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The following episodes relate to the 'Ways of Knowing' Category



Of Arts and Ethics


 

Wooden wheel
I’ll be exploring the relationship between arts and ethics. Is it necessary for art to go against moral and ethical conventions in order to be considered “good” art? Where are the limits to the freedom of expression of art? In this episode I’ll be asking questions, and not give answers!

In this episode, I’ll be exploring the relationship between arts and ethics. Some time ago, I read an interesting news report, one which links the two areas of knowledge Arts and Ethics. It’s about an unusual art exhibition. The artist placed 10 kitchen blenders on a long table. The blenders have sharp rotating knives and are normally used to smash vegetables or fruit. But in this case, each one of the blenders contained a live little gold fish swimming in some water. The visitors of the museum now had the choice of turning on the blenders – or not. The visitor, essentially, became the “rulers of the decision on life and death”, too use the words of the artist. According to news reports, some visitors indeed turned on the blenders, killing the fish, making fish soup. Animal rights activists complained, of course, and the police started to get involved as well.

When I first read about this art exhibition, I had to ask myself several questions.

  • Must art provoke? Is it necessary for good art to provoke emotions and a discussion?
  • Continue reading »

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Is the Word “scientific” Overused?


 

Tropical sunset
In this edition I want to give a little warning. Sometimes the words “science” or “scientific” are used to increase the value of certain claims, even if the use of these terms is not justified.

There are many claims out there that give the appearance of being scientific but they are not. Sometimes claims are shrouded in fancy language and sophisticated vocabulary – very serious sounding stuff. “It’s gotta be true, it sounds so scientific!” The media is full with claims that sound scientific but are not.
Continue reading »

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On the Purpose of Life


 

Parrot
Viktor Frankl (1905-1997) and the purpose of life.

After a few months of idleness, I think it’s about time to add another short episode. Well, what am I going to talk about today? Today I’d like to talk about the purpose of life. Now, I know that this does not sound like one of the classical Theory of Knowledge topics, but who cares….. Why not do something different for a change. Why this topic?

A few weeks before the end of the school year a student came up to me and asked me, seriously, “What is the purpose of life”? We had a short conversation on the issue and I decided to pick this topic up during the last TOK lesson of the school year. I passed on this question to the rest of the class. Some of them looked back at me with surprised big eyes. In my view, one of the purposes of TOK is to make students ask questions that they normally would not ask, and by the response that I got many of my students really never asked themselves this question before, in that sense I reached my objective.
Continue reading »

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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.
Continue reading »

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Newspaper Articles – Does Size Matter?


 

Metal door and key hole
How does the optical appearance of a newspaper article, the size of the headlines, the size of the pictures, influence its perception of its content by the readers? How does the context in which a newspaper article appears influence its perception by the readers?

I like to keep myself informed and I therefore like to read newspapers. Now with the internet being so widespread, I do not buy newspapers anymore, but rather visit my favorite newspapers online. Usually I start out with the computer news to keep myself updated on new products and developments, followed by science (deep in my heart I am a scientist, after all!) and politics and economics. The sports section I usually skip, I have to admit to you that I am not very competent in this particular area of knowledge. But I do read the sports section during the Olympics.
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How Biased are History Books? Are They?


 

Vitamin C under the microscope
Are history books telling us the full story of the past? Can they tell us the full story at all? Why is it that so many history books focus on the “big players”, the kings and rulers, the big events, big politics? What about the “normal” people?

I recently read an interesting poem by the German poet and playwright Berthold Brecht – a poem which got me thinking. You see, this is one of the TOK illnesses, you start to see TOK everywhere, and also in poetry.
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Of Ghost Traps and Wrist Watches


 

Vitamin C under the microscope
Ghost traps are very useful devices – they can be used to catch evil spirits. What? You say that this does not make sense because ghosts do not exist? You say that ghosts are a product of our imagination? Well… do you believe in time? Could it not be that time is a product of our imagination as well?

A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit a cultural exhibition. There were all sorts of interesting exhibits, ranging from art work to the local food… and of course there were also rooms filled with religious objects, handicrafts, clothing etc. I also remember the nice photographs of the landscape that were on display. For the purpose of this episode, the country is of no importance. We were a small group of approximately 10 visitors and we had one tour guide for the museum.
Continue reading »

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What is Knowledge?


 

Old wooden wheel
Plato defined knowledge as “Justified true belief”. For a person to know something he/she has to believe it, has to be able to justify it and it has to be true. This is explained here.

The tree criteria needed for a person to know something are:

  • Lack of justification: “I know that aliens exist” – there is no way that you can provide a justification for this claim. Therefore you can not know it.
  • Lack of belief: “I know that the world is round but I don’t believe it.” – this is a contradictory statement. For you to know something you have to believe in it. But not every belief is knowledge!
  • Lack of truth: I know that a circle has 3 corners. – You can not know things that are evidently not true.

Four possible ways to justify one’s belief are:

  • Memory
  • Authority
  • Logics
  • Empirical evidence
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What is the “4-Ears Model” of Communication?


 

Fossil
According to Psychologist Friedmann Schulz von Thun, when a person talks to another person he/she is passing on four different messages. This communication model is called the “4 Ears Model” and is useful in understanding why people misunderstand each other.

Alice and Bob are both sitting in the car, Alice is driving. They are waiting at an intersection, the traffic light is red and then changes to green.

Bob: The traffic light is green.

Alice: Don’t be so impatient!

… and they start arguing. What went wrong? According to the psychologist Friedemann Schulz von Thun, a message that is passed from one person to another person carries four pieces of information: Continue reading »

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What are Formal Systems?


 
Pink Flowers
Introduced here: the MIU puzzle as an example of a formal system. A formal system is composed of axioms, to which rules of inference are applied to produce theorems to which the rules can be applied again. Confused? Try to MIU puzzle yourself – it’s fun!

The MU Puzzle is an example of a formal system. The objective of the MU Puzzle is to try to reach the string MU starting from MI, using only these four rules:

  • Rule 1: xI ? xIU. If there is an I at the end of the string of letters, then you can add a U. For example if your string is MI then you can change it into MIU. You can only add a U if the last letter is an I.
  • Rule 2: Mx ? Mxx. You can double any string that follows the M. So if your string is MIU then you can double the IU after the M. You will then get MIUIU. We have doubled the IU.
  • Continue reading »

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Always tell the truth. Then you don't have to remember anything.

- Mark Twain -