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What are the four Ways of Knowing (WOKs)?

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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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Does Language Influence our View of the World?

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We use language to describe our subjective perception of the world. If I say “I feel cold”, then I use language to describe how I feel. This is nothing new. The interesting question now is: does it also work the other way around? Can the language that we use influence the way that we perceive and view things?

The idea that that the language that we use can influence the way that we think is nothing new. According to the Sapir-Whorf-Hypothesis (also known as linguistic relativity) language does not only reflect our way of thinking, but is also able to shape it. This hypothesis became known in the 1950s. People from different cultures and languages view the world differently and organize their reality differently. The way that they think is influenced by the grammar and vocabulary of their language. To bring it directly to the point: there are certain thoughts and ideas that can only be thought in a particular language. These ideas do not exist in other languages. In this episode I’d like to give you several examples that illustrate this point. Continue reading »

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What is Logical Positivism?

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Logical Positivism was one of the most important schools of philosophy of science in the beginning 20th century. The “Vienna Circle”, a group of scientists, mathematicians and philosophers, contributed greatly in promoting this philosophical view.

When I was younger, in my teens, I started to discover my love for the sciences. I was fascinated by Biology and Physics and I think I must have driven my teachers crazy with my constant request for “proofs” and evidence. I liked science so much that I even included chemical formulas in my literature essays. Instead of saying “The water waves are gently moving in the sunset.” I’d write “Waves made of H2O are gently moving in the solar spectrum.” My English teacher then responded, “Don’t forget about the H2SO4 (sulfuric acid) which is dissolved as well!”. An then I didn’t feel as bad about the bad mark on the test anymore… Now I am teacher myself and occasionally I meet some students who remind me very much of myself. They are constantly confronting me with the words “How do you know that?” – always eager for empirical, scientific evidence. They want to see things before they believe it. They want formulas. They want cause and effect relationships. Without having been aware of it, I myself as well as my students, were followers of a certain philosophical school. We were “Positivists”. Continue reading »

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What are the differences between Facts, Theories and Opinions?


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The terms facts, theories and opinions are often confused. The objective of this edition is to clarify these terms. Facts are observations or measurements from an experiment, theories are the explanation of these facts, while opinions are assessments or evaluations.

The terms facts, theories and opinions are often confused. The objective of this edition is to clarify these terms. Facts are observations or measurements from an experiment, theories are the explanation of these facts, while opinions are assessments or evaluations. Opinions are often not scientifically verifiable or falsifyable.

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What is the Observer Effect?


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Every measurement changes the object that we want to measure. This is called the Observer Effect. When we stick a thermometer into a glass of water to measure its temperature, then the thermometer will change the temperature of the water as well. Similar effects can be observed when measuring voltage or current in electrical circuits. Also in the social sciences we have a similar problem: people will not behave naturally when they feel that they are observed.

In this edition of TOK-TALK we will explore if it is in principle possible to measure anything accurately. How does a measurement change the value of that what you want to measure? Listen to find out!

Here in front of me, I have a cup of hot water, and over here we have a thermometer. Let’s put the thermometer into the glass, we have to wait a bit for the temperature reading to adjust. For our listeners, it’s a digital thermometer with a metallic probe. You use similar thermometers to measure the inside temperature of a cake to check if it is finished baking. Continue reading »

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Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.

- Albert Einstein -
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