Truth and Wisdom

Three things cannot be long hidden:
the sun, the moon, and the truth.
Correspondence theory of truth: a statement is
true if it corresponds to a common sense fact.
Live grass is green.
What does it mean for a fact to exist?
Imperfection: there is a gap between the world
as it exists and the language we use to describe
it. Descriptions in human language are
Paradox of Cartography: there is no perfect
Our senses are fallible. Our emotions are easily
Confirmation bias, positive self bias.
Coherence: it’s true if it fits into our
understanding of the world.
There are sharks in the pacific ocean.
Coherence is good for a confirmation of truth,
but is not good for a stand-alone truth test.
Coherence cannot dispute or exclude ‘crazy’
individual beliefs.
Aliens landed spaceships in my backyard last summer. I
saw it. They reprogrammed my dog.
Beware: not believing anything that doesn’t fit
in with the way you see things.
I don’t believe there is a God, so the idea of ritual
worshipping on Sundays is a waste of time. Anyone who
does it is dumb, too.
Pragmatic theory: true if it is useful and/or
works in practice.
Scissors cut paper. Therefore, when I needed to cut
paper, I found a pair of scissors.
A statement can be true but not useful, and
useful but not true.
I am a genuis! (Useful in my self confidence, but not
true…or is it?)
 Jennifer Anniston got her hair cut. (True, but not
useful. At all.)
The terms “useful” and “works in practice” are
too vague.
Circular reasoning.
Cubist theory: The more perspectives you have
of something, the closer to the truth you can
 Go beyond “I am right and you are wrong” in
regards to truth; but rather ask:
How does this person’s perspective and understanding
illuminate my understanding?
Ms. Frizzell,
looking for
Is seeking the truth natural for human beings?
Recall: Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.
Do we need others to start us on the quest for truth,
to be our guides once we leave the cave? If we didn’t
seek the sunlight (knowledge) would we remain
contentedly chained to the wall watching shadows
of images?
Our version of the world and of ‘truth’ is
always based on an interpretation, and we can
never be sure if that interpretation is true.
Question: What goes into our varied
interpretations of the world?
Many people believe what they want to believe
rather than what is justified by evidence.
Comfort trumps the work necessary to change
your way of thinking; illusions are better than
harsh, unsettling truths.
Defense Mechanisms:
Selective attention—see only what you want to see.
 Rationalization—manufacture bad reasoning to
justify prejudices.
 Communal Reinforcement—mixing exclusively with
people who hold similar beliefs.
Can you think of REAL LIFE EXAMPLES of all
Our knowledge tools are limited:
 We all experience reality differently.
 Aspects of reality lie beyond our attempts and abilities
to describe them.
 There are concepts we cannot possibly understand that
are beyond our conception comprehension, but that are
also logical and reasonable.
 Believing something passionately does not make it true.
If we are successful in our quest for knowledge,
does that mean that we are closer to truth?
If we believe we possess the truth, we run the
risk of being dogmatists (force our beliefs on
others). HUMILITY is needed in the search for
Agree or Disagree: the truth is ‘out there’
independent of our acknowledgement or
discover of it.
Relativism: saying that we can never know
absolute truth does not mean that no truth
“There is not truth” is self-refuting.
Beware: prejudice, persuasion, power,
Think of the truth as an ideal that guides our
quest for knowledge.
There is a difference between the possession of
knowledge and what you do with it.
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
Humility: comes from practice, listening, and open
Good judgment: comes mostly from experience.
Breadth of vision: comes from exploring a
multitude of knowledge areas, a variety of
perspectives, varied sources, and flexibility of
Self-Knowledge: Know thyself. Question your
beliefs regulary and be aware of underlying
prejudices—they are good at being invisible to us.
Knowledge and values
Trust and doubt
If knowledge and the sharing of knowledge is based
on trust, we owe a lot of integrity to the claims we
Honesty, perseverance, courage, tolerance, and
a willingness to listen when our ideas are
Never place yourself above others; it is the best
way to stop the flow of knowledge from
individual to collective.
Every answer should breed new questions;
Learn your ignorance: acknowledge your
“All I know is that I know nothing.” –Socrates
Plato argued that the only truths are “justified
true beliefs.” Now that the ToK class is nearing
the end, what do you understand this to mean?
Must we be at the end of our lives or in old age
to be wise? Why is the metaphorical wise man
always an old guy? Why not a young woman?
Do you think we are getting closer to truth? If so,
to what do we owe this progress? If not, what most
hinders us?
Can you think of a time in History when
dogmatists skewed the collective search for truth?
How are truth and wisdom different? How are they
similar? What are the strengths/limitations of
Come up with a visual metaphor to represent truth
and/or wisdom. Draw it in your comp book.
Does relativism encourage tolerance?
Are there dangers in seeking the truth? Think
of the areas of knowledge—what happens
when we go too far in our quest for truth in the
various areas of knowledge?
What films, novels, poems, other works of art
warn us of the dangers of pursuing the truth?
(Frankenstein, Adam and Eve, ??)
This sheet should look familiar. As a ToK
graduate, fill it out again. Be thoughtful and
When you are finished, take a look at the one
you filled out last January. Compare your
What has changed?
What has stayed the same?
What are the causes of the changed and static items?
“If today were the last day of my life…” Steve
Jobs clip (2 min)
Jellybeans for every day of your life… (3 min)
Do we need to be at the end of our lives, or be
faced with our own mortality, to appreciate time,
to seek wisdom, truth, and knowledge?
Is it possible to live every day as though it is
your last day?
What “words of wisdom” do you tend to live
*Write them on the board. Create a WALL
OF WISDOM as a class…continue to add to it. If
you know the source, include it.
“Our Loss of Wisdom” (TedTalk) Barry
What questions does he attempt to answer in his
Do the problems he points out affect you or your
generation? How so?
What possible solutions do you have to offer?
Who do we consider “great minds” in history?
Think about all areas of knowledge!)
Who are the “great minds” of your generation?
Are these people smart, or wise, or both?
With a partner, create a “help wanted ad” for
the job of Wise-Person. Due tomorrow.
You can imagine after our discussions of
history that the recording of wisdom of
marginalized people has not been voluminous.
Malala Yousafzai’s UN Speech
Is Malala wise or does she simply have an
experience most of us do not?
Does she share any nuggets of wisdom that you
believe are important for young people?
200 years ago, what would the perception of this
woman be?
Who are some other people we consider “wise”
who, 200 years ago, would not have been
recognized was wise? Who would have, or did,
suffer for attempting to share their wisdom?
Temple Grandin: The world needs all kinds of
minds. (TedTalk)
Michelle Obama: A plea for Education
What problems is your generation faced with
solving? How will knowledge, truth, and
wisdom be used to solve these problems?
What advice do you have to your generation in
order to approach problems in the most
productive way?
What advice has your generation gotten that
you find useful? Not useful?
Can education be reformed to instill wisdom in
Think about the ways/areas of knowing—
what does “pursuing truth” mean in each of
the areas/ways? Break into pairs and pick one
area of knowledge. Please do not double
up…each pair should have a different AoK.
Where do we, as a society and as individuals,
draw the lines or impose limitations on the
search for truth in this area? Why are these
lines drawn?
3) Share out your findings from your discussion
with the rest of the class. Engage them in
conversation about what you talked about in your
pairs. What are some common themes?
(This may take 2 days)
*Please turn in your textbook!!

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