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The Problem of Knowledge – vocabulary terms. Ways of knowing- Per our TOK class, the 4 ways of knowing are Language, Perception, Reason, and Emotion.

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The Problem of Knowledge – vocabulary terms


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    1. The Problem of Knowledge – vocabulary terms • Ways of knowing- Per our TOK class, the 4 ways of knowing are Language, Perception, Reason, and Emotion. • Relativism– The belief that there is no such thing as absolute truth. Instead, truth is relative and may be different for different individuals or for different cultures. • Judgment- The ability to balance skepticism with open-mindedness. • Open-mindedness - having or showing a mind receptive to new ideas or arguments. • Common Sense - sound practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training, or the like; normal native intelligence. • Radical Doubt – a belief that nothing is certain except that you exist.

    2. Wikipedia – Is it reliable? Read the following two articles… Why Wikipedia Can’t Work Wikipedia is as Reliable as Any Other Source COMP - Is Wikipedia a reliable source of knowledge? Provide at least three reasons for your answer.

    3. The Nature of Knowledge

    4. Reasonable Knowledge In trying to determine whether or not a knowledge claim is reasonable, two preliminary criteria may serve as useful guides. Evidence Coherence

    5. Evidence Evidence - that which tends to prove or disprove something; ground for belief; proof. For a belief to be reasonable, there should be some positive evidence in support of it. We should look not only for evidence in favor of our beliefs, but also evidence that would count against them. Be careful of the following two types of evidence!!! – “Argument ad ignorantiam” and “confirmation bias”.

    6. Argument ad ignorantiam • The fact that you can’t prove that something isn’t true does nothing to show that it is true. The fallacy of thinking that is does is called “argument ad ignorantiam”. • Which of the following is an example of argument ad ingnorantium? • Since many people claim to have seen ghosts, it is likely that they exist. • Many members of the Society for the Paranormal believe in ghosts. • Ghosts must exist because no one has proved that they do not. • It is true for me that ghosts exist.

    7. Confirmation Bias According to psychologists, we have a disturbing tendency, known as confirmation bias, to notice only evidenced that supports our beliefs. Horoscope example – If you believe in astrology, you will tend to notice the times your horoscope is right and overlook the times they are wrong.

    8. The problems of “argument ad ignorantiam” and “confirmation bias” COMP – Make up three examples of your own to illustrate the fallacy of argument ad ignorantiam. COMP – How would you go about trying to prove that a species has become extinct? What has this got to do with our discussion?

    9. Reasonable Knowledge In trying to determine whether or not a knowledge claim is reasonable, two preliminary criteria may serve as useful guides. Evidence Coherence

    10. Coherence A second criterion for deciding whether or not a belief is reasonable is whether it coheres, or fits in, with our current understanding of things. Coherence - the act or state of cohering. Sailor analogy – When it comes to examining our beliefs, our position is that of a sailor who has to rebuild his ship while at sea. Cannot dismantle all. Has to build piece by piece. Similarly, we cannot cast doubts on all of our beliefs at the same time. We must examine them one at a time against the background of our other beliefs.

    11. Coherence The criterion of coherence implies: Although we should be open to new ideas, the more unlikely something is relative to the current state of knowledge, the stronger evidence in its favor should be before we take it seriously. Uri Geller (world’s most famous paranormalist) – able to bend spoons using only mental energy. It seems unlikely that a spoon can be bent through non-physical means simply be focusing one’s mind on it. Therefore, we should demand good evidence in support of it.

    12. COMP • According to the astronomer Carl Sagan (1934-96), “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Explain what he meant by this. Do you agree? • Explain, with reasons, which of the following statements you think is less likely to be true. • The Loch Ness monster exists. • Some mystics are able to levitate.

    13. Who cares? At this point, you might ask whether it really matters what we believe. We may laugh at some of the crazy ideas people hold, but what harm do they do? Don’t people have the right to believe what the like? I believe… It matters what you believe, and although it may sound undemocratic, some beliefs are more worthy of respect than others.

    14. Why your beliefs are important They are part of who you are as a person. (So, if you want to be someone who mindlessly repeats the opinions of others, you need to make your beliefs and opinions genuinely your own by subjecting them to critical scrutiny. People’s beliefs affect their actions, and in some cases, can be a matter of life or death.

    15. Example of a misguided belief • A former chief executive of Phillip Morris once claimed that cigarettes are no more addictive than gummy bears candy. But the statistical evidence suggests that every cigarette you smoke shortens your life by the amount of time it takes to smoke it. • COMP • Do you think we should respect the beliefs of a racist or sexist person? HOMEWORK Find two examples of beliefs that you think are both misguided and dangerous.

    16. Basis of Knowledge – Rationalism and Empiricism • Two contrasting views – • Rational – power of reason • Empirical – power of perception Read “Rationalism vs. Empiricism COMP – What do you make of the following propositions? Are they more rational or empirical? • Every event has a cause • All people are created equal • Whatever has shape has size • Every cube has twelve edges • I see with my eyes • There is life on Mars

    17. What is a Knowledge Claim? • Knowledge Claim – This simply means that you are saying something that you believe to be true. This term will be used extensively in TOK. • You my claim to know something for using the following: • Logic • Perception • Intuition • Self-awareness • Memory • Authority • Consensus • Revelation and Faith

    18. Exercise • Look at each of the propositions below and decide whether they can be proven to be true, false, both, or neither. Is this empirical, rational, both, or neither? I know … • It is raining. • It is raining or it isn’t raining. • 2+2=4 • Two apples and two apples make four apples • My brother is my sibling • How to speak French • I will pass the test • Girls are better than boys at TOK • Murder is wrong • My tooth hurts • My wife loves me • God exits

    19. What is truth? • COMP – What is truth? • Truth is a tricky word. • 3 truth tests • Correspondence truth test • Coherence truth test • Pragmatic truth test

    20. Correspondence Truth Test • This theory is similar to the empirical basis of knowledge. • Somewhat like a matching game. • A statement is uttered about a state of affairs (fact) and the words either match or fit or agree with or correspond to the facts (the state of affairs). • Example: A teacher is in the classroom.

    21. Coherence Truth Test • Statements must pass muster by their rational agreement with one another, even though each individual proposition or law within the system is tested by how it relates to the state of affairs of the real world. • Ex. Since 2+2=4, then 4-2=2, and 4+2=6 • Ex. Person A says, “Sharks have been sighted in Lake Michigan.” Person B thinks, “That can’t be true. Sharks only live in saltwater.”

    22. Pragmatic Truth Test • Pragmatism – • 1. character or conduct that emphasizes practicality. • 2. a philosophical movement or system having various forms, but generally stressing practical consequences as constituting the essential criterion in determining meaning, truth, or value. • This is complex since its primary value is what happens as a result of believing something to be true, not its actual truth as per the two previous theories. • Ex. The car will not start because the computer switch is not engaging. This is condition A. After some work on the transmission, the car starts. Doest the success of this repair guarantee the truth of A, the diagnostic statement, or did the mechanic coincidentally alter something else (condition B) unknowingly? • Problem – How does the pragmatic truth of A help you next time?

    23. What truth tests do you apply to the following? Metals expand when heated. It is raining. It is raining or it is not raining. A triangle has 3 sides. All white cats are white. All white cats are deaf. The population of Tokyo is larger then that of Hong Kong. All wives have husbands. Mars has no moons. Mars is a planet. The best team will win the World Series. If Bert is a younger son, then he is a brother. If Bert is a younger son, then he is a sibling. It is now raining in Rio. The hydrogen atom has one electron. You are either here or somewhere else. There is an invisible elephant in this room.

    24. Conclusion We reviewed the “nature of knowledge” – common sense, certainty, relativism, truths, etc. None of them are entirely adequate. There is no easy solution to find knowledge, so we must use our judgment. Evidence and Coherence provides some direction. But we need to look into more detail at what we mean by the word “knowledge.” This occurs as we begin exploring the 4 Ways of Knowing.