Recent Posts by Philippe Mathieu

Of Learned Ignorance

One of the most common responses I have encountered from teachers new to TOK is sheer panic.  The main reason for this seems to be twofold.  One, because TOK applies to every Area of Knowledge (AOK), teachers become anxious about dealing with spheres of knowledge which lie outside their comfort zone.  Second, TOK does not seem to provide stock answers to any questions and, therefore, new teachers are afraid they will not be able to give clear and neatly packaged ...

The Causation Conundrum – Knowing Why.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle stated that one cannot claim to have proper knowledge of anything until one has grasped the cause of it. Whether something exists, happens or changes it is assumed that it is as the result of some cause external or internal to it. The why without which nothing could be or happen. This idea is commonly known as causation or the law of cause and effect. It is applicable to all spheres of human knowledge and if ...

Being Knowledgeable

One of the ten attributes of the ideal learner in the IB Learner Profile is to be knowledgeable. Maybe of all of them this is the one which seems most clearly to connect to TOK, although many would argue that all attributes have a special connection with TOK or even that it is in and through TOK that the Learner Profile attributes are most fully realised. Be that as it may, one could also say that for many students, teachers ...

The Right to Know?

It is often said that knowledge is power and there is no doubt that in many cases those in possession of a particular piece of knowledge will have the advantage, for good or ill, over those who do not. Governments and rulers of all ilk and political leanings, as well as powerful corporations, have had and now enjoy a privileged position in terms of having access to certain facts. This privilege has often been justified in paternalistic terms, we know ...

Too Much of a Good Thing?

We live in a world which seems to be obsessed with the idea of amassing knowledge. So much of our energy seems to be devoted to the production, acquisition and application of knowledge whatever it’s actual or intrinsic worth. Knowledge, in one form or another, appears to be the goal of much of human activity and the basis of many aspects of our interractions with others and the world. Without our thirst for knowledge, we are told, our species would ...

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 ...

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