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TOK essay topic 5

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"... We will always learn more about human life and human personality from novels than from scientific psychology" (Noam Chomsky). To what extent would you agree? "Man does not live by bread alone" Unlike animals, humans are a strange case of self-conscious beings. We can ask questions about ourselves, we can deliberate about others. We form opinions and judgments about others whereas animals are content on feeding themselves and they do not even ask questions about themselves. This is the primary source of the emergence of the human identity. 'Who am I?' is the question that encompasses our identity. But ironically while we call it the 'I' or 'me', we often fail to realize that a large portion of it is in fact constructed by 'others'- their opinions, ideas, and experiences. Human life and human personality are nothing but a gradual development through the accumulation of 'knowledge' through the various Ways of Knowing (Emotion, Perception, Logic & Language). They work collectively through an external medium to form human life and personality. Which of these Ways of Knowing does a novel use? Which Ways of Knowing does scientific psychology use? The answer lies before us! While novels employ all the four ways in great depth, scientific psychology employs mainly logic. ...read more.


The fact that they are omniscient helps us to understand the different emotions that the characters feel and what causes them. Hence, one can get a true understanding of life and personality through logical deductive reasoning. Apart from learning about human life and behavior, novels, much like scientific psychology also help to explore the various myths and instincts embedded deep in our psyche. The Hero Myth for example, which is seen in many a novel. We humans are beset with brokenness and imperfection and are constantly in search of an 'Ideal Self', the person we all want to be. But society pressures and our own sense of adapting as well as fitting brings us to a realization that the above can only be an 'ideal case' and never a real one. Just like the hero myth, the Mother Myth and the Jealous Romeo myth are also very commonly incorporated in novels. What we read greatly affects our subconscious, to which we then react with what we would term 'instincts'. This also answers the fundamental question in ToK - 'How can we know without knowing that we know?' Art is an Area of Knowledge that is grouped in the category of creativity. But TS Eliot in his essay 'Tradition and the individual talent' states that even art is greatly influenced by the artist's traditions, experiences and moreover what he reads. ...read more.


Paradoxically, psychologists have a big problem with people. When someone learns psychology they begin to think a lot about people and start forming judgments about them. This in turn changes their behavior towards them which changes everything. On the other hand, novels tell us there are billions of shades in human beings and there is not one definite thing. This would have to be agreed upon as the human being is too complex to be compartmentalized in terms of behavior. However complex, scientific psychology is something that is developed over a period of time with full logic and understanding of the human mind. But who came up with this theory through scientific psychology? How and on what basis? How reliable is the source? On the other hand, novels are nothing but perceptions of authors. Novels consist of real time human emotions, experience, thinking, reflecting, opinions, ideas and much more. Knowers would still strongly believe that much of our personality and knowledge about human life is derived from psychology using scientific methods. But little do we realize that it is the things we read everyday that help in moulding our perception of human life. Though psychology is a more reliable source of knowledge which employs logical and technical means to examine human behavior, it is not accessible to the ordinary man. Besides its limitation of language restricts its ability to communicate as novels do. Word Count: 1,322 ...read more.

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