Summer Post #11: RSA Animates the Power of Networks

The paradigm shift from the “tree” system of organization…

How do we categorize knowledge? What about in our more complex modern world?

How is knowledge like a network?

How has the Internet changed the “hierarchical” structure?

Why do we need a “new way of thinking” and what is it?





Chapter 3 Course Companion Study/Action Guide

Knowledge and the Search for Truth

Pg. 90:

 a. Take a book you’ve read recently (could even be a text for one of your classes) and answer the 4 questions on this page. As you post to your blog, try to add specific words from the book to support your answer for #3, and perhaps at least 1 example of a photograph, diagram, or drawing (you can even take a photo with your phone to post as evidence)

b. Read the green box from Yeshey of Bhutan (don’t step on a book!). Then read about and watch Thomas Pettit, a Danish philosopher, discuss the Gutenberg Parenthesis and his view of books (tear one up!). What are your thoughts about the sanctity of books and how did you arrive to your decision? Do books really “hold learning”? How would you rate where you get knowledge – media (various), books, teachers, family, friends, celebrities, etc.? (draw a continuum or explain)

Pg. 91: Classifying Knowledge

 c. Check out the chart- we will take some time in class do this with a partner and discuss

*why do other languages have several different words for “to know”? What are the constraints of English?




Pg. 92-3: Types of Knowledge

 d. Check out Mohammed Youssef’s explanation of the 5 Stages of Knowledge / Wisdom in Arabic. Provide a real life example of each, as it applies to your life.

e. Make your own list of an experiential knowledge (“knowing through direct experience”) you have, a procedural knowledge (skills; “knowing how”), and a knowledge claim (“knowing that”- tied to language). What type is the easiest to learn? What type tends to stick the longest?

f. Which ways of knowing (sense perception, language, emotion, and reasoning) are most relevant to each of the 3 categories  try to provide a specific example.

g.  In which category would you place the statement “I’ve heard about that” and why?

***READ THIS ARTICLE outlining the different theories of learning and how Twitter could be used for each. Which theory do you think best applies to our IB program? Which theory do you find most helpful as a style of learning?

Below is a scene from Good Will Hunting that touches on experiential knowledge versus rational knowledge…beware…some adult language.



Pg. 94-7: IB DP Subject Activity

 h. Check out the green chart. Choose 3 other of your IB DP subjects (not Lang A) and also CAS…make a similar chart. Then brainstorm with your group (maybe they have the same subjects!)…we’ll do a little shifting around and move into different groups to share more ideas…after we can analyze to see if the subjects are balanced or not. WE WILL DO THIS IN CLASS

***read the CAS experience of Emily on pg. 95 to understand how CAS is a certain kind of knowledge acquisition. Then click here for another real-life CAS experience video.

i. The 3 kinds of knowledge are stored differently in the brain. Remember how Mr. Wearing could still play the piano? Curate something on one of the following types of memory or at least find out what they all are: procedural memory, working memory, long-term memory, declarative memory, episodic memory.


Here’s a cool explanation of “earworms” by neurologist Oliver Sacks, and then his discussion of the Power of Music and the Power of Doing…that is, procedural memory.




Pg. 98-100: Voodoo Activit

 j. We will discuss the questions in class in groups, but check out the green section on pg.100 to see what other students responded to the question:Does it matter of what we believe in is true?


Pg. 100-103: TESTS for Knowledge Claims

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the following tests for truth? Discuss the questions in each section with a partner and be prepared to sum it up for the class


k. Identify if these tests are commonly used in the IB DP subjects you are studying now.


*Coherence – based on other claims you believe – (do they agree?)

*Correspondence – must match the evidence – (go and check it out!)

*Pragmatic – must be able to be applied effectively in practice (does it work?)

****be sure to understand why, in TOK, we abandon the catch-all “true-for-me” relativism and think in terms of “true-for-all” (see pg. 103)

CHECK OUT: “A Physicist’s Guide to the existence of Santa Claus


Pg. 104-5: 3 Truths and a Lie game and 1-9 “Good Reasons for Belief” (in class)

l.      What is the difference between being sincere and being right? What is the difference between making a false statement and lying?

m.   We might play another game called “Liar Liar”

Pg. 105-6: Kinds of Claims

l.      After reading about rational, observational, metaphysical, and value judgments, we will play the partner game on pg. 106

Pg. 108-9: Justification Types

l.      After reading about reliable sources (experts and general consensus), memories, emotions, intuition, faith, and revelation, describe what role these might play in the Areas of Knowledge (your subjects)…for example, how might emotion affect and artist or intuition affect a scientist? Here’s an awesome TED TALK which discusses the intuitiveness of the arts and sciences.

Pg. 110-111: Intensity of Belief

l.      Draw or diagram something that represents the relationship between belief, truth, knowledge, and justification.

Pg. 112-113- Pseudoarchaeology

Pg. 114: Do I Believe?

q. After reading about the 3 “s’s”: SOURCE, STATEMENTS, and SELF, choose something you’ve learned recently and evaluate it based on these, using specific examples.



























Belief vs. Knowledge

“Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is” – Bhagavad Gita, 500 BCE

          “Common Sense consists of those layers of prejudice laid down before the age of 18” – Einstein

“There are two ways to slide easily through life: to believe everything, or to doubt everything; both ways save us from thinking” – Alfred Korzybski, 1879-1950

          “A very popular error – having the courage of one’s convictions; rather, it is a matter of having the courage for an attack upon one’s convictions” – Friedrich Nietzsche, 1844-1900

The following textbites are excerpts from Richard von Lagemaat’s course book “Theory of Knowledge” (we follow him on Twitter @TOKtweet):

The most obvious thing that distinguishes knowledge from belief is truth. If you know something, then what you claim to know must be true, but if you merely believe it, then it may be true or it may be false. This is why you cannot know that Rome is the capital of Italy, or that pigs have wings, or that the earth is flat.

…truth is independent of of what anyone happens to believe is true, and that simply believing something is true does not make it true. Indeed, even if everyone believes that something is true, it may turn out to be false…knowledge requires something less than certainty. In practice, when we say something is “true” we usually mean that it is “beyond a reasonable doubt“. 

When you know something then what you claim to know must not only be true but you must believe it to be true…while truth is an objective requirement for knowledge, then belief is a subjective requirement for it.

***If you have no conscious awareness of something, then it makes little sense to say you know it (i.e. books can’t know facts, calculators can’t know 2+2=4)

As technology develops, do you think it will ever make sense to say a computer knows things?


***note: there will be a separate blog post/activities on A.I.

(But…) rather than thinking of knowledge as being completely different than belief, it may make more sense to think of a belief knowledge continuum.

VAGUE BELIEF: you vaguely believe something, but don’t recall where you came across this idea and readily abandon this belief in light of counter-evidence. (possible but not probable)

WELL-SUPPORTED BELIEF: You believe it, and may be able to give evidence, but are unwilling to say you know for sure (probable but not beyond a reasonable doubt)

BELIEF BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT: you find the evidence to support your belief so convincing and any counter-evidence filmsy that you are willing to say you belief it with no doubt (but still not 100% certain)

(But…) your beliefs must be justified and in the right sort of way. We usually justify beliefs and knowledge claims by appealing to one of the four ways of knowing:

“I saw it!” (perception)

“Someone told me” (language)

“I worked it out” (reason)

“It’s intuitively obvious” (emotion)

(But…) Why are some ways of justification (such as perception), usually considered acceptable, while others (like ESP) are not? It’s all about reliability

Here are some interesting videos regarding the reliability of PERCEPTION:

1. How Your Memories Can be Twisted Under Social Pressure

2. Can You Trust Your Memory? Take These 2 Simple Tests

Of course, nothing is infallible and you can be sceptical about everything, but life is just too short, you have to make a judgement when a doubt is appropriate or not.


So, you have a reasonable belief with evidence, now what? Again, from Richard von Lagemaat:

Imagine someone claiming that there are little green men on Mars. When you challenge them to support their belief they say, “Well you can’t prove that there aren’t”.***The fact that you can’t prove that something ISN’T true does nothing to show that it IS true. This fallacy of thinking is called


Thought Experiment:

1. Which of the following is an example of argument ad ignorantium?

a. Since many people claim to have seen ghosts, it is likely they exist

b. Many members of the Society for the Paranormal believe in ghosts

c. Ghosts must exist because no one has proved they do not.

d. It is true for me that ghosts exist.

2. With a partner, make up 2 examples of argument ad ignorantium and share with the class.


Psychologists claim that humans have a tendency known as “confirmation bias”, to notice only evidence that supports our beliefs. (e.g. you believe in astrology so tend to notice only when your horoscope proves right and overlook the time it is wrong). ***It is important to look not only for evidence in favor of our beliefs, but also for evidence that would count against them (aka COUNTER-CLAIMS). This interesting blog post discusses how it works- and how it relates to old movies, political pundits, and Amazon wish lists.

For fun try this activity demonstrating c.b.


Does your belief fit in or “cohere” with our current understanding of the world? Lagemaat asserts that although we should be open to new ideas, we would simply come undone if we cast doubt on all our beliefs at once. ***The more unlikely something is, relative to the current state of knowledge, the stronger the evidence in its favor should be before we can take it seriously. Carl Sagan said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” – can you think of an example in History when this held true?

What sorts of extraordinary claims do you personally grapple with and think are less likely to be true?


Does it really matter WHAT we believe? If people have crazy ideas, should we just let them- I mean, what’s the harm, right? Lagemaat reminds us that beliefs DO matter, and some are more worthy of respect than others. Beliefs DEFINE who you are as a person. You will end up leading a life that is genuinely not your own unless you periodically examine your beliefs (“An unexamined life is not worth living”- Socrates)

Moreover, beliefs affect one’s ACTIONS, and can literally be a life and death deciding factor. Burning witches? Nazism? Terrorists? Death-wish cults? Voltaire pointed out thatPeople who believe absurdities will commit atrocities“. 



1. Do you think we should respect the beliefs of a racist or sexist person? Provide reasons. If possible, find a recent article or video that could be used to question this (for example, the July massacre by Norwegian “racist” Anders Breivik.

2. Find some examples of beliefs (modern or throughout History) that you think are both misguided and dangerous.


Unit 1 and Nature of Knowledge Links on Diigo

Using this permalink you will have access to all my “Nature of Knowledge” links in my Diigo library.

Here’s my Prezi about Unit One: