Recent Posts by Philippe Mathieu

Can Computers do TOK?

If some people are to be believed the world depicted by such sci-fi blockbusters as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, AI, I Robot, Ex Machina … is one we will soon (or already do) inhabit. It is a world in which machines will increasingly exhibit human traits to the point where it will not be possible to decide whether one is interacting with a person or a robot. Alan Turing famously raised the question as to whether computers can think in his ...

Indigenous Knowledge for Sale

One of the most common ways in which the value of something is assessed is how much someone is prepared to pay for it. This is sometimes described as the Price-Value Bias, the more we pay for something the more we assume it’s actual value or worth. Indigenous peoples of course have operated on a quite different mindset for the majority of their history. Something’s worth would generally be assessed primarily in terms of its practical or symbolic benefits to ...

Religious Knowledge?

The very notion of Religious Knowledge is, for many, an oxymoron (a combination of mutually contradictory terms) or at best a category mistake (something described in terms of a conceptual category it does not belong to). Be that as it may, the IB introduced Religious Knowledge Systems into the new TOK syllabus in 2014 and it deserves serious attention for at least two reasons. In my experience the academic exploration of religion in schools is far too often neglected, distorted ...

Natural Assumptions?

Arguably, every piece of knowledge that has ever been produced has been based on an assumption or a set of assumptions. No knowledge can be produced in a vacuum, which means that the search for knowledge always has a starting point that will generally provide the kind of questions being asked as well as the parameters of that search. One of the most important tasks for TOK students is to identify the assumptions which underpin the production of knowledge in ...

Morality: Absolute or Relative?

In the modern study of Ethics one debate has dominated almost all the others, it is the question of whether morals are discovered or invented, in other words whether moral values exist independently of us, whether they are entirely a product of the human mind, or whether there can be a set of moral values universally accepted. In TOK, this is an issue which you will encounter in different forms and in different places. TOK requires us to address the ...

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 ...

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