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IB TOK Essay - “’Through different methods of justification, we can reach conclusions in ethics that are as well-supported as those provided in mathematics.’ To what extent would you agree?”|Views: 1,043|Likes: 8

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https://www.scribd.com/doc/103264298/IB-TOK-Essay-Through-different-methods-of-justification-we-can-reach-conclusions-in-ethics-that-are-as-well-supported-as-those-provided-in-mathem

05/13/2014

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**what!extent! would!you!agree?”! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
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Marc!Wierzbitzki! 00"0815"083' ' Theory'Of'Knowledge'"'Essay' Hockerill'Anglo"European'College' IB'Session'May'2012'' ' '

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Marc%Wierzbitzki% 00;0815;083%

Theory%Of%Knowledge% Essay%

Hockerill%Anglo;European%College% IB%Session%May%2012%

! ‘Through!different!methods!of!justification,!we!can!reach!conclusions! in!ethics!that!are!as!well7supported!as!those!provided!in!mathematics’! To!what!extent!would!you!agree?!

! ! Ethics,% the% “set% of% moral% principles,% […]% relating% to% one% or% affirming% a% specified% group,% field,%or%form%of%conduct”1,%and%mathematics,%“the%abstract%science%of%number,%quantity% and%space”2,%are%two%separate%areas%of%knowledge.%They%also%differ%in%terms%of%the%ways% of%knowing%that%are%used%to%acquire%knowledge.%Whereas%in%mathematics,%reason%is%an% important%way%of%knowing,%emotion%and%authority%are%far%more%important%in%ethics.%This% raises% the% question% whether% in% ethics,% ‘different% methods% of% justification’% can% lead% to% conclusions% that% are% as% ‘well;supported’% as% those% in% mathematics.% This% is% what% the% following%essay%is%going%to%examine%by%firstly%defining%‘methods%of%justification’%and%then% using% them% to% contrast% how% each% of% them% is% used% in% mathematics% and% ethics% to% show% whether%any%valid%conclusions%can%be%drawn%in%the%two%areas%of%knowledge.%%%% % % According% to% Michael% Woolman,% the% ‘methods% of% justification’% are:% logic,% empiricism,% memory%and%authority.3%For%the%purposes%of%this%essay,%however,%memory%is%going%to%be% ignored%since%it%only%plays%an%unimportant%role%in%mathematics%and%ethics.%So%firstly,%the% use% of% logic% in% mathematics% and% ethics% is% going% to% be% examined.% % In% mathematics,% logic% clearly% has% a% substantial% role% when% trying% to% reach% conclusions.% In% this% area% of% knowledge,%everything%is%based%on%premises%and%every%new%valid%statement%has%to%fit%in% with%these%existing%premises,%it%has%to%be%logical.%As%an%example,%one%might%say%that%if%in%a% triangle,% the% two% angles%!%and!!%are% 45°% and% 60°% respectively,%!%logically% must% be% 75°,% since%it%is%known%that%the%sum%of%all%three%angles%is%180°.%% In%mathematics,%it%can%be%said%that%if%A=B%and%B=C,%then%A=C.%This%kind%of%logic%can%also% be%applied%to%ethic%absolutism,%where%it%is%believed%that%there%is%just%right%and%wrong%and% nothing% in% between.% Here% it% could% then% be% said% that% if% hurting% people% is% wrong% and% %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

1%New%Oxford%American%Dictionary,%Oxford%University%Press,%Inc.%32010% 3%Woolman,%Michael%“Ways%of%Knowing%An%Introduction%to%Theory%of%Knowledge“,%IBID%Press,%Victoria% 2000%p.8;12% 2%New%Oxford%American%Dictionary,%Oxford%University%Press,%Inc.%32010%

%

1%

Marc%Wierzbitzki% 00;0815;083%

Theory%Of%Knowledge% Essay%

Hockerill%Anglo;European%College% IB%Session%May%2012%

punching% people% is% hurting% people,% then% punching% people% is% wrong.% However,% in% order% for%this%to%be%a%valid%statement,%the%initial%premise%that%‘hurting%people%is%wrong’%has%to% be% shared% and% recognized% by% a% group% of% people.% In% ethic% relativism% however,% it% is% believed%that%‘right’%and%‘wrong’%do%not%exist%outside%of%a%particular%group4.%%This%means% that%the%above%example%is%only%valid%if%the%group%shares%the%belief%that%‘hurting%people%is% wrong’.%A%person%who%does%not%share%this%belief%will%reach%different%conclusions.%% This%clearly%means%that%logic%cannot%always%be%used%in%order%to%reach%a%conclusion,%since% what% is% logical% to% person% A% does% not% have% to% be% logical% to% person% B.% The% main% issue% therefore% is% that% in% mathematics,% everyone% shares% the% same% set% of% initial% principles,% in% ethic% relativism% however,% this% is% not% the% case% as% everyone% has% a% different% set% of% beliefs% and% therefore,% logic% cannot% really% support% a% conclusion% for% anyone% outside% a% particular% group.%Therefore,%in%mathematics,%conclusions%are%very%well%supported%by%logic,%whereas% they%rarely%are%in%ethics.% % Woolman’s%second%‘method%of%justification’%is%empiricism,%the%theory%that%all%knowledge% is% derived% “purely% through% experience,% especially% by% means% of% observation% and% sometimes% by% experimentation.” 5 %Looking% at% mathematics,% it% can% be% seen% that% empiricism% only% plays% a% minor% role% in% reaching% conclusions.% However,% some% of% what% is% ‘known’%in%mathematics%might%be%due%to%experience,%such%as%Pythagoras’%theorem.%At%his% time,%“the%Babylon[i]ans%and%the%Chinese%already%knew%that%a%triangle%with%the%sides%of%3,% 4%and%5%must%be%a%right%triangle.“6%Pythagoras%was%fascinated%by%this%fact%and%then%found% out,%using%algebra%and%logic,%that%this%is%not%just%the%case%for%this%special%triangle,%but%any% triangle%in%the%form%!! + ! ! = ! ! .%Therefore%it%can%be%said%that%empiricism%only%plays%a% less% important% role% in% mathematics% in% order% to% reach% conclusions.% In% fact,% these% conclusions%are%not%really%supported%by%empiricism%anymore%–%empiricism%only%evokes% interest%in%a%certain%problem%–%but%the%theories%are%then%supported%by%logic.%% In%ethics%however,%most%decisions%that%people%make%are%based%on%prior%experience.%It%is% through%experience%that%one%builds%up%their%own%set%of%beliefs%and%values,%which%will%be% used%to%make%ethical%decisions.%Here,%culture%and%one’s%environment%are%important%and% determine%what%values%a%person%will%have.%For%example,%coming%back%to%‘hurting%people% is% wrong’,% it% can% be% said% that% this% initial% premise% that% was% used% above% to% deduce% that% %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

4%http://www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/decision/ethicalrelativism.html%,%accessed%February%6%2012%

15:12%GMT% 5%http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/empiricism%,%accessed%February%20%2012%12:03%GMT% 6%http://mathematica.ludibunda.ch/pythagoras6.html%,%accessed%February%7%2012%10:14%GMT%

%

2%

Marc%Wierzbitzki% 00;0815;083%

Theory%Of%Knowledge% Essay%

Hockerill%Anglo;European%College% IB%Session%May%2012%

‘punching%people%is%wrong’%was%acquired%by%experience.%One%might%believe%that%‘hurting% people% is% wrong’% just% because% they% have% been% educated% like% this% or% because% they% have% been% in% the% situation% where% someone% else% hurt% them.% Either% way,% this% person% will% take% the% above% as% a% valid% statement.% Additionally,% one% might% have% been% brought% up% in% an% environment% where% it% was% believed% that% ‘hurting% people% is% acceptable’.% Whatever% the% case%was,%this%person%has%formed%their%own%set%of%beliefs%based%on%prior%experience%and% will%use%it%in%order%to%reach%conclusions%regarding%ethical%problems.%% Despite%this,%every%situation%is%unique%which%can%be%seen%in%the%‘trolley%problem’,%where% “the%lives%of%6%people%are%in%your%hands.%You%are%driving%a%train%when%you%notice%that%the% train%you%are%driving%is%about%to%hit,%and%probably%kill,%5%workers%working%on%the%track.% There% is% a% lever% you% can% pull% in% which% you% can% shift% to% a% different% track,% with% only% one% worker."7%This% is% an% example% where% a% decision% cannot% rely% on% experience,% since% this% is% probably%the%first%time%that%someone%is%in%this%situation.%Whatever%decision%is%made%in% this%case,%it%will%probably%not%be%based%on%prior%experience.%% Therefore% it% can% be% said% that% empiricism% in% both% mathematics% and% ethics% is% only% used% early%on%in%the%process%of%acquiring%knowledge%or%reaching%conclusions.%The%conclusions% that%we%get%are%evoked%by%empiricism%but%in%the%end,%they%are%more%supported%by%logic.% Empiricism%is%a%poor%‘method%of%justification’%in%both%areas%of%knowledge.%% % Thirdly,% Woolman% names% authority% as% one% of% the% ‘methods% of% justification’.% Examining% the%use%of%authority%in%mathematics,%it%can%again%be%seen%that%it%only%plays%a%minor%role% since% all% conclusions% are% mainly% based% on% logic.% Still,% authority% is% not% completely% irrelevant,%which%can%be%seen%when%examining%the%process%that%a%proof%undergoes%before% the% mathematical% community% fully% accepts% it.% For% example,% in% 1993% the% British% mathematician%Andrew%Wiles%claimed%that%he%had%proved%‘Fermat’s%last%theorem’.8%Even% though%he%was%widely%accepted%and%underwent%education%at%Oxford%and%Princeton%and% was%awarded%many%honours9,%his%authority%was%not%enough%for%the%proof%to%be%accepted.% Instead,% a% group% of% mathematicians% tried% to% understand% it% –% using% logic.% Here% it% can% be% seen%again%that%all%mathematical%knowledge%is%based%on%logic%and%that%all%other%‘methods% of%justification’%only%play%a%supporting%role.%% %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

7%http://poojasivtok.blogspot.com/2011/05/final;practice;essay.html%,%accessed%February%8%2012%10:46%

GMT%% 8%Dombrowski,%Eileen;%Rotenberg,%Lena;%Bick,%Mimi%“Theory%of%Knowledge%Course%Companion“,%Oxford% University%Press,%2007%p.143% 9%http://www.gap;system.org/~history/Biographies/Wiles.html%,%accessed%February%2012%11:20%GMT%

%

3%

Marc%Wierzbitzki% 00;0815;083%

Theory%Of%Knowledge% Essay%

Hockerill%Anglo;European%College% IB%Session%May%2012%

In% ethics% however,% authority% can% be% really% important% and% in% fact,% conclusions% are% more% ‘well;supported’%by%authority%in%ethics%than%they%are%in%mathematics.%In%ethic%relativism% for% example,% it% can% be% said% that% authority% is% very% important.% Considering% the% Catholic% Church,% it% can% be% said% that% the% pope% is% definitely% an% authority% as% he% is% god’s% representative.% So% whenever% he% makes% a% decision% regarding% an% ethical% problem,% for% example%the%use%of%contraceptives,%his%decision%will%be%widely%accepted%by%the%catholic% community%since%he%is%an%authoritative%figure.%In%ethic%absolutism%however,%where%there% is%just%right%and%wrong%for%everyone,%what%is%right%for%person%A%is%also%right%for%person%B,% C%and%D,%regardless%of%whether%person%A%is%an%authority%or%not.%% To% conclude,% it% can% be% said% that% authority% is% not% important% in% mathematics.% Even% if% someone%is%accepted%as%an%authority,%all%of%their%claims%will%be%examined%using%logic.%This% means% that% the% conclusions% that% mathematicians% reach% are% not% at% all% supported% by% authority% anymore,% but% rather% based% on% logic.% Conclusions% in% ethics% can% be% very% ‘well; supported’% by% authority% as% examined% above.% This% means% that% this% ‘method% of% justification’%is%actually%far%more%important%in%ethics%–%where%it%leads%to%‘well;supported’% conclusions%;%than%it%is%in%mathematics.% % Overall,%it%can%be%summarized%that%the%two%areas%of%knowledge%use%different%‘methods%of% justification’% in% order% to% support% conclusions.% In% mathematics,% logic% is% the% most% important% one% and% conclusions% that% are% based% on% logic% are% generally% very% ‘well; supported’.%This%is%mainly%due%to%the%fact%that%every%mathematician%shares%the%same%set% of% mathematical% principles% and% logic% is% based% on% those.% This% is% different% in% ethics.% Not% everyone% has% the% same% sense% of% ‘right% and% wrong’% (except% in% ethic% absolutism),% which% means%that%the%conclusions%that%are%gained%through%logic%are%not%very%‘well;supported’% since%another%person%might%have%a%different%set%of%beliefs%and%therefore%come%up%with%a% completely% different% conclusion.% Empiricism% does% not% lead% to% ‘well;supported’% conclusions% in% mathematics,% it% is% rather% used% as% a% starting% point% but% every% assumption% based% on% experience% is% justified% using% logic.% The% same% is% true% for% authority.% It% is% not% enough% to% be% authoritative% ;% all% claims% that% a% mathematician% makes% will% still% be% tested% using%logic.%However,%these%two%‘methods%of%justification’%are%more%important%in%ethics% where%they%can%help%to%reach%‘well;supported’%conclusions.%It%has%to%be%said%though%that% the% difference% between% ethic% relativism% and% ethic% absolutism% always% has% to% be% considered%since%the%‘methods%of%justification’%might%not%be%equally%relevant.% %% % 4%

Marc%Wierzbitzki% 00;0815;083%

Theory%Of%Knowledge% Essay%

Hockerill%Anglo;European%College% IB%Session%May%2012%

% Bibliography! ! Audi,% Robert% “EPISTEMOLOGY% A% Contemporary% Introduction% to% the% Theory% of% Knowledge”,%Taylor%&%Francis%Group,%2011% ! Dombrowski,% Eileen;% Rotenberg,% Lena;% Bick,% Mimi% “Theory% of% Knowledge% Course% Companion“,%Oxford%University%Press,%2007% % Lemos,% Noah% “An% Introduction% to% the% Theory% of% Knowledge”,% Cambridge% University% Press,%2007% % Van% de% Langemaat,% Richard% “Theory% of% Knowledge% for% the% IB% Diploma”,% Cambridge% University%Press,%2007% % Woolman,% Michael% “Ways% of% Knowing% An% Introduction% to% Theory% of% Knowledge“,% IBID% Press,%Victoria%2000% !

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