ToK Question 6 2010/11

Now I am feeling a lot less sick, here is the first of my promised analysis of the ToK questions. I would say that the approach I take here is not the only one. The big failing that people have when tacking a ToK question is to include insufficient personal involvement with the question. Whilst my comments are how I would take the question, there are a lot of other ways.

“There are no absolute distinctions between what is true and what is false”. Discuss this claim.”

My first suggestion is not to do this question. I think it’s the hardest of the 10, but still people do it. You will flounder like a beached whale if you are unable to advance a satisfactory definition of ‘absolute distinction’.

What does ‘absolute distinction’ mean? The way I would take this question is to interpret ‘absolute distinction’ as an objective,  fixed decision, one that cannot be changed by any subjective factor (age, time, location). When you read it like that, the essay becomes a more normal ”to what extent can we say that there is objective truth in some WoK’s” style question.

Which areas of knowledge would I suggest looking at? An obvious place to begin is natural science. Consider whether we can be certain that our knowledge in natural science is correct.  A common sense is that our knowledge in NS is certain;  if I measure the amount of acid required to titrate a solution today, it will be the same as will be required tomorrow (under the same conditions). Consider, however, whether this actually is certain. Is a circumstance possible when the results would be different? More significantly, consider the issue of what science is trying to do. Is it just trying to record the world, or is it trying to explain the world? If the latter, does this have an affect on it’s claim for absolute truth?

Consider also history. Most people (although not post-modernists which is a major exception)  would suggest that history can provide us with objective knowledge of the past. Consider some examples from your study of history when it has done so: examples could range from Hitler’s invasion of Poland to the Norman invasion.  Whilst you could consider whether these provide objective truth, I wouldn’t recommend this. It’s too complex a philosophical question. Instead, you may want to consider the role of historians in history. How does what a historian writes differ from history (if at all), and so what bearing does that have on a claim to historical accuracy.

Obvious other areas to cover include Art (and the individual/societal nature of art) and Religion (which you could argue does provide this distinction, but only when you believe in it)

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