TOK Essay Topics
November 16, 2011, 09:00
Filed under: TOK
The IB produces a list of TOK essay questions each year which the students must then respond to in an essay of length 1200 to 1600 words. Looking at the questions, some which I find would be quite interesting to see on the list would be:
1) ”The effect of authority figures on individuals as one grows older becomes less significant due to the increase of one’s personal knowledge and growth as a knower.” To what extent would you agree with this claim?
2) “History is told how one wants to hear it, not as it actually happened.”Discuss the claim using History and another area of knowledge.
TOK Practice Essay Reflection
November 16, 2011, 08:51
Filed under: TOK
Having completed a practice essay in TOK, I realized that I did not fully consider the criteria carefully. A crucial part of the essay which I failed to include was the use of solid counterclaims in respect to criteria C: “Quality of analysis of knowledge issues”. I successfully shared my point of view, but did not include counterclaims to provide a different perspective on the topic. For Criteria D: “Organization of ideas” I wasn’t able to support my ideas with sources and ended up generalizing, only using my own knowledge. Hence, I’ll work on these points for the final essay.
The Fog of War
October 30, 2011, 19:13
Filed under: TOK
After the presidential inauguration of John F. Kennedy, the incumbent CEO of Ford, Robert S. McNamara was made Secretary of Defense for the United States. A documentary called “The Fog of War” was released in 2003 which had interview material with McNamara several decades after his actions in office shaped the world we live in today. The director of “The Fog of War” stated: “McNamara was both witness to and participant in many of the crucial events of the 20th century; he was an idealist who saw his dreams and ideals challenged by the role he played in history.” – Errol Morris
When Robert S. McNamara was in office, a Quaker named Norman Morrison set himself on fire below McNamara’s office with fatal consequences. Morrison’s wife later issued the statement: “Human beings must stop killing other human beings.” Interestingly, McNamara commented “that’s a belief that I shared. I shared it then and I believe it even more strongly today.” Whether this is true is hard to believe considering his actions. He was a “prime architect” of the Vietnam War having deployed thousands of US troops to South Vietnam. He did however state that his actions and support where simply him following orders of the president. This is backed by recordings from the Oval Office between McNamara and President Kennedy, where he suggests that the US should start pulling out advisors from Vietnam. Hearing recordings later with President Johnson, he admonishes McNamara for his “unwarranted optimism”, McNamara later endorses the President’s wish to continue the war. So if McNamara’s belief was that ”Human beings must stop killing other human beings.” I believe there would have been other ways to follow that belief instead of simply following orders.
Linking back to Morrison’s incident, McNamara states “It’s a very, very difficult position for a sensitive human beings to be in. Morrison was one of those. I think I was.” It is understandable that he was torn between his beliefs and his loyalty to his administration, however by not doing anything for his beliefs and only standing by and following orders, he didn’t seem like such a strong believer. With that, he even called himself a Pacifist. This however, seems like an exaggeration, because a Pacifist believes that any violence is unjustified. McNamara said that “you need to do whatever killing is necessary but minimize it” so he may believe in little violence, but he definitely is no Pacifist.
September 5, 2011, 22:59
Filed under: TOK
In 1942, author and professor, Isaac Asimov wrote three laws for robots. These were what he thought should be the moral guidelines which they would then be programmed to follow. The three laws are
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to
come to harm.
2. A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Considering Asimov’s laws and morals, I have attempted to devise my own idea of international morality. Bearing in mind ethical theories, the two main ethics that one must look at are “Ethics of Conduct” and “Ethics of Character”.
To create a world of morally correct people following these rules, the concept of Consequentialism seems the most appropriate for ethics of conduct – “The right action is the one that produces the most intrinsic good.” However one must then follow Utilitarianism where it’s for everyone affected, or else if one only cares for themselves, they will likely have no friends.
Then taking into account ethics of character, and the moral of being a good person, the idea of Aristotelianism where “Virtue is a mean between extremes of action or passion” the concept seems right to create an international morality.
So in the end following the two main ethical theories:
One can produce laws that one should follow, similar to Asimov’s three laws for robots.
1. One must only commit acts which produce the most good.
2. One must only act virtuously (Allowing one to flourish or live well).
3. One’s actions must produce good for everyone affected.
The (New) IB TOK Diagram
August 30, 2011, 22:49
Filed under: TOK
Being asked to re-think the wheel can be an interesting task, considering it works to start out. However looking at something and deciding how to improve it, is whole other thing. The IB (International Baccalaureate) has a diagram for TOK (Theory of Knowledge) which helps assist both the teachers and students work through the course (Shown below).
In my TOK class, the teachers assigned us the task to re-think it, and try to adapt it or even create our own. In groups, very different ideas surfaced. The diagram of my group’s is shown below.
With our new diagram, we decided that instead of circles within circles, we created more of a loop. It all starts out with “The Knower”. That includes the ways of knowing (Placed at the end of each limb). Then the areas of knowledge surround the knower and because there are arrows, it represents the fact that one can always link the areas of knowledge with each other (None stand alone).
We believe that our diagram should help others and of course ourselves, understand the TOK concept a bit better, because even though it shows the “stages” of teaching the course just like the original (Start with the knower in the center and work outwards) it shows the connections between them, including the links between the ways of knowing, which is then up to the knower to use together.
TOK Practice Essays
After having completed a “short practice TOK essay”, I found it very helpful to have a checked attempt at this very different style of writing compared to what we do in other classes like english.
Having chosen the topic:
“The knowledge that we value most is the knowledge for which we can provide the strongest justifications.” To what extent would you agree with this claim?
I found that it was a hard topic to find information and other views on. I could easily write much on my own opinion of that topic, but that’s not how a TOK essay works, so I found that although it was an interesting topic, because there being such a small selection of topics, and also a much shorter word limit than the actual essay, it was harder to write.
However it was a very helpful experience to try it.
TOK Practice Essay Topic Three
Subject: Human Science
Watching the presentation by Mr. Howe on human sciences, we were introduced to many different concepts. Mr. Howe who used to teach psychology, showed us much about the study of human behavior.
One main theory introduced to us, was the “Gender Schema Theory”. With this, it shows the idea that everyday, our idea of each gender, our “template”, changes due to things we pick up and learn about each other. However the thing with human science is that one can only make very general theories, because every human is different, and with that, even very vague theories can be disproven.
The large difference between human and natural science, is the idea of defined answers. With humans, each being is different. We act different, and we think differently as well (I hope). So unlike in natural sciences, where the “truth is out there”, humans cannot really be generalized with theories, because there will always be those handful of anomalies.
We are all different.
Subject: Natural Science
The area of natural science as a area of knowledge in TOK was presented by Mr. Mejia. Looking at very different parts of natural science, we questioned many points which don’t seem very obvious at first, but seem to have much to it.
Introduction science, we discussed “Is science universal?”. This point is very interesting, for it brings up the question of “Is science a product of the west?”. A possible TOK essay topic?
The main part though with natural science, is the idea which links to math. The point that scientists work with theories. Scientists do not prove theories. They create myths, and then try to show them wrong. A great quote on that is:
“Scientist test theories, but not to falsify them but to put them on trial.” – Arnel Næss
Also considered when looking at science, is the idea of theory testability. That is where there are certain “rules” which are: A theory should
- be able to explain
- be able to generalize
- be able to predict
- be tested by experiment
The fundaments of science are then said to be:
- critical rationalism
Together, these are what scientists work with. Reality, through perception leads to interpretation, but must be tested to return to reality.
The truth is out there.
Looking at math, as one of the areas of knowledge in TOK, my grade was presented this topic by our math head, Mr. Brown. Discussion between theories and theorems where one of the topics but also other questions on mathematics.
One thing I learned was the idea that “In mathematics, there are theorems, not theories.” According to dictionary definitions:
A proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact.
A theoretical proposition, statement, or formula embodying something to be proved from other propositions or formulas.
Seeing this, I realized that it is true. We use theories in science more, and in math we only use theorems.
Also looking at questions on math, areas that can be explored using TOK are topics like:
- How should mathematics use IT?
- Mathematics has beauty! Can you see it?
These seem like very interesting topics, especially the second which can make great issues for TOK presentations or essays.
The subject of art as one of the areas of knowledge was presented to my class by one of our school’s art, Mr. Mc Crory. With this presentation, we discussed the meaning of art, and it’s links to other areas like with math.
When looking at the heated debate of “What is art”, things we came up with were:
- Expressing oneself creatively in a way which is aesthetically pleasing to others
- Displaying emotion and thoughts through senses using a variety of medium
- Self expression
- The idea of no “rights” or “wrongs”
- Simple belief of “Everything can be art”
- Creative outlet that conveys emotion or messages through any median
Reflecting on the different ideas discussed, I believe that art is a mix of all. Art is subjective to the person being asked, hence my view may differ greatly from others. I find that it is self expression in a way that pleases oneself and possibly others. Important to remember is that art includes both visual but also things like music, and when looking at music, it is said: “A good song is one that relates to the singer. A great song is one that relates to everyone.”
Also when linking art with other subjects, the idea that art and math relate is usually not the first thought that slips into people’s minds. Although many people believe that math and art don’t have anything to do with each other, it is noticed that math can be seen a lot in art. Famously known, the “Golden Ratio” is said to be seen in different works of art and in nature as well.