Key thinkers on intuition
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
Dutton, Denis (1944 – 2010)
Dutton worked as a philosopher at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, and was the editor of Arts and Letters Daily. He believed that far from it being dictated by culture, our aesthetic sense is innate, and has evolved over the course of time as a result of Darwinian adaptation.
Also helps us to explore Emotion, arts, HS
ESSENTIAL THINKER Gilbert, Dan (1957 – )
Gilbert studied social psychology at Princeton, and has taught at Harvard. He is a widely published author, who writes on the subject of happiness, and how to acquire it, focusing on the way in which our intuition often leads us into making the wrong decisions.
Also helps us to explore Emotion, reason, HS
Greene, Graham (1904 – 1991)
Apart from being one of the most interesting writers of the 20th century on the psychological motivations of human behaviour, Greene is interesting to us for what he says on the therapeutic value of writing. For this reason, he is an excellent thinker to consider when it comes to the TOK journal. He was also a noted Catholic, though had a difficult relationship with his faith.
Also helps us to explore Emotion, Faith, arts, HS, RKS
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 countercounter thinkers of the 1960s and ’70s.
Also helps us to explore Emotion, faith, imagination, arts, HS
Kahneman, Daniel (1934 – )
Kahneman is a Nobel Prize winning economist, who is also one of the most influential thinkers of psychology in the world. He has examined many aspects of human behaviour, such as decision-making, happiness, and the way we perceive our own well-being.
Also helps us to explore Emotion, reason, HS
Montaigne, Michel Eyquem de (1533 – 1592)
One of the greatest ever essayists and writers, Montaigne’s ideas foreshadowed many of the ones found in Shakespeare’s plays. He believed we are trapped in our own natures, and are unable to escape our instincts and personalities.
Also helps us to explore TNK, reason, HS
Richards, Sam (1960 – )
Richards is a sociologist, and teacher of race relations. He specializes in addressing and exploring difficult, controversial subjects; a process that he believes involves viewing the world through multiple perspectives, and drawing on kills of empathy.
Also helps us to explore Emotion, ethics, HS
Skinner, BF (1904 – 1990)
Skinner was many things, among them, a philosopher, psychologist, author, and inventor. His experiment on pigeons, in which he observed them behaving ‘superstitiously’, suggest that such a tendency is not limited to human beings.
Also helps us to explore Reason, HS, IKS, NS
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, imagination, ethics, RKS