Chapter 8 The Ways of Knowing Introduction to Ways of Knowing

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Chapter 8 The Ways of Knowing

Introduction to Ways of Knowing

  • Ways of knowing different than the Areas of Knowledge
  • Areas of knowledge are relatively distinct units
  • The ways of knowing are much more interconnected with one
  • It is virtually impossible to separate the four ways when we say we know something
  • They do not work independently of one another

How would we “know” about the situation in the picture?

  • A. Perception
  • B. Reasoning
  • C. Language
  • D. Emotion
  • E. All of the above
  • Which way of knowing creates your
  • knowledge of this situation?

Imperative to remember

  • All of the ways of knowing are inseparably intertwined with one another and they work together to create every person’s understanding of and knowledge about reality

Ways of knowing are also important factors in each of the areas of knowledge

  • Rudbeck’s emotion affected his perception.
  • His perception affected his reason
  • His reason affected his language
  • All of these affected the knowledge claims he made in history
  • This must be the ski track to
  • the lost city of Atlantis

This ways of knowing chapter will examine

  • How the Ways of Knowing affect one another
  • How they are important for knowledge claims in the Areas of Knowledge
  • How the ways of knowing affect the knowledge we claim to have

Lesson 1 Reason and Ways of Knowing

Reason is often discussed in essays

  • Many times topic questions will ask for a discussion of reason and how it works in combination with other ways of knowing or other areas of knowledge
  • Even when the prescribed topic question does not ask specifically for a discussion of reason, the subject of reason and reasoning often applies anyway, and should be discussed

Positive aspects of reason

  • Objectivity
  • Rationality
  • Deductive and Conclusive
  • Pragmatic
  • Clarifies relationships
  • Why do we know we should not get out of the car
  • to shoo this pesky wild baboon away?

Negative Aspects of Reason

  • Deduction can be problematic
  • Subjective nature of reasoning
  • Reasoning can prove unreality
  • Reason has limited access
  • Snobbish-Elitist
  • Reasoning can prove unreality.
  • Remember the logical nonsense about the zombies?

How reason affects the other ways of knowing

  • You might not want them in your bed at night,
  • but is there really any reason to fear spiders?

How reason effects emotion

  • It “controls” emotion
  • Puts emotion into a realistic perspective
  • Helps differentiate between knowledge and belief
  • American propaganda poster from WWII

Reason and Language

  • Language is a tool of reason
  • At the same time reason is bound by language
  • Language is an imperfect medium for relaying everything we can experience and think

Reason and perception

  • Reason makes sense of what is perceived
  • Reason can change our perception of reality
  • What do we know about a scream
  • coming from someone on this ride?

Concluding thoughts

  • Reason does not work independently of the other ways of knowing
  • It is dependent upon them and they are dependent upon reason when we acquire knowledge
  • Reason has both its strengths and its weaknesses when considering the type of knowledge that can be gained from it
  • Reason presents us with both paradoxes and with answers
  • “Since it is reason which shapes and regulates all other things,
  • it ought not itself to be left in disorder”
  • —Discourses Chap. Xvii—Epictetus

Lesson 2 Reason and Areas of Knowledge

Reason and ethics

  • Reason about right and wrong
  • Reason about moral relativity and respecting other cultures
  • Socratic Method to decide if something is a correct ethical statement
  • Will reason tip the ethical scale?

Reason and history

  • Helps make deductive conclusions about events when pieces of the “puzzle” are missing
  • Helps uncover hidden bias
  • Helps evaluate sources

Reason and science

  • Reasoning is the foundation for scientific method
  • Reason behind idea of falsification

Reason and math

  • It is based on deduction
  • Reason within a set of agreed upon axioms

Reason and human science

  • Reason in the human scientific method
  • Reason aids in understanding one’s own subjective interpretations and biases
  • Reason can help us be aware of illegitimate statistical claims

Reason and art

  • Reason is used to interpret meaning
  • Reason in creating art
  • El Greco. St. Martin and the Beggar. 1597-1599. Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA.

Lesson 3 Emotion and Ways of Knowing

Emotion as a Way of Knowing

  • Emotion is often contrasted with reason as if they were two separate entities
  • Reason is viewed by many as a way to true knowledge, such as mathematical or scientific knowledge
  • Emotion is often viewed simply as a troublesome factor of our lives which has a tendency to cloud and skew real knowledge


  • It is impossible to separate the thought process we call reasoning from the part of our personalities we call emotion
  • Furthermore it is important to keep in mind the strength of foundational knowledge
  • Emotional knowledge is foundational knowledge


  • Holds to the realm of the subjective
  • Creates sound foundational knowledge, but has shortcomings when used as a basis for objective claims
  • Has its strengths and weaknesses as a way of knowing something
  • Should not be disregarded as useless for the creation of knowledge, but at the same time it should not be used as a basis for all knowledge claims

Positive aspects of emotion

  • Emotion is a subjective experience
  • Emotion can be a basis for knowledge and understanding among a group or community
  • Even team logos can wake emotion in fans.

Positive aspects of emotion (contd.)

  • Emotion is easily communicated
  • Emotion is knowledge beyond words
  • Why do we understand mime acting?

Negative aspects of emotion

  • Emotion is subjective
  • Emotion can be irrational and brash
  • It goes a lot quicker to cut in line

How emotion affects the other Ways of Knowing

How emotion affects reason

How emotion effects perception

  • Emotion can skew perception
  • Emotion can aid in perception
  • An old house or an abode for vengeful ghosts?

How emotion affects language

  • Affects the type of language we use and message we communicate
  • Emotion affects the reception of the message
  • It is not so much what you say,
  • but how you say it.

Lesson 4 Emotion and Areas of Knowledge

  • Is emotion too complex to fully understand?

Emotion and ethics

  • Emotion can be a decisive factor for ethical knowledge
  • Emotion as a catalyst to knowledge about right and wrong

Emotion and history

  • Emotion can easily lead us to believe one story or version over another
  • Emotion can affect which history is recorded
  • The Navy ship Shaw explodes during the
  • Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor

Emotion and Science

  • Emotion can even cause scientists to blatantly lie or forge results
  • Emotion as a driving force behind all scientific discoveries
  • Hwang Woo-Suk resigned in late 2005
  • after he admitted to fabricating Stem-cell research.

Emotion and Math

  • Deductive reasoning in mathematics and emotion
  • Mathematical knowledge affected by emotion on an individual level
  • Does math make you feel this way?

Emotion and Human Science

  • Emotion and interpretation in Human Science
  • Emotion and statistics
  • Super Fresh is shown to make breath 125% better.
  • Will you dare to go a day without it?

Emotion and art

  • Laocoön and his two sons, 1st century A.D. Marble,
  • Vatican Museums, Rome.

Lesson 5 Perception and Ways of Knowing

Introductory comments about perception

  • How much cognitive psychology is really necessary in TOK?
  • Perception is TOK only needs to focus on the important knowledge issues raised by perception and how perception affects knowledge
  • There is no great need to get into depth about perception as it is understood and taught in cognitive psychology
  • Perception does not need to be treated like a course in and of itself

There are other aspects of perception important for TOK

  • The role of bias
  • The way perception interacts with the other Ways of Knowing and Areas of Knowledge

Psychology and Perception

  • Everything that we know has come to us through our senses
  • The only way to gain knowledge about our world is by perceiving the world through our senses
  • However, we perceive the world from our own human, and quite limited, perspective
  • Subsequetly, We can only know about an exceedingly small portion of all of the things which are actually taking place within the universe.

Biological threshold

  • A biological thresholds is a biological predisposition which limits our perceptive abilities to what they are.
  • Consequently, our biological thresholds limit our knowledge of the world
  • ”I have an especially good nose.”

Biological thresholds and the implications for knowledge

  • We can not possibly know the world fully by perceiving it; yet paradoxically, our perception is our only way to know our world
  • Perhaps our perceptions are merely imperfect approximations of reality which we have incorrectly fooled ourselves into believing are actually reality
  • Since we are aware that we have limited perceptive abilities we expand these abilities through technology
  • We are constantly searching and trying to understand the world as it functions beyond our five senses

Biological thresholds and the implications for knowledge (contd.)

  • Since we are not able to perceive everything we know about, we must get our knowledge about these things from other sources
  • Our limited perception also leads to knowledge claims based on faith and belief.


  • Illusions are a good way to illustrate that reality can be different from how we actually perceive it
  • Perception can fool us into thinking things are different than they really are
  • Is seeing really believing?

Rules in the perception game

  • We can only know what we can perceive
  • Anything that affects our perception can affect our knowledge of reality
  • If we perceive something one way we have no way of knowing if our perception is reflective of reality or not
  • Is it possible that we are all just brains in a vat hooked into some sort of perception machine?
  • How would we know?

Bias and Perception

  • To avoid perceiving situations all too subjectively we must understand how bias affects our perception
  • We must be aware of our biases
  • Efficiency or treacherous death traps?

Biological biases

  • A biological bias is one which is caused by biological factors
  • They limit what can be experienced and subsequently known
  • They cause people to “make sense” of situations differently than they otherwise would

Social biases

  • Social biases all work on the “making sense” level of perception
  • They can be likened to a filter through which people view the world
  • As soon as mental processing takes place, the social biases come into effect
  • Social biases are ever-present in our perception of reality
  • There is more to percieving this car than
  • only seeing it

Social biases (contd.)

  • Social biases are biases which we have learned through our lives in a social environment
  • They make it impossible to perceive objects in the environment neutrally
  • We cannot escape our subjective understanding of reality to see things differently than we can see them

Ways of Knowing and Perception

  • Perception affects all ways of knowing
  • Biased perception affects reason, language, and emotion
  • Perception of emotion in language
  • It is even possible to perceive this neutrally?

Lesson 6 Perception and Areas of knowledge

  • The Adoration of the Kings. Jan M. Gossaert.
  • 1500-1515 National Gallery, London.

The human processing machine

  • Always keep in mind the important role bias plays in our perception of the world
  • Even the most basic of our perceptions (and then subsequent reasoning and reaction) are influenced by our biased outlook on the world
  • Knowledge claims demand processed thought which starts with an observation of some sort and ends with a response
  • Thes processes will be affected by bias

Perception and ethics

  • Right or Wrong: “what’s right and wrong all depends on how you see a thing.”
  • Bias and perception combined create an ethical knowledge of reality
  • Will everyone perceive alcohol the same way?

Perception and history

  • Perceiving claims as lies or truths
  • Perceiving connections, seeing patterns and possible solutions

Perception and science

  • Science is perception
  • Expanding perception via technology
  • Perceptual bias can affect interpretation
  • What is this but an extension of our
  • vision into smaller realms?

Perception and math

  • Little or no effect
  • Perception part of mathematical discoveries
  • Someone must have perceived
  • the relationship.

Perception and human science

  • Perception a part of human science
  • Perceptual bias in human science
    • Bias alters the meaning of phenomena as they are being perceived
    • Bias can also can also predispose a person to observing certain types of things which are considered to be important within the mental construct one has

Perception and art

  • Assyrian King Ashurbanipal in the Lion Hunt.
  • British Museum. London

Lesson 7 Language and Ways of Knowing

  • “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.”
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein

Language and reason

  • Language is the means by which reasoning takes place
  • Language can prove the unreasonable

The Liars Paradox

  • This sentence is false (A)
    • First, if (A) is true, then (A) is false
    • On the other hand, let’s assume (A) is false. But because the Liar Sentence is saying precisely that it is false, then in all actuality (A) is true
    • So (A) is true, but it says it is false. So it cannot be true if it says it is false. (A) can only be true if and only if it is false. But (A) can not be both true and false, but (A) is both true and false
  • “This sentence is false.” Hmm Perhaps he
  • is also perplexed by the Liars Paradox.

Language and emotion

  • Language can elicit emotion
  • Emotionally charged words
  • Language conveys emotion

Language and perception

  • Language, emotion, reason, and perception
  • Language focuses attention
  • Language can alter perception of the past
  • Language can change perception of the past.

Lesson 8 Language and Areas of Knowledge

Language and ethics

  • Can language help tip the scales
  • of ethical knowledge?

Language and history

  • Historical knowledge is largely language based knowledge
    • All language will reflect cultural and personal bias
    • The historian must be aware of this when making and reading knowledge claims

Language and science

  • Scientific language
  • Perhaps language causes one to view the world in scientific terms
    • Since all of our thoughts are in words and our thoughts make up our reality, the question arises if people using different words have a different reality than people who did not have those words in their minds

Language and math

  • The language of mathematics
    • There is a mathematical language much like there is a scientific language

Language and human science

  • Language a subject of study
  • Language’s interpretive ability
    • Language has the unique ability to make the same information mean completely different things
  • One word will can change everything.

Language and art

  • Language is art in some aspects
    • Language allows for artistic interpretation to happen, and even if it could be proven that no objective knowledge could come from interpretation of art, interpretations do lead to strong subjective, or foundational knowledge
  • Everything is not completely open to interpretation
    • language also has the ability to relay messages or ideas unambiguously

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