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To what extent do ways of knowing prevent us from deluding ourselves?

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Ways of knowing are the core of TOK for us to get knowledge in different Areas of Knowledge. The two key terms on this essay question are “ways of Knowing” and “deluding ourselves”. “Ways of knowing are how we acquire knowledge about the world around us, and figure out our relationship with it”. (IB Diploma Program, 31) Ways of Knowing help us to understand Areas of Knowledge fully. TOK has 8 Ways of Knowing; on this essay I will discuss the three ways: – sense perception, emotions, and reasoning. “Deluding ourselves” means to mislead the mind or judgment. It means deceiving ourselves. In other words the question is to what extent do ways of knowing help us to know the truth or get reliable knowledge. Each Wok has importance in helping us to know the truth but, they should work together since all Ways of Knowing are dependent on each other.

On this essay, I will show how each of the 3 Ways of Knowing prevents us from deluding ourselves and how, sometimes, they might mislead us to the wrong direction. We can get reliable knowledge by using all the necessary Ways of Knowing, not only one, and evaluate it before we accept it as a truth. To a large extent ways of knowing prevent us from knowing ourselves. The knowledge we get have to pass through the ways of knowing for us to make a balanced decision. Sense perception is the main reason why I am able to work my day to day activities. I can see- which helps me to read, to understand what is going on. I can hear- which helps me to get knowledge from my teacher. I can smell and taste- which helps me to eat and drink a healthy food. All this helps me to live my everyday life. In order to see how much sense perception is important, we can see disable people with sense perception. A blind man cannot see so he/she may accidentally fall, or cannot know what is going on in the surrounding.

A deaf man cannot understand what a teacher is saying without sign languages, and for a man who is both blind and deaf at the same time, life is certainly going to be difficult. We can clearly see without those sense perceptions the man can easily delude himself from the truth. Sense perception in natural science plays a great importance. Scientists have to observe some patterns to come up with knowledge. Most scientists used their observation of patterns before they came up with theories. When Newton came up with “Newton gravitational Law’ he observed two materials falling at the same time, also in his Law of Motion theory he used his observation for the direct correlation between force and acceleration. Even I as a student, before I accept Natural science theory I observe experimental results to prevent any misunderstanding.

The next is Emotions; Emotions are feelings, and these feelings can be anger, happiness, fear, joy, etc. Emotions are greatly used on two Areas of Knowledge. Ethics and Arts, both cannot work without emotions. In ethics, whenever we are doing a moral decision. It is our emotions that tell us whether something is right or not. When we judge ourselves we usually put ourselves in someone’s shoe to feel the situation. For example- when I saw the Rwandan genocide I was really sad and angry because as a human I don’t want that to happen to me or my family. The core of ethics is, I don’t like it when something bad happens to my friend because I have a moral feeling. In Arts, a piece of work, for example a painting or a novel, has to connect to the audience in order to be good. For example in literature if a reader cannot be happy or cannot cry with the character, cannot feel the ups and downs throughout the book, the reader will not say the book is good.

When we analyze an art work, we connect ourselves to the artist. What was the artist’s emotion when he/she was doing the Art? After we understand the artist’s emotion we can understand the meaning of the art work. Our emotions also help us to take fast decisions. For example- when I see a bear, I will fear. That fear will cause me to run (Theory of Knowledge). These decisions have to be decided quickly and they come from our emotions. The last but not the least is reasons. Reasoning is justification for something.

Reasoning follows logic or the truth. It prevents us from deluding ourselves since when we are reasoning we use evidence to conclude and we accept the truth whether we like it or not. In order to get knowledge in science we usually use inductive and deductive arguments. We need to see the past patterns to generalize knowledge. Unless we generalize and put them as a theory or a law, it is hard to get knowledge from natural science. Deductive reasoning uses specific premises to conclude a truth, and if the premises are true, the conclusion is impossible to be false. For example- All IB students must do TOK and EE

Adam is an IB student
Adam must do TOK and EE (Theory of Knowledge )
Such generalizations help us to come to a specific truth. In natural science, when scientists come up with a theory, first they will do an experiment and they will look for patterns in order to make conclusions. For example- My grandfather has diabetes, my father has also has diabetes, and I also has diabetes, so my son will have diabetes problem. Such knowledge is very important in natural science to give a reliable knowledge through reasoning. However, to some extent, ways of knowing may delude us from knowing the truth. Ways of knowing are dependent on each other. But if we try to understand them one by one, they might delude us. Sense perception for example is limited to some extent.

Our sense has a limited scope to which it understands the world. If I see the relation between the sun and the earth, I can easily say the sun is revolving around the world just by seeing, but apparently which is not true. Additionally our sense perceptions are highly influenced by our emotions. Sometimes we view situations in a way we want it, which brings biased judgments. For example- In history, if we listen to two eye-witnesses for a specific war, even though the truth about the war is the same for both, but the way they look at and describe the situation is different since both will have different emotion; one is angry and one is happy so it will make difference on their sense perception. In other situation, I am an Arsenal fan, and when Arsenal plays with Chelsea, the way I interpret the referee’s decisions is the way it will favor Arsenal.

Most of the decision made by the referee against Arsenal is wrong since I like Arsenal. Not only are our sense perceptions, our reasoning also highly affected by our emotions. My reasons towards something depend on my mood to the situation, or my feeling to the situation. Additionally, deductive and inductive reasoning do not always guarantee us from knowing the truth. Sometimes they mislead us especially words like “always, all, many, never…” This words show us generalization based on premises which usually are based on our previous experiences, which are based on seeing and feelings things once or twice. For example- My observation to French people can be like this, which misleads people. “Most French people smoke”

“My teacher is French”
“My teacher smokes” (Theory of Knowledge )
Such generalization comes from our previous experiences, which are influenced by our emotions and our sense perceptions, which mislead our reasoning and ourselves.

To conclude, we need to consider all the knowledge through all the Ways of Knowing, since they are dependent on each other. For example- to answer a TOK essay question “our senses tell us that a table is a solid object, science tells us that the table is mostly empty space, can we reconcile such conflicts?”(I can constructively argue like this. Firstly, I see the table and I can touch the table, I will get the knowledge through my senses. Then I describe it in ways which can convince the listener using a language to share my opinion. Then I can use my Sense perception or reasoning to describe the “logic”. Since I can feel the table (I see and I touch), and when I put my bag on the table, it does not fall, so the table is a solid object. Or based on Deductive reasoning I can say “Most of the space of Atoms is empty”

“Table is made up of many atoms”
“Most of the space of the table is empty”
Using all the necessary Ways of Knowing will help us to understand the knowledge better. On this case we can accept the truth on both cases since I can clearly see both sides of argument using different Ways of Knowing. Therefore, to a large extent ways of knowing prevent us from deluding ourselves, especially if we use them together inter-dependently, and to some extent they might delude us if we use them just alone in isolation.


Program, IB Diplom. Theory of Knowledge guide 2015. UK: Antony Rowe , 2013. Theory of Knowledge. n.d. 20 04 2014 .
Theory of Knowledge. n.d. 20 04 2014 .
Theory of Knowledge . n.d. 20 04 2014 .

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