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US IB Theory of Knowledge: HOME

The New TOK

ib theory of knowledge essay questions examples

TOK at a Glance (from the IB Teacher Support Material Guide)

The theory of knowledge (TOK) course provides students with an opportunity to explore and reflect on the nature of knowledge and the process of knowing . It is a core element of the Diploma Programme (DP) to which schools are required to devote at least 100 hours of class time.

In TOK, students reflect on the knowledge, beliefs and opinions that they have built up from their years of academic studies and their lives outside the classroom. The course is intended to be challenging and thought provoking—as well as empowering—for students.

The course centres on the exploration of knowledge questions , which are a key tool for both teachers and students. These are contestable questions about knowledge itself, such as: “what counts as good evidence for a claim?”, “are some types of knowledge less open to interpretation than others?”, or “what constraints should there be on the pursuit of knowledge?”. While these questions may initially seem slightly intimidating, they become much more accessible when considered with reference to specific examples within the TOK course.

The TOK curriculum is made up of three deeply interconnected parts.

• The core theme—knowledge and the knower : This theme encourages students to reflect on themselves as knowers and thinkers, and to consider the different communities of knowers to which we belong.

• Optional themes : This element provides an opportunity to take a more in-depth look at two themes of particular interest to teachers and students. The given themes all have a significant impact on the world today and play a key role in shaping people’s perspectives and identities. Teachers select two optional themes from a choice of five: knowledge and technology, knowledge and language, knowledge and politics, knowledge and religion, and knowledge and indigenous societies.

• Areas of knowledge : The areas of knowledge (AOK) are specific branches of knowledge, each of which can be seen to have a distinct nature and sometimes use different methods of gaining knowledge. In TOK, students explore five compulsory areas of knowledge: history, the human sciences, the natural sciences, mathematics and the arts.

To help teachers and students explore these three parts of the TOK curriculum, guidance and suggested knowledge questions are provided. These suggested knowledge questions are organized into a framework of four elements: scope, perspectives, methods and tools, and ethics . This framework encourages a deep exploration of each theme and AOK. Having these common elements run throughout the different parts of the curriculum also helps to unify the course and helps students to make effective connections and comparisons across the different themes and areas of knowledge.

There are two assessment tasks in the TOK course.

• The TOK exhibition assesses the ability of the student to show how TOK manifests in the world around us. The exhibition is an internal assessment component; it is marked by the teacher and is externally moderated by the IB.

• The TOK essay engages students in a more formal and sustained piece of writing in response to a title focused on the areas of knowledge. The essay is an external assessment component; it is marked by IB examiners. The essay must be a maximum of 1,600 words and must be on one of the six prescribed titles issued by the IB for each examination session.

The TOK course can be structured in a variety of ways and can start from a variety of different entry points. Teachers are encouraged to exercise flexibility, creativity and innovation in the design and delivery of their TOK course, and to provide a diverse range of examples that meet the specific needs and interests of their own students. Further guidance and examples relating to the teaching, learning and assessment of TOK can be found in the Theory of knowledge teacher support material .

Knowledge in TOK

Knowledge is the raw material of the TOK course. It is important that students and teachers have a clear idea of what might be meant by the term “knowledge”, however, this is not such a simple matter. Thinkers have wrestled with the problem of a simple definition of knowledge since before the time of Plato, without substantial consensus. How can we expect students to be able to tackle this question satisfactorily?

TOK is not intended to be a course in philosophy. While there might be a certain degree of overlap in the terms that are used, the questions that are asked, or the tools that are applied to answer these questions, the approach is really quite different. It is not a course of abstract analysis of concepts. TOK is designed to apply a set of conceptual tools to concrete situations encountered in the student’s Diploma Programme subjects and in the wider world outside school. The course should therefore not be devoted to a technical philosophical investigation into the nature of knowledge.

It is useful for students to have a rough working idea of knowledge at the outset of the course. Towards the end of the course this picture will have become more rounded and refined. A useful metaphor for examining knowledge in TOK is a map. A map is a representation, or picture, of the world. It is necessarily simplified—indeed its power derives from this fact. Items not relevant to the particular purpose of the map are omitted. For example, one would not expect to see every tree and bush faithfully represented on a street map designed to aid navigation around a city—just the basic street plan will do. A city street map, however, is quite a different thing to a building plan of a house or the picture of a continent in an atlas. So knowledge intended to explain one aspect of the world, say, its physical nature, might look really quite different to knowledge that is designed to explain, for example, the way human beings interact.

Knowledge can be viewed as the production of one or more human beings. It can be the work of a single individual arrived at as a result of a number of factors including the ways of knowing. Such individual knowledge is called personal knowledge in this guide. But knowledge can also be the work of a group of people working together either in concert or, more likely, separated by time or geography. Areas of knowledge such as the arts and ethics are of this form. These are examples of shared knowledge. There are socially established methods for producing knowledge of this sort, norms for what counts as a fact or a good explanation, concepts and language appropriate to each area and standards of rationality. These aspects of areas of knowledge can be organized into a knowledge framework.

IB Theory of Knowledge Guide (New)

ib theory of knowledge essay questions examples

(New for 2022)

Points awarded for the Extended Essay in conjunction with the Theory of Knowledge Essay

ib theory of knowledge essay questions examples

Essential Concepts

While these link to a basic definition of each of the terms,  it is only to give you an idea of the concepts  involved in the term. You'll build and develop your own understandings of the terms in your classes.

ib theory of knowledge essay questions examples

TOK Knowledge (as of Class of 2022)

ib theory of knowledge essay questions examples

Constituent Elements of the New Course (Effective beginning with the Class of 2022)

Knowledge and the Knower The new course comprises three closely connected parts: one compulsory ‘core theme’; five optional themes, which schools select two of; and five areas of knowledge. Forming a key part of the update, a new core theme ‘Knowledge and the Knower’ has been developed where students will reflect on themselves as knowers and on what shapes their own views and perspectives. This has been designed to have strong links to the IB Learner Profile and to help make the course engaging and relevant for students.

Areas of Knowledge Once the new updates come into effect, there will also be five compulsory Areas of Knowledge, which will ensure that students engage with the arts, mathematics, history, human sciences and natural sciences, and have an opportunity to make connections and comparisons between these different areas. There are also five optional themes, of which two must be chosen. These include knowledge and technology; knowledge and language; knowledge and indigenous societies; knowledge and politics, and knowledge and religion.

Ethics An underlying theme of the new TOK course is a greater focus on ethics, which will now be embedded throughout all of the themes and the Areas of Knowledge. Students will be encouraged to focus on ethical concerns relating to how knowledge is produced, acquired, applied, shared and communicated. Jenny Gillett, Senior Curriculum Manager, IB, comments: "The IB has been providing high quality education to learners all over the globe for over 50 years, and where our pedagogy remains consistent, we are frequently looking for new ways to update our courses to keep pace with the ever-changing world in which we live. The new TOK has been designed to be more relevant to today’s learner than ever before. For example, the new ‘knowledge and technology’ optional theme will enable students to discuss important issues such as fake news, and the impact of social media, questioning the impact of technology on knowers and knowledge, and how it helps and hinders our pursuit of knowledge. These are valuable conversations that will not only influence the way our students learn in the classroom, but how they direct their lives beyond school too." www.ibo.org 

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Theory of Knowledge

Talk about Theory of Knowledge.

If you want help with prescribed TOK Essay titles, check this thread to see if your title has an existing thread first. Only when a thread does not already exist for your title can you start a new thread about TOK prescribed titles. Put the exam session and the title number in the thread title (e.g Nov09/May10 Title 5) Do not open start threads like this .

2,041 topics in this forum

TOK Essay - OFFICIAL Guide

Skip to the correct section by clicking the links below: 1. How to choose your essay topic: the things to keep in mind by Ishaan 2. Basic guide to writing the essay by Julie 3. 5 Things to do Before you Finish your TOK Essay


ToK Presentation OFFICIAL Guide 1 2

Skip to these useful links: 1. ToK Presentation Guide by Keel 2. How to pick your TOK presentation title by Sandwich 3. Past TOK Presentations - what people chose ToK Presentation Guide Knowledge Issues 'Knowledge issue' i.e. issues about knowledge. It would be appropriate here to consider what ToK is all about. Many naturally assume that anything philosophically based is ToK. Understandable, but wrong. ToK is based around three main questions: What is knowledge? How is knowledge acquired? How do we know what we know? In layman’s terms, a knowledge issue is a very general question which aims to explore the problems of kn…



Introduction to TOK - Bits of TOK wisdom & advice 1 2

Skip to useful links: Video Summary of TOK (workshop) To every confused soul out there who is yet to start their first year in IB and fear the nice philosophical subject of TOK. This here thread is me explaining to you what exactly this subject is:). What is TOK? The Theory of knowledge is a minor branch of Philosophy which, when learned, enables one to think about and evaluate the knowledge that we gain rather than just accept it as "truth". In English: we learn how to not be suckers and believe everything we're told . Why go through the pain and agony of learning it? Well basically, because the IBO says so But really, after my IB experience I've realized the…


May 2014 TOK Essay - List of Prescribed Titles (Current - May 2015)

Hello noob TOKers This thread contains links to the discussion topics for TOK titles. Please consult the following list and skip to the list of titles for the year you are interested in, and then click on the link to find the discussion. If there is no discussion topics listed for that title, please have a quick look at the TOK board and, if one really doesn't exist, post a new one. Thanks! November 2014 May 2014 November 2013">November 2013 May 2013 November 2012 Nov11/May12 Nov10/May11 Nov09/May10 Nov08/May09 Nov07/May08 Nov06/May07 Note: Until November 2012, 12 titles were released each year to be used in both November and May sessions. From November 2012 on…


Need help choosing Exhibition topic

My tok exhibition is due next week and im still missing 2 objects. Im using the prompt of “how do values affect the production of knowledge”. Any help on how I can choose this objects?

Help me choose an object for my TOK presentation pls

The prompt I choose is “Can new knowledge change established values or beliefs?” I have already spoken about Human sciences on my other objects, as well as religion, connotative language..... my mind is dry pls help me Extra info: Object 1: Darwin's book about species and evolution.--) religious beliefs are something difficult to change. + example of how some beliefs don't/only partially change with the introduction of a new knowledge Object 2: old cigarette advertisement. --) example of how some beliefs can change with new knowledge Object 3: SOMETHINGGGGGG


Is this object too generic?

Hello, I am currently working on a draft for my TOK exhibition and have already selected a prompt and objects and while writing have been thinking about these objects. I am worried that one of my objects, being a sleeve (package) of golf balls that I own and use is too generic, they are mine and relate to me personally through my hobby but I am still worried. What do you guys think? Any help is greatly appreciated, thank you!

Anime in TOK presentation

Hi, So, I just found this web page and I sincerely need some advice. The idea is making the tok presentation about the anime NG Evangelion, as it is considered in the philosophical genre we think it could be great to analyze specially the characters and how entertainment can represent our reality but we don't know how to start or even if it is a good idea basing the presentation on that situation. Any suggestions(?


TOK exhibition help on marijuana

I want to do My TOK exibition in light of my recent need for medicial marjuana using this question "Are some types of knowledge less open to interpretation than others?" can anybody give me some ideas or points to work with or even how to do this.

What do we put for "implications" in our essay?

I have been very confused as to what we need to put in the implications section for our ToK essay. Even my teacher and the evaluator who came in to speak to us seemed very confused. They said we are not allowed to bring up anything new in the conclusion as part of our implication section and at the same time want us to extend beyond the RLS in the claim/counterclaim. Does this seem right? Are there some Alumni that can chime in with what they did?


Tagged with:

Does anyone know how to do the Tok Essay if someone can please help me


I admit to copying exactly 1 sentence from a website and it is showing on turnitin as well. Only 1 sentence but it was word to word copied. Like not even paraphrased. I did it word to word and didn't even cite it. I know I messed up but now it is submitted. Is my diploma gone?


TOK exhibition objects

Hi, my prompt for my TOK exhibition is the 14 prompt Does some knowledge belong only to particular communities of knowers?: And for my objects I was thinking about looking into objects that its meanings cam only be understood by people in my culture and religion. My question is that can I have more than one thing represent one object. For example one of the objects I intent to use are veils(not the wedding veils but something similar) but for the object to make complete sense I need to make a comparison between two sizes of veils that have a significant difference in meaning. So I need to have both veils as one object, can I do that?

ToK Essay Format

Hello there. Noobie to the forums here. I've just finished putting together the final parts of my Theory of Knowledge essay, and have just realized a problem. I have no idea how to format the thing, and what information I should or should not give at the top of the paper. I know I should of course put my last name and page number as a header, but how about the essay title? Do I need to list the number of the prompt along with the prompt itself? Along those lines, do I need to include my full name, instructor's name, and submission date at the top left hand corner of the first page? Thank you for any aid you can give me!


Is IB Mastery a trusted site?

I'm confused as to what I'm supposed to do with my TOK Essay and searched up some sites that could help me with it. I came across this site called IB Mastery, a Tim Woods blog or something and it offers a TOK Essay Mastery Program. It only costs 14.99USD per month but I want to know if this is a sham or not. URL is attached below. https://checkout.newkajabi.com/offers/zR9YEFEU/checkout?checkout_token=eyJ0eXAiOiJKV1QiLCJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiJ9.eyJvZmZlcl90b2tlbiI6InpSOVlFRkVVIiwic2l0ZV9wcm90b2NvbCI6Imh0dHBzOi8vIiwicGVyZm9ybV9sb2dvdXQiOnRydWUsImV4cCI6MTQ3NjYxOTkwNn0.VOtCRLnjEiNgGrHikX5LsGKS2XsNtHpYW8faSlSpgTs

Ethics of Studies

What are some studies or experiments that could not be held due to ethical considerations

Presentation TOK video games presentation

Hi, i have my TOK presentation coming up soon, and i decided to do mine on are video games useful for society? I know that video games can promote violence, and i also know it can help people improve eye to hand coordination, etc... The only problem is i don't know how i should outline mine. My teacher said i should start with a situation and then state my knowledge issue, but after that, i am lost. I don't know what should go next. Should i describe what we mean by violent, is this presentation biased, etc... Please help me.


TOK presentation with an RLS of Euthanasia

I have my final TOK presentation next week and I am struggling a bit on an outline(what to talk about) for my TOK presentation. My knowledge question is: "How can we trust ethical decisions?" - with an RLS on euthanasia Was wondering if anyone has ideas on how I could outline my presentation? What I could talk about, in terms of claims and counterclaims? Thanks x


Anyone know or have used a service that helps student with tok essay?

I really struggle trying to edit my essay. My teacher is always busy and I was wondering if there any online services or tutor that can help me with my TOK essay.


tok exhibition (m22)

hey i have to submit my final tok exhibition tomorrow and i still haven't started it. the prompt ive chosen is either: "what constraints are there on the pursuit of knowledge" and i need 3 objects for this prompt. if you have any suggestions please let me know, you'd save my life by helping me. thank you so much:) also can anyone please send me samples of their exhibition commentaries, it would help a lot as my final exhibition is coming up and i really need help.


TOK presentation help!

hey, so I have to find the topic, main RLS and KQ for my TOK presentation, but I never had any idea what was going on in TOK classes 🙃 so I really need some help!! I thought I could do something connecetd with medical ethics, but since I don't want it to be too common and generic, preferably something else than designer babies/stem cell research, euthanasia and abortion. do you have any ideas what this could be? my other idea would be something connected with maths, like I thought of, very vaguely, maths in nature - so about Golden Ratio, Fibonacci Sequence, Sequences and Series for example in petals of flowers and so on. obviously I can consider something…


If i use magic tricks as my real life situation, what can be my counterclaim?

For my TOK essay, I considered magic trick to be something deceptive but I really don't know what counterclaim should i use for this. If anyone could give me some ideas i will be really appreciate.


How is a plagiarism check done for the TOK presentation?

How does the school or IBO carry out a plagiarism check for the TOK presentation?


TOK Prompt: What counts as a good justification for a claim?

Hi guys! So TOK Exhibition is coming up and I chose the IA prompt stated in the title. Just to have a different opinion, how do I really answer this? What should the justification for this prompt should be like? What does the flow for my commentary should look like? I knew I chose a hard question and I also think I chose the wrong object for this also, which means that I cannot (I have no idea, honestly) link my object to the IA Prompt. Another thing: One of the object is a quote/small passage from a book. Does anyone have any idea how to link them? Sincerely, a struggling IB student


Secondary Question

How do I formulate a correct secondary question for TOK? I came up with like 1000 questions but all of them according to my teacher are primary- questions and not suitable for journals. PLease help😪

HELPPP please! TOK presentation

Hello everyone, Me and my partner have around a week to finish our TOK presentation, but our teacher keeps saying that you KQ is not very "Tok"... Can you please help us with a moe Tok KQ??? This is our KQ: To what extent do teenagers have the knowledge to manage their privacy in order to achieve security in social media?

ToK Plagiarism Help

As i previously mentioned, i forgot to quote and reference one sentence. .. will i be accused of plagiarism and not get my diploma?

Is this a good investigation for a TOK presentation, “How reliable are scientific instruments in determining accurate results?”

Hello there, I have a TOK presentation topic that might be good and is related to a RLS, however, I don’t know if the question is too vague. The RLS is finding the oldest material on earth with the usage of spectrometry and so how accurate are these findings in giving us how old is the material. However if it is not vague, I have no clue, should I include Knowledge claims that are only about spectrometry or can I talk about scientific instruments in general? Please let me know what you think.

adverts in TOK - which AOK?

Hey! That seems like a totally random question, but it is urgently needed for my TOK essay. One of the RLSs I wanted to use is an advert which uses a statistic and I don't know which AOK it should be classified upon. Could it be the arts? (because it's like a visual advert) Or can it be classified as any of the AOKs? Would be really grateful for help!! Thank you!

TOK Essay May 2021 title

Hello! For my TOK Essay I chose this title "Statistics conceal as much as they reveal." I was thinking about approaching it from the AOKs of History and IKS. I am not very sure about what exactly I want to right or how I want to approach this title. Any thoughts, suggestions, links, or comments will be much appreciated. Anything will help. Thank you

Tok KQ Help pleases I would appreciate

I have my TOK Presentation next week and I need to have a knowledge question today. My topic and RLS is about euthanesia, any suggestion for the main knowledge question ? Thanks a lot to everyone for reading and helping <3

Mini TOK Exhibition

Hi y'all, I have a mini TOK exhibition for which I need to choose ONE object (from the attached list) that answers ONE of the 35 prompt questions (attached below). Any suggestions for which prompt or object I should choose or any advice for the same? Thanks in advance! TOK Exhibition Details.pdf 2.3 Creating the BQ2 exhibition (student handout 3) .pdf


I don't know how to answer my question for my ToK presentation

So my question is "to what extent are assumptions affected by intuition and language?". My RLS is Piliavin et al's subway study, and I was thinking of mention how our intuition can sometimes influence what we assume about others, as well that body language can also influence our first assumption as well. However, I feel like these things are too specific and I'm unsure how to continue. Please help!

I need HELP with my TOK presentation

I need help with my knowledge question on government censorship. My question is: "What role does authority play in shaping shared knowledge?" Is it good enough?I will use the real-life example of China censorship. I'm also having trouble coming up with goods developments, counter-arguments, and rebuttals. Can anyone help me please? It will be very meaningful for me.

TOK presentation KQ help :)

Hey guys, I'm working on my tok presentation with my partner but we are really struggling with coming up with a proper KQ that focuses on knowledge. our RLS is the Netflix series "Conversations with a Killer: the Ted Bundy tapes". The show revolves around audio recordings of interviews with serial killer Ted Bundy and interviews with people that were associated with him (family, friends, and surviving victims). our initial KQ was "To what extent are one’s decisions influenced by emotions and memory?" and then it was updated to "To what extent can psychological classifications be used to rationalize unethical behavior driven by emotion?" but we were told to change it …

TOK - Computational Creativity

I have to complete my final TOK presentations and I am interested in Artificial Intelligence. I have finalised my topic as Computational Creativity. But I am confused about my RQ. "To what extent can the art made by AI be considered creativity?" Is this doable?


Implications in TOK Essay

I'm writing a practice TOK essay and am struggling pretty badly with implications. Would someone be willing to explain how to draw implications or provide some sort of direction? Thanks in advance!

TK/PPD form

Hello, I am currently doing a practice TK/PPD form about stem cells. I have chosen a case study as an RLS, is this a valid rls even if it was a made up case study created by a university? here is a link to it https://sciencecases.lib.buffalo.edu/files/stem_cells_therapy.pdf I want to focus on how ethical vs scientific reasonings are established and link it to religion/faith and the scientific method. I am aware I must link it to a model of knowledge such as pragmatism. Here are some possible claims; scientific progress must be aligned with social need the interface of science and society includes ethical focus the use of stem cells ha…


Veganism KQ ?

I wanted to do something about veganism , but can't figure out a proper KQ for the topic , can someone give me some rough ideas for good KQ's?



Hey guys! I am having trouble fitting my entire tok presentation in only 500 words in the tok form. Any recommendation on how to reduce word count or how to make it fit that little box they give us? And does the word count really matter? Thank you!

TOK Essay Cry For Help

Hey i was wondering if there is anyone out there to help me with my TOK essay. Mt draft sucks and i have no idea how to make it better. can anyone take pity on a fellow suffering IB student and read/review my essay? Thanks TOK Essay DRAFT.docx

ToK Presentation Help

Hi, So I got a knowledge question: How do emotions help or hinder our understanding of the correlation? But don't know for what to use for my rls!!! help!

Tok question help

Hello can anyone let me know if this would be a suitable question for TOK presentation? "To what extent are doctors responsible for patients becoming dependent on their Prescription medication?" I was thinking emotion, reason and natural sciences for WOK. And using Ant McPartlin as a RLS. Or maybe "to what extent does social media influence the way we exercise?" I think many WOK would apply here. I am so confused by the whole TOK presentation and worrying about so much. Once I get a question I am sure I will be ok, just really appreciate any help. I have no teacher as I am in lock down! Thank you all

TOK topic on Racism

Hey guys Me and my partner is doing a presentation on racism and was wondering if the knowledge issue of perception would be a good idea. What we were thinking of doing was first start off with showing the class 3 power point slides, each showing a yellow, white and black person. Then I will blind fold them and let them tell me which race I just showed onto the screen. This will first draw the attention of the class and raise the issue that racism would have not existed if we had no sight. Then me and my partner don't know how we can move on from there and was wondering if you guys would help us plan what we should bring up in our presentation. Thanks loads! noah and cl…


TOK Prsentation: What is a good KQ?

Hello Would someone be able to give me guidance if this a good TOK KQ: Should we trust international NGOs? Basically for my presentation, I'm interested in challenging the blind assumption that International NGOs are always doing good work (e.g. Amnesty International, Oxfam, Doctors Without Borders, etc.) Any guidance will be much appreciated!


Presentation Interesting Topics

Well its that time of year again, and TOK classes everywhere are working on the dreaded TOK presentation. The very purpose of the TOK presentation has been mocked by the long list of botched presentations (including but not limited to: poor raps, random video clips, insufficient, unprepared rambling, and interpretive dance... yes, it happens), but enough about those. I want to hear about the great TOK presentations that really just made you think about something in a way you haven't before. So far, my favorite TOK topic was one which compared Religiosity and the Gross Domestic Product of nations. They compared the cultures and how different cultures value different thin…


HI GUYS, i was wondering if someone could guide me about implications for the TOK prescribed tittle “Given that every theory has its limitations, we need to retain a multiplicity of theories to understand the world.” Discuss this claim with reference to two areas of knowledge. THANKS!

For either TOK essay or presentation there's a sites that gives you a topic for the presentation, and a site which gives a full map for the Tok essay that includes claim, counter-claim, etc. The question is using these things in your work does it count as plagiarism even if it was created for you to use it?

Discussing the Theory of Knowledge - Essay Example

Discussing the Theory of Knowledge

Extract of sample "Discussing the Theory of Knowledge"

The second definition goes beyond the original reason for the invention of machines. Instead of just aiding us in our daily tasks by being "extensions" of our bodies in performing their tasks, machines, especially since the time when the machine called computers are invented, become performers of tasks independently of their user. As long as its actions are programmed in such a way that it can now perform tasks without the presence or the real-time control of humans. They have become very sophisticated that they can surpass what we can do.

Mechanical cranes can lift manifold times the maximum weight that the strongest living human can. Assembly line robots can accomplish a task way beyond a team of fastest human workers for that particular job. And, in 1997, a supercomputer named Deep Blue defeated the then-world chess champion, Garry Kasparov. The power of machines exponentially increases our capacity to produce goods and services. It is understandable that they can outshine our mechanical abilities. But in terms of our mental faculties, machines such as Deep Blue have been programmed to outsmart our rational faculties.

This presents a question that we are to resolve in this paper. Can a machine know Before going further, we must first define what the verb "to know" means? In English, this word has several definitions. In the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Fourth Edition) " know" has eight definitions: "1. To perceive directly; grasp in the mind with clarity or certainty. 2. To regard as true beyond doubt. 3. To have a practical understanding of, as through experience; be skilled in 4. To have fixed in the mind: 5.

To have experience of 6a. To perceive as familiar; recognize b. To be acquainted with: 7. To be able to distinguish; recognize as distinct: knows right from wrong. 8. To discern the character or nature of:" The definitions above give us different aspects of the word "know." By these we can say that "knowing" something starts when we perceive a thing by our senses, processing this acquired information to a point that we become acquainted with those things and ends up with the capability of the "knowing" person to distinctly distinguish or recognize that thing from others.

The emergence of the Information Age has introduced machines that can "think" independently. They, such as supercomputers, can grasp and process data at astounding speeds. In a fraction of a second, they can perform mathematical operations that a human can do in hours or even years. With this capacity, they can really perform rational activities, at least to a certain extent. But can we say that this supercomputer's ability to process data is already an act of knowing given the definition of "know" above For me, I believe that machines cannot fully know?

They may perform mental tasks of humans with rapidity and precision way above that of humans. But still, they cannot totally know things as defined by dictionaries. If we use the definitions above, they fall short of thoroughly knowing something. To prove this, let us consider the first definition "To perceive directly, grasp in the mind with clarity or certainty." Computers are designed to perceive and grasp data to help us in our tasks. Word processing programs, for example, are created for us to write letters and other documents in a precise and neat manner.

CHECK THESE SAMPLES OF Discussing the Theory of Knowledge

Using the knowledge of good ends to decide appropriate means of education, field experience observation report, analysis and description of the theory of constructivism, customized learning theory, theory of knowledge, theory and practice of knowledge management, production of knowledge, analysis of the light of kolbs experiential learning theory.

ib theory of knowledge essay questions examples

Formulating A Theory of Knowledge Essay

ib theory of knowledge essay questions examples

Formulating An IB TOK (Theory of Knowledge) Essay

Yup. You read that right. This article is going to give you some guidelines on how to structure your IB TOK essay. Remember though, they’re just suggestions and tips. Most of the dirty work will be done by you after all. I can only give tips.

“How do you know that you’re not a brain in a jar in a simulated world? How can you prove you’re not a brain in a jar?” – my former TOK Teacher

IB TOK is a very watered down, sort of introductory philosophy class. Its main goal is to get your noggins churning. To think critically about a wide variety of issues. While that may sound fun, the essay writing and presenting isn’t.

This article will focus on filling the gaps. You can even apply the tips in this article to your presentation.

The General IB TOK Essay Outline

An outline is what we’ll be describing here. After all, you don’t see construction companies building skyscrapers without a blueprint. This is basically what I’m about to highlight.

So in your IB TOK essay you’ll have to choose one main knowledge question out of a set of 8 if my memory serves me correctly. After you’ve selected a knowledge question, you’ll move on to the planning stage

Before I go on, this is only ONE way you can go about doing your TOK essay. I am not guaranteeing that this is the only way to do it but it IS one way to do it.

You’ve got a knowledge question (KQ). Now what? Well there are a few things you need to remember before we get to the next part. I’ll list them for you here:

So. That’s a small laundry list to remember. Remember that you need to  remember . What do I mean by this?

I mean you should  remember that list above that I described.

Trust me. When you’re writing an essay like the TOK essay, it’s easy to get lost in your own passionate, arguments.

Using Areas of Knowledge and Ways of Knowing As A Basis For Your Argument(?!)

Areas of Knowledge and Ways of Knowing are what bricks are to a construction company; they help you construct your ‘building’ (which in this case is your argument).

Let’s have a quick refresher on what the AOK’s and WOK’s are shall we?

Areas of Knowledge

Ways of Knowing

How many of these should you use? Good question. The maximum word count for a TOK essay is 1600 words (at least it was when I did IB. I’m basically an old man now so it might have changed).

It’s up to you how many you think are relevant to the development of your essay. What I personally did in my TOK essay was that I included  two WOK’s for every  one AOK I included.

I’ll explain why in the next point but I ended up with an A in TOK so it worked for me. I’m not saying you’ll get an A by following this format though!

All I’m implying is that this format is perfectly alright. In this next point, I’ll talk about the number of arguments you can use and how to add AOK’s and WOK’s to them.

Arguments/Counter-Arguments and Knowledge Issues

This point should quaintly sum up what I’ve discussed so far.

We know we need AOK’s and WOK’s in our argument and we know we need to define as well as cite relevant sources (at least you  should know this if you’ve been following so far).

The arguments/counter-arguments are what separate a ‘meh’ TOK essay from a fantastic one. This is where you let your brain power shine.

For every argument, you need a counter argument. For the format I’m talking about, an basic TOK argument might contain the following:

What’s a KI? I’ll demonstrate by example. Let’s imagine your main, overall KQ is the following:

“Without application in the world, the value of knowledge is greatly diminished.” Consider this claim with respect to two areas of knowledge.”

That was actually the KQ I responded to in my TOK essay. Let’s say you decide to choose ‘The Arts’ as your AOK (which is what I did and will cite from). You might choose a KI like so:

“To what extent can we know whether reason or emotion is more suitable in justifying knowledge in the Arts?”

That’s a KI I came up with. In this case, I’ve made it clear what my AOK and WOK’s are. Now I can make an argument with either ‘reason’ or ’emotion’ and then counter argue with the other WOK.

For example, if you chose to argue with ‘reason’ then you would counter argue with ’emotion’.

Bam. You’ve just written two chunky paragraphs.

Now in my essay, I chose two AOK’s to compare. I chose a classic “The Arts” vs “The Natural Sciences” comparison. I first developed a argument/counter-argument with ‘The Arts’ and then moved on to ‘The Natural Sciences’.

This is a basic format you can follow for TOK.

If you’ve got an idea for a format yourself, then that’s fine. This outline is to help those that need some inspiration.

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Writing a TOK essay is very different from other pieces of writing you will do. Don’t worry: Here is a step by step guide and a full example essay to get you through it!

Picking a title Firstly, pick a title. One that immediately sparks something. When reading them through, there will typically be one or two that do not make sense to you at all (it happens to everyone), cross those off straight away. There will usually be one that seems easy, you can go with that one, but in my experience, pick one that also challenges you to think. The easiest one doesn’t always result in the best essays. With the remaining ones, spend a few minutes for each thinking what you could possibly extend it too. Do you have any personal experiences or interests you could possibly relate them too? Did you have any areas of knowledge (AOKs) you would like to use? How would they fit in?

The title will go on top of your document in bold. Well done, that is about 1% of your essay written! Keep reading to score those percentages!

The title chosen is:

“Knowledge within a discipline develops according to the principle of natural selection.” How useful is this metaphor?

Set a Knowledge Question (KQ) Some more abbreviations for you! A knowledge question is the question you derived from the title, and this will be the question your essay is going to answer. Ideally, create something that incorporates large parts of the prescribed title. TOK knowledge questions typically start with: “To what extent …”. Choosing an open ended question as such will really help you in your conclusion!

A good way to start your introduction would be by introducing the knowledge question, for example like this:

“My knowledge question is as follows: To what extent does the development of knowledge resemble natural selection?”

And well done, that’s another 1% of your essay written! (Of course you can keep finetuning your question as you go along, you never know what some research will bring!)

Picking AOKs Chosen a title? Great! Let’s get started! Next up is picking Areas of Knowledge (AOK). Typically the title will require you to pick at least two. In order to go in enough depth, I would advise to stick with two and not go with too many or too little. The AOKs are: indigenous knowledge systems, the arts, mathematics, human sciences, natural sciences, religious knowledge systems, history and ethics. Pick two that relate to the title (if any), or ones that you find interesting. I would recommend picking two that can give very different viewpoints too, so that you can have a nice debate going on. For example picking a science and ethics or religion. In this essay, I have chosen to go into the natural sciences and the arts.

Defining the terms The prescribed titles tend to use some words that are not used on a daily basis, or can have multiple meanings. Even if you are comfortable using some terms, it is important to define them, so that the examiner is on the same page as you are. It could also function as a kind of disclaimer, to make sure the examiner cannot criticise you on not going into certain aspects of the concept or not following his/her idea of the concept. Defining your terms can also help you with the structure of your arguments, as will become clearer shortly. Setting definitions and explaining your interpretation of the concepts thus really helps you, so don’t forget to write them down! This actually makes up a large part of the introduction. A way of doing this is for example:

“I define a discipline as an area of knowledge, and in this essay, natural science and arts will be evaluated. Moreover, it is important to define natural selection. Darwin’s theory of evolution, is based on three main principles: (1) organisms produce offspring with inheritable traits, (2) organisms produce more offspring than can survive due to limited resources and (3) offspring whose traits better suit the environment, survive and reproduce (APS). In my opinion, these principles amount  to the main idea: survival of the fittest. In the case of knowledge, offspring would be the knowledge derived from earlier discoveries/knowledge, which would be the organism. ‘Fittest’ could be interpreted as how much we value certain knowledge based on its applications, provided that it is proven or justified knowledge. Therefore, the ‘fittest’ knowledge is the knowledge that survives.”

In this case, that’s another 8% for the essay writing. Of course you don’t have to write it down in this format first, just make sure you have a good idea and maybe some notes before you get started, so that you have an idea of what you are going to do.

Also note how I have introduced the areas of knowledge very briefly here!

Claims and counterclaims Next up in the introduction is giving the reader an idea of where you are going to go with your arguments. Make sure you briefly introduce every claim and counterclaim. The next paragraph will go into how to write those claims and counterclaims, but in order to write them, we first need to come up with some. So how do we do that?

We need to make sure we use both of our AOKs in this, and also involve some Ways of Knowing (WOKs), such as imagination, reasoning and intuition. The structure I would recommend is:

  • Introduction
  • Counterclaim AOK1
  • Counterclaim AOK2

This would mean that for every AOK, we need an argument/claim that answers our KQ/title, and a counterclaim that gives us a different perspective or way of answering it, both within the same AOK. Coming up with such a claim would require you to think about the question critically, and relate it to your personal experiences, things you read, saw on tv, heard, etc.

An example claim and counterclaim relating to the above KQ for the natural sciences (AOK) is:

Knowledge does develop according to the principle of natural selection because the best ways to explain a phenomenon are passed on.

However, when there are two explanations which are equally good, both will be passed on.

After you have created your claims, continue to find examples, real life situations, etc. to back them up. More about writing the paragraphs themselves below.

To introduce these claims and counterclaims, neatly link them up in a logical order to outline where you will go. For example:

“Within the natural sciences, one could argue that it develops according to the principles of natural selection because the best ways to explain a phenomena are passed on. However, it can also be said that two explanations are equally good and therefore both passed on. Within the arts, it can be argued that what we see and think of art is influenced by the applications of the knowledge by our ancestors. However, it can be said that nowadays art is a free medium, which is about personal development, and with social media, everyone can make art. Several perspectives in relation to the natural sciences and art will be discussed, in order to answer the knowledge question.”

And voila, that is your introduction written! The word count for this part will roughly be equal to 250 to 300 words, so that is the first 15% completed!

Writing claims and counterclaims Writing up the claims and counterclaims can be a bit of a maze, as it is easy to side track on your thoughts. Here is a framework you can follow, which will help you elaborate enough (for those who tend to skip some explanations) and limit yourself from side tracking too much (for those who like to write a lot).

Key sentence:  For every claim/counterclaim, start with a key sentence: one sentence that sums up your whole paragraph. This is a good point to start writing your body paragraphs. Make sure to use appropriate signposts too, for example using words like ‘however’, ‘furthermore’, ‘moreover’, etc. Also make sure to mention the AOK you are writing about. An example of such a key sentence would be:

“Knowledge within the natural sciences develops according to the principles of natural selection, as the best models are passed on and used, best being defined as the most valid and simplest.”

Example:  Give an example, a theory, a real life example, etc. about this statement to back it up. This shows you have done some research and thinking to relate this argument and validate it. For example:

“Within the natural sciences, multiple theories exist on the same topic, and these theories can be represented by multiple different models, however, only valid theories and the simplest models will be passed on. There is a principle by a philosopher Ockham (Duignan), called Occam’s razor, stating: “Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily” (Bylikin, Horner and Murphy).”

Explain:  Now go on to explain this example and how it can help to answer the KQ. Make sure you end every paragraph with a concluding sentence summing up your claim. An example of an explanation on the example:

“This means that, if competing theories, both valid and containing the same predictions, the simplest one is better, until new discoveries show otherwise.”

Now, you can bring up multiple examples within your claim. The rest of the paragraph has been worked out below.

Also have a look at involving some WOKs here (see diagram above). These are all possible ways of how we can obtain knowledge. The easiest way to look at them is to imagine yourself in the centre of the diagram, with your AOK on the outside ring. Imagine the ring in between being water with the WOKs being rocks you could jump on to reach your AOK. What rocks will apply to your AOK? Which ones will you need to use and why? Try and incorporate these too!

“Secondly, knowledge within the natural sciences can evolve. As not everything within the sciences can be observed through sense perception (for example, not everything in astronomy can be experimented with or observed, and neither can science be studied on atomic levels), there are a lot of theories which are not proven yet. However, as time progresses (along with technological discoveries), so does science and using new technology and techniques, we can study science to a higher degree of accuracy. This already lead to falsification of theories that scientists of the past came up with. Only the best theories, which are falsifiable, repeatable and justifiable, will develop further (numerous scientific journals are not approved and published). An example is the evolution of the atomic model. The original theory by Dalton in 1808, stating that atoms were tiny balls, was elaborated by Thomson, who discovered atoms were made of smaller things, like protons. More research by Rutherford showed that atoms were mainly empty space and had a dense nucleus. This was taken further by Bohr, who showed there were negatively charged particles around the nucleus in shells. Later, Chadwick in 1932 showed there were neutrally charged neutrons as well (Evolution of the Atomic Model). These discoveries show that knowledge evolves and only the best knowledge survives. Other theories that arose but where proven to be false, like the plum-pudding model by Thomson, are less known and in the first place not taught to the next generation, and is not used for further research.”

Writing the counterclaim follows a similar structure. After you have written both the claim and counterclaim on the AOK, finish the counterclaim paragraph with a mini conclusion. This can be a sentence or two, weighing the claim and counterclaim, stating which one is more powerful and why. These mini conclusions combined will help you with your overall conclusion! An example of such a mini conclusion:

“However, this counterclaim is weaker compared to the claim, since it cannot be definitely concluded which theory will survive. More discoveries might be done in the future, which will falsify one or prefer one theory over another.”

The full paragraph and remainder of the body of the essay, including the claim and counterclaim for the second AOK, can be found below.

The conclusion Well done on completing most of your essay! Before starting to write the conclusion, first check all the key and concluding sentences: only read the first and last sentence of every body paragraph. Do these include all the main points and are they relevant in answering the KQ? Yes? Great! Now start on the conclusion. Evaluate all your claims and counterclaims and link up the mini conclusions. Think of how valid they are and how strong or weak they are. Use this to formulate an answer to the KQ. Then link this answer to the prescribed TOK title.

“To conclude, knowledge within the natural sciences develops according to the principles of natural selection because the best theories and models survive and develop in further generations. Within the arts this is different. While the most useful knowledge survives, the development of knowledge does not resemble ‘survival of the fittest’, as multiple art styles can exist at the same time, especially in the presence of social media. There are many perspectives to this, like Palmen, and therefore artists, scientists and people with professions in other disciplines, might have opposing ideas. The concluding answer to the question to what extent the development of knowledge resembles the principle of natural selection, could therefore be that the extent depends on the area of knowledge and the freedom within that discipline. An area of knowledge that can easily be falsified, is more likely to develop according to natural selection, as has been discussed for the natural sciences.”

Next, extend your answer to other AOKs than the ones covered in your essay. For which ones does your conclusion apply? For which ones may it be different?

“This could count for subjects like history. However, areas with a lot of freedom that depend more on emotional and personal perspectives, like the arts and ethics, are less likely to develop according to Darwin’s principle.”

Then, relate the conclusion to your own life. How is it significant to you and the world to know about this and to know what you have concluded?

And then you are ready to round off! Just one final concluding statement to link it to the prescribed TOK title, and you are done! (just make sure you stick to all the formal regulations such as spacing, word count, fonts, etc.)

“Knowing this is surely significant. It made me aware of why I know what I know and how knowledge progresses. In conclusion, the metaphor is better applicable to natural science than arts.”

Every TOK essay is different and some titles may lend themselves well to this structure and others not as much so whilst this is a good outline, don’t worry if you feel like you need to deviate from it. This is based on my own experiences in the IB. You are welcome to read this example essay and learn from it, as long as you don’t plagiarise of course.

Want to get your essay checked or get some help writing it? Contact us at [email protected].

To read the full essay, click  here .


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