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Quotes on knowledge & the knower

Quotes on knowledge & the knower

These quotes will kick-start your exploration of knowledge & the knower, and help you reflect on your own understanding of the core theme of TOK.

Which quotes do you find the most and least insightful? Do the quotes challenge or support your understanding of how we acquire knowledge? What do the quotes reveal about the way the core theme interlinks with the areas of knowledge and the TOK themes?

Quotes on the nature and scope of knowledge & knowing

  • These quotes on knowledge & the knower relate to Big Question 1 (How do I become a knower about the world?), the first unit of our BQ approach to TOK
  • They also link to the nature and scope of knowledge & the knower, part of the IB’s knowledge framework for exploring TOK
  • Use the link to each thinker as a starting point to find out more about their ideas

Knowledge is a polite word for dead but not buried imagination.
e. e. cummings

Man is a reasoning rather than a reasonable animal.
Alexander Hamilton

All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.
Immanuel Kant

The first and simplest emotion that we discover in the human mind is curiosity.
Edmund Burke

Nothing can be found in the intellect if previously has not been found in the senses.
Michael Servetus

We live on the leash of our senses.
Diane Ackerman

The two operations of our understanding, intuition and deduction, on which alone we have said we must rely in the acquisition of knowledge.
Rene Descartes

Mankind are governed more by their feelings than by reason.
Samuel Adams

Memory is the fourth dimension to any landscape.
Janet Fitch

Intuition is the clear conception of the whole at once.
Johann Kaspar Lavater

Intuition is a suspension of logic due to impatience.
Rita Mae Brown

Reason is the natural order of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning.
C. S. Lewis

Where the senses fail us, reason must step in.
Galileo Galilei

It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this.
Bertrand Russell

Man is a rational animal who always loses his temper when he is called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason.
Oscar Wilde

Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.
David Hume

What we hold in our heads – our memory, our feelings, our thoughts, our sense of our own history – is the sum of our humanity.
Richard Eyre

We know the truth, not only by the reason, but also by the heart.
Blaise Pascal

To imagine is everything, to know is nothing at all.
Anatole France

Quotes on the relationship between knowing and values

  • These quotes on knowledge & the knower relate to Big Question 2 (How does our knowledge about the world inform our values?), the second unit of our BQ approach to TOK
  • They also link to the arts and ethics, part of the IB’s knowledge framework for exploring TOK
  • Use the link to each thinker as a starting point to find out more about their ideas

You cannot make yourself feel something you do not feel, but you can make yourself do right in spite of your feelings.
Pearl S. Buck

All credibility, all good conscience, all evidence of truth come only from the senses.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Of what use is the memory of facts, if not to serve as an example of good or of evil?
Alfred de Vigny

The true triumph of reason is that it enables us to get along with those who do not possess it.
Voltaire

A man has free choice to the extent that he is rational.
Thomas Aquinas

The world is indebted for all triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity over error and oppression.
Thomas Jefferson

Quotes on the relationship between communication and knowing

  • These quotes on knowledge & the knower relate to Big Question 3 (How is our understanding influenced by the way knowledge is communicated?), the third unit of our BQ approach to TOK
  • They also link to methods, tools, and practices of the arts, part of the IB’s knowledge framework for exploring TOK
  • Use the link to each thinker as a starting point to find out more about their ideas

Memory narrativises itself.
Aleksandar Hemon

Memory is the personal journalism of the soul.
Richard Schickel

Language is the dress of thought.
Samuel Johnson

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.
George Orwell

Language is the mother of thought, not its handmaiden.
Karl Kraus

Language is not simply a reporting device for experience but a defining framework for it.
Benjamin Whorf

The limits of my language means the limits of my world.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

You learned the concept ‘pain’ when you learned language.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

Man acts as though he were the shaper and master of language, while in fact language remains the master of man.
Martin Heidegger

Works of imagination should be written in very plain language; the more purely imaginative they are the more necessary it is to be plain.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Mechanical difficulties with language are the outcome of internal difficulties with thought.
Elizabeth Bowen

Quotes on knowing, perspectives, and context

  • These quotes on knowledge & the knower relate to Big Question 4 (How do our perspectives and biases shape our knowledge?), the fourth unit of our BQ approach to TOK
  • They also link to perspectives & context related to the arts, part of the IB’s knowledge framework for exploring TOK
  • Use the link to each thinker as a starting point to find out more about their ideas

All tweets are tasty. Any tweet anybody writes is tasty. So, I try to have each tweet not simply be informative, but have some outlook, some perspective that you might not otherwise had.
Neil deGrasse Tyson

It’s useful to go out of this world and see it from the perspective of another one.
Terry Pratchett

Academics lack perspective. In a debate on whether the world is round, they would argue, ‘No,’ because it’s an oblate spheroid. They suffer from ‘the curse of knowledge’: the inability to imagine what it’s like not to know something that they know.
Steven Pinker

Truth is often a multiplicity of perspectives, and sometimes the more viewpoints and versions of events there are, the closer the reader gets to an overarching truth.
Susan Barker

Opinion is ultimately determined by the feelings, and not by the intellect.
Herbert Spencer

The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.
Henry David Thoreau

Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he isn’t. A sense of humour was provided to console him for what he is.
Horace Walpole

Reason is the natural order of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning.
C. S. Lewis

Imagination and fiction make up more than three quarters of our real life.
Simone Weil

Imagination is the real and eternal world of which this vegetable universe is but a faint shadow.
William Blake

Only in men’s imagination does every truth find an effective and undeniable existence. Imagination, not invention, is the supreme master of art as of life.
Joseph Conrad

All of our reasoning ends in surrender to feeling.
Blaise Pascal

The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.
Blaise Pascal

Quotes on how we create new ideas

  • These quotes on knowledge & the knower relate to Big Question 5 (How is new knowledge about the world created?), the third unit of our BQ approach to TOK
  • They also link to methods, tools, and practices of the arts, part of the IB’s knowledge framework for exploring TOK
  • Use the link to each thinker as a starting point to find out more about their ideas

Creativity takes courage.
Henri Matisse

Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.
Henry Thomas Buckle

If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.
Ken Robinson

Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.
Erich Fromm

I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking
Albert Einstein

Human memory is a marvellous but fallacious instrument. The memories which lie within us are not carved in stone; not only do they tend to become erased as the years go by, but often they change, or even increase by incorporating extraneous features.
Primo Levi

The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.
Sylvia Plath

Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity.
T.S. Eliot

It is all very well to copy what one sees, but it is far better to draw what one now only sees in one’s memory. That is a transformation in which imagination collaborates with memory.
Edgar Degas

Inspiration could be called inhaling the memory of an act never experienced.
Ned Rorem

Every second of every day, our senses bring in way too much data than we can possibly process in our brains.
Peter Diamandis

Obviously the facts are never just coming at you but are incorporated by an imagination that is formed by your previous experience. Memories of the past are not memories of facts but memories of your imaginings of the facts.
Philip Roth

Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.
Brené Brown

Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos.
Mary Shelly

Quotes on becoming a discerning knower

  • These quotes on knowledge & the knower relate to Big Question 6 (How do we become discerning knowers?), the final unit of our BQ approach to TOK
  • They also link to perspectives & context related to the arts, part of the IB’s knowledge framework for exploring TOK
  • Use the link to each thinker as a starting point to find out more about their ideas

There can be no knowledge without emotion. We may be aware of a truth, yet until we have felt its force, it is not ours. To the cognition of the brain must be added the experience of the soul.
Arnold Bennett

Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves.
Lord Byron

Fools act on imagination without knowledge, pedants act on knowledge without imagination.
Alfred North Whitehead

I was bold in the pursuit of knowledge, never fearing to follow truth and reason to whatever results they led, and bearding every authority which stood in their way.
Thomas Jefferson

Terrible is the fight put up by the senses. Fight bravely! Conquer them you must.
Swami Sivananda

The strong man is the one who is able to intercept at will the communication between the senses and the mind.
Napoleon Bonaparte

All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.
Immanuel Kant

Reason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.
Thomas Paine

The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is reason.
Thomas Paine

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god.
William Shakespeare

People who lean on logic and philosophy and rational exposition end by starving the best part of the mind.
William Butler Yeats

Imagination rules the world.
Napoleon Bonaparte

Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.
Albert Einstein

Logic: The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding.
Ambrose Bierce

The ultimate authority must always rest with the individual’s own reason and critical analysis.
Tenzin Gyatso (14th Dalai Lama)

The senses deceive from time to time, and it is prudent never to trust wholly those who have deceived us even once.
Rene Descartes

Logic will never change emotion or perception.
Edward de Bono

The only real valuable thing is intuition.
Albert Einstein

When the intensity of emotional conviction subsides, a man who is in the habit of reasoning will search for logical grounds in favour of the belief which he finds in himself.
Bertrand Russell

Intuition will tell the thinking mind where to look next.
Jonas Salk

Link these quotes to the exhibition

Our TOK exhibition prompt decoder helps you to understand each of the 35 IA prompts, link them to the core and optional themes, and the 12 key TOK concepts, and explore them via quotes, questions, TED talks, and media sources. Access the decoder here.

Explore the quotes in more depth

Our sixty-six Exploration Point documents (which we update every month) help you delve deeper into TOK via media sources, unpacking suggestions, guidance on the key concepts, and other ideas. HERE is an example of a EP document (for history & perspectives) – join us to gain access to the other sixty-five!

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