Theory of Knowledge"How Do We Know?"
Tuesdays, 7-8 pm
“The distinction between what actually happened in the past and what we compose as History is, like all Areas of Knowledge, the distinction between a meaningless object and the vitality of Knowledge.”
Is this claim accurate, dangerous, or something else?
Our Common Agreements:
- Theory of Knowledge is based on questions about how we know.
- We are all responsible for content.
- Disagreement is likely.
Therefore, our Agreements:
- Bring your best self: Be civil, respectful, and refuse to judge
- Engage the talk; share your thinking.
- Be mindfully open to ideas
- Respect our privacy — ToK is a safe space
- Be okay with disagreement and discomfort
- Build space and time:
- For questions
- For thinking
- For sharing
- For retreating, reflecting, and returning
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self… Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you,
You must travel it for yourself.
It is not far, it is within reach,
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born and did not know…
— Walt Whitman: From Song of Myself (1855)
The man bent over his guitar,
A shearsman of sorts. The day was green. They said, “You have a blue guitar,
You do not play things as they are.”
The man replied, “Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar.”
And they said then, “But play, you must,
A tune beyond us, yet ourselves,
A tune upon the blue guitar
Of things exactly as they are.”
— First stanza of “The Man with a Blue Guitar” by Wallace Stevens (1937)
The human brain craves understanding. It cannot understand without simplifying; that is, without reducing things to a common element. However, all simplifications are arbitrary and lead us to drift insensibly away from reality.
Lecomte du Nouy
The Course Overview
Theory of knowledge (ToK) is a course about critical thinking and inquiring into the process of knowing, rather than about learning a specific body of knowledge. It plays a special role in the DP by providing an opportunity for students to reflect on the nature of knowledge, to make connections between areas of knowledge and to become aware of their own perspectives and those of the various groups whose knowledge they share. The overall aim of ToK is to encourage students to formulate answers to the question “how do you know?” in a variety of contexts, and to see the value of that question. This allows students to develop an enduring fascination with the richness of knowledge.
Students who are pursuing the IB Diploma are required to take this 7th course in a 0- or 7-Hour class time. Other 11th and 12th grade students who want to challenge themselves to ToK are welcome to take this class during the regular school day.