Key thinkers on imagination
Adding authority to your TOK essay and presentation
The knowledge questions in your TOK essay and TOK presentation should be supported not only by your own ideas and evidence, but also by those of other people. We have therefore put together a list of key thinkers for each way of knowing and area of knowledge who will add extra authority to your TOK essay and presentation, and help you to explore the KQs connected to your title. You can see the complete list of key thinkers here.
But we’re thinking of more than just the TOK assessment: these minds are the source of some of the most incredible ideas ever put forward, and have shaped the way we view the world and our place in it. So we think they are worth getting to know in their own right, because they will genuinely help you to figure out this mysterious thing called existence.
Making use of these thinkers
We have indicated which elements of the course they are particularly useful for (remember you should be trying to link the different parts of TOK, so don’t just focus on one WOK or AOK in isolation), and we have provided a Wikipedia link for each person. However, you should see this as the point where you begin, rather than end, your exploration of these paradigm-defining figures. We’ve also identified one person for each way of knowing and area of knowledge whom we consider an ESSENTIAL THINKER, due to way they challenge assumptions or provide a particularly important idea. Each of these thinkers are accompanied by a video in which they outline their theories, and which you can quote as a source for your essay or presentation.
TNK = the nature of knowledge
SP = sense perception
HS = the human sciences
IKS = indigenous knowledge systems
NS = the natural sciences
RKS = religious knowledge systems
Achebe, Chinua (1930 – 2013)
Achebe was a Nigerian poet, novelist and academic, who was outspoken on colonialism and racism. He was a supporter of Biafran independence, but ultimately lost faith in politics due to the way in which he felt that power had corrupted those originally seeking freedom.
Also helps us to explore Imagination, language, arts, ethics, history, NS
Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi da (1571 – 1610)
Caravaggio was an Italian painter with a taste for the underbelly of Rome’s society, unlike many other painters of the time. His David with the head of Goliath must rank as the most shocking and original self-portraits in history (his is the head).
Also helps us to explore Emotion, reason, arts
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor (1772 – 1854)
Coleridge was a British poet, writer, and philosopher, who is noted for the way in which he used imagination in order to create literature, particularly in his poem Kubla Khan. Apparently, his great work was inspired by a dream, which he spent the rest of his life trying to recreate via the use of chemical stimuli.
Also helps us to explore Memory, arts
Einstein, Albert (1879 – 1955)
Probably the best known scientist of the last 300 years, Einstein’s name has become synonymous with genius and creativity. His personal advice to the US government in 1939 led them to become the only country during the war to possess nuclear weapons. He believed in the power of imagination in helping to acquire knowledge.
Also helps us to explore TNK, reason, NS, RKS
Glennie, Evelyn (1965 – )
At the age of 12, Glennie lost nearly all her hearing, but her passion and talent for music (as well as her determination) meant she was still able to enter the Royal College of Music in London, changing the way admissions were handled for people with disabilities.
Also helps us to explore Emotion, SP, arts
Hesse, Hermann (1877 – 1962)
Hesse was a German-born Swiss poet, novelist, painter, and spiritual thinker. His quest for enlightenment via self-knowledge characterised his writing, and helped to inspire the counter-counter thinkers of the 1960s and ’70s.
Also helps us to explore Emotion, faith, intuition, arts, HS
Kahlo de Rivera, Frida (1907 – 1954)
Matisse, Henri (1869 – 1954)
Matisse was a French painter, sculptor, and printmaker. His new way of conceiving of reality helped to define the way the whole of the arts developed in the C20th, and he is regarded as one of the most important figures in the arts in the last 100 years.
Also helps us to explore TNK, emotion, SP, arts
Newton, Isaac (1643 – 1727)
Newton was so many things – a physicist, a mathematician, an astronomer, a theologian, and even a alchemist. He is considered to be one of the most influential people in history, alongside figures such as Plato, Kant, Descartes, and Darwin. In the early part of his career, at least, he was known for his modesty, saying ‘if I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.
Also helps us to explore Reason, mathematics, NS
Pasteur, Louis (1822 – 1895)
Pasteur was a French chemist and micro-biologist. For the purposes of TOK, he is of interest for what he said about the role of serendipity in scientific discoveries. According to him, it is only the prepared mind that benefits from it.
Also helps us to explore TNK, NS
Picasso, Pablo (1881 – 1973)
Picasso was a Spanish painter and sculptor, who completely altered the way in which we view reality. He was one of the co-founders of the Cubism artistic movement, and is regarded as one of the most important artistic thinkers ever to have lived.
Also helps us to explore Arts
Schama, Simon (1945- )
ESSENTIAL THINKER Shafak, Elif (1971 – )
Shafak is a Turkish writer whose books draw on a whole range of different themes and cultures, but for which one thing is vital: the imaginative story. She argues against pigeonholing artists and people due to race, culture, and identity, and asserts that fiction allows us to connect with others.
Also helps us to explore Arts, ethics, HS
Tjapaltjarri, Clifford Possum (1932 – 2003)
Tjapaltjarri was a one of the key figures in the indigenous Australian art movement. His art often featured representations of dreaming stories, thus making use of both imagination and indigenous knowledge systems.
Also helps us to explore Arts, IKS
Weil, Simone (1909 – 1943)
Weil was a French philosopher, political and religious thinker. She was noted for her compassion towards others, and is also remarkable for her thoughts and opinions on Christianity and other religions.
Also helps us to explore Emotion, faith, intuition, ethics, RKS