CONTEMPORARY ART and THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE

 I recently spent a day at the TATE MODERN gallery with a group of Norwegian students and their teachers, who were staying in London for a few days having left Oslo the day before. We were looking for links between, and questions about, Art and the Theory of Knowledge. My role at the Tate on that day was to introduce and explain to the students some of the tricky issues that infuse and surround contemporary art. Tate Modern is the ...

Reason: A Goddess with Feet of Clay

In the wake of the French revolution in the 1790s emerged a new religion, the Cult of Reason. This new faith was dedicated to the de-Christianizination of Europe and in churches all over France a new goddess was enthroned. Sensibly the new high-priests shied away from objectifying Reason by setting up statues of it, instead women, often young and scantily clad, were sat on newly erected altars whilst holding torches symbolizing enlightenment. Reason was to shine its guiding and liberating ...

Thinking: Fast or Slow?

For most of human history we have assumed our decisions to be the result of a conscious and rational process, and that we are in control of our most of our decisions and actions most of the time. Now a whole raft of research and books has called this into question and it suggests that our instinctive and intuitive selves in fact 'run the show.' The evidential basis for this seems incontrovertible and there have been very few dissenting voices ...

Arts and transformation?

“There might be a case,” the TOK subject guide allows, “for supposing that the arts have an important function as a medium for social criticism and transformation.” Might be a case? Supposing? The arts are used so widely as a vehicle for social critique that I offer one more example only for its current relevance: 26-year-old poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner from the Marshall Islands was selected to read a poem to the Opening Ceremony of the UN Secretary-General's Climate Summit last ...

An interesting topic for discussion or research

Recently my group have been exploring the relationship between documentary and propaganda films. One of our key points of reference has been Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the will 1934. And our discussions has raised the problematic of the amorality of formalism as a means for constructing or reading movies. It seemed to me that the main evidence against formalism is the distortion of apparent narrative economy and elegance by racist and morally bankrupt ideological perspectives. The films which spring most readily to ...

Quebec Charter of Values in TOK: perspectives, symbolism, fallacies

[youtuber youtube='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTlDcDYf-ao'] Today protesters march in the streets of Montreal, opposing the newly announced Quebec Charter of Values.  The government of the Canadian province of Quebec has declared that certain values define their society, which has often had a fractious relationship with the rest of Canada.  Among those values – valeurs québécois -- are ones that would broadly capture agreement from Canadians, such as the religious neutrality of the state.  It is the application of this principle that has provoked outrage ...

Understanding science requires a science

Natural Science Natural Science is a fascinating area of knowledge. You only have to start scratching the surface of  science before you come across a litany of examples of its awesome nature, especially in regards to its impact on our lives. We also very quickly realise that there are many myths to do with science. I suspect that your TOK classroom has involved a discussion about the ‘basic scientific method’ (BSM). This is a very good starting point for understanding the ...

Plato and the Spirit:

Plato’s tri-partite division of the soul is far from convincing when it comes down to the distinction drawn between Reason, Desire and Spirit. As Julia Annas points out in her Introduction to Plato’s Republic: ‘there is no satisfactory argument to show that spirit is really distinct from reason, and so a distinct part of the soul.’ Every new student to Plato’s approach to Philosophy soon learns about his idiosyncratic interpretation of the soul as an immortal, ethereal entity, which once ...