Welcome to the TOK Moodle
"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings..."
So, what is this thing called "ToK"?
Your teacher may have told you by now that "the first thing you need to know is that ToK is not philosophy" - at least that's what he told me. You're not in ToK class to memorize what the ancient thinkers thought (...yet you will become familiar with many of their ideas). It's synonymous with epistemology, a branch of philosophy, but IB Theory of Knowledge is not epistemology either. It doesn't attempt to teach you any facts or formulas, like in the other subjects you are studying. At least that what the syllabus(!) says. The notion that there is a syllabus would suggest that you are to learn something, but exactly what may not be clear to you yet. I would suggest you read the IBO's Aims and Objectives to get a better idea.
An Invitation to Philosophize
You are a human being. And so you have a philosophical view of existence — whether you realise it or not. About this you have no choice. But there is a choice to be made about your philosophy, and it can be put in these terms: is your philosophy based on conscious, thoughtful and well-informed reflection? Is it sensitive to, but not chained by, the need for logical consistency? Or have you let your subconscious amass an ugly pile of unexamined prejudices, unjustified intolerances, hidden fears, doubts and implicit contradictions, thrown together by chance but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight, like a ball and chain in the place where your mind's wings should have grown?
It is not the answer that enlightens but the question.
Some very General Tips
How to do well in ToK (some very general tips):
1) Go to class. I don't think we ever had full attendance in a ToK class when I went to IB, and a lot of people ended up failing. ToK can be quite enjoyable if you just pay attention and it is the one class were you are encouraged to get into arguments with the teacher!
2) Don't be afraid of speaking your mind. If you disagree with someone let them know. Make your voice heard. If you are used to speaking in ToK class doing the presentation will be so much easier.
3) Take notes (I kept a ToK journal). In the essay you are encouraged to bring in examples from your own experience. Briefing trough your class notes before writing the essay may help you put things into perspective and boost your memory.
4) Don't rely on the textbook to give you answers. The final answers should be your own and in some cases also the final questions.
Perception - is what we see what we get?
"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one" Albert Einstein
Perception — An Introduction
We obtain a lot of information trough our senses, which are processed by our brains. Our brains, the greyish walnut-shaped lump of matter that are situated in our heads, are insulated from the "real world" by strong walls of bone - and yet it is this physical organ trough which we are able to know anything about the world surrounding us.•We are able to receive knowledge into or brains trough or senses the only connections that link the brain to the outer world.
The eyes respond to wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation, the ears respond to changes in air pressure, or noses and tongues respond to chemicals, and or skin respond to change in humidity and temperature.
Because you can see, hear, smell, taste and touch you are able to gather information about the world around you, a world that is projected in your brain. The world as you perceive it, exists only in your mind.
What the Tortoise Taught Us
Cogito, Ergo Sum - Rene Descartes
A Way of Not Knowing? An Intro to Skepticism
The interpretation of the information we obtain trough our senses can be misleading. Some philosophers claim that not only should we not trust any knowledge we obtain trough or senses but that it is impossible to be sure of anything.
Sceptics belive you can never be sure of anything. absolute sceptics claim you cannot know anything. Relative sceptics claim that certain kinds of knowledge are impossible.
Absolute scepticism would seem to be impossible - if you don't know anything how can you know you don't know anything?
Sceptics have three main arguments for their attitude.
1) Our senses often deceive us. We can never know for certain when we are being deceived and when we are not. So, if we can't be certain of our sense perception we can't be certain of our knowledge of the external world that we receive trough or senses.
2) We can never be sure if we are dreaming or not. Perhaps after all you are not reading these words, you are dreaming that you are reading these words. If we don't know whether we are dreaming or not, how can we be sure we know anything?
3) Our thoughts are an unreliable interpretation of reality. Our thoughts are the only thing we can be sure of and our thoughts may be completely different from the reality they attempt to interpret.
adapted from Michael Woolman's "Ways of Knowing"