Topic 1. Disagreement and the pursuit of knowledge

Disagreements can aid the pursuit of knowledge in the natural sciences.


Disagreement, knowledge, natural and human sciences.

Disagreements may be over the logic of arguments or value of evidence – thus linking the idea of disagreements to two ways of knowing: reason and perception.

Disagreement may also refer to personality clashes among scientists or disagreement arising from different paradigms or assumptions, an example of this would be the Bohr-Einstein debate (video).

The word ‘disagreement’ can therefore be understood in different ways. You want to define what you mean by disagreement in your introduction to give your essay more focus.

Knowledge issues

The topic assumes that disagreements may help the pursuit of knowledge. This is not necessarily so. You may want to challenge this assumption by showing that in some cases disagreements may hinder the pursuit of knowledge.

Possible other knowledge issues/questions...

Topic 1 TOK Guide reviewed by Alexander Moore on Jan 08 2013 Rating: 5

Topic 2. General patterns and particular examples

Seeing general patterns can give us knowledge.
Can you see the individual example in the pattern?


General patterns, particular examples, knowledge, understanding, only

‘To what extent’ type of question requires you to discuss under which conditions you would agree or disagree with the quote. The disagreement or agreement may depend on ways of knowing, areas of knowledge, your interpretation of ‘patterns’ and ‘ particular examples’ or your interpretation of ‘knowledge’ and ‘understanding’.

Knowledge issues

The question assumes that it is possible to ‘see’ general patterns and particular examples, and that seeing is linked either to knowledge or understanding respectively. You may challenge these assumptions by raising following knowledge issues/questions:

  • Can we separate recognising general patterns from particular examples? We have an ability to recognise patterns (based on your past experiences and conditioning) and only because of this ability we can later recognise particular examples as being part or distinct of patterns.
  • Is there a dichotomy between knowledge and understanding? Having knowledge means you also understand justifications for beliefs. Consequently, knowledge and understanding are interlinked ...
Topic 2 TOK Guide reviewed by Julia McKenzie on Jan 05 2013 Rating: 5

Topic 3. Knowledge and ethical responsibility

Does knowledge carry an ethical responsibility?


Knowledge, ethical responsibility, evaluate

The questions asks you to evaluate the statement, which means that you have to explore to what extent the statement can be regarded to be true given different interpretations of ‘knowledge’ and ‘ethical responsibility’. You should also evaluate the statement in the contexts of ways of knowing and areas of knowledge.  

Knowledge issues

The quote assumes that possession of knowledge carries an ethical responsibility i.e. that simply knowing something makes you ethically responsible. Ethical responsibility refers to the idea that you should do something to correct a harmful situation or prevent harm from happening. The object of harm may be you, other people, animals or aspects of the environment.
Some knowledge issues/questions:

  • Why should knowing something lead to ethical responsibility? Would not ethical responsibility be rather created by what the knower does with knowledge...
Topic 3 TOK Guide reviewed by David Roberts on Jan 15 2013 Rating: 5

Topic 4. The fifth way of knowing - intuition, memory, imagination

The fifth way of knowing - intuition, memory or imagination?


Intuition, memory, imagination, knowledge issues, areas of knowledge

The question asks you to discuss intuition, memory or imagination as the fifth way of knowing and discuss the knowledge issues related to it in two areas of knowledge.

You should provide some definition of the fifth way of knowing in the introduction of your essay. Instead of dictionary definitions express ideas in your own words, this way your definition reflects your own understanding.

The following definitions can provide some guidance:
  • Intuition: the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.
  • Memory: the cognitive function of storing and recalling information.
  • Imagination: the cognitive function of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.
Knowledge Issues 

The topic assumes that intuition, memory or imagination could be regarded as ways of knowing. You may want to challenge this assumption, and even criticise the existing list of ways of knowing, by arguing that all knowledge is ultimately based on combination of reason and sense experiences (Kant’synthesis).  

Possible other knowledge issues/questions for this topic are ...

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Topic 1 TOK Guide reviewed by Emily O'Hara on Jan 08 2013 Rating: 4.5

Topic 5. Asserted without evidence, dismissed without evidence

Asserted without evidence, dismissed without evidence.


Evidence, assertion, dismissal 

The key to this question is how you define ‘evidence’. What one accepts as reliable evidence, such as eyewitness testimony, may for another not be sufficient to justify assertions (knowledge claims). People usually accept evidence that is ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’.

However, what is regarded as reasonable depends on the paradigm in which a knower(s) operate. There are many examples of this from different areas of knowledge as well as in popular discussion related to conspiracy theories.

Knowledge issues 

The topic assumes that evidence is the key criterion for dismissing assertions. You may want to challenge this assumption. There are other reasons to accept or dismiss assertions (knowledge claims) such as logical validity of an argument. Possible other knowledge issues/questions are...

Topic 1 TOK Guide reviewed by Lisa Schmidt on Jan 18 2013 Rating: 4

Topic 6. Emotions and the pursuit of knowledge

Trusting emotions in the pursuit of knowledge.


Emotions, trust, knowledge

The question suggests that we can sometimes trust emotions in knowledge acquisition. Emotions are biological responses with cognitive and behavioral elements. Emotion is also as one of the ways of knowing in IB theory of knowledge.
Knowledge issues

The quote assumes it may be possible to know when to trust emotions and that emotions can help knowledge acquisition. You may challenge these assumptions. Maybe it is not possible to know when to trust emotions, and maybe emotions have limited value for knowledge acquisition.

Discuss these and other knowledge issues/questions such as ...

Topic 1 TOK Guide reviewed by Veronica Lee on Jan 22 2013 Rating: 5