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Critical Thinking & TOK require you to consider this: Nothing can be taken for granted All information should be questioned. We must separate factoids from facts
Ultimately TOK suggests to us that there is no truth. There is nothing that can be taken for granted and all information should be subjected to scrutiny. Everything from the moon landing, to carbon dating, to periods in history, to believing your own eyes and even to accepting that 2+2 =4.
So ‘truths’ and ‘facts’ are discarded in TOK. Instead we only have: “KNOWLEDGE CLAIMS
Knowledge Claim: As you are watching, ask yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1CpNoI4WGc
What is being claimed?
1.Who produces the information, why and for what audience? 2.What is the producer’s biasand agenda? 3.Does the knowledge claim have a source you can check? 4.Think about what information has been left out. 5.Has the information been editedor manipulated 6.Is the claim logical?
Should I believe it?
How valid is the claim? What is the evidence?
The Problem of Knowledge Claims Evolution: Phoebe and Ross As you are watching, ask yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXr2kF0zEgI
What is the knowledge claim by Phoebe?
Is Ross right to claim ‘evolution is irrefutable’?
Is Phoebe right to continue to doubt despite
the evidence Ross presents? Who do you think has the strongest argument? Why? Evangelical Christians make the knowledge claim ‘God created the world in 6 days’ are they wrong? Why?
So, what should we believe? TOK is more concerned with how you believe something and that whatever you believe, you should try to support your beliefs with evidence and be able to consider and respond to criticisms of your views.
Certainty It is often thought that certainty is what distinguishes knowledge from mere belief When you know something you are certain it is true and have no doubts about it When you merely believe something, you may think it is true, but you are not certain Carry out the activity on the handout – Good Reasons
Consider 4 examples I know Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in 1969 I know that strawberries are red. I know that if a is bigger than b and b is bigger than c, then a is bigger than c. I know that murder is wrong. Can we be 100% certain that these statements are true? Or is there an element of doubt
4 Ways of knowing Language Perception Reason Emotion
Can we really be certain of anything? A Quick look at each of the ways of knowing – language, perception, reason and emotion – suggests that they cannot simply be taken at face value.
1. Language Language enables us to acquire knowledge from other people and we claim to know a great many things because we have been told them or we have read them somewhere. However, the authority of other people is not always a reliable source of knowledge, and even the so-called experts ‘get it wrong’ sometimes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=el-TKmGSmb4&feature=related Discuss the short clip – Is this attempt to explain pain and suffering in our world a reliable source of knowledge? Why? How does it stand up to critical enquiry?
2. Perception Much of our knowledge is based on personal experience, but our senses sometimes deceive us. For example if you are colour blind you may not see strawberries as red. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Vz_YTNLn6w&feature=fvst http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVhJ8pXKaKQ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDLLf_WCyZ4&feature=related
3. Reason Some philosophers have claimed that reason gives us greater certainty than perception. In practice, however, people do not seem to be very good at abstract reasoning and they are liable to make all sorts of errors. To illustrate, assuming that some dentists are drunkards and no cyclists are drunkards, does it follow that some cyclists are dentists? The answer is that it does not – but we may well struggle to see that this is true.
4. Emotion Some of the things that we claim to know strike us as intuitively obvious or are based on our gut feelings. The trouble is that what is intuitively obvious to me may not be intuitively obvious to you and gut feelings are far from being a sure guide to the truth. Consider the following example – What is the right thing to do?
Radical doubt So far we have raised some preliminary doubts about knowledge that is derived from language, perception, reason and emotion. But following the French philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650) There is perhaps one statement that you think is absolutely certain – namely that ‘I exist’. Surely that is something that cannot be sensibly doubted. Watch video – Mark Steel lectures – Descartes part 2. Discuss Descarte’s famous slogan ‘I think, therefore I am’.
The Matrix Watch the clip from the film The Matrix Could the Matrix exist? Would we be able to tell if we were living in the Matrix? How can we tell whether the world we see around us is real or just an illusion? Is the Matrix bad? Would you mind living in the Matrix? Do you think it is seriously possible that our lives could be just an illusion? Do you think some areas of knowledge are more certain than others?
Illusion Some philosophers have speculated that the whole of life might be a dream or an illusion. Perhaps we will awake in a few minutes and realise that we have been having the strangest dream in which we were a creature called a human being, living on a planet called earth. Although such a radical supposition does not prove that you do not exist, it does suggest that your life might be completely different from what you thought.
Brain in a vat scenario http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ursdoT66JlU Watch this clip and discuss the ideas.
Relativism Sometimes people react to this lack of certainty by embracing a position known as relativism. According to relativism there is no such thing as an absolute truth that exists in an objective way independent of what anyone happens to believe is true. Instead, truth is relative and may be different for different individuals or for different cultures. So rather than say that something is true or false in an unqualified way, the most we can do is say that it is ‘true for me’ or ‘false for you’. Since there are no grounds for saying that one opinion is better than the other, we must therefore conclude that all points of view are of equal value.
Is it right for women to dress like this according to their religious teachings?
Or this according to their own wishes
Problems with Relativism Despite its attractions, relativism leads to as many difficulties as equating knowledge with certainty. Consider the possibility of whether or not the world is round. According to a relativist we would have to say that it is true for me and false for a member of the flat earth society. But surely there is an objective fact of the matter independent of what I or anyone else might happen to think? After all the earth cant be both round and flat. In view of this, I think what people really mean when they say something is ‘true for them’ is that they believe it to be true. However, just because you believe something to be true it doesn’t mean that it actually is true. A young child might believe the tooth fairy or santaclaus to be true.
What should we believe? We have seen that neither common sense, nor certainty, nor relativism can give us a quick solution to the problem of knowledge. So what should we believe? There is no simple answer to that question, and TOK in any case is more concerned with how you believe something than with what you believe.Whatever you believe, you should try to support your beliefs with evidence and be able to consider and respond to criticisms of your views.
The role of judgement Since we live in a world in which there are few black and white certainties, you will probably have to rely on more on judgementthan proof in deciding what to believe. One important aspect of good judgement is the ability to balance skepticism with open-mindedness.
The role of judgement Watch the following clip – Alien invasion - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_EVMQ8HrSIo Using your judgement and trying to be both open- minded and skeptical – Do you think aliens have visited planet earth?
Read the newspaper articles Central Questions Do you believe this article? Why or why not? Does it matter if what you believe is true? Preliminary Questions Do you consider the source to be reliable? Are there any features of visual presentation which incline you to accept or reject before you even read the article (size of headline, photographs or advertisements) Are there any features of the language used which influence your judgement (sensational phrasing, quotes from experts, use of statistics) Does the article seem plausible – does it make sense in terms of what you already know? Does the article present any evidence that can be checked or tested? Does it matter if you are wrong in your judgement? What are the consequences of false beliefs? Does any body get hurt?
Danger of gullibility
Danger of scepticism
In conclusion We need to find a balance between being open to new ideas that challenge our current way of thinking, and keeping in mind that human beings are credulous animals who are sometimes willing to believe strange things on the basis of slender evidence.
Reasonable knowledge In trying to determine whether or not a knowledge claim is reasonable 2 criteria serve as useful guides. 1. Correspondence and 2. Coherence
1. Correspondence For a belief to be reasonable there should be some positive evidence that corresponds to it. Imagine someone claiming that there are little green men living on Mars. If you were to challenge their belief, they could claim ‘well you can’t prove there aren’t’ There has been no positive evidence in support of their claim The fact that you can’t prove that something isn’t true does nothing to show that it is true This is known as the argument ad ignorantiam
Coherence A belief is reasonable if it coheres or fits in with our current understanding of things Coherence demands the harmonious fitting together of all the knowledge claims without contradictions. You test the truth of the new claim on the basis of other claims that you believe already In short – although we should be open to new ideas, the more unlikely something is relative to the current state of knowledge, the stronger the evidence in its favour should be before we take it seriously Consider the claims of David Blaine in the following clip – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDjwdl3GReA
Questions 1.Explain with reasons, which of the following statements you think is less likely to be true a) The Loch Ness Monster exists b) Some mystics are able to levitate 2. In a book entitled The Appalling Fraud, it was claimed that a passenger jet did not hit the Pentagon on Sept 11th 2001 – Instead it was caused by a truck load of explosives – Using the criteria of coherence how likely is this?
Three truths and lie activity p104 TOK
Changing your mind: reflections on your own beliefs p107 TOK
Who cares? Does it matter what we believe? People can believe whatever they like? One reason why your beliefs and opinions matter is that they are important part of who you are as a person You should try to subject your beliefs and opinions to critical scrutiny in order to avoid becoming a ‘second-hand self Also Beliefs directly affect our actions and this can sometimes be a matter of life and death For example 15th – 17th Century 500,000 people burnt to death as witches http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJFA6uEfUlM More than 900 people commit mass suicide after cult leader Jim Jones tells his followers to die for him http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IY3cx3U0gYE&feature=related
Heavens gate cult In 1997 the leader of an American religious cult called ‘Heavens gate’ persuaded his followers that if they ‘shed’ their bodies they would be beamed on board a spaceship behind the Hale-Bopp comet and taken to a new world. 39 people committed suicide as a result Apply the role of judegement based on correspondence of evidence and coherence when watching the Heavens Gate Cult leader talking to people about what he believes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3zU-h7rr3g&feature=related Should we respect the beliefs of a racist or sexist person? Give reasons The French philosopher Voltaire (1694-1778) stated ‘people who believe absurdities will commit atrocities’ – what did he mean? Give reasons and examples
Read the extract from a novel called ‘White Noise’ It is a dialogue between a 14 year old son Heinrich being driven to school by his father. Heinrich begins the conversation…..