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Archive for December, 2009



Ethics Video on Utilitarianism and Categorical Imperative


Red Books
I found the following video, which I would like to recommend as an introduction into Ethics. It is from Harvard University, the lecturer is Michael Sandel. The lecture covers Utilitarianism and the Categorical Imperative and is very understandable. The lecture is very interactive and engaging (both for the audience and for the person viewing the video). The video addresses the classical ethical dilemma of a trolley which is about to crash into a group of 5 people. Would you steer the trolley to a side track on which there is only one person standing?

The complete series contains 12 videos, each one about 1 hour long. Here is a link to the series on youtube.
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Excellent TOK Videos (German)


Arch
Here is a recommendation of several 15 minute videos (in German) with direct TOK relevancy.

I would like to recommend the following videos for the TOK course. They are in German, and if you happen to understand this language, then I think you should watch them, because they directly address TOK topics, especially relating to the Area of Knowledge Science.

The videos (each one 15 min. long) can be seen online, but it is not possible to download them. You may need to install RealPlayer. The show alpha-Centauri was produced by the Bayrischer Rundfunk (Bavarian Broadcasting) and was also aired on television. The host of the show, Prof. Harald Lesch, is an Astrophysicist and Philosopher and works at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU). Continue reading »

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Reflections on a TOK Presentation that made me think


Old castle
A few days ago one of my students had her TOK presentation which sparked a thoughtful classroom discussion that filled nearly two periods. For me, as a TOK teacher, both the presentation and the follow-up discussion were a great enjoyment: both reflected the “TOK spirit” of a balanced insightful exploration of the topic.

It’s TOK presentation time. And this presentation started a thoughtful discussion in the classroom. The presentation analyzed different ethical approaches relating to the controversial Body Worlds Exhibition. There are several Youtube Videos online if you want to inform yourself a bit more (search for “Body Worlds”). As a matter of fact, I do recommend you to have a look at the exhibition’s Web site so that you know what I’m talking about. The exhibition shows preserved real human bodies, presented in an artistic way to the public. The corpses are “plastinated”. In this process the body liquids and fats are replaced by plastic. This is a way of preserving the body, and it is important to understand that they do not show plastic models. The specimens are displayed in a way that makes them appear very alive, engaged in various activities, such as sports. Continue reading »

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When can we be absolutely certain that something is true?


Propeller of a Junkers JU-52
Are there any statements that are absolutely and certainly true? Yes! Analytic statements are true by their own nature. In this post I’ll outline some of them.

One of my most favorite responses to questions from students is: “It depends on how you see it.” To many of my students this response can be quite frustrating at times. “Why can he not give us a clear, clean, yes/no answer to a simple question? Why does he always want to explore the ‘grey zone’? I want to have some certainty!”, they say. Continue reading »

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Linking Questions: History and Ways of Knowing


Boats
In this post I’d like to present a list of questions linking History with the different Ways of Knowing for classroom discussion.

Linking the different Areas of Knowledge (AOK) with different Ways of Knowing (WOK) can be quite challenging at times. I now attempted to link History with Language, Logics, Emotion and Sense Perception.

History and Language:

  • Does the way (the language) that certain historical events are presented in history books influence the way that the reader understands these events?
  • What role does loaded language play when talking about historical events?
  • What role do connotation and denotation play when talking about historical events?
  • How can language introduce bias into historical accounts?
  • How does language help or hinder the interpretation of historical facts?

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Of Science, Math and Beauty


Colorful Houses
In this post I’m pondering on the relationship between math and beauty. Can math be beautiful as well? And what is beauty in the first place?

I recently read an article about the mathematics of beauty. Researchers found out that beauty is not in the eye of the beholder, and that beauty can indeed be quantified. If you want to read the article, here is a link.

Now, if it is possible to describe what beauty is using mathematical formulas, maybe it is also possible to look at the issue the other way around. Can math itself be considered beautiful or ugly? I did find an answer to this question by the English mathematician G. H. Hardy (1877-1947):
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What are the four Ways of Knowing (WOKs)?


old arches
In this post, a quick introduction into the four Ways of Knowing (WOK)!

So, you are now sitting in front of your computer reading this very post about the Ways of Knowing. How do you know that? Honestly! How do you know that you are reading this text right now? Is it because someone told you? Of course not. You know it because your senses tell you so. You can read the text with your eyes (vision), you hear the sound of the computer fan humming (hearing), and you feel that you are sitting on a chair (touch).

Philosophers have identified these four ways of knowing: Sense Perception, Language, Emotion/intuition and Logics/Reason. Pick one fact that you know and ask yourself what the sources of this piece of knowledge are. From where do you know it? You will soon discover that it is possible to trace you knowledge back to one of these four Ways of Knowing. Let’s start with a little example: “I know that atoms exist”. How do you know it? Have you ever seen, heard or felt atoms before? I can hardly imagine. Sense perception is therefore an unlikely source. Do you intuitively and emotionally feel their existence? Hopefully not! The most likely source of this knowledge is that someone told, most probably a teacher, you or that you read about them. The source of this knowledge is therefore language. Continue reading »

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As we acquire more knowledge, things do not become more comprehensible, but more mysterious.

- Albert Schweitzer -
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