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Title: Decision making - tests for truth


The purpose of this lesson is enable students to make authentic decisions about real knowledge claims
and discern the difference between beliefs and knowledge in an AOK. An exploration of how we
determine truth, how much authority do we attribute to claims, what is reliable information and what
is opinion. The lesson asks the students to consider the relative importance of different WOKs in
making decisions in the different AOKs and depending on the situation or context of events. Lastly,
the appropriateness of the tests for knowledge themselves are evaluated, depending on the AOK and
the situation.

Note: this is a generic plan, but the process could be the same for any topic, situation or event as
identified as 'resources'.

Learning Intentions: the students should be able to...

identify the knowledge claims in a real life event in an AOK

apply the tests for truth to a knowledge claim

make a decision about the reliability of a claim based on critical application of truth tests and
identify knowledge from opinion

justify decisions with evidence

link and evaluate WOKs relative importance to the process of separating knowledge from

identify and describe the role of context in the quest for knowledge

evaluate the value of tests for truth depending on the situational context in a different AOKs

Relevant TOK topics: this activity could be suited for use in...

any AOK

the end of year revision exercise


notes below on Justified true belief and correspondence, coherence, pragmatic tests for truth
and/or textbook references for these tests for truth.

a knowledge claim in an AOK: any article, current event, website, event, school occasion,
concert, newspaper article, advertising claim, advert on TV, investment advice, editorial, an
everyday event, family crisis and relate it to an AOK

questions below in plan 'Making a Decision'

Time: 1-2 hour

Class Management:

1. Present the students with the 'resource' (any event, article, video, situation). The more
authentic and related to the 'real world' the resource is, the better.

2. At this stage, the teacher can present, review or re-teach the 'tests for truth and justified true
belief' notes below.

3. When the students are ready give some or all of the questions from 'Making a Decision' to
individuals or groups as the teacher deems most suited.

4. End products might be: as an individual or pair exercise, the students could all work on the
same 'resource' and follow up with a class discussion report back, essay, or plan for an essay.
If this is a revision task, which may lead to the presentation, the students might work in small
groups on different 'resources' and report back to the class either in a planning-for-
essay/presentation format, poster and/or short presentation.

Making a Decision

1. What is the claim made or extracted from this resource/situation/event?

2. Are there any assumptions behind making the claim?

3. Apply the tests for truth and/or justified true belief to the claim and be prepared to explain and
justify your thinking: in what ways does the basic claim in the 'resource' meet and not meet
the criteria of the tests for truth and guidelines of justified true belief?

4. What is your decision about the claim now? Is it truthful?

5. What is the evidence that you use to justify your decision?

6. What WOKs did you rely on for your evidence and your justifications? Does any single WOK
seem to have more importance in your decision making?

7. Can you think of a situation where your decision might be different depending on the
situation? (It might help to think of other AOKs or other time, or other perspective)

8. How can the tests for truth be dependent on a situation or context?

9. What limitation of knowledge does this lesson suggest? Offer an example from your own
experience to support your claim about limitations of knowledge.

10. What are some KQs you might extract from this lesson?

11. If you had more time and this was a more real and vital situation, what else would you do to
be sure your decision is the best one for you?

Three truth tests:

Over the centuries philosophers debated the nature of the truth and developed many theories
about it. Three of the theories mentioned in the TOK curriculum guide are:

The correspondence theory states that truth is what corresponds or agrees with reality. Does
the information match the facts of reality? The information must match facts, not beliefs. For
example the claim that Singapore is a city and a country matches the facts of reality.

The coherence theory claims that you have truth when information is compatible or
consistent with other information you already know is true. There is no contradiction between
what you already know and the new information you. For example, if your teacher told you
there is NOT an alien in your locker, this would cohere with your other knowledge that (1)
teachers dont lie to you and that (2) you have never heard of an alien coming to earth and (3)
it is unlikely an alien that came to earth would find your locker. Therefore, you would not
think an alien in your locker is true.

The pragmatic theory states that something is true if it is useful to believe it is true. Beliefs
that are most useful to us, that are the best justified for the things we do, beliefs that promote
success are truths. Truths is proved, or disproved, by our subjective experience. For example,
lets say you believe TOK your teachers care for you and for your learning. This is not only
useful for you to believe, but it also promotes your success. Until such time as you find that
your belief is not useful.

Justified True Belief

Another way to test whether you to have certain knowledge is to apply the 'justified true
belief' formula devised by philosophers. The formula states that in order for a belief to be
knowledge it must:

your claim must be true

your claim must justified by using reason or sense perception

you must believe your claim

Unjustified belief is all the knowledge that cannot be justified by reason and perception. For
example, scientists announcing the discovery of a new particle must justify their claim with
sense perception (evidence we can see, hear, touch) and reason and they must believe their
new knowledge to be true.

Perhaps the closest we can get to certain knowledge is to apply as many as these tests as
possible to any claim we make encounter, either our own or the claims of others.