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Real-world issues about knowledge & the knower

Issues about knowledge & the knower

These real-world issues about knowledge & the knower will help you to explore knowledge questions, analyse the latest events and issues related to the core theme, and apply TOK terms, ideas, and concepts to authentic situations.

You can also use these issues as discussion points within lessons, examples to support your essay arguments, and case studies to show how TOK manifests in world around us in your exhibition commentary.

Real-world issues on the nature and scope of knowledge & knowing

  • These issues on knowledge & the knower relate to Big Question 1, our first BQ unit for TOK
  • They also link to the nature and scope of the core, part of the IB’s knowledge framework
  • Use the Exploration Points document below to unpack the media sources and link them to the TOK course (available to members of the site)
  • Members can also use our Investigating Issues resource to look at related stories, and widen their understanding of how TOK manifests in the world around us

BBC/Open University video, looking at how we all construct reality based on our past experiences and the expectations these create.

An Aeon essay, which explores “what makes something worth believing”.

A Big Think article, considering how there isn’t such a clear demarcation as we think between beliefs that are reasonable, and beliefs that are irrational. 

An Aeon essay, considering how we see what we expect to see.

Big Think article, in which Donald Hoffman argues we have evolved to experience a “collective delusion”.

This very short Guardian article nonetheless poses an excellent question: what proportion of our memory (specifically our earliest memories) are actually fictional, and actually based on photographs and anecdotes?

A Big Think article which explores ‘coherentism’, the belief that circular arguments are a valid way of making claims about the world.

Real-world issues on the relationship between knowing and values

  • These issues on knowledge & the knower relate to Big Question 2, our second BQ unit for TOK
  • They also link to knowledge & the knower and ethics, part of the IB’s knowledge framework
  • Use the Exploration Points document below to unpack the media sources and link them to the TOK course (available to members of the site)
  • Members can also use our Investigating Issues resource to look at related stories, and widen their understanding of how TOK manifests in the world around us

An Atlantic article considering how our values are often derived from physiological reactions to stimuli.

An Aeon article, looking at the validity of thought experiments (such as the Trolley Problem) in providing us with ethical insights.

The philosopher Daniel DeNicola argues in Aeon that we don’t have the freedom to believe in what we choose; our beliefs must be supported by valid evidence.

A BBC article looking at a ‘mentalist’ approach to viewing the world.

Real-world issues on the relationship between communication and knowing

  • These issues on knowledge & the knower relate to Big Question 3, our third BQ unit for TOK
  • They also link to methods, tools, and practices, part of the IB’s knowledge framework
  • Use the Exploration Points document below to unpack the media sources and link them to the TOK course (available to members of the site)
  • Members can also use our Investigating Issues resource to look at related stories, and widen their understanding of how TOK manifests in the world around us

A Big Think video, in which Donald Hoffman argues that the key to successful arguments is ensuring that everyone is using terms clearly and understandably.

Guardian podcast, in which Malcolm Gladwell discusses how we misread human emotions, and the implications of this.

A Guardian video, considering why conspiracy theories are so attractive to us as an explanation of how the world functions.

Conversation article looking at how names and labels can help to shape the way we perceive people and things.

Real-world issues on knowing, perspectives, and context

  • These issues on knowledge & the knower relate to Big Question 4, our fourth BQ unit for TOK
  • They also link to knowledge, perspectives & context, part of the IB’s knowledge framework
  • Use the Exploration Points document below to unpack the media sources and link them to the TOK course (available to members of the site)
  • Members can also use our Investigating Issues resource to look at related stories, and widen their understanding of how TOK manifests in the world around us

A National Geographic article, which analyzes the different ways in which people assess the risks associated with the Covid pandemic.

A Vox interview with Julia Galef about her new book, ‘The Scout Mindset’, and how its central ideas can help us become more effective knowers.

This is a Guardian interview with neuroscientist Dr Hannah Critchlow, in which she discusses – as the title of the article suggests – why is is so difficult for us to change our minds, and embrace other perspectives.

A Big Think video, in which a wide range of thinkers offer their thoughts on how we’re wired to think in terms of ‘us vs. them’.

Vox article, exploring how ‘motivated seeing’ can warp the way we view the world.

As it explains in the introduction, this Aeon essay is all about discerning what you really believe, from the ideas that you might have for other motives. It offers some truth experiments to help identify your ‘true’ beliefs.

Real-world issues on how we create new ideas

  • These issues on knowledge & the knower relate to Big Question 5, our fifth BQ units for TOK
  • They also link to methods, tools, and practices, part of the IB’s knowledge framework
  • Use the Exploration Points document below to unpack the media sources and link them to the TOK course (available to members of the site)
  • Members can also use our Investigating Issues resource to look at related stories, and widen their understanding of how TOK manifests in the world around us

A Big Think article which applies a thoughts experiment from the 1970s to the modern world – with insightful results.

This New Statesman article looks at the way we try to digitally ‘hoard’ experiences, by taking photos or making videos of events, and the effect this may have on our relationship with reality.

Writing in Aeon, Bruce Russell looks at the nature of a priori justification, and its relationship with knowledge.

A Big Think video, which considers the extent to which new knowledge is created via asking the right questions.

This BBC article looks at the way in which ‘biohackers’ try to create ‘new’ senses for human being by utilizing technology, and grafting it onto the human body.

Big Think video, looking at how the mind makes new ideas.

Real-world issues on becoming a discerning knower

  • These issues on knowledge & the knower relate to Big Question 6, our final BQ unit for TOK
  • They also link to methods, tools, and practices, part of the IB’s knowledge framework
  • Use the Exploration Points document below to unpack the media sources and link them to the TOK course (available to members of the site)
  • Members can also use our Investigating Issues resource to look at related stories, and widen their understanding of how TOK manifests in the world around us

An Atlantic podcast, in which the Harvard psychologist Dr Ellen Langer asserts that being curious about the world is based on accepting there are gaps in your knowledge.

A Guardian article, considering how we sometimes need to draw on more than facts to support our knowledge claims, and try to combat conspiracy theories.

New Humanist article assessing the impact scepticism makes on the way we seek to produce knowledge about the world.

A Big Think article, looking at how Francis Bacon – 400 years ago – identified ‘cognitive biases’ and offered advice on how to overcome them.

Brian Resnick at Vox offers two strategies to strengthen powers of argument, with a strong emphasis on listening to what other people think and feel.

This Conversation article looks at the extent to which people fail to pick up on factual errors about the world around them, even when they know the correct information. This is best summed up by the ‘Moses Illusion’.

Link these issues 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 related events and issues

Investigating Issues offers you a completely new way to plan and teach TOK. The resource gathers together over 120 major global issues, provides a collection of media sources to explore each one, and suggests ways to link them to the different elements of the TOK course and to the 12 key concepts.

Unpack these issues & link them to TOK

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

Subscribe to the TOK newsletter

Our TOK newsletter helps you explore the most important events and issues going on today, and fully grasp how TOK concepts manifest in the real world. Read a recent edition here, subscribe to the free version here, and gain access to the premium version by joining theoryofknowledge.net.