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Tok 2016 Essay Titles Explained Further

ToK students should get the exact titles from their teacher (to write the exact titles here would be a breach of copyright). What I’ve written here are rephrasing of the question, the command term, initial thoughts, potential KQ’s and approaches to each PT.

Now that I’ve finished marking May 2016 essays I thought that I’d have a quick look at the November 2016 essays. These are very much initial thoughts.

Remember that developing an argument for ToK PT’s is crucial, and subsequently the evaluation of that argument. As such I have focussed on potential arguments here (many others are available).

  1. Is acquisition of knowledge more recognition than judgment ? Evaluate.

Nice question ! Recognition vs Judgment. Is recognition more dependent on pre-learned patterns,and judgment more on anticipatory WoKs (such as intuition, emotion and reason) ?

I like this question because I think it will be fairly easy to develop counterclaims, such as acquisition is learning/discovery of knowledge whereas judgment is production of knowledge.

    2. Does increased availability of data always help production of knowledge ? Explore.

Great Question ! Possibly my favourite in the Nov 2016 Session.

This is such a great question because it allows real contrasts when considering the production of knowledge in different AoKs. Get deep into the methodology section of the Knowledge Frameworks if you’re considering this question.

As I consider this question I can immediately see the claim:

The number of data points required for acceptable knowledge production varies according to the AoK. The author could then compare minimalist art with the Hadron Collider.

Counterclaim: Individual data points represent a precedent history of multiple instances of knowledge production. In this claim it could be argued that minimalist art represents ‘more data’ than that which is produced by the Hadron Collider.

Of course you can have interesting arguments about what constitutes ‘data’ in each AoK, or according to each WoK. Remember to focus on the ToK, and not the RLS.

This is certainly a good question for those interested in the methodologies of Mathematics, Natural Sciences or Human Sciences and contrasting them with the less scientific AoKs such Arts, RKS & IKS .

3. Do conflicting KC’s always involve difference in perspectives ? Discuss.

This essay could be all about the term “perspective”. This is a contentious term, and students will need to have an all round discussion about the different ways in which the term can be applied in ToK. A dictionary definition will not suffice for a full discussion.

4. Is error as valuable as accuracy in knowledge production ? To what extent.

I see black swans, Karl Popper’s falsification theory, outliers, confirmation bias, narrative fallacy etc etc.

This is a lovely question because it gives such great opportunity to develop claim and counterclaim. Remember, you won’t score more than 4/10 if you can’t develop counterclaims, this question makes it easy to write counterclaims. For example:

Claim: Accuracy is knowledge in the Natural Sciences : If a theory in AoK Nat Sci is inaccurate then it is discarded, and does not constitute knowledge.

Counterclaim: Much knowledge, often labelled as factual, within the natural sciences is derived from the ‘least worst explanation’, or the eradication of all other possibilities. In these cases it’s the lowest level of error rather than highest level of accuracy which leads to knowledge production.

Think of the fun that Mathematicians could have writing about the ‘Margin of Error’ in response to this question….

5. Metaphor is essential for understanding, but not for knowledge. Evaluate.

Wow – there are some big chunky topics inside this PT ! What’s the difference between knowledge and understanding ? If something is deemed to be ‘essential’ then is it a necessary condition ? Are there defined criteria for metaphor ? Can metaphor exist in the lived world of experience or purely in the metaphysical world of language ? Can personal knowledge be understood as a complex of inter-relating metaphor ?

Good luck at keeping your response focussed on the PT. I’m having trouble keeping the initial thoughts focussed on the PT !

6. Do WoKs operate differently in personal & shared knowledge ? Assess.

In the May 2016 session PT#1 (Networks of WoKS) ran very close to this question. Many of the responses that I marked used PK & SK as a Knowledge Question, or Knowledge Claim.

This PT has a nice open feel to it, leaving the student lots of range to explore different AoKs, and various applications of the PK/SK intersection. There are many many different ways that this essay could be approached – here are just a few of my initial thoughts.

Contrast PK/SK in 2 different AoKs.

Take, for example, RKS & Maths. Choose a few WOKs:

Emotion – emotion as a WoK in both PK & SK spheres is welcome, and maybe the aim, in RKS. However, could be seen as a form of bias in both PK & SK terms in Maths.

Reason – in terms of falsification procedures Reason as a WoK is welcome in AoK Maths as both PK & SK, but may be deemed a punishable crime in SK terms in some RK, yet may be welcome in PK terms in some RKS.

Faith– is very much part of SK in RKS, and a valued part of PK. Could be argued that it is not part of SK in Maths, but has been an important part of knowledge production in PK sphere of mathematicians (for example see the history of the development of Fermatt’s Theorem).

Enjoy your writing !

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This is a short guide to the May 2018 Essay Titles – just an introduction to each title. I will post deeper, more detailed analyses soon. Please ensure that you get the exact titles from your ToK Teacher, I am unable to print the exact titles here for copyright reasons.

Click hyperlinked titles to be taken to longer descriptions.

May 2018 Titles.
1. Academic disciplines can overlap, but interdisciplinary approaches lead to confusion. Discuss this claim.
What defines a ‘discipline’ ? How do the processes of knowledge production influence the categorisation of knowledge ? Are disciplines culturally defined or objectively fixed ? Is the organisation of knowledge a product of a top-down or bottom up process ? Is confusion a positive stage of knowledge production ? Is confusion the outcome of pre-existing assumptions (which may be incorrect) ? What is the role of hegemony ?
Real life examples: The development of Vaccines, the debate between conventional economics and behavioural economics.

2. Confidence comes from knowing little, as knowledge increases doubt increases. Discuss with ref to 2 AoKs.
I see this as an “ignorance is bliss” type essay. It’s not too difficult to set up both sides of this debate, and use RLS to illustrate the arguments. The choice of AoKs will be absolutely crucial. I think that I would contrast Religious Knowledge with Natural Sciences initially arguing for the proposal of the title. Then in counterargument I would use examples from RKS where increased knowledge has not increased doubt, and may have increased confidence. Further, finding examples from Nat Sciences where increased knowledge has increased doubt, and possibly reduced confidence.
My structure:
Argue 1: RKS for the proposal
Counter 1: Natsci against the propsal
Argue 2: RKS against the proposal
Counter 2: Natsci for the proposal
Analysis & evaluation. Conclusion.

3. Without assuming uniformities there can be no knowledge. Discuss re. 2 AoKs
My initial take is around the word ‘uniformities’. The essay asks me to look at cases where uniformity either was, or was not needed,  in the production of knowledge. This is a patterns vs exceptions essay.
for the importance of uniformities: Correlational research in Nat Sci / Hum Sci eg Cancer & Smoking research, or Crime & Poverty research.
against the importance of uniformities: Genre change in the Arts, the importance of exceptions in ethics.

4. Is suspension of disbelief essential in AoKs ? Ref. 2 AoKs
The first question here is to decide to discuss whether disbelief is essential to the production of knowledge or whether disbelief is essential to knowing (akin to the consumption of knowledge) ? I think that either approach would be acceptable.
It could be argued that ‘disbelief’ is highly AoK specific, and therefore changes depending upon AoK. Disbelief in the Arts could be a willingness to accept the abstracted or reified, whilst disbelief in the Natural Sciences could be the use of conceptual representation in the place of empirical certainty (for example molecular diagrams in Chemistry, or the description of nuclear fission in Physics). An interesting discussion about Indigenous Knowledge Systems could posit that suspending disbelief is central to the very definition of some IKS. By setting this up as a subjectivity vs objectivity debate it would be easier to develop the counterarguments (that suspension of disbelief is not required for knowledge).

5. The older the discipline the higher the quality of knowledge of that discipline. Discuss re. 2 disciplines.
The question doesn’t actually use the term older, it uses the term “duration of historical development“, but I can’t use that term in the question due to copyright reasons. The term historical development could infer that the discipline has developed (ie changed) over time, as such students could set up static disciplines against dynamic disciplines in counter argument. The quote refers to academic disciplines.
In this essay students may want to question the concept of “quality of knowledge” – does this refer to the function of knowledge, the reliability of knowledge or the validity of knowledge ? However, I think the focus of the essay should be on the debate of whether the duration of development is linked to quality of knowledge. This is Knowledge as an Evolutionary Moment vs Knowledge as a revelationary moment, trial & error vs sudden
cognizance (an ‘aha’ moment).
There are also interesting discussions to be had with this essay concerning the fossilisation and petrification of knowledge. Does knowledge become fixed because it “stands the test of time” or does it become fixed because of dogmatism and the taboo of critique ? Finally, I assume that because the question stipulates ‘disciplines’ rather than AoK then the examiners are interested in the processes of knowledge production and replacement rather than underlying assumptions, however I could be wrong !

6. Robust knowledge requires consensus & disagreement. Discuss re. 2 AoK
What do we mean by ‘Robust’ ? Is an agreement to disagree actually a form of consensus ?  One way of looking at this essay is to go into the process of knowledge production. You would need to find cases of knowledge production which required both consensus & disagreement in order to reach a ‘robust’ conclusion. In counterargument you would need to find examples of knowledge production which were either mainly consensual (or came out of falsification), or examples of consensus and disagreement which led to weak (‘not robust’) knowledge. The essay partly hinges around the definition of the word robust.

This is just a first look at the essays. I will do deeper dives on individual essays if people need / request them.



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