This semester of IB classes made me reflect a lot on important matters that on level classes wouldn’t encourage me to reflect upon. I’ve noticed that IB really challenges students and fuels plenty of critical thinking that will definitely be helpful in life. Among all the IB courses that I attend, the one that has boosted my knowledge and sharpened my thinking the most is Theory of Knowledge. ToK is a class where important issues of various kinds are presented to students to start a debate and stimulate smart reasoning in order to analyze the question and understand how reliable that claim is. The focus of the discussion is on the quality of justification of the knowledge claim in question. In order to easily identify eventual problems in the claims, ToK has divided knowledge according to its origin and the way it is obtained, separating it into the 4 ways of knowing.
They are sensory perception, reason, language and emotion and each of them needs to be challenged in a different way to find out how reliable its claim is. This division is very helpful because once you learn about the weaknesses of each, then you can easily look for knowledge issues in the claim and so determine its validity. For example I have noticed that human beings tend to give too much credit to sensory perception. Now that I know about all the weaknesses that it has, I am more skeptical toward claims that are just based on sensory perception and I look for more reliable facts before feeling too strong about a claim because the 5 senses can be easily tricked. Knowledge is also divided into the 6 Areas of Knowledge which are Physical Sciences, History, Arts, Ethics, Mathematics and Human sciences; they are disciplines in which knowledge may be based.
Certain knowledge may fit in more than one area or not fit well in any of them, however, most knowledge and specific disciplines do fit because of their similar methods of gaining knowledge, the types of claim each makes and the issues to consider. After this semester of ToK, I’ve realized that the physical sciences are way less reliable than we think. Even though they follow the rigid “scientific method”, they are still processed by humans therefore they have the same flaws that human beings have. Similarly, Ethics, which looks like a straightforward area of knowledge, turns out to be very misleading due to the issue of language that impairs the meaning of its work. ToK has really taught me how be critical and smart when presented with claims. It will definitely help me in real life since it taught me how to formulate my own opinion on a claim.
Thanks to ToK, I will avoid unpleasant situations where a normal person would get fooled by an invalid claim. Tok has also pushed me to challenge things that people would normally give for certain. For example, now that I’ve taken ToK, I pay much more attention to what doctors suggest me to do. I do so not discrediting their theories, but challenging and analyzing them with respect for the doctor’s knowledge, in order to avoid consequences on my own health. I have learned that also specialized people may commit fallacies in their reasoning without noticing it so all I do is making sure my doctor has committed none.
This process of learning knowledge issues during a period of physical and mental growth such as the high school years has helped me better shape my views, my opinions, my ideas and my thinking. I have seen deep transformations in my writing. In fact, now I use a totally different vocabulary when writing. This new vocabulary I have developed is way more specific than the one I used before and tries to minimize the room for misunderstanding and miscommunication.
ToK has also taught me much about humans, about our flaws and our qualities. I’ve learned that I should challenge much more the knowledge that is given to me as valid because there is a high chance of finding it invalid. The best part about challenging a claim, however, is that if you determine that a claim is valid and it turns out to be invalid, at least you can say you have done your best to verify its reliability. If you have misjudged a claim, as most humans tend to do, you have missed a particular that makes it invalid and that’s the very reason why everybody should challenge knowledge’s validity by itself.