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 and Ethics- A Matter of Life and Death? (plus pres. planning)

Sometimes the world works in mysterious ways and offers up a “teachable moment”. This expression is used by educators to describe something in the “real world” that either matches what we’re doing in class OR provides an opportunity for a lesson so great one must temorarily abandon the prepared plans and address this “hot” issue (e.g. The World trade Center attack,Revolutions in the Middle East, or Osama Bin Laden’s death.

Last week (Sept. 21) marked the executionby lethal injection of Troy Davis, a man convicted 2 decades ago for the 1989 murder of a Georgia police officer. Davis claimed innocence until the end, and his case has experienced extreme controversy due to supposed recantations (taking back) of some witnesses. Watch thi reporter’s fairly unbiased video on the matter (he reminds us that whether Davis was guilty or not, his particular case did not warrant capital punishment)


The case has spurred international protests. Ethical issues abound: the right for governments to execute (i.e. capital punishment), the race factor, the legitimacy of our judicial system (there were alleged strong-arm law enforcement tactics), and the “restricting effect” of the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which bars death row inmates from later presenting evidence they could have presented at trial. People from comedian Mike Farrell to Archbishop Desmond Tutu to members of European Parliament have petitioned against this man’s execution. Currently protests are still going on all over the world.

WATCH: the rallies (raw footage) in front of Jackson State Prison 

WATCH: Parisians protest on same ground that witnessed French Rev executions

WATCH and READ: Al Jazeera’s show “The Stream” highlights Twitter talk on this case

READ: 10 reasons why Davis should have not been executed



TOK connection #1: How can the 4 “ways of knowing”- Sense Perception, Emotion, Language, and Reason – affect the reliability of an eyewitness account? 


TOK connection #2: To what extent should life and death decisions be based on belief? Just what does “beyond a reasonable doubt” mean and should it be connected to life and death decisions?

***READ THIS BRIEF ARTICLE regarding what the author calls a “corrupt” system.

TOK connection #3: ETHICS: What is the relationship between capital punishment and human rights? To what extent is it considered ethical or non-ethical?  How is it accepted in some societies or by some people and not others? Should governments be involved in decisions with moral implications? How can it be argued mankind has made moral progress throughout History? Are scientists (DNA evidence, etc.) and others (law enforecement, witnesses, etc.) morally responsible for how their evidence is used? 


***READ THIS ARTICLE for more thoughts about our “moral progress” and the death penalty

TOK connection #4: Knowledge Issues:

Selection of Information– What makes this particular case newsworthy while other events go unreported? Why does this event stir reaction in other parts of the world? How is corporate media and even user-generated media influencing the knowledge people may gain regarding this event?



Issues of Evidence, Bias, Stereotyping What are the problems with the evidence and the eyewitness accounts, and how does human error, bias, or even stereotyping/ racism come into play, if at all? When a protester called this a “legal lynching”, how does that choice of language relate to people’s emotions and historical memory? 


Issue of the Implications of Knowledge: There are many here, but what about something the reporter in the video addressed? He pointed out that supporters of the death penalty need to have a fail-proof system behind them – that when flaws are shown (read- knowledge of failures) the pro-capital punishment argument suffers. Regardless of how you feel about the issue, it’s important for both sides of the fence to examine what IS capital punishment and what is it DOING FOR US? (is it useful? humane? cost-effective? efficient? moral? justified?)



Check out the DEATH PENALTY INFORMATION CENTER for data and facts by state.

ROLL OVER THIS INFOGRAPHIC to see when countries abolished capital punishment or, for the ones who still have it, what types of crimes apply and what methods of execution are used.





American opinion inforgraphics, found at

CLICK HERE to see other amazing infographics, inlcuding the HISTORY of C.P.

What about the cost?



Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


 How appropriate is the  “last meal” request ritual? Read this.


PERSPECTIVES- preparing for the TOK presentation (9 TIPS HERE)

The internal assessment piece for Theory of Knowledge comes in the form of a presentation of a “real life/contemporary situation”, during which you will address the knowledge issues that arise (it is a must that at least 1 clear question concerning knowledge can be extracted). You have 10 min. to briefly introduce the topic, then discuss the knowlege issues (10 min each if in a group of 3 or less).

Moreover, you need to show a “knower’s perspective” (“personal” use of arguments, recognition of your own bias or presuppositions, etc.)…

AND give a balanced account of how the topic can be approached from different perspectives (due to gender, race, culture, age, generation, class, religion, educational background, academic discipline, etc.), and what the implications of those would be. For example, when YOU make a claim, consider counter-claims by asking yourself what someone who disagrees with your point of view would say and why. 

Knowledge issues should be posed as an open-ended question.

Presentations can be of any type- skits, slide shows, talk show panels, films, etc.

EXAMPLE (from the IB Guidebook)

not a knowledge issue: the execution of (in this case), Troy Davis

poor knowledge issue: Capital Punishment- should we or shouldn’t we adopt it?

intermediate knowledge issue: How can we know if capital punishment is right or wrong?

good knowledge issue: What role should intuition play in justifying capital punishment?

Below is a helpful planning document I found online:



Tok Presentation Guide

View more presentations from Toby Newton
Pretend you are planning your TOK presentation using the Troy Davis case and/or capital punishment in general as your “real life issue”. Create a hypothetical presentation planning sheet with the following components:
1. At least 3 knowledge issues that relate to knoweldge itself, the ways of knowing (perception/reason/emotion/language), and/or other areas of knoweldge besides ethics (such as science, psychology, or history). ***Be sure these are formed as open-ended questions.
2. Identification of your personal stance on the issue and what bias or experience or reasoning has led you to believe that.
3. Identification of at least 2 other perspectives as counter-claims, and the implications of those persepctives.
4. At least 3 visual aids that you might use (could be screen shots of Twitter comments, political cartoons, snips of video, artwork, infographics, etc.)
5. Concept idea- how might you choose to present this issue to the class? Would you do a dramatization? a video? a Prezi or Ppt? Explain.
***while you will not be required to actually make the presentation, we will discuss and share our planning brainstorms, and you will need to answer these 5 questions and post your resources on your Posterous blog.
Here are some additional resources which will help you:

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.


Wisdom of the Ages: inspiration for your This I Believe

Going on the assumption that wisdom is gained from experience, photographer Andrew Zuckerman compiled a book from interviews of famous and influential people over the age of 65.

He’s also created a film “Wisdom: the Greatest Gift One Generation can GIve to Another” and mini segments such as”Life”, “Love”,”Peace, and “Ideas”.

Brainpicking’s Maria Popova states 

Succinct and brilliantly curated, Wisdom is a living corpus callosum bridging the creative and intellectual hemispheres of culture’s collective brain, as close as we can get to an ideological and philosophical timecapsule of our era.”


Click here for the post, which includes 3 video clips (photographers might be especially interested!)

Blog at