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The Theory of Knowledge

Chapter 1
Introduction to Knowledge

Introduction to the Theory of

What is TOK about?
Socrates said it many years ago. The
unexamined life is not worth living
TOK is about examination of the world
around us

TOK is about understanding

How we know what we

What makes up the things we

think of as knowledge?
When we know something
how do we know it is even
really true?
It helps us examine our lives
and helps us be critical of
knowledge claims which are
not actually knowledge but
instead only belief, opinion,
propaganda, and even deceit

Lesson One
What do we know?
Knowledge Claims are claims

made by someone when they

say they know something
The world we know is made
completely up of knowledge
How do we know it these
knowledge claims are
representative of reality?

Consider History
Historical artefacts are

silent; they tell us

It is we that interpret a
meaning onto them
Whatever affects these
interpretations will also
affect any knowledge
claims being made

Is this view of
and common
human sacrifice
among the
truly warranted?

The world view: How the

cosmos are structured
How many seconds

in an hour?
How many seconds
in a day?
How long is one
million seconds?
How long is one
billion seconds?
32 years a long time

How do we know what the

universe is like?
Have we discovered for

How does science answer
the questions about the
origin of the universe?
What came before the big
How can science ever
hope to give us the

Is time even real?

How do we know?
Why is our reality more real than realities of

people in the past?

Very much of our reality is based on faith in
scientific claims
We believe in a reality
People before believed in a different reality. It
was different but it was just as real to them
Are we really any closer to getting to the
whole, complete, real picture of how things
really are?

Lesson 2: Understanding Basic

(Sound Reasons for Claiming Knowledge)

Theory of Knowledge is just

that, a theory
It is not called the facts of knowledge
There is not one answer to questions

regarding knowledge countless theories

about what knowledge actually is
The nature of knowledge is so that a
human beings subjective perspective of
the world will, to some degree, influence
what he or she calls knowledge

Plato: Knowledge is Justified

True Belief

P must be true.
I believe P
I have sound reasons for believing
P. I need a type of justification
I have no evidence that negates or
erodes my belief in P

Sound Reasons for

Justifications for calling something

A sound reason for

knowledge is simply our

Our sight, hearing,
feeling, taste and smell
seeing is knowing
Can be mistaken but
generally a very sound

Vase or Faces?

How do you know we like

whatever we like?
Self awareness is such an
inherent part of our
everyday lives
This knowledge requires
no proof or any other form
of empirical backing
It is very strong subjective

Some say that yellow stands for

What do you think?

Memories are a sound

reason for knowledge

because we can be sure of
them most of the time
We know things on
account of our memories
Because something is a
sound reason for
knowledge, it does not
necessarily mean it is
always, 100% of the time

What is this thing? Someone knew once.

This is one of the

very important words

and concepts in TOK
Deduction is making
conclusions based on
premises that are
known to be true
Deduction is the basis
for all mathematics

Is this deduction?
Does he/she have knowledge?

induction is another

extremely important term for

TOK and our lives in general
Induction is claiming
knowledge about future
events based on past
Science and the scientific
method is based heavily upon
There is no physical law that
states that just because
something has in the past,
that it will necessarily happen
any time again in the future

How do we know this will happen tomorrow?

Very much of the knowledge

we have today we have

because an Authority has
told us
We either consciously choose
to believe a knowledge claim
or we simply accept the
knowledge because an
authority we respect has
presented us with the
Media etc.

Pope John XIII

Consensus or Consensus

gentium is basing knowledge

on the fact that everyone, or
at least most people agree
that something is knowledge
Consensus plays a
significant role in many
different aspects

moral values
Scientific discoveries
Historical claims
Mathematical proof
Political ideology

How much of what we know is because

many people think it is right?

Intuition is a feeling, an

inherent understanding.
Intuition makes us know
about something internal; a
way of thinking or
perceiving something
Even if the intuition is not
reflective of reality, it is still
knowledge for the individual
on the individual level

Seeing Red
Michele Benzamin-Miki

Easily argued that

Revelation is not a good

reason for claiming
However revelation is
responsible for much of
the knowledge that
many people hold dear

Can be knowledge on a
subjective level.

Is something being revealed from above?

We should avoid

equating the concept

of faith with the
conviction felt in
religious experience
Faith is intertwined with
knowledge to a much
greater extent
Much of the knowledge
we claim to know comes
to us on account of faith
in the claims
Faith is a central concept
in TOK

Is there anything that moves mankind

more than faith?

Lesson 3
Certainty, a Foundation for
Knowledge or an Outcome of
Two contrasting ideas for what
knowledge is based upon

The concept of foundationalism states that
something is knowledge if and only if we
are 100% certain of it
Knowledge comes when on reaches this
subjective state of mind
Knowledge=Truth, but TruthKnowledge
Knowledge comes when one can not
possibly imagine that he is incorrect
Certainty is the basis, or forundation of

Foundationalism (contd.)
Foundatonal knowledge claims are generally

subjective knowledge claims

Knowledge based on elements such as selfawareness, memory, perception, and
emotion are types of foundational knowledge
Deduction can also be a type of foundational
Foundational knowledge does not need to be
quantified or supported by others for it to be
knowledge to the individual knowing the fact

The perspective of pragmatism

asserts that something is knowledge

if and only if the proposed bit of
knowledge works in real life settings.
We do not know anything until we
see that it works
Knowledge is power. It must allow us
to do something

Pragmatism (contd.)
Scientific knowledge is pragmatic knowledge. If a

scientist can not show that her hypothesis works,

then her hypothesis is disregarded
People such as Engineers, mechanics, and pilots all
know their professions when they can do what they
are supposed to do
According to the pragmatist, we have knowledge
when it allows us to sucessfully navigate through
our environment.
We become certain of something only when we first
know it; when it works.
Certainty is an outcome of knowledge, not a basis
for it

Lesson 4
Is Truth and Reality Subjective?

Subjectivism vs.
The subjectivist believes there is no true
reality. Any so-called reality that there
is, is based upon peoples experiences
The representationalistsargue that here
is a reality; all we have to do is open our
eyes to see it. If something is true it is
true because corresponds with the
reality around us.

Something is true is if it

relates to someones
experience in a way that they
can understand and relate to
Memories buy weightless
kilograms of ideas. Is this
statement a reality? It is not a
reality because no one can
relate to it
Reality is subjective because
it depends on ones ability to
relate to something

Is this actually sweet?

A representation is

something which gives us

information about another
thing or one thing that
stands for another thing
True in representationalist
terms, is a property of a
representation that
corresponds to the real
world or corresponds with
Beliefs or subjective states
of mind have no bearing on
reality. Reality is what it is.

This is not how an egg is fried

Regardless of what one believes.

Platos Allegory of the Cave

Platos Allegory of the Cave

We can only know things from our own

Reality is a subjective experience because
we are limited and confined to our own
human way of seeing things
Like a person that has never left a cave
and can therefore never know any other
reality, so too are people. They see things
from the perspective of their own cave

Meditations on First
cogito ergo sum I think

therefore I am
Nothing can be known
except ones own
There is no way to know if
there is a reality
We can not escape our
subjective outlook on life
to know anything away
from ourselves or the way
we know things

Rene Descartes 1596-1650

Lesson 5
What they will have to do
One essay 1200-1600 words on one of ten

prescribed topics
Never change any aspect of the topic.
But, if you want a good essay prepare to write a
1600 word essay. 33% more can be said in a 1600
word essay than can be in a 1200 word essay.
The essay is 70% of the final grade. The essay is
graded externally
One Presentation.
About 10 minutes long. Graded by the teacher.
On a contemporary isssue
The presentation is 30% of the grade