For example, a translation of Baudelaire is a reinterpretation of the poet’s work. But the problem with translators is that they can either translate the beauty, losing the accuracy or translating the accuracy, losing the beauty. That is why there are so many different translations of his work, because it is not possible to translate both at the same time. Another example is the starting line of Beowulf. The pronoun ‘Hwæt’ at the start of the sentence was found to have been misinterpreted 4 years. It was translated into ‘What ho!” “Hear me!”, “Attend”, “Indeed” and “So”. But a historical linguist has said that it is supposed to be the word ‘How we have heard of the might of the kings,” not “Listen! We have heard of the might of the kings”. This confusion dates back to Jakob Grimm, who said in 1837 it was an interjection (because of a space in the middle of the word and another). From all this, we can see one needs to be in full command of the particular language that the text is written in so as to publish the most accurate text possible. Hence, it can be seen that the language barrier between a translation and the original language of the text has created large misinterpretations of how one reads the text and how a word should be translated.

Secondly, with regard to history, we learn history by reading textbooks, watching short documentaries, listening to the teacher. This shows that we rely heavily on language to listen to history. Also, historical records are recorded with our own voices so as to keep them for generations and generations. If there wasn’t the concept of language, there wouldn’t be much history today and we would still be living like primitives. Although it is a great factor to learn and understand history and how the world that we live in was shaped, as mentioned before, it is an extremely powerful tool that can be manipulated by groups or individuals so as to influence the way that we think. For example, during WWII, there was a lot of Nazi propaganda which established in the public minds that Jews, Romani, homosexuals, communists and degenerate art (The term for Modern art), all of them the doing of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. In all these propaganda, there was one recurring them. Their nation is the most superior and others are weak. Through this stereotyping through strong derogatory language, the Nazis were able to brainwash most of the German people into becoming nationalistic and racist. Another example of this is North Korean propaganda, which has strong anti-West and militaristic propaganda and is able to brainwash the citizens into thinking that their country is the best. Back to the point, not only did language help shape up and build history, there is the problem of vagueness and ambiguity. Language differs from different groups, cultures, and places, and thus, no one country speaks the same language. Because of this, recording and keeping sources of artefacts can have limitations, as they can be lost in translation. Different words from different languages might have more than one meaning and thus, this affects our understanding of history and might lead us into believing something that is wrong as true. For example, casse-toi in French translates directly into ‘go break yourself’. But in France, it means ‘get out’. The misinterpretation of the language itself might also impact the way that we view a particular nation in history. Furthermore, many historical records were found all over the world and in dozens of different languages, and for historians and writers to translate these sources, it will result in issues in translation and thus could have altered the history that we know over generations.

Ultimately, I believe that this statement is true, because if a person does not interpret a foreign text by going beyond the meaning and word by word, then it will limit what we know, as translators not having a full grasp in that particular might leave out crucial elements. Thus, this would affect the production of knowledge.

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TOK Reflection #5: Reason

Whatever is reason? Reason is the power of the mind to think, understand and form judgements logically. It is something that we use to make decisions and it occurs instinctively, as we decide on the best path to take unconsciously, influenced by possible previous experiences. The claim that we are focusing on is: Pure logic is only concerned with the structure of arguments. The validity of an argument is independent of the truth or falsity of its premises. Whether I agree with this statement or not, the answer is yes. Despite all the news about conspiracy theories, fake news, logically fallacies etc, I agree with this statement, because arguments can be structured through inductive or deductive reasoning. But if an argument is valid, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is true, but at the same time, it can be partially true. For example, during the 2016 Election, multiple polls showed that Clinton was leading Trump by 3-14 percentage points and many pundits believed that she would win the Presidency. The statement is that ‘Clinton will win the Presidency because she is leading Trump in the polls”. Ultimately, this did not happen, and Trump’s victory shocked pundits. But the polls were valid in saying that Clinton would win the popular vote. Although this does not show the layers beyond the polls and what kind of people were surveyed, the statement is valid, because it was spread around the news in the months leading up to the election. But the problem with polling is that it can be misleading (as not everyone is polled), therefore it makes us think a different way.

But if we look on the other side, if we are shown a statement that we know is fake and unrealistic, then it is not valid, because it has to be backed up by valid information to be proven valid. For example, some people might say smoking dozens of packs of cigarettes or drinking red wine is healthy, but on the other hand, there has been little evidence that shows that cigarettes make you healthy, as you are prone to lung cancer, while drinking red wine is now proven to not cut cancer or heart disease, but instead lead to it. As a result, a statement can only be valid if you have strong proof about the claim. If any scientific study does not back up the statement, then no matter whether we might be inclined to believe in it or not, the only way forward is if we use our sense perception and deduce what is right and what is not.

Regarding the areas of knowledge, let’s take religion as an example. One of the most debated theories is the belief of the creationists that all the living organisms in this world are created by God. We know that this is wrong, as evolution is the most commonly accepted among the scientific community, because of scientific proof. But the argument that all living organisms were created by God is valid, as they use inductive reasoning, because they observe the Earth and from what they see (for example the hypothesis that Earth is 6000 years old, so it wouldn’t have been possible for organisms to evolve), they make a claim. But then, there is no proof. Although this is false, it can be valid, as people took in several observations and came up with a conclusion. Therefore the validity of an argument is independent of the truth and falsity of its premises.

 

 

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