Class time: 90 minutes

Goals and objectives:

Students are able to:

  • understanding a role of emotion(s)
  • explore how emotion and rationality interact
  • consider ways we can enhance our lives and daily experiences

Opening: 15 minutes

Introduction –

How important are emotions? To what extent emotions give meaning to our lives or play a role when we figure out our activities or decisions? These are the questions we can ask ourselves when we open the chapter known as emotions in TOK understanding of the world. If we consider emotions as very important aspect of our mental life then we assume that they give importance to to the quality and meaning of our existence.

The origin of the word emotion comes from latin. movere =to move, arouse, affect, influence

The most of the great classical philosophers—Plato, Aristotle, Spinoza, Descartes, Hobbes, Hume—had recognizable theories of emotion, conceived as responses to certain sorts of events of concern to a subject, triggering bodily changes and typically motivating characteristic behavior.


Ways of knowing, emotion



Karla Fraci u Beogradu, blic. rs



Class time: 90 minutes

Goals and objectives:

Opening: 15 minutes

According to IBO, when we decide “to flow” into the area of reason in our TOK quest for different layers of knowledge, first what we have to ask ourselves is:

What is the difference between reason and logic?

How reliable is inductive reasoning? (here to add, deductive reasoning, too)

Are we predictably irrational?

But instead of searching for an answer to the very first question posted here, let`s examine the third one. Are we predictably irrational? If we ask ourselves this question in this tone, there is a slight possibility that we might loose our direction somewhere in philosophy while investigating do we construct our worldviews (and knowledge too) on reason or rather on emotions, imagination or faith, for example. If you see a person in danger, it is to expect that you won`t stay calm and rational, standing by a side of ignorance as a peaceful observer of such a scene. Perhaps you decide to help to that person. In that case, we can claim two. Or you employ your emotions and emotions work then instead of your rational thinking (“it is not useful to jeopardize my own life for the sake of rescuing of some stranger”) or you will employ your pre – rational thinking, whether we call it intuition or empathy as understood in frames of evolutionary psychology (“such an empathy has to produce some benefits for the survival of the world”).

E. Dombrowsky writes that a winner of Nobel price in economics Daniel Kahneman done significant research on how we reach our conclusions.

Kahneman, jointly with Amos Tversky explored, how he said, “the psychology of intuitive beliefs and choices and examined their bounded rationality.” According to him, intuition occupies a position between perception and later reasoning of what was perceived. Intuition is fast, automatic, effortless etc while reasoning is slower, serial.

Or to take another example: Imagine that you have a wonderful job. Suddenly, out of blue, you decide to leave it and to travel around the world on a bike. Be sure that many people, when employ their reason would consider your decision as a decision of a lunatic. However, you don`t care for any other opinion then yours. Let`s guess you are lead by your emotions.

Here to conclude, although immensely important, reason is not only way of knowing by which we construct our picture of the world. Emotions, imaginations, faith..so as sense perception etc..play a role to certain extent in above mentioned.

Let`s jump to the second question.

Development: 60 minutes

What is the difference between reason and logic?

Reason is a broader term, when comparing it with logic, that`s for sure.  Reason is, when follow Kant`s  definition, ” the power of synthesizing into unity, by means of comprehensive principles, the concepts that are provided by the intellect. That reason which gives a priori principles Kant calls “pure reason..” Difficult, eh? When “translate” Kantian language into ours, I believe that he wanted to say that reason offers to human kind a gate to understanding the essence of the world when we employ all our cognitive capabilities.

According to the Cambridge English Dictionaries, reason is:

  • the cause for something or an excuse in explanation of something 

  • the ability to think and make judgments 

Reason offers a fruitful soil for constructing and further development of logic. Logic is one of philosophical branches but it is also a branch of mathematics that deals with deductive theorems which can be proven (or disproven) absolutely. These theorems are statements that follow from each other.

If A, then B.
Therefore B.

Reasoning uses arguments when prove something. Reason does not accept claims based just on generalizations, no matter how truthful they might seem. Logic demands to be proven every statements raised.

Following activity (for students) – to watch Stephen Fry`s short explanation of philosophy, logic and reason. A short discussion on material seen is opened after that.

Rationalists versus empiricists


A discussion activity follows again. Students are encouraged to generate knowledge questions from material seen, such as, “To what extent rationalism offers certainty in constructing knowledge?”  or “Under what circumstances we can claim that empiricism is the only way for constructing pyramid of knowledge?”


  • a form of logical reasoning
  • consists of two premises (major and minor premises) and of conclusion

One of the most famous syllogisms:

  • All human beings are mortal.
  • Socrates is a human being.
  • Therefore Socrates is mortal.

Valid and invalid conclusions 

Here comes the tricky part.

The example with Socrates shows to students how they can construct their own syllogisms where both of premises are valid and so it is to expect that a conclusion is valid too. But what about the cases where one of premises is false? Or where both of premises are false but conclusion is valid? Hm. I`m close to start to feel a headache.

If we follow strictly rules of formal logic, an argument is valid if the conclusion follows logically from the premises. For example:


  • All hippopotamuses eat cockroaches. (let`s assume this)
  • Mr Porter is a hippopotamus. (It is possible that some hippo somewhere in the world is called Mr Porter).


  • Therefore Mr Porter eats cockroaches.

Both premises are false and conclusion is true! (but the argument is still valid).

Both premises and conclusion are false, but the argument is valid. The way we argumented Mr Porter`s eating habits is valid.  But the conclusion is true only when both of premises are true.

Let`s consider something else:

  • All ducks are teachers. (obviously, not truth)
  • Mr Porter is a duck. (this might be truth)
  • Therefore Mr Porter is a teacher.

In this case we see that either one or both premises are false but conclusion is valid.

A quick task for students; they write on a piece of paper their examples of syllogisms, where both of premises are valid and where one or both of premises are not valid.

Inductive and deductive reasoning 

The last part of development part of a class is dedicated to an explanation of the difference between inductive and deductive reasoning.

Whilst deductive reasoning goes from the general fact (or an opinion) to the particular, inductive reasoning goes from the particular facts or opinions to the general. Since inductive reasoning goes from the observed to the unobserved (usually present in sciences), it enables us to make generalizations about the world.

  • All metals expand
  • All human beings are mortal

These are examples of generalizations but true generalizations. Sometimes (or very often, to tell the truth) is not enough to create, to say or to write generalization on a basis of one (empirical) example. If we saw a dog once to swim, it is not enough to claim then that all dogs swim.

Thinking out of box

  • Lateral thinking (Eduardo de Bono)


Common fallacies

Here is the list of some common fallacies which students may notify if use reason as way of knowing as one of tools in their research ( when start (or in a process of) to develop their TOK presentations and essays.)

Ad hominem (Latin for “to the man”).

  • An arguer who uses ad hominems attacks the person instead of the argument. 

Appeal to ignorance (argumentum ex silentio)

  • if we have no evidence for something, it must be (or it can be) that something that is spoken about exists. We don`t have evidence that the Universe started at some point but still we claim this is true. The similar can be applied to the question of God`s existence.

Argument from omniscience

  • Someone tries to persuade you in something with use of expressions such as, “All people believe in that”, or ” Everyone do that.”

Appeal to faith

  • You have to believe in that! – says a person who wants to convince you in something. For instance, how can you discuss about God`s existence if you don`t believe in God?

Appeal to tradition

  • Someone tries to convince you in validity of something because he or she finds an argument in something considered as traditional (astrology, religion etc.)

Argument from authority (argumentum ad verecundiam)

  • when someone uses the words of an “expert” or authority as the bases of the argument instead of using the logic or evidence that supports an argument

Argumentum ad bacalum

  • an argument based on an appeal to fear or a threat

Argumentum ad populum

  • Someone wants to convince you in something on the basis of sentimental weakness rather then facts and reasons.


Bandwagon fallacy

  • Something is “true” just because “so many people believe in that”.

Confirmation bias

Someone beliefs in something that he or she prefers to believe in rather then facts and reason.  Selective thinking that focuses on evidence that supports already believe while ignoring evidence that refutes their belief.

Confusion of correlation and causation

  • when someone believe in his or her own reasons for approval of something else “Children who watch TV a lot tend not to learn too much.”

Excluded middle

  • There is no “in between”. Or you believe that something is black or that something is white. There is no grey zone in this story. 

Half truths (suppressed evidence)

  • Someone tries to hide half validity of his or her statement.

Meaningless question

  • Is everything possible? 

Non sequitur (Latin for “does not follow”)

  • A conclusion that does not follow from established premises or evidence, ” Many people tend to fall in love during the fool moon.”. There is no evidence for this.

Observational selection

  • Pointing out favorable circumstances while ignoring the unfavorable.

Slippery slope

  • a change in procedure, law, or action, will result with.. When? A problem appears when someone tries to convince you if A happens ..that even.. Z..might happen once..
  •  (e.g., If we allow doctor assisted suicide, then eventually the government will control how we die.)

Two wrongs make a right

  • trying to justify what we did by accusing someone else of doing the same. (e.g. how can you judge my actions when you do exactly the same thing?)


Closure: 15 minutes

Evaluation of a class


Lindsay, Don, A list of fallacious arguments


Kahneman, David, Thinking fast, thinking slow


Kahneman, David, Maps of bounded rationality, A perspective on intuitive judgement and choice






Overview of Examples & Types of Syllogisms



Reason for being



Epistemology, How we gain knowledge, You Tube

Fry, Stephen, Philosophy, Logic, Reason, You Tube

Language II

Class time: 90 minutes

Goals and objectives:

Students are able to:

  • develop more appreciation for other cultures and the international global community
  • Develops the critical thinking skills and appreciation for humane values

Opening: 15 minutes

To what extent language plays role in preservation of cultural identity?

All of us heard for Spanish, Chinese, Russian, French or Arabic language. But have we ever heard for Bororoan language? Or, for Kwomtari? For Nimboran? 

Bororoan is one of languages spoken in Brazil while Kwomtari is the language of Papua New Guinea. Nimboran is, among others, the language spoken in Indonesia. Beside Nimboran, it is possible to hear Kemtuik, Gresi, Mekwei, Mlap in Indonesia too. According to statistics, there are 7102 living languages in the world now. The above mentioned languages of Papua New Guinea and Brazil are languages of indigenous people. But at the same time, at this very moment, some languages are in danger of disappear. This phenomenon is known as language endangerment. For many reasons ( the process of globalization produces negative effects too), people who speak smaller languages stop to use it. The number of people who use smaller languages decreases in every next generation and there are two main reasons why some languages disappear. As it was mentioned already, the number of people who use smaller languages decrease from day to day.  Also, the number of people who are capable or willing to transmit, in the most of cases, that sort of indigenous knowledge, is smaller too, sometimes close to number of two or even just one person who speaks that language.  Language or, better to say, a heritage of language has to be recorded somewhere, in a written manner, or taught in schools, to be saved and preserved. According to Ethnologue, 473 languages are currently classified as endangered.

What follows or goes hand in hand with language endangerment are social and cultural disruptions (depression, suicide, drug use, criminal etc.)The BBC journalist, Tom Colls cites the words of Ethnologue editor, Paul Lewis, who speaks about the role of language in preservation of culture (typically indigenous) and who claims that  “if people begin to think of their language as useless, they see their identity as such as well.”

Certain countries, such as Australia, make strong efforts in preservation of languages and cultures of indigenous people. 

According to  Australian Curriculum, “Aboriginal languages and Torres Strait Islander languages are fundamental to the identity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and this is recognised throughout the Framework. It is also the right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to have access to education in and about their own languages, as enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (resolution 61/295, adopted 13 September 2007,www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/DRIPS_en.pdf). Education systems can play a vital role in facilitating access to language learning and supporting community language revival and maintenance.

Development: 60 minutes

Following activity:

Students read the following an excerpt from the text of J.W.Coady, “The most powerful weapon: the ongoing fight against the First Nations Education Act” and generate knowledge issues from the text.

Deidre Kahwinétha Diome  is an activist from the Mohawk nation of Kahnawà:ke, and the chairperson of the Kahnawake Combined Schools Committee too.

It would be easy if I could just say that there was a break between generations relating to language, but people have to understand that it’s far more complex than that,” she says. “If you take generations of children from their homes and families, destroy their language, culture and identity, and physically, emotionally and sexually abuse them, what possible outcome do you expect for their societies? When the European settlers arrived here in North America, all they could see was the wealth, power and prosperity that they could harness for themselves. If they could suppress our language and our cultural identity, then they could erase our people and the truth of our title to the land.” and she continues, “The importance of local control of education is never clearer than when language is involved. In indigenous cultures, the two are often one and the same: language is a repository for the culture and is imbued with the nation’s history, lessons and knowledge of the natural world. Unfortunately, the First Nation Education Act would place limits on the use of language as part of curriculum. … Our understanding of the bill is that there is mandatory French or English instruction. There is room for First Nations language instruction but the extent of the instruction would be subject to ministerial approval. So, at best it might be taught as a second language. And frankly, if you want to revive languages that are on the verge of extinction, you need full immersion programs. And the only way to ensure that they will survive is to make sure that they can be taught in a manner that will reinvigorate their vitality.


Language as a weapon

Key thinkers on language:

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.
‒Nelson Mandela

The limits of my language are the limits of my world.
‒Ludwig Wittgenstein

Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.

‒Rita Mae Brown

Language can hurt sometimes.  Sometimes, some people tend to use harsh, rude or inappropriate words when want to hurt others. Such words may or may not provoke  violence. Even for thinkers is sometimes difficult to distinguish where is the line that divides free speech of hate speech. Freedom of expression is one of essential human rights, and , yes, I have a freedom, so as you have a freedom to think, to talk freely, to make a change in the world with my or your pen or a keyboard. But when I or you use that same pen or a keyboard with a goal to hurt or despise someone else, when I or you hit a language arrow to someone`s heart and mind, both of use become perpetrators of hate speech.

  • hate speech (racist, sexist and homophobic language)

Students read an article from Luis Dore, published in  “Independent”, “Iran has decided to ban the word ‘wine’ in books – there’s just one slight problem” and then a discussion on read follows.

Katherine Bruce – Lockhart writes that “Rwanda and Kenya, both countries that have experienced considerable violence in the past two decades, are useful case studies to discern when and how hate speech becomes dangerous speech.  The inflammatory role of the radio station Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (Radio RTLM) in the Rwandan genocide has been widely documented, and offers a definitive example of dangerous speech. “The radio encouraged people to participate because it said ‘the enemy is the Tutsi,’” remarked one genocide survivor.

According to The United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 19 protects freedom of expression. The following Article 20 clearly states that any speech, when coloured with racial or religious hatred that leads to discrimination, hostility or violence has to be prohibited by law.

The other type of discriminatory language is sexist language, commonly known as sexism(s) in language.  Sexist language is any kind of language that discriminates any of sexes, although in more cases, the female gender.

It is possible to notice that the fight for empowering women human rights is alive in a field of language too. In many countries, sexism becomes a political issue.  When compering, for instance, some new words in English language with its older form, we can conclude that the new words which have been constructed recently, aim to support fair and true attitudes to a particular sex.


  • humanity or human race instead of man or mankind
  • flight attendant instead of stewardess, firefighter instead of fireman, homemaker instead of housewife
  • instead of his or her use their

Language slowly has become the weapon for empowering women human rights, as seen from above mentioned examples. But it wasn`t always like that. History of humanity witnessed  to numerous number of examples when language was used with a particular goal, to destroy or diminish existing values, to sign certain groups of people as “enemies, threat, undesirable” and similar.

In following activity students watch two videos:

Closure: 15 minutes

  • Evaluation of a class
  • Homework assignment
  • Discussion about impressions on material seen so as about knowledge issues extracted from material seen



Australian Curriculum, Framework for Aboriginal Languages and Torres Strait Islander Languages


Bruce – Lockhart, Catherine, When does hate speech become dangerous speech? Consider Kenya and Rwanda


How to avoid sexist language


 Dore, Luis, Iran had decided to ban the word wine in books – there`s just one problem, Independent


 Colls, Tom,  The death of language?, BBC TODAY


Languages of the world


J.W. Coady, The most powerful weapon: the ongoing fight against the First Nations Education Act, The Media Co – op


Inspirational quotes for language learners


Sexism in language



Feast your eyes on this beautiicle/59665/feast-ful linguistic family tree


Downey, Greg, Language extinction ain`t no big thing?



KNES 303, Homophobic language is unacceptable

Fry, Stephen, The power of words in Nazi Germany, You Tube


Class time: 90 minutes

Goals and objectives:

Students are able to:

  1. understand importance of language in construction of personal, experiental and shared knowledge
  2. understand complexity of language (how language can be used in different forms)
  3. analyze layers of meaning in different contexts (how a text is received and responded to by audiences)
  4. analyze the degree to which individual points of view, experiences and contexts shape responses to texts so as to investigate how text structures and language features are used to convey ideas and represent people and events

    Warming up: 15 minutes

    Let`s raise new questions. Let`s start to explore this journey  in new horizons.

    He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.” The beginning of his kingdom was Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went forth into Assyria, and built Ninevah.. Genesis 10: 9-10 ( Tower of Babel)

    Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” The LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built. And the LORD said, “Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore it was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.” (Genesis 11:1–9)

    According to this biblical story, the whole Earth had one language and few words.

    The story starts by telling us the whole world had one language, and that “they were wandering in the east”

    “Come on, let’s go down and ‘confuse’ their language…”

    God proposes that people confuse the language of the people so that they cannot understand each other. Are the language confusion and dispersal two separate actions?  The story becomes a study of cause for how  languages came about.

    Babel (the Hebrew name for Babylon) comes from Akkadian Babilu, meaning “gate of the god” — a reference to the greatest Babylonian deity Marduk (Bel).

    Language and communication 

    For an introduction of language in TOK students are encouraged to compare these definitions about language before we start to “unpack” different layers of knowledge hidden in language.

    According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, language is:”a ​system of ​communication insisting of ​sounds, words, and ​grammar, or the ​system of ​r communication“, ” A system of communication used by a particular country or community“, ‘A system of symbols and rules for writing programs or algorithms.’ etc. communication used by ​people in a ​particular group or ​ type of  work.”, while it is, in the words of the Oxford Dictionaries, “The method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way.”

    What do we notice when compare these definitions?

    Development: 60 minutes

    It is obvious that we need language for use in more then one dimension. What does it mean? We use language in every day communication with other individuals and groups of people. We read words and sentences given in different texts or books. We sing, we send emoticons sometimes.  We use fingers, palms, hands or the whole body to send a certain message.  We learn or want to teach someone. The most of time when we use these different systems of communication  we don`t think about importance of language.  We just use it because we are adapted to use it. We know that there are so many languages in the world (about 5000). We also know that many languages disappeared. When language dies, in the most of cases, culture where the dying language is an essential component, disappears too.

    What makes a difference between communication between animals and systems of communications in humans is use of grammar or something that we call, taxonomy of language. Taxonomy of language consists of:  Phonemes, Morphemes, Syntax, Phonology – Sounds, Consonants, Vowels

    When answering the question about purpose of language, someone might offer the following answer (and, yes, it is a correct answer, among many others):

    Language is a transmitter which we need to pass knowledge.  We don`t have, as so far, any other such a powerful tool for passing knowledge. 

    The metaphor of Tower of Babel is an excellent example to explain to students that is difficult, if no impossible for one British to pass knowledge further to one Japanese, for instance, without any, even superficial insight in knowledge of Japanese language. But even if one British is familiar with the basics of Japanese language (he or she is capable to pronounce some words), he or she had to know structure of sentence (word order in sentences – syntax)  in above mentioned language in order to reach a message (knowledge)  expressed in that language.

    An example:

    Native speakers know what is not grammatical even if they have never heard the sentence before.

    Syntax structure in different languages:

    Subject – Object – Verb (Japanese, Maninka)

    Subject – Verb – Object (English, Spanish)

    Verb – Subject – Object (Jacaltec, Irish)

    Verb – Object – Subject (Malagasy, Madag.; Huave, Mx)

    Object – Subject – Verb (Xavante)

    A quick task for students (They are asked to do the task in groups. One student may take a role of a “scientist” while others try to communicate with him without use on any kind of communication.)

    Try to put yourself in a position of a scientist who decided to practise an experiment. You want to examine is it possible to communicate with other human beings without use of any kind of language? They should try to give an answer to the following question:

    Is it possible to examine functions of language from the position of an observer, if we tend not to use any kind of communication in this experiment?

    The answer is – no, it is not possible. Even when we think, we use language. It helps us to make an order in our thoughts (sensation – perception – thought – act) and to make of thoughts constructive schemes, ready for use in different kind of situations.  But what happens when we dream? Are we capable to dream only in our native language or in any other language?  In the words of dr. Stephen Dutch:

    Contrary to widespread misconception, you don’t have to be very fluent to dream in other languages. I have dreamt in half a dozen languages, some of which I only know a few phrases of. This dream was in Serbo-Croatian, which I learned a bit of during a six-month military tour in Bosnia in 1996. I can handle simple conversations but am decidedly not fluent. In my dream, I was fumbling for some phrases. After I awoke and recalled the dream, I realized that the phrases were simple courtesy phrases I knew perfectly well. Here again, my dreaming subconscious failed to retrieve data that my conscious could access easily. 

    On another occasion, I was dreaming in German, a language I speak reasonably well. I was fishing for an obscure word I would not normally know (as is the case with many dreams, the exact details are quickly forgotten). I came up with a compound word, and even a fairly convincing explanation for how the word was derived. When I awoke, I was intrigued. Did my subconscious access a long-forgotten word, or integrate other words into an inspired solution to a problem? Well, no. When I looked up the English word in a dictionary, I found the German word was completely different. The compound word my subconscious dredged up? Nonexistent.

    We use language for communication in every sphere of life, no matter do we talk about politics, science, media, literature, arts, small talks etc.

    Language and human nature

    According to new scientific discoveries, newborn and very young infants can already discriminate human speech from other sounds and prefer to listen to it. They also can discriminate their mother’s voice from that of other adult women and they even can discriminate their language from another language.

    Watching activity:

    Watching activity:

Students may discuss about the video after they watch it. This activity is an introduction to the part of class dedicated to an explanation of Chomsky`s “What, Why, How” questions, How do we learn language?, Why we possess language? , What’s the reason for our having language? 

  • Noam Chomsky – theory of innate capabilities for learning language(s)
  • LAD (Language acquisition device) –  an area of our brain which facilitates the development of language. According to Chomsky, LAD enables children to derive the rules of grammar from everyday speech, regardless of the native language.
  • “I’m speaking of the kind of creativity that any child demonstrates when he’s able to come to grips with a new situation: to describe it properly, react to it properly, tell one something about it, think about it in a new fashion for him and so on. I think it’s appropriate to call those acts creative, but of course without thinking of those acts as being the acts of a Newton.” ( Human Nature: Justice versus Power, Noam Chomsky debates with Michel Foucault, 1971)
  • Burhus F. Skinner  (1957) – in his account, environmental influence is of primary significance for language development. He claims that children  children learn  by associating words with meanings.

Students watch a video of dr. Stephen Pinker, Language as a Window into Human Nature

The discussion activity follows.

Deaf children

According to statistics of National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, USA more then 90% of deaf children have hearing parents and “men are more likely than women to report having hearing loss.”

Deaf children are often delayed in language and complex make-believe play but it semms that deaf infants and toddlers seem to master sign language in much the same way and at about the same pace that hearing children master spoken language.

Deaf 10-month-old often “babble” in signs: they produce signs that are meaningless but resemble the tempo and duration of real signs.

Sign language of blind

Deaf-blind people have many different ways of communication. The methods they use vary, depending on the causes of their combined vision and hearing loss, their backgrounds, and their education.

Closure: 15 minutes

  • An announcement that lecture on language will be continued (Language and history, Language and ethics, Language as a weapon, Language and arts)
  • Evaluation
  • A discussion about language and culture(s) – How language “work”? , How language and culture shape and reflect experience? To what extent is language important in shape of cultural identity?


Australian Curriculum, English


Australian Curriculum, Literature


Human Nature: Justice versus Power, Noam Chomsky debates with Michael Foucault


Language Acquisition


Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, In Your Dreams


The Cambridge English Dictionary, Language


The Oxford Dictionaries, Language


National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders


Brueggemann, Walter. Genesis: Interpretation. Atlanta: John Knox, 1982.


 Steven Pinker, Language as a Window into Human Nature, You Tube

 Patricia Kuhl, The linguistic genius of babies, TED Talks

I TOUCH YOU (Love story of a blind girl and deaf & mute boy).Short Film


Sense perception II

In continuation of the previous lecture on sense perception:

Opening: 15 minutes

We saw, when followed the previous lecture, that sense perception might be researched by position not just of one science but a few of them.  In our TOK lectures about sense perception we  investigate a role and a power of it from positions of philosophy (historical approach), anthropology (cultural approach), psychology (biological and social approach). Language also plays an important role in understanding of meaning of perception. So, we use multi – perspective analysis in order to discover as much as it is possible cognitions about said and to discover new layers of knowledge.   We also learn that sense perception plays a great role in construction, not just of our personal knowledge but also of experiental and shared knowledge too. 

We know that we possess eight senses which are: visual sense (sight), auditory sense (hearing), olfactory sense (smell), gustatory sense (taste), cutaneous sense (touch) but we possess kinesthetic sense (awareness of one’s own body movements and dimensions), vestibular sense (balance) and organise sense (‘call of nature’, hunger, thirst, etc.) too. (Dann, Michael, How many senses are there, 2013)

 We know that as the facts from biology. Or human anatomy. But in TOK we learn to see things from other perspective. Then we notice that our senses be might human, variable, actively selective and interpretative also. 

Before we step in the next part of a class, we will watch a video about the art of body balance.


Development: 60 minutes

How do we see colours? Do all people see colors in the same way? What kind of knowledge we would get if see, for instance, some known object in a colour different the the usual one? Would it be the same knowledge? To what extent would prior personal and experiental knowledge play role in a new cognition? 

  • to ask students to try to find answers to questions above mentioned . When they finish this activity, the one starts with a question: To what extent we believe that our senses are reliable?

For an introduction in this part of a class I raise the question: What is the way we perceive colours? Then students introduce the two theories that explain the way eyes detect primary colours.

According to Trichromatic theory – Young (1802) & von Helmholtz (1852), the eye detects 3 primary colours: red, blue, & green. Other colors can be derived by combining these three.  This finding led to the hypothesis that normal colour vision is based on the activity of three types of receptors, each with a different peak sensitivity.

Opponent process theory is, de facto, a continuation to the discovery exposed in Trichromatic theory. According to Ewald Hering, who established Opponent process theory, people see colours in two systems, or mechanisms, a blue – yellow mechanism and a red-green mechanism.



  • opponentpic.jpg


In continuation:

To what extent our sense perception might be influenced by different social or biological conditions

Perhaps we want to experience something. There is a possibility then that our emotions might affect our sense perception. How many times did someone order something of clothes from some web page? And, when it finally arrived, what you see was faraway from your expectations.


Imagine that you are left somewhere in a desert, without water and food. After two days of survival without nothing to help you in that situation, it might happen that you collapse. While collapsing on your knees, suddenly you see an oasis just beneath the next sand hill.  And you decide to get up again and start to walk, as fast as you can in sand. You approach to the next sand hill. There is – nothing but sand. It was an illusion of your mind.

I use this picture in order to explain to my students that expectations or, possible, previous experiences might affect our sense perception in different situations.



impossible staircase.jpg


impossible triangle

M C Ecsher.jpg

According to Gestalt theory, people, when think about something, some particular object, they usually apply the overall concept of  the object in process of thinking about it. If I think about an apartment, for instance, it is probable that I would not think separately about doors, windows, floors or carpets in the apartment. Instead of that I will have a full picture of imagined apartment on my mind.  Then, if I try to compare components that make an apartment as whole, I might realize that organized whole is perceived differently that its individual parts.

Translated from German in English, Gestalt means “organized whole”. At the beginning of XX century Gestalt theorists were the first group of psychologists who examined systematically perceptual organization.

How do people with certain disabilities perceive the world?

Deaf children 

According to statistics, over 90% of deaf children have hearing parents. These children are often delayed in language and complex make-believe play. Deaf infants and toddlers seem to master sign language in much the same way and at about the same pace that hearing children master spoken language. Deaf 10-month-olds often “babble” in signs: they produce signs that are meaningless but resemble the tempo and duration of real signs.

Autistic people 

Olga Bogdashina says in her research that  autistic people have unusual (from non-autistic point of view) sensory-perceptual experiences. Autistic people may be hyper- or hyposensitive, they might feel fluctuation between different ‘volumes’ of perception, difficulty interpreting a sense, etc. Experiences of these people are based on real experiences,   but they may be interpreted differently. Olga Bogdashina raises very important questions in frames of TOK. She asks, “How can we know that only our ‘perceptual version’ of the world is correct and theirs is wrong? ”  In words of Brad Rand, ” autistic people can’t help seeing and hearing the ‘wrong thing’, and they do not even know that they see or hear the wrong thing. Normal” connections between things and events do not make sense for them, but may be overwhelming, confusing and scary.”

  • Autistic people use a therm “Neurologically Typical” (NT) to describe non – autistic people (Autism Network International).
  • They experience the whole world different then us, “Neurologically Typical” people. It does not mean that their world is less worth then our, on the contrary! Autism colours every sensation, perception and then emotions and thoughts autistic people.  To raise a question here, how ethical is to expect from autistic people to behave in accordance with  perspectives of “Neurologically Typical” people?

Closure: 15 minutes

In what way we perceive extrasensory perception?

A discussion on extrasensory perception

Meaning: The ability to perceive something without ordinary sensory information. This has not been scientifically demonstrated yet.

Three types of ESP:

Telepathy – Mind-to-mind communication

Clairvoyance – Perception of remote events

Precognition – Ability to see future events


Dombrowski, Eileen, Rotenberg, lena, Back, Mimi, Theory of Knowldge Course Companion (2013).

Wade, C., & Tavris, C. (2002). Invitation to Psychology, 2nd Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Kassin, S. (2001). Psychology, third edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Dunn, Michael, How many senses are there, 2013


Different sensory experiences – Different sensory world




Perceptual illusions and brain models


25 Mind-Twisting Optical Illusion Paintings By Rob Gonsalves



Theories of Colour Vision




Sense perception

Class time: 2 x 90 minutes

Goals and objectives:

Students are able to:

  • understand how sense perception helps in communication with an outer world
  • understand that sense perception might be researched not just by position of biology and psychology but philosophy and anthropology too, so as from the position of language
  • understand that strict reliance to power of sense perception might lead to biases sometimes ( influenced by the social, biological, economic and cultural context )

For an opening : 15 minutes

A short discussion with students on the following questions:

How do we perceive our environment? How do we receive information from our surrounding? What are the main tools which we use while receiving different kind of information from an environment?  Do we trust the most to what we see, hear, smell, taste or touch? Have we ever considered the fact that there are more then five senses?   Do we make a difference between perception and sense perception? Do we rely more on information gotten by one sensory input or on a multi – sensory perception?  What is proprioception? How important is our prior knowledge of the world when receive and classify new sense perception information?

Students might also engage in the following activity (they should say the difference the difference between following expressions):

  • a man of sense, be in one`s senses, common sense, frighten out of senses, have horse senses, have more sense, in a sense, talk sense?

Development: 60 minutes

  • an explanation of difference between perception and sensation 

Sensation is a  sensory input received through one of our senses. It is, among other things,  a taste of sweet, bitter, hot or cold on my tongue. It is a touch on my skin. Or noise that I hear in my ear.

I hear that my dog is barking.  Neal (from Treehouse Masters) stands on one of branches of tree with beautiful green leafs. I see that scene on of my TV screen. But how can I know that I feel the difference between tastes on my tongue?  Or that Neal stands on a tree with green leafs and not on the purple one? Which tools do I use in order to recognize the difference?  Sensations that I had received my brain transformed into perception.

We use to say that we have five senses: seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and tasting.  But out body possesses an ability to register its motions and position. That we call proprioception. We also possess an ability to sense when someone else stands close to use (close to what we call “my body`s personal space”).

Sensation is passively receiving information through sensory inputs, and perception is interpreting this information.

Sense perception might be described as interpreting sensory information through the process of transduction.  Transduction is a process of transforming sensory inputs in electrical impulses understandable for the brain.  The sense organs convert sensory inputs into neural messages.

Perception, on the other hand, might be described as giving meaning to sensation. But, very often, we use a noun “perception” when we want to describe our belief or our opinion about something.

According to the Cambridge dictionary, perception is, also,  ” someone`s ability to notice and understand things that are not obvious to other people”.


We posses four basic tastes: salty, sour, bitter and sweet. But different people have different tastes based on: genetics, culture, learning, food attractiveness. It is possible to guess that people from Bosnia and Herzegovina would not share the same taste for meals as the Yupik people from the south of Alaska. Or with people from Island.

In this part of a class students can read an excerpt in a research of Clyde Kluckholn`s book, Mirror for Man: The Relation of the Anthropology to Modern Life in this part of a class.  They can work in groups as there are too many in a class.

I once knew a trader’s wife in Arizona who took a somewhat devilish interest in producing a cultural reaction. Guests who came her way were often served delicious sandwiches filled with a meat that seemed to be neither chicken nor tuna fish yet was reminiscent of both. To queries she gave no reply until each had eaten his or her fill. She then explained that what they had eaten was not chicken, not tuna fish, but the rich, white flesh of freshly killed rattlesnakes. The response was instantaneous, often violent vomiting. A biological process is caught in a cultural web.

After reading the text they have to answer to following questions:

  • To what extent cultural patterns may influence sense perception?
  • To what extent biological conditions play a role  when receiving some sensory inputs?

Back to the roots.  Here comes a short explanation about sources of knowledge in John Locke`s theory of knowledge.  In contrast to his philosophy, a short explanation about Descartes cogito is added.

Our knowledge in all these inquiries reaches very little farther than our experience.(Locke, Essay concerning human understanding, 1689.)

Let us suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper, void of all characters. (Locke,Essay concerning human understanding, 1689.)

Cogito ergo sum. ( Descartes, Discourse on the Method, 1637.)

Again to the modern era.

According to scientists at three departments and various research at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, multi-sensory perception is not always necessary for registering many things. We can  and must often perceive things with only one sense: for example, visually. But this is possible because our brain takes experiences and prior knowledge of the intrinsic nature of the world into account.


After watching a video students can take a role in a discussion about material seen.


Building a bridge to other sciences. Let` jump into psychology.

According to signal detection theory sensation depends on the characteristics of the sensory inputs,  the background stimulation, and about a person who detects sensation in his/ her environment.  It will also depend on the condition of your “detector”—your brain—and, perhaps, whether it has been aroused by a strong cup of coffee or lack of sleep. Signal detection theory also helps us understand why some people, sometimes, may lack in noticing  of a certain sound and not the next or vice versa.

The Gate-Control Theory – Pain perception

The two psychologists, Ronald Melzack and Patrick Wall, developed a theory that explains why pain can sometimes be blocked or surpressed in our mental state. According to this theory, the the experience of pain depends on a complex interplay of central nervous system and peripheral nervous system. Both of these  process pain signals in their own way. When an injury happens, pain messages originate in nerves associated with the damaged tissue and flow along the peripheral nerves to the  spinal cord and on up to the brain.

Perceptual Ambiguity and Distortion

According to Cohen& Girgus (1973), a primary goal of perception is to get an accurate “picture” of the world. Long time ago, the survival of human kind depended a lot of on accurately perceiving the environment. Things has changed in modern time. At least hope so. Of course that is easier to survive in an modern ambient but it is still so mandatory to use sense perception when we cross a street.  But sometimes it happens that we misinterpret an image, like in the case of sensory and perceptual illusions.

Closure: 15 minutes

  • Evaluation of the lecture
  • Time for discussion on said
  • An announcement of continuation of lecture on sense perception



Clyde Kluckholn, Mirror for Man: The Relation of the Anthropology to Modern Life,  Whittlesey House Inc., New York, 1949

Sensation and Perception


Prof. Dr. Bülthoff, Heinriech,  Perception – Our gateway to the world


Cambridge Dictionaries Online, perception, definition


Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority,

Content for Year 10 – Learning area content descriptions


What is the difference between sensation and perception?





Sensation and Perception

Kassin, S. (1998). Psychology, second edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.


Enchanted Kingdom, official trailer, You Tube

Religion and culture

In respect for others

  • A continuation to the lecture on culture
  • Goals and objectives:

    • Students are able to:
    • to recognize and understand the relationship that exists between  religion and culture, in dynamics of the world today
    • To explore the principles (knowledge) for cooperative living and mutual understanding
    • to learn to appreciate values of otherness

Opening: 15 minutes

It is not my attention to play a role of historian of religion or a philosopher of religion while developing this lesson play today.  Although I have been teaching philosophy of religion for several years. An explanation about the essence of religion, its characteristics, influence and its role in the world today I would live to those who are great names of expertise for above – mentioned fields. However, it is undoubtedly that religion plays a significant role in the era of global society. We glorify  words of Dalai Lama or pope Francis while believe that their words  will heal wounds of many in the world. Perhaps we believe in healing power in teaching of sufism too.  We tend to find peace in principles of Zen or Dao buddhism too. We cry, judge, condemn, perhaps even curse when someone is killed or wound in the name of divinity. We forgive or do not forgive. 

It is indisputable that religion influences movements, constructive and destructive, both to make a change in the world. The sad fact is that today we witness to more horrifying scenes than it could have been imagined in 1945. or in 1948. when the people of the world, united in the United Nations, swore not to experience atrocities ever again. 

We want for our students to become the people who appreciate values of others. So,  here is a question raised should we need to talk more about connection between religion and culture, about the place of religion in culture.  I could not find a place for this lecture exclusively in context of Religious knowledge system chapter nor in Indigenous knowledge system chapter too. Although I appreciate both. So I decided to find one more small place for a discussion about culture, religion and knowledge.

There is no a society in the world that does not possesses a certain belief or a religion.  When talking about beliefs in a religion, in particular, many people use it when need to explain to themselves the meaning and  purpose of life, reasons for existence, how to define relations with other people etc.  Philosophers of religion would say that religion, no matter of our opinion about it, offers very important cognitive and integrative function, beside the emotional one, for instance. For many people in the world religious scriptures are the source from which they learn how to behave on everyday level.  For many these scriptures are guidelines for doing or abstaining of certain acts. For many, religion is a home, shelter and a safe place. 



12-Women-praying-in-Ganges-River-Varanasi-India-1200x550Top-5-Largest-Religions-in-the-world, Sikhism.jpgTop-5-Largest-Religions-in-the-world-2 Islam.jpgTop-5-Largest-Religions-in-the-world-2, Buddhism.jpgTop-5-Largest-Religions-in-the-world-Christianity.jpgzoroastrian-customs.jpg

At the beginning of a class, after an introductory part, students introduce definition of religion. To memorize the definition is not mandatory. Understanding is everything we need. Students might be asked, in a form of a short discussion, before the definition of religion is given, what is religion in their opinion? What are the most important elements of religion?  Where is the place of religion in culture?  Where is the spot of connection between religion and culture? 

Religion might be understood as a system of beliefs and practices which regulates relations between human being and sacred or divinity (divinities).  Religion is defined by specific elements: dogmas, religious laws, sacred books, rites, worship, sacrament, moral obligations, interdicts, structure.

But religion is also  set of beliefs that are in the core of spiritual life of some indigenous society (or a group) too. For the difference of  a momentum when a misuse of religious beliefs is on scene, comitted in the name of some destructive ideology.

Six different pictures are shown to students. Scenes on every picture represent moments of celebrating different holidays in Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam, Buddhism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism.

Development: 60 minutes

  • values and principles
  • a case study
  • religions, culture and development

The World Conservation Union (IUCN), the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) identified common beliefs in all cultures for which they believe that might represent a foundation for ethics of sustainable living. The experts of these bodies of United Nations claim that social justice values and conservative values might go hand by hand with social justice, equality, equity, peace and just system of governing societies.

They say that social values which are found in religions are:

  • Meeting basic human needs
  • Ensuring intergenerational equity
  • Respecting values of human rights

while when identify conservation values they notify:

  • Respecting the interdependence of all things
  • Conserving biodiversity
  • Living lightly on the Earth
  • Respecting interspecies equity


Time for a study case (the example of the task is given first)

An example: Religious principles that we find in Buddhist religion and their culture:

  • Harmony with nature
  • Variety and diversity
  • Quality of life
  • Small is beautiful
  • Self-reliance
  • Co-operation and peace

Students are asked to identify similar principles in other religions. They might work in a pair group in this activity.

Similar to monotheistic religions, indigenous traditions often possess great wisdom on how to live in harmony with nature. Most of them, such as Aborigines in Australia have a significant knowledge of their environment with which they feel close connection and respect in the way that was almost forgotten in the bigger part of the world.

According to  UNESCO World Report 2: Investing in Cultural Diversity and Intercultural Dialogue knowledge that might be find in people of indigenous societies is more then relevant for our future. From this report we can learn that the Garifuni people in Belize in Central America are guided by the following five principles:

All people are connected to the Earth in a common and interdependent whole.
Every human being has a number of rights, but also mutual obligations and responsibilities.
Related to reciprocity, each individual has responsibilities for his/her brother or sister, just as each brother or sister has responsibilities for him/her.
The importance of Mother Earth
The land is sacred and can not be sold or bought.
Respect for others
People should be tolerant of the views, aspirations, values and beliefs of others. This includes respect for the rights of all species and for the spirit of life.
Peaceful coexistence of religions in the world is one of assumptions for cultural diversity and for new perspectives to be open.
According to Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim of the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Harvard University’s Center for the Environment the values that mold our perspective of nature “come primarily from religious worldviews and ethical practices”.

We live in the time of new possibilities.  Let`s consider the fact that Dalai Lama XIV hold several speeches at the Earth Summit in 1992 and that he insists on environmental protection in his peace plan for Tibet. Then,

“Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, a religious leader of the 250-million member Orthodox Church, has been in the forefront of bringing people together to study The Tsembaga people of New Guinea, for example, use ritual to allocate scarce protein for their people in a way that does not cause irreversible damage to the land. The Tukano of the Northwest Amazon employ myth and ritual to prevent overhunting and overfishing in their territory. the terraces, raising a ruckus by whooping and beating their tagtags.”

Source: Introduction, UNESCO (2009) UNESCO World Report 2: Investing in Cultural Diversity and Intercultural Dialogue, UNESCO Publishing.


  • Questions that might be identified:

  • Under what circumstances conflicts might jeopardize cultural diversity?
  • To what extent globalization might destroy cultural diversity?
  • To what extent is possible to preserve cultural heritage in a process of globalization?
  • Under what circumstances religious knowledge might affect culture, freedom and interdependence? (globalization too)

Closure: 15 minutes

  • An open discussion about the lecture

Students are encouraged to raise questions in a form of knowledge questions

  • An assignment for homework is given:
  • to chose a religion for which they would like to explored
  • in a form of a short essay (200 – 300 words) to identify three questions about the links between religion, religious beliefs, cultural values and ways of living in cooperation with members of other religions and with nature.

Religion is often understood as a source of a personal fulfillment. So as culture, it might be significant to personal and group identity. Various forms of cultural expression such as music, dance, literature, sport and theater provide enjoyment for many people.  So religion too.

Cultural diversity is an important human right. It is a cornerstone of citizenship in any society. However, historical pressures and domestic political trends have limited the right to cultural autonomy and expression of some citizens.



Introduction, UNESCO (2009) UNESCO World Report 2: Investing in Cultural Diversity and Intercultural Dialogue, UNESCO Publishing.

Religion and culture for sustainable future



Grim, John and Tucker, Mary Evelyn, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies Online Course: Introduction to Religion and Ecology F&ES 783E, REL 903H


Zarathushtra – The Revolutionary Iranian Prophet and First Philosopher in History


Dunn, Michael. Knowledge framework for religious knowledge systems






Zoroastrianism: History, Beliefs, and Practices




Culture and knowledge

We don`t have any chapter in TOK books so far, that is, in particular, dedicated to an explanation  of culture. Oh, yes, I know, we can slip into too long discussion about different (better to say, endless) definitions of culture, about components of culture, its importance for human kind, at the end of the day we might finish a story about it somewhere in philosophy or in anthropology and then we are not in TOK.  But, hey, the question  about culture is one of kind that is essential for understanding of development of human kind. So often it was thought,said, written that culture is something that divides human kind from animals.  Something, what? There is, still, no agreement between scientists about acceptance of one single, accurate definition of culture.

We claim that culture is the matter of knowledge. Or that knowledge is the matter of culture? The problem lies in gigantic frames of culture. It incorporates in itself language, religion, myths, dance, moral, sciences, norms, arts etc., customs, habit, the way we interact we other individuals or groups etc.

According the Center for Advance Research on Language Acquisition, some of very important components of culture are patterns of behaviors and interactions and knowledge that is adopted through process of socialization.  Should we consider socialization of process of “cultivating” our toddlers so that once they become  socially accepted members of their society (or of any they chose to belong to) or socialization might be applied for all who are in quest for new home, such as refugees and migrants?

  • And how can I talk about Syrian refugee crisis and its consequences in frames of knowledge, for instance (and that has been the matter of importance for the Balkans, not just for Europe or the rest of the world) region for last few months if I do not include in that story an explanation of multiculturalism, acceptance, rejection, stereotypes, prejudiced etc. And that is all, at the end of the day, the part of culture.

And that was opening of a class dedicated to our “unpacking” of culture.

Development: 60 minutes

To raise a questions to students if showing, telling, proving, simulating as processes of adopting information belong to knowledge or culture? Or to both, possible?

  • open a discussion with students on said for 10 – 15  minutes and then to continue with a quick insight to globalization.  How do we explain globalization? Is this phenomenon characteristic only for the modern era or it could be traced to ancient times, perhaps? Do we perceive globalization as a process which might result with more positive then negative  outcomes or vice versa?
  • then follows a reading activity when students read the article “When did globalization start?”
  • to open a discussion
  • key thinkers, Amartya Sen, Joseph Stiglitz, Ha – Joon Chang 
  • when a discussion is finished to introduce students with key thinkers on culture and their understanding of culture
  • Matthew Arnolds and his Culture and Anarchy (1867)

According to his opinion, what matters for defining culture is special intellectual and, here to follow, artistic (as one of abstract and highly appreciated) endeavor unique for human kind. If we unpack this definition of culture what can we notice?  Do all people in the world share the same intellectual or artistic capabilities? If not, is it possible to connect this definition with just small groups of people in some society or in different societies? If I or you accept this definition, do we make a step into a dangerous zone, when silently accepting division of human kind to two  groups, to those who posses special intellectual endeavor and to those who do not possess it?

Do we believe in a power of every single letter in United Nations Declaration of Human Rights?

Let`s explore the material deeper.

The second key thinker who should be mentioned in the lecture is Edward Taylor, with his work, Primitive Culture (1870). The work contrasts to Arnolds definition of culture. According to Taylor, culture is ” “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society”. Belonging to certain culture, no matter how developed is, forms the key description of every social group on the global scale. But despite the fact that Taylor recognized a process of evolution (or, to say in, a process of transition) in societies for which he established the distinction –  “savaged” to those qualified as “civilized” , Franz Boas, the third key thinker on culture, emphasized the uniqueness and values of the many and varied cultures of different peoples or societies. He also disagreed with differentiating societies (cultures) from primitive to developed. Every society, no matter how limited (small) might be with the number of its members, owns unique and so, to be appreciated culture.

Students are encouraged to address their claims and counterclaims to issues of globalization and culture and to point out to knowledge issues which might be generated from said.

  • components of culture ( observable artifacts, values, basic underlaying assumptions, by Helen Spencer-Oatey )

The explanation of difference between cultural relativists position in contrast to cultural ethnocentrism follows. So as an explanation about cultural imperialism.

  • Key thinkers on cultural and ethical relativism, Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict, Clyde Kluckhohn.

Cultural relativists, Boas, for instance, tended to diminish differences between people that were constructed and accepted in destructive ideologies such as Nazism, anti – Semitism, eugenics.  We are not different between ourselves because we belong to certain race. The only what makes us different is culture. However, Kluckhohn pointed out a strong counter claim to Benedict`s position when said that if we were to put in a range of equality variety of cultural characteristics (so as ethical, too) then we would have been in position to “precludes moral criticism of any cultural practice, including slavery, cannibalism, Nazism, or communism.” (Renato Rosaldo).

Rosaldo is an anthropologist who establishes strong distinction between layers that he found in ethnocentrism. According to his opinion, there are  three levels of ethnocentrism: a positive one, a negative one and an extreme negative one. When ethnocentrism is scaled on a positive level, it might be seen as “the point of view that one’s own way of life is to be preferred to all others” (Herskovits, p. 21).  But ethnocentrism becomes negative when an individual or one group aspires to  become the most important center of everything in a certain society and everyone else should accept that aspiration as mastering. Ethnocentrism  reaches its extreme negative level when “a more powerful group not only imposes its rule on another, but actively depreciates the things they hold to be of value” (Herskovits, p. 103). Horrendous crimes are examples of the extreme negative level of ethnocentrism.

On the other hand,  cultural imperialism tends to impose a set of norms on people who might not want to accept it. In the words of John Tomlinson, globalization destroyed autonomous cultural identities.

  • globalization is “a general process of loss of cultural diversity” (Tomlinson)


Closure: 15 minutes

  • culture is learned, not biologically conditioned
  • human nature versus culture
  • culture as individual and social construct, both

Evaluation of a class.

To assign a homework:

  • To watch and describe in a short essay  (200 – 300 words) reflection after watching the movie “The fifth estate”
  • when write the essay, to include in an answer reflection on the following questions:
  • To what extent is ethical to justify exposition of cultural imperialism?
  •  To what extent is valid theory of cultural relativism in a light of human rights defending?
  • To what extent is culture an individual construct in contrast to definition of culture as a matter of social construction?

Continue reading

Knowledge issues

If we want for students to understand essence of knowledge questions, we have to add to a discussion  one more part, dedicated to knowledge issues. The aim of learning how to formulate knowledge issues is to bring to light that magical connection which exists between us who are explorers of knowledge and the outer world.

But when mention this it is also important to add that we do not explore the world just in a manner of natural sciences, so to say, just with use of data, experiments and other sources for truth verification, characteristic for previously mentioned sciences. We urge to explore angles, corners, corridors and great halls of knowledge hidden in human relations, between individuals but in (or between) societies too. Let`s expand it to global scale! There is knowledge too! Knowledge was constructed somewhere, by some people, a long time ago. It is constructed today. After it had been constructed, it was a great chance that it was shaped or adopted for understanding in many different ways.  It is our task to explore this too. Some knowledge carries strength while other may bring on surface a lots of weaknesses. It is on us to learn what kind of different methods we can use in order to examine strong and weak points in some fact of knowledge. TOK separates knowledge issues in two groups, general knowledge issues and specific knowledge issues.

Students are advised to identify a range of knowledge issues in their presentations and essays.

According to the IBO, when formulate knowledge issues students have to take in consideration following:

  • they have to be open and about knowledge itself
  • they have to allow a possibility for developing a discussion
  • they have to allow a possibility for using multi – perspective analysis
  • they have to include in itself a range of terms of TOK vocabulary

Where we can find sources for generating knowledge issues? Everywhere.



Identifying knowledge issues


Understanding knowledge issues, the IBO (2009)






How do we formulate knowledge questions

I guess that my students are still confused. Not that just so many new terms appeared suddenly (knowledge, belief, certainty, uncertainty, warrantability, perception, reason, justification, claims, counter – claims, arguments, creativity, originality, evidence, experience, explanation, perspective, assumption etc.), now they have to deal with a proper constructing of knowledge questions. Albeit the essence of knowledge questions was explained during the one of previous lectures, there is some hunch in me, telling me that we have to dig deeper under the surface of these questions if we want to survive successfully days of exams.  I found as very useful explanations on knowledge questions given by E. Dombrowski, B. Ostrowski and T. Woods, so I decide to use them here, in order to explain the best as I can this issue to my students.

Opening: 15 minutes

Let`s remember what we talked about knowledge questions on one of previous TOK lectures.

Knowledge questions have to be open, general and about knowledge itself.

We can create knowledge questions in any field of knowledge (human sciences, natural sciences, math, arts, religion etc.). As well, we ask many questions every day while searching for an answer about something whether it is a particular fact or an information about something.  And the answer, no matter how truthful is (accurate), at the end of the day, is not about knowledge itself. Yes, we can say that we get knowledge of something but, again, if we don`t include multi – perspective analysis as we learn it in TOK, perhaps we are in danger to miss the full picture.

  • to show to on example of one knowledge fact how knowledge question ca be derived from it

Heavy rains caused floods in the part of Bosnia an Herzegovina in 2015. 

(first order claim)

If we take a look to this statement for a short we catch an information not just about bad weather but about natural disaster (“floods”) in one of regions of the world too. We even know when it happened. But we miss to catch a bigger picture. What caused the floods, for instance? How did people react to such disaster? Did anything evolve from that situation (from human aspect)? These are just some questions that might be raised on this factual information given in a single sentence.

To what extent natural disasters may increase changes in some society?

(second order claim)

This is more general, isn`t it?

Development: 60 minutes

According to Bryan Duffy (Sinarmas World Academy), we should ask further what are the key terms of knowledge given in the statement mentioned at the opening of the class. Do we notice any larger concept implied?

As it is said already, it is possible to generate knowledge claim from any  area of knowledge. But when go further in digging under the surface in the quest for knowledge, we have to come up with knowledge question  now.

Knowledge questions starts with some of the following phrases:

  • To what extent..
  • How ethical is..
  • Under what circumstances..
  • How much.. (justification, verification etc..)

The first short exercise for students:

  • Write knowledge claim from any area of knowledge chosen
  • Try to generate knowledge question from that knowledge claim.

Consider to think about following questions while write your own:

What kind of truth is possible to identify in your knowledge claim and knowledge question? On the other hand, is there any bias in your knowledge claim?  What kind of evidence you can use in order to support an investigation of your knowledge question generated from your knowledge claim? What kind of sources would you use in your investigation? Can you identify just one or more of contexts in your knowledge claim? Can your knowledge claim be justified by any mean of verification? When creating knowledge question do you include your personal knowledge in it? How important role play your past experience, prejudices, stereotypes while you write knowledge question?

We don`t ask for perfection now!

What might be useful for students is the second short exercise in this part of a class.

Their task is to create knowledge questions from terms given in two different groups. The first group contains terms: belief, certainty, culture, evidence, experience, explanation, interpretation, intuition, justification, truth, values. In the other groups are ways of knowing and areas of knowledge.

To emphasize that knowledge questions have to offer an opportunity for discussion. Before presented to the audience in a classroom they have to be judged by examples extracted from real world.

Closure: 15 minutes

Time for fun! And for homework to be assigned!

Listen the song on Flocabulary.com (Galileo Galilei, scientific method) for the better understanding of scientific method.

For homework:

Find one real life story, and in three steps work extract (first) first order knowledge questions, then four to five knowledge claims and then knowledge questions.



Flocabulary, Scientific method


Knowledge Questions


Knoweldge Question Rubric


How to formulate a good Knowledge Question?, Ostrowski, Barbara