Precepts to use in everyday life

1. Think for yourself, 2. Be yourself, 3. Speak up, 4. Feel free to agree and disagree, 5. Be honest with yourself and others, 6. Be open-minded, 7. Avoid being judgmental and 8. Question everything - even your own thinking.

TOK Essay Titles Nov 2017

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

ToK prescribed Essay Titles (May 2014): Question 2

“When the only tool you have is a hammer, all problems begin to resemble nails” (Abraham Maslow). How might this apply to ways of knowing, as tools, in the pursuit of knowledge?

Click the picture to hear the audio clip of the opening: 'In which we are introduced to Winnie the Pooh'...

The Maslow quotation in this title could be a perfect summary of the opening lines of the children’s classic Winnie the Pooh:
“HERE is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it. And then he feels that perhaps there isn't. Anyhow, here he is at the bottom, and ready to be introduced to you. Winnie-the-Pooh.” [italics added]
Isn’t there also an echo of this in that great TOK classic, The Matrix, when Morpheus asks Neo if he felt in his mind that ‘splinter’ of knowledge of another reality...?
Anyway, sometimes, as the saying goes, the solution to our problems is staring at us right in front of our noses, but we simply can’t see it.  Just think of what happens to you when you misplace your phone? While this assumes that part of the problem of knowledge involves lapses of memory and misperception, presumably these very WOKs CAN also help to resolve the situation.  In short, one knowledge issue implied by this title is, to what extent is our knowledge-making brain flexible and adaptable to real life situations?  A straightforward answer is ‘Alot’, especially if you consider how inventors and scientists address glitches in their experiments!  But your job is to explain HOW the WOKs not only help the brain’s flexibility, but also to explore the limitations of the WOKs.
Transpose this idea onto a specific of knowledge: say Ethics.  We often find ourselves bumping our heads against a moral dilemma (pick one out of any of these) and struggle to think of ways of resolving it.  We may turn to various ethical theories to get us out of the bog of possibilities: utilitarianism, deontology, virtue ethics.  This is fine when debating about such issues rationally and from a theoretical perspective, but would you go through the same rational thought process when you find yourself right in the middle of a moral dilemma?
Sometimes, it seems emotion and intuition bypass the rational thought process you would normally undertake which finding yourself bumping your head against a moral problem.  This happens for evolutionary reasons – fight or flight – and because emotion and intuition save TIME and could save LIVES.  In a life or death situation, where survival is the only consideration, you are not going to take a breath and decide rationally if the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or if your particular choice of action is going to bring the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people.  By the time you’ve gone through this, someone (you, perhaps) might already be dead.  So are you always going to follow protocol and ethical principles or are you going to take a risk and follow your emotion or intuition?
A terrible moral dilemma in itself...which WtP, if not the WoKs, might help resolve.

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