TOK notes. The problem of knowledge There are three possible solutions to the problem of knowledge:

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The problem of knowledge


There are three possible solutions to the problem of knowledge:


Common sense -


a starting point for knowledge – creates a mental map of reality


- is based on conventions which make it too subjective

- contains lots of inaccuraccies and biases


Paradox of cartography - if a map is useful, then it must be imperfect

- The map is NOT the territory


Radical Doubt – the most certain statement is “I exist” and even that’s not completely certain


Relativism – no absolute truth. Truth is different (relative) for each individual. Different based on


their experience. But the fact that we take seriously that somebody may be wrong in their beliefs

proves that relativism is FALSE.


Judgment – important deciding factor – the balance between skepticism and open-mindedness

- since there are few black and white certainties in the world, we have to rely on



Danger of Gullibility – Do not believe everything you read

Danger of Scepticism – keep a healthy amount of skepticism. Some things which seem impossible at

the moment may be proved to be true later


Reasonable knowledge


Evidence – argument ad ignorantiam – using inability to prove negative as proof – fallacy.

confirmation bias – noticing only the evidence which supports a given theory


Coherence – extreme theories require extreme evidence


Beliefs should be occasionally questioned to be responsible.


The nature of knowledge


Knowledge – Justified true belief


v Truth – true=beyond reasonable doubt – we cannot prove that everything is true and

need to accept that some things will be proven wrong later

Truth is independent of belief

v Belief – subjective awareness – before knowledge on the belief-knowledge continuum

expressing things as “probable”

3 types of belief:

Ø Vague – charlatan theories

Ø Well-supported – some evidence but not certain

Ø Beyond reasonable doubt – generally believed

v Justification – truth and belief must be justified. Depends on the context. By 4 ways of


Ø Language – ‘Someone told me’

Ø Perception – ‘I saw it’

Ø Reason – ‘I worked it out’

Ø Emotion – ‘It’s intuitively obvious’


Levels of knowledge


By saying “you know” something, you are somehow taking responsibility for its truth.

Understanding of the same problem by different people may be surprisingly different (e.g.

regular person and Einstein on the Theory of relativity)


Knowledge and Information


The difference between knowledge and information is that while information are just facts

that have been memorized, knowledge needs an element of justification, truth and belief.

Knowledge means understanding – seeing logical patterns and relations

Knowledge is information organized in a meaningful whole

E.g. a parrot “knows” information but it doesn’t KNOW knowledge


Second-hand knowledge


Culture – knowledge shared between people

Authority worship – blindly accepting what is given

SH knowledge = Knowledge by authority = Knowledge by testimony

Main sources:


cultural tradition


Cultural tradition – the culture has a great affect on knowledge of an individual – things

which are normal in a given culture ale normal for the individual that grew up in it.

E.g. 12-hour clocks ‘seem right’ since they have been used since our birth

There is a lot to learn from different cultures


School – Education or indoctrination? School should not only make us learn but THINK as



The Internet – Usually the first source of information but not always reliable – lots of fake

information which isn’t justified as well has HOAX’s


Experts are only human and therefore are fallible

They have only a limited range of competence so when it comes to problems outside

their field of specialization, they are like regular people.


All news are a bit subjective. Three common criteria:


Bad news – mostly containing bad news bias which creates a pessimistic view in people

Extraordinary news – news are more concentrated on unusual things

It’s relevant news - only concentrating on things which are of concern – e.g. local news

for a given region


Limitations of second-hand knowledge


Second hand knowledge is not only primary source – therefore there should always be an

element of doubt present




A great deal of our knowledge comes through language – this makes possible an intellectual division

Join now!

of labour.

Language is one of the basic means of communication. However, it is imperfect and brings drawbacks

and problems with lots of uncertainties.




Creative and open-ended


Language is rule-governed


There are two main elements of rules in every language:


While Grammar gives the rules how to combine words in a language to be assembled in a

meaningful whole, Vocabulary includes the association between words and objects which is

essential for words to have a meaning.


Language is intended


Body language – the same expression may mean two different things when intended ...

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