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The following episodes relate to the 'General TOK' Category



TOK prescribed titles May 2011


Rocks the shore

Careful: This is for the past May 2011 session! Here are some (possible) guiding questions to help you deal with the TOK Essay titles.

I have compiled a list of questions which should help students analyze their chosen prescribed title question (Nov 2010, and May 2011 session). The presented questions are meant as a source of inspiration. Some of you may think that simply answering these questions is enough for passing the TOK essay. Trust me, it’s not enough. And don’t say that you didn’t know. The purpose of these questions is to get you thinking about the prescribed title. I’m not saying that the questions are directly relevant for your particular approach to your chosen title question. I have to be honest with you: For many of these questions I myself do not even know an answer and maybe some questions do not even have a single, clear answer. Some of the questions may not even be relevant for your approach to the prescribed title! If you already have an approach to your prescribed title, then do not let these questions distract you. You must read these questions critically and reflect on them.
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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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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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Theory-based TOK Syllabus


Straw roof
I’ve compiled a list of theoretical TOK topics which may help teachers in preparing their course. The list of topics may also prove useful for providing a theoretical basis for the essay or presentation. The list is quite different from the IB TOK guide and focuses mainly on epistemological theory.

I would like to share with you a TOK syllabus (lesson plan) of a somewhat different kind. I’ve made a list of epistemological topics that fit to the different Ways of Knowing and Areas of Knowledge covered in the course. In my view, TOK should not be taught too theoretically. It is a critical thinking course, and by merely covering philosophical/epistemological topics you do not promote critical thinking. Nevertheless, I consider a theoretical basis helpful and useful for a variety of reasons.

  • As a basis for discussion: The topics can be woven in into the course to provide a more solid foundation for classroom discussion.
  • For the TOK Essay and presentation: Students can include theoretical components into the TOK essay to support their arguments. There is the danger, however, that some students merely summarize these concepts without reflection and this must be avoided.
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Of Justified True Belief and the Snouters


 
Ocean waves
In this episode, I’m going to apply Plato’s definition of knowledge (justified true belief) to the recently discovered mammals, the Rhinogradentia. Can you know that they existed?

Have you ever heard of the strange looking group of mammals, the Rhinogradentia? If you don’t know what they are, then maybe the name Snouter rings a bell? No? Don’t worry, I’m going to explain what they are. In this episode I’m going to use the names Rhinogradentia and Snouters interchangeably, they refer to the same animals. And, yes, I’m also not forgetting about some Theory of Knowledge aspects. In particular I’m going to address the concept of “justified true belief” as a definition of knowledge. So in that sense this episode is somewhat introductory in nature. But first, let’s talk about the Rhinogradentia, the Snouters.

The Rhinogradentia are a group of mammals and were first discovered by the Swedish explorer Einar Pettersson-Skämtkvist in the year 1941. They are a fairly recent discovery, even if this was over 60 years ago. He discovered them on the Polynesian Hi-yi-yi islands in the Pacific ocean, while escaping captivity as a prisoner of war. This was during the second world war. Unfortunately only a few years later, in 1945, the island was destroyed by an earthquake. Continue reading »

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The Egg of Columbus


 

Yellow flower
How do you balance an egg on its pointed side without any extra help? Many problems appear easy, once you know how to solve them. Often hidden assumptions prevent us from solving a particular problem, however.

Here in front of me, I’ve got a boiled egg. And the last 10 minutes I’ve been trying to balance the egg on its corner. No. Eggs don’t have corners, of course. I’ve tried to balance the egg on its pointed end. I think I don’t have to tell you that this is an impossible feat, the egg is always rolling over to its side. It’s possible to spin the egg, but after a few seconds the egg will roll again to its side, so this is not a good solution.

This egg balancing problem is not a new problem. It has been around for about 500 years now. Christoper Columbus, remember he was the one who discovered America in 1492, posed the very same problem to several Spanish nobles. And even 500 years ago they could not solve the problem. But Christoper Columbus knew a solution, one which is surprisingly simple. He took the egg and he smashed it on the table. And the egg was standing.
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What is the Age of Enlightenment?


 

Fossils
Enlightenment is the courage to use your own brain. Sapre Aude! Dare to Know!

Enlightenment is the courage to use your own brain. It is the courage to think on your own.

  • What do you do if you want to make your lifestyle healthier? You talk to a doctor. He or she will advise you on what food to eat.
  • You have a financial issue? You talk to the bank. They will advise you how to invest your money.
  • Or maybe you have an emotional problem? Go to a psychologist! He/she will fix it.
  • You have problems making a moral or ethical decision? You talk to a religious authority or a philosopher.
  • You have problems settling a disagreement with somebody? What do you do? You talk to a lawyer, of course.
  • You don’t know what to study at university? You ask your parents or your friends. They know it better.
  • You don’t know the answer to question on an exam? You have look at what the person sitting next to you is writing.

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What are Some Problems with Conspiracy Theories?


 

Pigeon
There are several problems with conspiracy theories, which are outlined in this episode.

I want to start this episode with a little example. Imagine that you are walking in the forest and that you see a burning tree. I give you two possible explanations:

  • Somebody dropped a burning cigarette and accidentally set the tree on fire.
  • The government tested a secret weapon, which accidentally set the tree on fire.

Which one of these two explanations is the better one, and why is it better? Many would probably say that the first explanation is the more reasonable one, but why is it more reasonable? The second explanation could be correct as well! Maybe there is a secret weapons program, and we don’t know about it! Could it be that the first explanation, with somebody dropping a burning cigarette, is too “normal” to be true? There just has to be more to it, right?
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On Relativism and Constructivism


 

Breaking waves
In this episode I’m going to explain the differences between the philosophical concepts of relativism and constructivism.

A student recently wrote me an email and asked me about the similarities and differences between relativism and constructivism. I already started to write an email to answer this question when I reconsidered and decided to take this opportunity to make another podcast episode out of it.

Now before I start off, I just want to say that we have to be a bit careful that we are not getting too theoretical about this. And if a “real” expert on this topic discovers some inaccuracies in my explanation, I kindly request some forgiveness….. I have not studied this particular aspect in much detail myself.
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Six Jokes in Seven Minutes


 

Pumpkins
Here is a collection of six (hopefully intelligent) jokes that count to my favorites. I don’t know if you consider them funny or not, in any case they should give you something to think as well.

This time, it is something different! Do you want to listen to a few jokes? Here is a collection of six (hopefully intelligent) jokes that count to my favorites. I don’t know if you consider them funny or not, in any case they should give you something to think as well.

Transcript:

OK, this time I’m going to try out something different, I want to tell you a few jokes. Yes, you heard correctly.

Now there is a small problem to that – I think that these jokes are funny, but maybe you don’t think that they are. Well….. tough luck for me. I any case I can’t year you not laughing, so it is not embarrassing for me if you don’t laugh.
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