First impressions of TOK

My preconceptionS of Theory of Knowledge(TOK) was that it was another compulsory subject that wasn’t dissimilar to philosophy. This preconception influenced my first impression of the lesson. My previous experiences of philosophy were that it was concerned with areas of life that didn’t involve me nor interest me. Questions such as the ‘how do we know what we know’ and ‘the most reliable way of knowing’ seemed to be concerned with existentialism and steeped in pretentiousness and would often leave me with a giant headache. Therefore, I viewed TOK classes as unnecessary to my progress during the IB.

However, my first TOK lesson was an improvement on my beliefs however, I still had been unable to fully understand the importance of it throughout the IB, yet the more relaxed atmosphere contributed to a more relaxed class. However, the direction the lesson took seemed to confirm all of my fears. After playing a few games, the lesson seemed to culminate towards the teacher asking questions that would aim to deconstruct the basis of my common understanding and leave with some sort of moral epiphany. Being asked to define knowledge was an example of an enquiries a philosopher would concern themselves with. As mentioned above, my previous prejudices prevent me from being able to understand the importance of philosophical and think about how to develop other skills that I could gain from TOK.

However, as we began to learn about the 8 ways of knowing, I began to understand how in the future this may develop my critical thinking skills and how the presentation is an interesting way to develop crucial public speaking skills. I began to acknowledge the future potential of TOK as I began to approach more holistically. Previously I had been forced to study Descartes and other philosophers. Rene Descartes ideas of rationalism seem to underpin the foundation of TOK and therefore, I am now able to bring a new angle to lessons rather than cynically sit in the corner and huff about how I don’t understand.

For example, with the advancement of AI the definition of reality and the fundamental truths about knowledge seem to disappear. As the guardian article investigates: ‘Does knowledge matter in the age of google’.[1] The article explores whether there is a need from traditional ways of knowing in light of the technological revolution. In TOK we discussed the unreliability of our memory and its influence on the way we derive truth. However, the invention of the internet has created a new way of knowing.

Humans no longer have to rely on their memory as they can type into google all of their enquiries. For example, previously children revising would derive their knowledge from encyclopaedia’s, which were only available from the library. They would write notes on some paper then hope their memory would fill in the rest. The effectiveness of their memory would serve as an indication of their wisdom However, the invention of the internet changed that, now students don’t rely on their memory but rather google. As the article wonders ‘why should we figure out anything for ourselves, when everything is so easy to look up’. 1 As technology develops the emphasis of the internet as way of discerning truth will increase, so what will the purpose of memory be. However, at this stage there still exists the correlation between ‘general knowledge and behaviour, political views and even social behaviour’ still exists.1 The article identifies that although, the internet has made people ignorant of what they don’t know because of their reliance on the internet. The importance of memory and knowledge is still important because ‘knowledge is not wisdom, but it is a prerequisite for wisdom’ and the digital revolution hasn’t changed that.1 

Articles like this help me to begin to understand the importance of TOK in the future because these questions will become more important as I grow up. Other concepts that were previously accepted will begin to be question and studying TOK may provide me with the skills to explore these in a rational way.



[1] William Poundstone, 28/08/2016