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Which sources of knowledge - books, web sites, the media, personal experience, authorities or some other - do you consider most trustworthy, and why?

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Introduction

TOK essay, November 2002 and May 2003 10. Which sources of knowledge - books, web sites, the media, personal experience, authorities or some other - do you consider most trustworthy, and why? The human desire for knowledge has existed since the beginning of civilization and will presumably be a part of us forever. This is due to the fact that knowledge was and still is, considered to be directly related to intelligence. Therefore mankind's progress and development can be considered to be directly related to knowledge. However, through the establishment of new sources of knowledge, knowledge has become subject to corruption and bias, which especially in the 20th and 21st century questions/ed their credibility. In this essay I will attempt to discuss each of the given sources of knowledge in the above title in terms of their credibility. Books are probably one of the oldest sources of knowledge; almost every early form of civilization possessed some form of written language, which was passed on through generations. However this does not mean that books are a perfectly trustworthy source. Today many factors must be taken into account when questioning the credibility of a book. Time and the government body present while the book was published certainly play a crucial role. A corrupt government, such as Hitler's dictatorship during the Second World War, only authorized the release of books, which they saw fit. ...read more.

Middle

The main problem with the mainstream media e.g. TV and newspapers, is that they are in many cases controlled by the government or subject to bribes. Generally the information broadcasted/printed by the media is reliable, however due to governmental influence/control, bribes or profit hunger, in certain situations only selected information is broadcasted/printed. An example would be "Bowling for Columbine", a documentary by Michael Moore about the violent American society. He discovers that Americans are pumped with fear everyday from the media, which leads to their violent behavior. This demonstrates how the media often carefully selects what to broadcast/print in order to secure high viewer ratings. Therefore watching/reading the media can often lead to a wrong impression. In order to enhance this impression the media frequently exaggerates the news, which is a distortion of the truth. These slight alterations can lead to vast misinterpretations. What I believe is a more reliable source of media is, high standard magazines e.g. "the economist". Highly qualified professionals write such magazines for educated people. The purpose of these magazines is not to entertain, but to educate. Therefore there is no reason for the editors to alter the facts. The development of our human civilization is based on personal experience. Consequently personal experience is of great importance to the human race. ...read more.

Conclusion

However in an ideal country with an ideal government, the local authority can be considered trustworthy, as long as personal benefit is not a factor. An additional source of knowledge I find present in humans is common sense. Many people consider common sense very reliable, since everybody is expected to have it. It is primarily used when testing or supporting theories. However personal experience consistently interferes with common sense, influencing it in many aspects. An example of common sense in human history is that up to the 15th century the majority of people regarded the theory that the world was flat as the truth. It was only when Galileo proved that the world was round that the old theory was considered false. This exhibits the strength of faith people have in their common sense, but as the example above shows, it is not flawless. In retrospect one can conclude that the best solution in the search for the truth is a combination and comparison of various sources of knowledge. Nevertheless this can lead to contradiction and as result, confusion on many levels. Therefore I am left with the assumption that there is no "ultimate" source of knowledge. As a result I'm led to believe every individual situation has a different ideal source, which would be most credible for it. Hence, a systematic approach towards each source of knowledge would be the best method in the attempt to find the truth! (1366 words) 1 Bernhard Luck IB2 ...read more.

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