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 ...

The TOK Presentation Planning Document

Many students will be busy putting the finishing touches to their TOK presentations, here are a few last minute pieces of advice. The planning document is the only evidence the IBO will have of your presentation, make sure it is filled in to ensure the best possible mark. As a matter of good practice, initially try and choose two or three Real Life Situations (RLS) before settling on one of them, not all RLS will necessarily provide good TOK material. Make a ...

What Then Must We Do?

A man pounds the keys of a typewriter in a frenzy, clearly in a state of heightened anguish. The words he types repeatedly, “What then must we do?” come from the Gospel of Luke (3.10 – 14), words which also inspired the title of a book by Leo Tolstoy on the causes of and possible solutions to extreme poverty. The man is a reporter in 1960s Indonesia where the government of President Sukarno seems oblivious to the fate of millions ...

Is Mathematics a Religion?

For many numerically illiterate people out there, the film The Man who Knew Infinity (released September 2015) was, if atheists will pardon the expression, a godsend. It describes the life and achievements of renowned Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan. It did this in a way which not only made his passion for and staggering discoveries in Mathematics entirely accessible, but it also managed to express the very soul of the man.  In a particularly moving scene, the great mathematician G.H. Hardy ...

The Art of Knowing

There is no shortage of people who view Art or the arts as a largely redundant luxury which, other than as time filler, seem to add very little to the total sum of human knowledge. Art for them is an entirely self-indulgent, subjective and emotion driven enterprise. Artists do not solve problems, they do not provide new avenues of thought, they do not cure diseases or build useful devices, they cannot and should not therefore be considered as contributing to ...

How to Lie with Numbers

By Monday, September 12, 2016 , , , , 0

There is a common saying in English, “numbers never lie”, which presumably expresses the idea that any argument backed up by data, statistics or quantifiable information must therefore be trustworthy or inherently credible. One of the key tasks of TOK is to step back, analysize and reflect on the basis of anything presented as evidence for an argument. We live in a world where data is generated at an unquantifiable rate, we are bombarded by constant information whilst being asked ...

The Beauty in Maths

A few months ago the BBC conducted a survey to find the most beautiful mathematical equation in the world. There is of course a long history of the relationship between the idea of beauty and mathematics. The ancients certainly pondered that relationship as well as connecting it to the concepts of truth and of goodness. In Plato’s mind certainly, as well as in the mind of others, the true, the good and the beautiful were objectively one in the transcendental ...

Is Economics a Science?

Robert J. Shiller is a Nobel Laureate in Economics and an Economics professor at Yale University, in an online article published in 2013 he addresses the vexed question as to whether Economics is a Science. Whilst acknowledging the limitations of his subject as a science readily enough he cannot bring himself to altogether abandon that label. Moreover, he almost seems more interested in highlighting the failures of other disciplines as sciences (chemistry, physics, politics, astronomy…) than to provide evidential support for ...