November 2015 TOK prescribed essay titles

Thoughts on the November 2015 TOK prescribed essay titles

 
The following thoughts on the November 2015 TOK prescribed titles are taken from our TOK Essay Guide, and are provided as suggestions of how could approach the PTs. The nature of TOK means that there are many ways of interpreting a question; the important thing is that you identify and explore your own knowledge questions, and support your discussion with real life situations that you have taken from your experiences as a learner, and examples that you have read about. In the interests of academic honesty, you should not reproduce any of the text you see below.
 
The theoryofknowledge.net Facebook page provides daily links to real life situations, some of which may be relevant for your essay. Our free newsletter rounds up the best of these, which you can subscribe to by following the links on the site. We also produce a premium newsletter, which goes into much more depth on the implications and different perspectives of these RLSs. You can sign up for this in the resources shop of the site, or the Facebook page.
 
To purchase the Essay Guide, visit our TOK Resources Shop.
 
Due to copyright issues, we are not allowed to reproduce the essay titles in full. Please ask your TOK teacher or IB Diploma Coordinator, and ensure that you use the correct wording in your essay.
 

Prescribed Title 1 (asking you to consider the extent to which knowledge production is about solving problems)

 
a. What are the key words & terms that need pinning down?

The PT uses the phrase ‘main reason’ for the production of knowledge, which means that you don’t have to think in absolute terms – there’s scope to argue there’s more than one reason for the production of knowledge (but the solution of problems is the most important one).
 
‘To solve problems’ also needs some consideration: what, for example, are you going to define as a problem? For different AOKs, problems come in different forms. For mathematics, a problem may be purely abstract. For ethics, it may involve the difficulties in applying moral principles. For human sciences, a problem may resemble a challenge to society that has to be overcome.
 
The essay is therefore suggesting, that all questions are leading questions, and that it isn’t possible to ask or investigate knowledge without having a preconceived notion of what you want to find.

 
b. What are the difficulties and challenges of the question?

This is a broad question, because of the different ways in which ‘solving problems’ can be interpreted. The ‘solving of problems’ could easily lead you away from a consideration of knowledge, and onto more practical issues elated to the areas of knowledge. This would create an essay based on first rather than second order knowledge.
 
It may also be hard to establish a hierarchy of reasons for knowledge production – sure, one of the reasons for knowledge is to solve problems, but how can we meaningfully measure its importance alongside other reasons for its production?

 
c. What sort of real life situations might work?
d. Which perspectives and implications could be considered?

For thoughts and ideas on these aspects of the essay, consult our TOK Essay Guide.

 

Prescribed title 2 (asking you to think about the advantages and disadvantages of models in order to produce knowledge about the world)

 
a. What are the key words & terms that need pinning down?

This is an essay about the use of ‘models’, so this is the key term to define in your introduction. You should not be interpreting this word literally.
 
You’ll also need to consider ‘advantage’ and ‘disadvantage’, explaining how you will apply these terms to assess how models impact on how we acquire and use knowledge.
 
The word ‘production’ means your essay should look at the way knowledge is ‘actively’ acquired, rather than passively observed – in other words, you’re not just looking at how we make sense of pre-existing knowledge, but also about how we generate new knowledge.

 
b. What are the difficulties and challenges of the question?

‘Advantages’ and ‘disadvantages’ are broad terms, and if they are not framed effectively in your introduction, will be hard to assess in the main body of your essay.
 
The way models are employed in the different areas of knowledge is also very diverse. For some AOKs, the use of models is central to the acquisition of knowledge; in others it may be harder to define how models are used, or even what might represent a ‘model’.

 
c. What sort of real life situations might work?
d. Which perspectives and implications could be considered?

For thoughts and ideas on these aspects of the essay, consult our TOK Essay Guide.

 
 

Prescribed title 3 (asking you to think about whether group verification is necessary to produce knowledge)

 
a. What are the key words & terms that need pinning down?

This PT is based on the concept of ‘the group’, and the extent to which their ‘verification’ is needed in order for an idea or hunch to be confirmed as reality.
 
The wording of the second half of the statement is interesting: rather than asking whether knowledge production is not possible, it asks whether knowledge itself is not possible. The implication of this is that unverified knowledge – hunches, feelings, instincts, dreams, thoughts, etc. – is not knowledge.
 
The essay is therefore suggesting, that all questions are leading questions, and that it isn’t possible to ask or investigate knowledge without having a preconceived notion of what you want to find.

 
b. What are the difficulties and challenges of the question?

This is another broad title, using several words that can be interpreted in many different ways. It’s asking a big, philosophical question, vaguely reminiscent of the age-old philosophical question ‘If a tree falls in the woods, and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?’ – which could tie you in knots.
 
It also requires you to consider ways of knowing in as much detail as areas of knowledge.

 
c. What sort of real life situations might work?
d. Which perspectives and implications could be considered?

For thoughts and ideas on these aspects of the essay, consult our TOK Essay Guide.

 

Prescribed title 4 (asking you to think about how some AOKs involve the reduction of complicated systems to simple elements, and how others incorporate simple elements into a complicated system)

 
a. What are the key words & terms that need pinning down?

This PT, perhaps above all the others, refers to concepts and ideas that require very careful interpretation. The two key terms to focus on are ‘complex whole’ and ‘simple components’, and the relationship that exists between them. The assertions states that in some AOKs, it’s a question of ‘reducing’ the first into the second, whereas in others, it’s about ‘integrating’ the latter into the former.
 
The essay is therefore suggesting, that all questions are leading questions, and that it isn’t possible to ask or investigate knowledge without having a preconceived notion of what you want to find.

 
b. What are the difficulties and challenges of the question?

This seems like a neat way of dividing up the different AOKs, but it should become apparent fairly quickly that it is a very challenging question. The production of knowledge in all the AOKs involves diverse and complicated processes, so to view it in binary terms – along the lines of induction versus deduction – is fraught with problems.
 
There’s also the problem of defining ‘complex whole’. Does this mean an entire AOK (eg, natural sciences)? Or one specific field within that AOK (like physics)?
 
The same considerations apply to ‘simple components’ – what represents a ‘simple component’? Is anything, really, simple?

 
c. What sort of real life situations might work?
d. Which perspectives and implications could be considered?

For thoughts and ideas on these aspects of the essay, consult our TOK Essay Guide.

 

Prescribed title 5 (asking you to think about the extent to which ways of knowledge operate in isolation)

 
a. What are the key words & terms that need pinning down?

The question states ‘no knowledge’ can be produced by a single way of knowing, so it’s important that to acknowledge that you’re not being asked a ‘to what extent’ form.
 
The ‘single way of knowing’ refers to WOKs working in isolation, although you will need more context in order to explore this.
 
The essay is therefore suggesting, that all questions are leading questions, and that it isn’t possible to ask or investigate knowledge without having a preconceived notion of what you want to find.

 
b. What are the difficulties and challenges of the question?

The WOKs work in combination, which is why it will be hard to assess how they work in isolation. Think of how scent can produce an emotion; the way memory shapes intuition; etc., etc.
 
Even the definition of the WOKs are hard to establish in concrete terms – where does intuition end, and reason begin; where is the line between imagination and memory; at what point does sensory knowledge turn into emotion? Such questions indicate why it may be hard to avoid being speculative in your essay.
 
On the other hand, this is where the potential of this prescribed title lies – there is lots of scope to explore links between the different WOKs, that you should be able to produce a rich essay.

 
c. What sort of real life situations might work?
d. Which perspectives and implications could be considered?

For thoughts and ideas on these aspects of the essay, consult our TOK Essay Guide.

 

Prescribed title 6 (asking you to think about whether predictions require an explanation first)

 
a. What are the key words & terms that need pinning down?

The two words that your essay will be built upon are ‘explanation’ and ‘prediction’. The PT asks to consider the relationship that exists between these two terms, and whether the first is needed in order to carry out the second.
 
Think clearly about both the words, particularly ‘explanation’. Is ‘explanation’ the same as understanding? Can you explain something without understanding it?

 
b. What are the difficulties and challenges of the question?

Explanation and prediction are not mutually exclusive terms. Sometimes to explain is also to predict; likewise, predicting the way something will behave may also involves us explaining it.
 
The essay title is another broad one, even though it specifies that you should focus on two AOKs. Explanation doesn’t narrow down the way in which we understand phenomena, and predicting is integral to most fields within sciences and mathematics.
 
Choosing a contrasting AOK may be tricky for this question, as some AOKs don’t lend themselves very naturally to both explanation and predictions.

 
c. What sort of real life situations might work?
d. Which perspectives and implications could be considered?

For thoughts and ideas on these aspects of the essay, consult our TOK Essay Guide.

 

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Cite this page as: Dunn, Michael. November 2015 TOK prescribed essay titles (5th March 2015). theoryofknowledge.net. http://www.theoryofknowledge.net/tok-essay/november-2015-tok-prescribed-essay-titles/ Last accessed: 24th May 2017

 

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