Key thinkers on sense perception
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
Black Elk (1863 – 1950)
Black Elk was a Sioux medicine man and spiritual leader. He spoke of the unity of all men, and tried to emphasize the similarity of spiritual beliefs regardless of the different religious traditions from which they came.
Also helps us to explore Faith, ethics, IKS, RKS
Brown, Derren (1971 – )
Brown is an illusionist, writer, and artist. Although he performs seemingly inexplicable mind-reading tricks, he is quick to explain his methods in order to reveal those who claim to have supernatural powers as frauds. He has a particularly interesting insight into the Barnum effect and cold reading.
Also helps us to explore Reason, HS
Descartes, Rene (1596 – 1650)
Descartes was a French physicist and mathematician, and has been dubbed the father of modern philosophy. His philosophical approach was built up from the fundamental idea that we can doubt everything (particularly the knowledge provided by our senses) other than the fact that we are doubting, which led him to state in 1637, ‘Je pense, donc je suis’ (I think therefore I am).
Also helps us to explore TNK, reason
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, imagination, arts
Hume, David (1711 – 1776)
Hume was an Edinburgh philosopher and historian, and is regarded as the most important of the British empiricists (along with Locke and Berkeley). Unlike Descartes, he thought that the only knowledge that we should trust is that which we experience directly through our senses. He also emphasised the importance of emotions in allowing us access to truth, by saying ‘Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions.’
Also helps us to explore TNK, emotion, reason, ethics, HS
Keller, Helen (1880 – 1968)
Keller was an American author, and social and political thinker. The first deafblind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, her ideas can be summed up by her famous quote: “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.”
Also helps us to explore Arts, ethics
Locke, John (1632 – 1704)
Locke was the first of the British empiricists who borrowed Aristotle’s idea of a blank slate, which he termed the tabula rasa. This meant that we are born with no innate ideas, and instead, build up knowledge as we experience things through our senses. He represents the counterpoint to Descartes when it comes to thinking about how we acquire knowledge about the world.
Also helps us to explore TNK, HS
ESSENTIAL THINKER Lotto, Beau (1964 – )
Lotto is a neuroscientist and founder of ‘Lotto Lab’ who investigates how we perceive the world with our senses and brains. His optical illusions are literally staggering, and force their audience to question things they have always taken for granted.
Also helps us to explore HS
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, imagination, arts
Sivananda, Swami (1887 – 1963)
Sivananda was an Indian Hindu spiritual teacher and yoga expert. He gained a world-side following, and popularized the pastime of yoga, although for him, yoga was a means to achieve union with God.
Also helps us to explore Faith, RKS