Theory of Knowledge Exercise
- The quality of knowledge is best measured by how many people accept it.” Discuss this claim with reference to two areas of knowledge.
- “The production of knowledge is always a collaborative task and never solely a product of the individual.” Discuss this statement with reference to two areas of knowledge.
- Do good explanations have to be true?
- “Disinterestedness is essential in the pursuit of knowledge.” Discuss this claim with reference to two areas of knowledge.
- “The production of knowledge requires accepting conclusions that go beyond the evidence for them.” Discuss this claim.
- “One way to assure the health of a discipline is to nurture contrasting perspectives.” Discuss this claim.
How to Tackle these Questions
A great place to start with your essay is to brush up on all of those TOK terms! You want to be totally comfortable using IB TOK terminology. So check out this previous post for an instant guide to TOK terms and how they should feature in your essay.
You also want to make sure your essay covers everything that the IB criteria requires. Let’s have a look at some of these important points:
- Essays should express the conclusions reached by students through a sustained consideration of knowledge questions.
- Claims and counterclaims should be formulated and main ideas should be illustrated with varied and effective examples that show the approach consciously taken by the student.
- Essays should demonstrate the student’s ability to link knowledge questions to AOKs and WOKs.
It’s a very good idea to keep these points in mind when writing your essay. And once your first draft is complete, go back and ask yourself whether you have covered all of these requirements.
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The quality of knowledge is best measured by how many people accept it.” Discuss this claim with reference to two areas of knowledge.
How can knowledge have or not quality? Reason and intuition have an essential role in the process of differentiating whether a certain knowledge has or not quality. The knowledge must be coherent with the things we already know, using reason we have to investigate and question ourselves if the data has contradictions or does not makes sense with what we have already learned. Evidence is a key tool in determining if the knowledge has quality. By reasoning and intuition, we must define whether the evidence presented comes from a source we can rely on. How many evidences are presented or if evidence is presented at all. Knowledge must be practical too, have a function in our lives or someone else. After we analyse a certain knowledge and decided if it has or not quality then we can accept it or reject it; if we consider it as true, we accept it and if we consider it as false, we then reject it. If people follow a process (conscious or unconsciously) to accept or reject knowledge and decide whether it’s true or not, then the quality of knowledge can be best measured by how many people accept it. The problem with this statement is that the process of acceptance of knowledge differs from one person to another, therefore it’s not always objectively done, but we can assess this claim using two areas of knowledge such as Religion and Natural Sciences.When many people accept a certain claim or knowledge then it gives more weight or validity to the argument. For example, in religion the catholic bible in Romans 1:26-27, states that homosexuality is non-natural, because of faith many people believe this statement as true, hence they are accepting this claim. The more people accepting this knowledge gives the argument more weight whether it is true or not, opening a door for further investigation. It’s not the same just one person taking this argument as true than many people accepting it as true, it gives the argument more credibility. The perspectives of one area of knowledge are not enough to nurture one specific claim. In this example the claim can’t be proven wrong or right just using Religion as area of knowledge, we must search for different perspectives in other areas of knowledge such as natural sciences. On the other hand, not every argument becomes stronger when the number of people accepting it increases. For example, in the Bible Jesus told a man: “for truly I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, be moved from this place to that; and it will be moved; and nothing will be impossible to you.” It doesn’t matter how many people accept this knowledge as true it is physically impossible to move a mountain from one place to another by just having faith. With this example we encounter ourselves with other problem: interpretation. How does the acceptance of knowledge vary from one person to another? Not everything is either black or white, there are tones of greys in the middle and the same happens with the acceptance of knowledge. When we don’t have certainty if a statement is true or false, then we only believe it as true or false we don’t actually know it. There is a wide spectre of believing levels. Using the mustard seed example, we now have two people, my brother and my sister. My brother takes the meaning literally and my sister interprets it as faith being powerful in our lives and spirit, not necessarily in the physical world. Even though they both interpret it very differently they both believe it as true (although not in the same level), hence they are accepting it but not in the same way. My brother is accepting the claim that states that he can actually move a mountain whereas my sister is accepting the knowledge that faith is important in our lives. In natural sciences there is no room for interpretation like in religion, it is an area of knowledge where the seek of truth is based on tangible evidence. All the claims or hypothesis are questioned trying to reject them, not necessarily demonstrate them. In order to question a hypothesis, there is a process called Peer Review. When a scientist finishes a study then the study is written into an article form and is submitted to a scientific journal where other scientists that work on the same field can assess the study. For example, there is a study in particle physics and it was submitted into a peer review where more than 150 scientists contributed and gave feedback. If more people accept this knowledge further investigation can take place, improving its quality. How is the quality of knowledge affected by the type of people accepting it? For natural sciences unlike religion, it is important that the people that accept or reject the knowledge are from the scientific community. My opinion or acceptance of the study in particle physics as true or not because I don’t have the knowledge required to assess this work. Contrariwise if we go back in time, we can observe how science changes and evolves just like us. For example, the superseded theories. Before Christ the Aristotelian physics were the ones that ruled our world. He stated that all moving bodies naturally come to rest, meaning that an object in motion will eventually stop. For thousands of years this knowledge not only met high standards of quality, but it was accepted as true. Many years later Isaac Newton rejected Aristotle’s theory of motion stating that “every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force.” Meaning that an object moving will keep moving unless that another object or force changes its path or stops it. Aristotelian physics were the only ones that were accepted for many years and by many people, but Newtonian physics superseded them, implying that Aristotelian physics are now obsolete. Many factors affect the process of accepting or rejecting knowledge and it is not always objective. For example, it can depend on the social circle a person is interrelated with. In my family everyone accepts the knowledge that the soccer team Pumas is the best in the country, but many cousins don’t even know why they accept it they just do. We may also find people that only accepts a certain knowledge to fit in. This kind of situations affect the measurement by number of people of the quality of knowledge because we can’t know for sure if the people accepting the knowledge have basis supporting their acceptance. It is important for us to acknowledge that the acceptance of knowledge differs from one area of knowledge to another. On one hand we have an area of knowledge where faith and interpretation are key concepts to understand both quality and acceptance of knowledge. On the other hand, we have an area of knowledge where neither interpretation or faith are relevant in the process of accepting the knowledge but evidence and feedback from others are. It’s always important for the quality of knowledge to have figures of authority accepting it, but in natural sciences it is essential. It is not important when a non-scientific community person accepts or rejects a certain knowledge because he or she is not academically prepared to judge the hypothesis, but it certainly is a good measurement for the quality of knowledge the number of scientists that accept it. For religion it isn’t as imperative as in natural sciences to have figures of authority backing the knowledge up because there is not many information one has to be aware of in order to fully understand the claim. Therefore, it is easier to process it and evaluate it for acceptance or rejection whereas natural sciences there is much context that has to be known.
The quality of knowledge can be determined by many factors including how many people accept it. As seen in the example of particle physics the more scientists accepting the knowledge the more credibility it has. Similarly, the homosexuality claim example increments its strength when the number of people that accept it increase. However, when stating that the best way to measure a knowledge’s quality is by the number of people that accept it, we encounter ourselves in problems such as in the mustard seed example, where interpretation plays an interesting role and the number of people accepting it won’t change the fact that mountains can’t be moved by just saying it. The quantity of people accepting a knowledge is not the best way to measure the quality of knowledge meaning that it does not apply the same for all areas of knowledge, and people accept knowledge for different reasons, not always because they consider the knowledge either to have quality or be true, but in many cases it is imperative for the quality to have a great number of people accepting it and it can open doors to further investigation in other areas of knowledge.