Essay Questions
You must write an essay answering one of the following questions Keep in mind that since this is TOK, we're really looking for you to show that you can identify, analyze, and evaluate the knowledge claims


1. Evaluate the role of intuition in different areas of knowledge.

Obviously you'll want to tell me what intuition is. How does it differ from instinct? Then you'll want to discuss its use in at least two areas of knoweldge. Is it used in these areas of knowledge you have chosen? In what ways? How much does it impact the way of knowing that typifies the area of knowledge you are discussing? What examples of the use of intuition can you give me? How are these relevant examples?

2. Are reason and emotion equally necessary in justifying moral decisions?

What's a moral decision? How do you justify it? What role do emotion and reason play in these justifications? Is there a difference in the role they place as opposed to the role you think they should play? Is either necessary? both? Why or why not? There is plenty of fascinating litterature about this topic, and you certainly have enough experience to discuss this at length.

3. “History is always on the move, slowly eroding today’s orthodoxy and making space for yesterday’s heresy.” Discuss the extent to which this claim applies to history and at least one other area of knowledge.

What is meant by eroding today's orthodoxy or making space for heresy? Does history actually do this? Does this say anything about the ways of knowing that constitute history? Can you give me some examples? Of course, history is only one area of knowledge, as are math, litterature, and economics, and others. Pick another area of knowledge and tell the reader how it is similar or different from histrory with regards to the question asked.

4. Does language play roles of equal importance in different areas of knowledge?

What are the different ways in which we approach language? Are maths, music, and litterature all different languages? Is language more important in litterature than in math? Why or why not? Do the different forms of language imply that these are different languages or that they place different importance on language? How would someone dissagree with you? Keep in mind that you should discuss the kind of knowledge that is gained through language, and the way the kind of language used is relevant.

5. “… we will always learn more about human life and human personality from novels than from scientific psychology.” (Noam Chomsky). To what extent would you agree?

You should briefly tell me what novels are and what scientific psychology is. Then discuss the different kinds of knowledge we can gain from each. Novels are more subjective and science more objective, can we say that we learn more from the one than the other? HOw would we calculate this? What kinds of knowledge do we gain from novels, what kinds of knowledge do we gain from scientific psychology? Discuss the different ways of knowing of the different areas of knowledge. How would others dissagree with you?

6. In areas of knowledge such as the arts and the sciences, do we learn more from work that follows or that breaks accepted conventions?

What do we mean by work that follows or breaks convention in science or in art? What do we mean by a convention in art or science? How is such a convention reached? Are conventions necessary, useful, or unnecessary and problematic? This is a question that can easily integrate an good portion of historical analysis, so don't shy away from it. Find examples of both pros and cons. How are they relevant? How do you measure the "more" that you learn in either case?

7. Our senses tell us that a table, for example, is a solid object; science tells us that the table is mostly empty space. Thus two sources of knowledge generate conflicting results. Can we reconcile such conflicts?

This one we've discussed plenty in class. see me for questions.

8. Are some ways of knowing more likely than others to lead to truth?

(Related to question 10)This questions is all about your conceptual approach to the terms involved. What are the areas of knowledge? What is meant by truth? Are we looking for the same kinds of truth in each area of knowledge, or do different areas of knowledge actually look for different answers? Pay particular attention to the split between subject/object and the fact that as humans we combine both in our approach to the world. Be sure to explore different possibilities for understanding truth and Ways of Knowing. How would others dissagree with you? How would you counter their objections? What examples could you use? How are they relevant?

9. Mathematicians have the concept of rigorous proof, which leads to knowing something with complete certainty. Consider the extent to which complete certainty might be achievable in mathematics and at least one other area of knowledge.

What is rigorous proof? How does it differ from complete certainty? Look up Goedle's incompleteness theorem- does it render certainty impossible? Or are we simply incapable of prooving those things which we are certain are true? Can we justify the actions upon which mathematical knowledge is based? Pick another area of knowledge, and pay attention to its related way of knowing—how do the aims differ from those of mathematics? WOuld it be reasonable to ask for the same level of accuracy? Would it be useful or counterproductive? What examples could you use? How would they be relevant? Why might others dissagree with you?

10. “Context is all” (Margaret Atwood). Does this mean that there is no such thing as truth?

What is context? Look at the various theories of truth (hello coherence!)-they seem to be conflicting on the issue of context- how do you account for it? Think back to your own experiences, how often when explaining something do you find it necessary to speak about the context of an event? Compare different areas of knowledge and different ways of knowing-to what extent does context play a key role in each? Does context matter in math? History? Litterature? Why or why not? If facts are considered without context, do they still have meaning? Look at the various theories of truth (hello coherence!)-they seem to be conflicting on the issue of context-how do you account for it?

No matter what essay you write, you must make it somehow relevant to your life. you must show that you can relate personal examples to the questions at hand.

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