Recent Posts by Philippe Mathieu

The Economists of Good and Evil?

In 2009 a book about economics appeared in the Czech language which soon became an international best seller and challenged many of the assumptions which underpin modern economics as both an academic subject and as a science of official policy. The book was Tomas Sedlacek’s The Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street (Eng. Ed. OUP, 2011). In it, Sedlacek does what every TOK student should do when exploring any discipline, namely ...

Pre-IB (4): TOK Assessment

The previous three blogs have focused on a general introduction to TOK, an overview of the content of the course (Areas of Knowledge) and a look at the methods for producing knowledge (Ways of Knowing) found in the course. This final Pre-IB blog looks at the way in which TOK is assessed. This consists of an externally assessed piece, the TOK Essay, and an internally assessed piece, the TOK Presentation. Both are necessary in order to pass the TOK component ...

Pre-IB (3): The ‘how’ of TOK

The ‘how’ of TOK focuses on the methods by which knowledge is produced in the different Areas of Knowledge (AoKs). In TOK these methods have been identified as the eight Ways of Knowing (WoKs). They are Reason, Sense Perception, Emotion, Language, Memory, Imagination, Intuition and Faith. Each WoK provides a particular way of producing or accessing knowledge. Whilst an individual understanding and analysis of each of them is expected, the IB emphasizes that it is also important to see how they ...

Pre-IB (2): The ‘what’ of TOK

The ‘what’ of TOK refers to the knowledge produced by human thought. Human knowledge is divided  into Areas of Knowledge (AoKs). Those units generally combine subjects which have similar methods, scope and goals. There are eight of them. Natural Sciences, Human Sciences, History, Mathematics, the Arts, Indigenous Knowledge, Ethics, and Religious Knowledge. TOK will not only make you look at these areas of human thought from a new perspective but it will also highlight the connections and differences between them ...

Pre-IB (1): What on Earth is TOK?

When asked about what makes IB students better ready for university than others, admissions officers tend to highlight two things, the Extended Essay and TOK. TOK, which is short for Theory of Knowledge could be regarded as the heart and the crown of the IB. It forms the foundation of the whole programme and it elevates the DP curriculum to a level of sophistication not achieved by other qualifications. Sure, it is possible to pursue courses in Critical Thinking outside ...

Scientific Morality?

Can Science provide a better basis for morality than other forms of human knowledge such as religion, psychology or philosophy? A look at the history of moral philosophy shows that by and large every significant contribution to ethics has come primarily from philosophers or theologians. It is not until the late twentieth/early twenty first century that some scientists have proposed that science can be a better basis for ethics, in other words that the answer to the question “how can ...

Knowing You: A (very) Short Story

Ethel was sitting at her favourite table in her favourite café, she was half sipping her coffee whilst half reading the newspaper she held in front of her. Her gaze was in fact turned towards someone with a tray and looking for somewhere to sit in the crowded venue. From observing the latter’s dress and demeanour she deduced that she was a well to do person probably from a local wealthy family and with a very comfortable life, someone not ...

Knowing me…

The next two blogs will focus on the nature of two aspects of personal knowledge, namely, knowledge of oneself and knowledge of others. What the psychologist Howard Gardner described as Intrapersonal and Interpersonal knowledge. Of course, the entreaty to ‘know thyself’ is an ancient one, it can be found first in Egypt and then at the heart of Socratic philosophy as well as, among others, in the writings of the Chinese philosopher, Lao Tze. The latter wrote, “mastering others is ...

Does Knowledge Have a Sell by Date?

Naomi Klein’s controversial book and subsequent film adaptation, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate (2014 and 2015 respectively), was meant to give a new take on the issue of the relationship between the current dominant economic model and the price our planet has to pay for its success. To many of its critics the book/film only rehash well-trodden arguments and offer unrealistic or downright silly solutions, their damning verdict is that in fact the book and film do not ...

Of Personal and Shared Knowledge

One of the central distinctions about the nature of Knowledge in TOK is that between Personal and Shared Knowledge. Personal Knowledge is meant to refer to knowledge which has been acquired by the individual based on their own experiences, efforts and conclusions. Shared Knowledge is knowledge which is held communally, by groups which will vary in size depending on the type of knowledge being explored. For a start, I am not at all convinced that it is genuinely possible to ...

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