*The Unexamined Life is not worth living.* *Socrates ToK

“The unexamined life is not worth
living.” –Socrates
Jan. 23, 2013
Warm up your brains
Ruminations on yesterday’s knowledge
issues/quotes/blog/etc.? What did you write
(Today begins participation points!)
Problems of Knowledge
1. Certainty
List four things of which you are certain. When
you have four things, share with a classmate.
• I know that Neil Armstrong landed on the
moon in 1969.
• I know that strawberries are red.
• I know that if a is bigger than b and b is bigger
than c, then a is bigger than c.
• I know that murder is wrong.
2. Radical Doubt
(Rene Descartes 1596-1650— I exist.)
Are you certain you exist? Could you be
dreaming? Could this be a matrix?
Are some areas of knowledge more certain than
3. Relativism
The opposite of certainty: there is no such thing
as absolute truth that exists in an objective way
independent of what anyone happens to believe
is true. “True for me is false for you.”
Contradiction—the world cannot be both round
and flat. SO, does relativism only apply to
beliefs? How does relativism apply to culture?
Moral Relativism
• ToK under attack—abstract concepts such as free
will and justice are hard to define and vary from
culture to culture and change over time. ToK is at
the heart of controversy where claims that it is
anti-American and parades “critical thinking”
which teaches students to question everything
and believe in nothing…
• Not so. Questioning is another way we
understand, globally and locally. Welcoming
dialogue in controversial topics combats
4. Common Sense
• What is common sense?
5. Bias
Is there such a thing as an innocent eye or an
unbiased mind?
6. Gullibility
• Gossip
• Conspiracy theories
• Mob mentality
• Consider your source!
January 24, 2013
If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to
hear it, does it make a sound?
• BLOG—you must submit for review on the
lightspeed block. Knowledge through
• CAS small group meetings:
1/22 Tuesday 4th: Josh H, MacKenzie C, Taylor Riley
1/22 Tuesday 7th: Scarlet K, Liam H, Carson Kadas
1/23 Wednesday 4th: Colin D, Addie M, Madison R
1/23 Wednesday 7th: Aicia B, Savannah, Abby B
1/24 Thursday 4th: Amanda N, Taylor P, Kyle T
1/24 Thursday 7th: Mikayal N, Ryan E, Thomas N
1/25 Friday 4th: Hailey J, Katy S, Koada C,
1/25 Friday 7th: Korbin B, Erin J, Patrick M, Alice B
Yesterday, in ToK we began discussing the problems of knowledge, or what we believe
to be certainties. We learned that to poke holes in "certainty", we ask
questions. Some other problems of knowledge lie in Radical Doubt, Relativism,
Common Sense, Gullability, Skepticism and Judgment. While these last two are
actually required elements of seeking knowledge, they can be taken too far. More on
these topics can be found in Theory of Knowledge (book), pages 1-22.
The certainties that are most difficult to poke holes in are the "I feel" statements-we will talk about this when we get into emotional knowledge in more depth.
Some questions raised by the class today:
Who has more responsibility for learning, the learner, the teacher or the
Where do convictions fit in?
Do we choose to learn things? Can we choose not to learn things?
What about human tendency? Is this the same as instinct?
What changes about learning from childhood to near-adulthood?
Is belief/faith a matter of emotional connection?
6. Skepticism/Judgment
Skepticism is a good thing. However, being too
skeptical may also take its toll. It can cause
intellectual progress to grind to a halt.
Early 19th century example:
Can rocks fall from the sky?
What about meteorites!
Oh. Yeah. Right.
*BEWARE: Don’t accept mere negativity as skepticism. Hope, faith, and belief are
part of what make us human. See relativism.
“Truth does not exist” is, at its heart,
Out of doubt comes knowledge.
Endeavor to become skeptical .
Provoke others into thought; resist complacency.
Reasonable Knowledge
• Evidence: Is there evidence that supports your belief?
• Coherence: Does your belief fit in with our current
understanding of things?
• Confirmation Bias: We only notice evidence that
supports our beliefs. Beware!
• Argument ad ignorantiam: Trying to prove something is
true by saying that you can’t prove that it isn’t.
– Example—I believe there are little green men on Mars,
because no one has proven that there isn’t.
When beliefs affect action
Salem Witch Trials
Cigarette companies
Heaven’s Gate Cult mass suicide (1997)
Sexist/Racist comments and actions
• Can there be wrong, misguided, or dangerous
• What is the opposite of knowledge?
– Innocence and purity? Garden of Eden
– Ignorance? (Is ignorance bliss?)
– What you don’t know can indeed hurt you.
However, seeking knowledge is not a journey from
which you can return. With knowledge comes
some loss of wonder. Ex: Santa Claus
January 25,2013
Don’t forget the blog (Saturday, Jan. 26)
Don’t forget the survey
Problems of Knowledge: Knowledge
issue connections to AoK and WoK
• Perception: How trustworthy are our senses?
• Reason: How can we justify logic?
• Emotion: How reliable are our feelings and
• Language: Does some knowledge lie beyond
• Religion: Can we know what the meaning of
life is?
• Ethics: Are values objective or subjective?
• Arts: Do the arts give us knowledge?
• History: Can history be unbiased?
• Human Sciences: Can human behavior be
• Natural Sciences: How certain is scientific
• Maths: How does mathematics relate to the
Words to Ponder: conviction, intuition, instinct.
Reading excerpts:
“The Uncertainty of Knowledge”
“Science’s Finest Hour”
Strengths and Limitations—We all have these.
So do the topics, epistemologies, beliefs, and
pieces of evidence we will ponder. These are
not abrupt edges of “CAN” and “CANNOT”, but
softer, grey abstractions where we approach our
abilities of comprehension.
A word about faith and belief…
We will be examining the certainties at which we arrive based
on faith and belief. Rather than toss knowledge in these areas
out the window, understand and acknowledge that these
things add to our humanity.
Not only have countless wars been waged over belief and
faith, but some of the most beautifully intriguing cultures
have developed over centuries around them as well.
Discounting such things as frivolous knowledge would greatly
deficit our collective wisdom. Rather, ask, “How do we/they
know what we/they know through the lens of our/their
The Continuum
Place your sources of knowledge on this scale in your notebook. When you
have done that, choose three of them and add them to the scale on the
The Three Little Questions
How is knowledge acquired?
How is knowledge presented?
How is knowledge evaluated?
How is knowledge passed on?
Create a visual representation.

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