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Theory of Knowledge

6th Yale

Tok Essay Topic: Habit is stronger than reason. To what extend is this true in two areas of knowledge. Since a human being is born, hes surrounded by the social environment, such as family and friends. From it he or she get some influences, like the way he or she look at things and make inferences, the way he or she want to understand things, the way how that human being in a social environment acts, and this how some of our costumes are defined, that later turn to habits. For us, these actions are usual and we do them repeatedly; habits are created because of the lack of reason. Reason is the ability we have to get theories to make conclusions. So, it is possible that habits can be stronger than reason. I am going to explore up to what extent this can be true in the Natural Sciences and mathematics. Following the meaning by the Spanish Royal Academy Dictionary, a habit is a special mode of proceed or behave acquired because of repetition of equal acts or similar, or originated because of instinctive tendencies. First I am going to consider Human Sciences. When I travelled to Buenos Aires, I arrived to the hotel and then I went to McDonalds .The queue was short, and then I waited like just three minutes. When it was my turn, the cashier waited on me with a big smile, a good greeting and very friendly and good attitude. While I was ordering, the cashier was making suggestions for me to improve my order, so I could see that the cashier care for me. The impression of all this attitudes was very big. This was because in the city where I live, Guayaquil, cashiers dont give the same treatment to

Gabriel Garca

Theory of Knowledge

6th Yale

customers as the one I received in Argentina. The difference was very notorious. Then we can say that this is related with cultural behavior. In the case of Guayaquilean people the fast food cashier just waits on the customer for his or her decision, while my personal experience in Argentina the cashier tries a friendly behavior with the customer to make him or her feel good. Looking in retrospective, its obvious that the Argentinian cultural behavior looks like the most adequate, but we have to consider that cultural behavior is not reasoned. This happens because the culture is the own behavior of an specific society, so that society will look at the behavior of the Guayaquilean cashier normal in the case of a Guayaquilean society and the Argentinian cashier will be seen as casual in an Argentinian society. So there is not a reaction from the Guayaquil population for a member of his group for acting not like the Argentinians. Besides, nobody starts to ask themselves why they do what they do in cultural terms; they just do it because they have the habit to do things in a certain way. In the case of waiters, their objective is to serve customers. They can do it in any manner while they accomplish this objective. If the process of accomplishment is convenient, then that waiter is going to use that process because it worked, and then it turns into a habit. But the reason why the waiter made the habit is his or her objective.

Now Im going to talk about the area of Mathematics. Im going to start with a personal example. In a classwork about factorization I had to resolve a quadratic equation, like this one:

Gabriel Garca

Theory of Knowledge

6th Yale

( ) The question of the exercise was to find the solutions of x. Because of the order find the solutions of x I already know that I had to apply the general formula, that is:

Where a is the coefficient of x square, b is the coefficient of x and c is the value of the interception point in the y axe, that is in this case the number four in the quadratic equation. So I just had to replace a with two, b with three and c with four. ( ) ( )( ( ) )

( )

And then I just had to resolve the equation, and the question was answered. The habit identified here is the use of formulas to obtain the answer of the mathematical issue. Usually in Mathematics we just follow formulas, but is it understood why or how the formulas are obtained? The problem of people with mathematics is that they get accustomed to follow the formulas, so people just obtain a number but dont understand that number: they dont ask themselves why do I have to apply this formula, how it was defined or how the formula is related with the problem. In my case I already knew that the answer would give me the interceptions of the curve of the quadratic equation in the x axes because of its graph, and because of theory.

Gabriel Garca

Theory of Knowledge

6th Yale

But, the formula cant tell me why the results are the intercepts. The cause of all of this is that mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures, so they make the formulas to avoid all the process it takes to reach the understanding of a mathematical factor and just give the shortcut. That is another problem because by just using a formula we do mathematics in a mechanical way, and doing things this way is lack of reason. We dont reason the mathematical conjectures, so people cant understand mathematics.

In other case of Human Sciences, there are a lot of habits to consider that really influence the life of people, like their native costumes. These costumes are the ones we have been practicing since we are children or because it is part of our culture. For example, here in Ecuador we have a costume that we usually call La

Gabriel Garca

Theory of Knowledge

6th Yale

Hora Ecuatoriana, that in English means The Ecuadorian Hour. This hour costume consists to arrive to events or any appointment later than the specific arrival time is established by the event or appointment. This happens in parties: people wrote on the invitations 21:00, an example time, so that the guests will recently start to come in order to wait for all of them up to two hours after because guets wont come exactly at the required hour. This means that in Ecuadorian culture punctuality is not important. However, we cant say that this case is the same for other cultures. In some European cultures, punctuality is very important. Time they see in the invitation, time they are in the event. We have seen that punctuality for cultures has a level of importance, depending on the culture. But now the question is, does that people know the importance of arriving at time to events? Do Ecuadorians know why we arrive late? Do Europeans know why they arrive soon? Do they have an intention to arrive late or soon? Because of the culture, Ecuadorians doesnt think about In what time should they arrive to a date, neither Europeans think about why to arrive at time, both just do it; so, by being this a mechanical issue, this is lack of reasoning because both cultures just follow their culture. To my conclusion, habits are repeated costumes that sometimes cant be justified, but they always have a cause to do them. In the case of Human Sciences, the habits are mostly related with the culture of a social group. In the Mathematics the habits are caused because of the use of conjectures to avoid the understanding of the mathematical knowledge. So in this case if take off culture and mathematical

Gabriel Garca

Theory of Knowledge

6th Yale

formulas, maybe the habits of people can go away and they can start reasoning instead of do things in a mechanical way. To conclude, the habit can be stronger than reason when people dont reason about their actions and they execute them just following a pattern.

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