Theories of truth

The question what is truth and how it can be discovered has been one of the major issues in philosophy for more then 2500 years.  Since the days of Tales and the first physicians till today, to modern philosophers this question stays provocative and intriguing, too. But no matter how many different theories was offered to readers worldwide, still philosophy has not offered an accurate answer to that question. Science? Can science offer answers to countless number of questions about everything we raise every day?  Even today when  development of science is so progressive, we claim that some things, claims, explanations etc. cannot be verified or proved by scientific methods. We can measure the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, for instance.  Or, we can discover the four new chemical elements, we can work on decoding of human DNA chain. We can claim that something is really true because it was proved by the word of science but what about questions that we call metaphysical, supernatural and all that are beyond materia visible or the observable world ? Have we found answers to questions about the first cause of the Universe? Or who have supremacy in owning the right answer about God, theist or atheist? How can we measure love or can we do it all? For how many universes we know?  Enquirers search for truth every day. Some of them prefer the word of science, others are keen to accept rational explanations. The danger lies in opinions who pretend to be the only and one truth. The history of human kind has been witnessing to numerous attempts of people (individuals) or different groups who wanted to put on a pedestal truth for which they claimed it was only acceptable. If one or a group pretends to posses truth, we might get in a dangerous situation. Every dangerous political ideology was lead by one truth. Many atrocities were done in the name of one truth. Terms that we connect with supremacy of one truth are dogma, prejudices,  bias, ideology (in negative context) etc. And, finally, while finishing an intro to the lecture, we have to ask ourselves when a scientific proof becomes  scientism, and therefore, forced to be accepted as the only truth.
Class time: 90 minutes

Goals and objectives:

Students are able to:

  •  identify different theories of truth and where they can be applied

  • discuss investigation methods with others

  •  share ideas about the quality of the inquiry process

  • develop formal criteria while evaluating  quality of their own statements so as statements of other people

  • understand that every theory of truth can reveal truth only to certain degree

  • understand that truth is not absolute always

truth

Opening: 15 minutes

An introductory part of a class starts with a short explanation what is logic. Then follows an announcement that we will extract some things from logic such as coherent theory of truth, correspondence theory of truth and the pragmatist theory of truth, with examples added, in order to deepen this lecture.

Two definitions of logic, according to Hofweber Thomas  (“Logic and Ontology”) are:

” Logic is the study of certain mathematical properties of artificial, formal languages. It is concerned with such languages as the first or second order predicate calculus, modal logics, the lambda calculus, categorial grammars, and so forth”  and

“A second discipline, also called ‘logic’, deals with certain valid inferences and good reasoning based on them. It does not, however, cover good reasoning as a whole.”

  • examples given for warming up:

2+2 = 4

The sky is clear today.

An illness is a part of life.

Students are asked to think about the amount of truth said in these statements and to discover is there any difference between said. What kind of knowledge is exposed in these statements?

Development: 60 minutes

Our knowledge (about everything) depends of its coherence with thinking or its correspondence with reality.  It doesn`t mean if we believe that something is true, it is true. Every of proposed theories of truth aim to offer an explanation of truth in its own manner. For instance, we usually say that two different things cannot be equal at the same time. Something is and something is not at the same time in the language of logic, and there is no way between two of that.  When something cannot be different from itself in the very same moment, we proof that according to law of non- contradiction.  A = A. Aristotle was the one who introduced the world with this law, aiming to define distinction(s) between everything that exists. A ofrog is different then a horse. Or a house is different then a penthouse (distinctions based on its qualities). Although we can claim that we see the sun while it rains. It happens sometimes although very rare. Or that we see the sun on the sky while the moon starts to appear.

However, let`s not forget that TOK is not philosophy.

Qualities of theories of truth should be justification and evidence. Or we will find a rational way to justify certain statement (through philosophical thinking) or we will seek for empirical evidences when want to proof something.

  • It is useful to mention here the difference between false and true beliefs.

People believed for centuries that the Earth was the center of the Universe. false belief

Dogs are devoted to humans. true belief 

  • After that goes the story about  justification. Warrantability.

Here comes the more complicated part of an explanation of the lecture.

Classification of warrantability:

  • Logical warrantability – laws of logicl

This kind of warrantability is found in language and thinking. Something is true because it is logical.

  • Semantic warrantability – analyzing the meaning of words

How do we define something? How do we express something? How people perceive what we say to them?

  • Systemic warrantability

The Pythagorean theorem (an all axioms in mathematics)

  • Derive warranty from logic interdependence of all propositions in a deductive system
  • Empirical warrantability – confirmatory relation to specific qualities of first person experience

  • different documents used as proofs
  • Testimonial warrantability

Few people witnessed to see a theft in a store across the street.

But what if reality is different that the picture seen no matter how strong is wish to believe in something perceived by sense perception?

In addition to said, an explanation of difference between correspondence theory of truth and coherence theory of truth can be continued.

What we say (or for what we claim that is true) has to be in correspondence with observable reality. It can be verified by experiments, for instance.

Students are asked to guess which sentence  is adequate for correspondence theory of truth.

Dogs prefer to eat meat.

Obi wan Kenobi used more then once his light sabre against Darth Vader. 

When finish with an explanation of coherence theory of truth thoughts of Descartes, Kant and Hume on discovering truth will added to the explanation.

After this part of the lecture students may do a quick exercise. They can write on a sheet of paper examples of three different sentences. The first one statement would be “a statement according to Descartes explanation of truth”, the second would be “a statement according Hume`s understanding of truth” and the third would be “a statement according Kant`s understanding of truth”.

When they finish the exercise, few students may read what they wrote.

Very TOK part of this TOK (in my humble opinion) class might be spot right here (although I predict how boring this might be to students) , when realist point of view with antirepresentationalist point of view.

Realists say that it truth (as we mentioned already when talked about correspondence theory of truth) only what can be noticed by sense perception and verified experimentally. Antirepresentationalists, such as Kant, say that we are not able to understand complete truth while not being able to leave the space of our own subjectivity.

Supporters of coherence theory of truth say that is true in what they believe in. 

Questions for students:

Can we apply coherence theory of truth for those who we call (radical) religious believers or just for those who believe that belief is equal to truth? Or is more evident, no matter how surprisingly this might sound, that coherence theory of truth is accepted in many court rooms?

The last part of the development part of class is dedicated to pragmatist theory of truth.

According to pragmatists, something is taken as truth of it works!

And the last for an explanation in this lecture is – The Ewe Creativity Test

What is so beautiful about this theory of truth is its core idea – it not enough that something works (as this would be accepted criteria for pragmatists), it has to improve a quality of human life.

(an example is offered here)

Closure: 15 minutes

  • to critically evaluate all the components of the lecture  with students (Have they understood everything what was said during the lecture time? What did they like the most? What did they dislike?)
  • to open 10 – minutes discussion about truth with students
  • to assign a homework for them:
  • They have to find two examples of truth that is revealed in Zen buddhism and in the religions of the Book

 

References:

Helen Mitchell, Roots of Wisdom: A Tapestry of Philosophical Traditions

https://books.google.ba/books?id=PcCiAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA271&lpg=PA271&dq=warrantability,++truth&source=bl&ots=pHlFRQ41Ou&sig=fW0Yfa7B0G09zADESKj4OLjBgRM&hl=hr&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjA9M6qiprKAhVpp3IKHZt0CGIQ6AEITDAH#v=onepage&q=warrantability%2C%20%20truth&f=false

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2014 Edition)

<http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2014/entries/logic-ontology/&gt;

Aristotle on Non – contradiction

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-noncontradiction/

Discover magazine, To the edge and back

http://discovermagazine.com/2014/sept/10-to-the-edge-and-back

Truth test

http://www.york.edu/fewheel/Intro%20Phil%20&%20Ethics/power%20points/Unit%203/Truth%20Tests,%20ch.%206.htm

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Skills, knowledge claims and knowledge questions

My dog is slipping, being tired after an hour of wandering around with me. It was snowing all day yesterday and I thought it would be nice to go out for a walk with the dog. But instead of seeing a picture of beautiful whiteness so often presented on postcards I saw only dirty streets, colored with dark shade of melted snow.  In few occasions I said “Hello” to my neighbors. In few occasions my wardrobe was splashed by cars passing by on streets. Here I claim that I had no skills to escape that. I`m struggling to write the best as I can my view to skills, knowledge claims and knowledge questions in TOK manner of understanding. (And here I asked myself did I just make a mistake when wrote “TOK manner of understanding”? Should I write “critical and open – minded manner in order not to be misunderstood?)

Class time: 90 minutes

Goals and objectives:

Students are able to develop  the ability to think more critically, solve problems, communicate effectively.

Opening: 15 minutes

Questioning and research:

Questions for reflection at the beginning of this class might be.. What do we usually consider as skill(s)? Is it something familiar with scenes in TV shows when Barry Grills succeeds to survive in every situation in every possible part of the world?  Were our ancient ancestors skillful when they found fire? Do we say for us, when prepare a beautiful lunch, that we are skillful in cooking or just talented? Do we need to be experienced in something in order to be skillful too?  Can we count how many skills do we have?

Development: 60 minutes

As an introduction to this part of the class students are introduced with an explanation of a term “skill”.

According to few different definitions (the Cambridge dictionary, the Oxford dictionary, Merriam – Webster) skill is your ability to do something on a basis of previously adopted knowledge. So, here is again knowledge in game! But if you don`t think how to transform knowledge about something in a concrete skill, it might be useless?  So, we have to search for a link between knowledge and skill in use (Let`s just say “skill in use”!). And that link is reflection. Reflection, how we perceive it in TOK,  might be described as the process that happens in your brain and transforms every sensory information you receive in a day through participation in numerous situations, in a cognitive process.  Of course, it is possible to talk about different meanings of reflection such as reflection of light, reflection in mirror, reflection of sound, waves etc. But explanations of skill and reflection are useless until students don`t reach a conclusion how they know to do something.

Students analyze different sources to identify motivations, values and attitudes that are in connection with the topic of a lecture.

 

Students critically evaluate information and ideas from a range of sources in relation to skill and knowledge topics and issues.

The emphasis in discussion is on explanation how we have to pass certain steps in process of skill mastering.  When you master your skill, you will become able to demonstrate it independently of anyone.

The next step in lesson development:

  • identifying what is know how knowledge
  • identifying dimensions of knowledge
  • explain to students meaning of terms such as “episteme” and “techne”, used in philosophy of Plato but Aristotle too.
  • offer different examples of know how knowledge so as those that can be applied to dimensions of knowledge

Again I have to say that is not my intention to go to too deep into philosophy when I explain difference between episteme and techne in understanding of Plato and Aristotle.  But the discussion on said might open the door for provocative questions. If Plato considers episteme as only true and valid knowledge, knowledge of ideas (beauty, goodness, justice..), and that to know means to know how to be a moral person, how can we apply that to modern era? It was Plato`s opinion that only philosophers could reach true knowledge, not farmers or guardians in his ideal society, as it was described so in Republic. So, one very small group of people was predestined for becoming owners of ultimate degree of knowledge. Does it mean that today, if we apply ideas in his philosophy literately , only super educated people or super genius might be in possession of true knowledge? What about the rest of humanity? Is an information the only true knowledge today then?

On the other hand, Aristotle stood on different position when appreciated values of different craft skills and thinking that every skill when used with purpose had to be appreciated. And the purpose of skills used was to improve functioning of a society (polis, in this case). No matter are we talk about a skill of a carpenter or a skill of a politician. Students might be asked what is more valuable today, to get into possession of right information or to know to work something in an excellent manner?

We can go further in exploration of skills, knowledge claims and knowledge question.

Every time when we claim something, no matter what, we say knowledge claim. It is a sunny day today. I know that is a sunny day today. I claim something being sure in truth of my words. I pass my knowledge further, to my colleague or a group of people.  In words of E. Dombrowski, knowledge claims are “zone of exchange between people and groups.” (Theory of knowledge Course Companion, 2013)

She, also, proposes a distinction of knowledge claims to claims of:

  • statements of personal observation
  • statements of values or value judgments
  • statements of observation
  • metaphysical statements
  • statements of prediction
  • hypothetical statement

Students can “play” with all of these statements in a game of quiz. One of students may go in a front part of a classroom and write a statement on a smart board. Other students then should guess which type of statement he wrote on a board.

The last part od development part of a class is dedicated to knowledge questions.  What would be knowledge questions? Is it something to metaphysical to understand? Or we can try to figure out knowledge questions in a blink of an eye? From my own experience, students find as troublesome to define knowledge question very fast after being introduced with this issue.  At the very opening of this chapter I use to say to them that these questions are questions about knowledge, that they have open and general form. But what does it mean to them when they hear it for the first time? Nothing. So I give an example of an open question to them. Here I find as useful to use examples of titles of TOK essays from exams in previous years.

For instance, “Knowledge takes the form of a combination of stories and facts.” How accurate is this claim in two areas of knowledge?” (exams November 2014,www.theoryofknoweldge.net)

Students are not familiar with areas of knowledge yet so I explain to them that they can extract an example from any science they prefer to investigate. I emphasize how open and general form of question offers a possibility of doing research in a multiple – perspective analysis.

For instance, it we take as a truth the title given, we can take in consideration for research stories described in holly scriptures in different religions. However, TOK learns students to think critically. So, we have to investigate one more area of knowledge. For instance, natural sciences. Can stories be taken as a truth in sciences? Without any method of justification applied before taken as a truth? No.

But here we are almost at the end of a story. We have to go back to its beginning. And the beginning lies in an explanation of steps that must be taken in order to understanding  beauty and varieties of possibilities for exploration of knowledge questions when given in open and general form.

Closure: 15 minutes

Time for reflection and evaluation of the lecture.

  • Drawing conclusions about issues taught  and its connections with many different issues which are important in the context of time
  • Assessing the usefulness of sources to an understanding of a significance of knowledge itself so as knowledge questions
  • identifying  steps where methods could be improved

 

 

References:

Eileen Dombrowski, Lena Rotenberg, and Mimi Bick. Theory of Knowledge Course Companion (in cooperation with the IB). Oxford University Press, 2013.

Australian Curriculum

http://v7-5.australiancurriculum.edu.au/?dnsi=1

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Knowledge  How  

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/knowledge-how/

Theory of knowledge, TOK essay, session November 2014http://www.theoryofknowledge.net/tok-essay/november-2014-tok-essay-titles/

 

Oxford dictionaries

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/reflection

The Cambridge dictionary

http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/reflection

Merriam – Webster dictionary

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/reflection

You Tube:

Nikola Tesla vs Thomas Edison: How The Course Of History Was Changed
Henry Ford
Cristiano Ronaldo – Talent and Skill

 

 

images

You are a wanderer. And you are beautiful.

Lesson plan for ways of knowing

Class time – 90 minutes

Learning outcomes:

  • students will be introduced with ways of knowing in TOK
  • they will be develop/extend TOK vocabulary and practice listening to instructions
  • they will understand how ways of knowing are important “tools” in every cognitive process

 

Opening – 15 minutes

How do we know? What kind of tools do we use we get to know something? Do we believe more to what we hear, see, touch or to what is told to us?  How do we use both of said when construct our knowledge? Do we have any system or principle according to which we check or justify our knowledge? Does assumptions, stereotypes or prejudices play role in building of our pyramid of knowledge?

Beside these, there are so many questions that many of us haven`t asked ourselves so far. We take for granted that is truth what we see, what we hear or what we sense. But what if we have more then five sense perception? Have we ever think about it in that manner? What about people who had created so genius theories that later on, after process of justification, become accepted as truths? How did they come to invent such theories?  What do we use when classify all information which we get on daily level?

Anais-Nin-quote.jpg

 

Students can follow the instructions: class will be split in few groups  as there are too many students to do the activity at the same time. After joining to chosen group team members are asked to think about these questions. The leader  of group will offer answers to questions after the discussion  between members of group finishes.

Development – 60 minutes

When the first half of the development part of class finishes, the second half can be split into two parts.

In the first part of this part of class (How does this sound?) students introduce explanation of new terms used in TOK, such as reason versus reasoning and sense perception versus perception.

Reason is in TOK explained as a possibility to be rational (rationality), when we are able to make an agreement with our reason. On the other hand, reason is in many dictionaries explained as motivation for doing/ thinking of  something – although is in TOK understood as rationality.

Perception is explained as a way we perceive something and that is different (although connected with understanding of role and power of) then  sense perception. Possession of sense perception includes receiving information through senses we have – seeing, hearing, touch,tasting etc.

In addition to said students will watch a short video about sensation and perception. There is also one more (among so many others, I have to admit!) so interesting video about “top brain bottom brain”. Time for discussion is open!

Students are also introduced with faith, imagination, intuition, emotion and memory as ways of knowing and encouraged  to describe,  by using an example from personal experience, the way how different ways of knowing work together. The goal of this assignment is to show to them how interactive ways of knowing are.

One more assignment for students might be included in this class. First they separate themselves in pairs. Then they should try to explain to a colleague in a pair some scientific theory. They are allowed to choose any they want to. How difficult it might be? To try to explain a scientific theory to someone without use on any kind of language? It is possible at all?  Students are also asked which ways of knowing they have to use in order to explain a scientific theory to a colleague in a group? Is it just language or there must be something more? Reason? Memory?  Even imagination?

Now we see that we use ways of knowing not just for collecting knowledge but for sharing too. Teacher told to students explanation of X scientific theory.  He/ she passes knowledge to students then.

Students become aware of significant role of ways of knowing.

Closure – 15 minutes

We do reflection of material taught in this part of a class. Options include summarising  the learning achievements/analysing errors; preparation for future assignments etc.

Resources used on a class:.

Experiental knowledge

Timing – 45 minutes in total

Goals and objectives:

The students will be able to:

-Develop/extend TOK vocabulary

– Adopt new understanding of importance of knowledge

Opening – 10 minutes

They like to talk. They like to be asked. They like to offer so interesting answers! I`m talking about my students, of course. And it seems that a discussion about experiental knowledge might be very interesting for them.  We already talked about personal and shared knowledge, about “I know” knowledge and “we know because it was shared among” knowledge. But we didn` talk about knowledge that consists of direct experience component and the component of reflection.

At the beginning  of the class I ask them are they able to sum all of their life experience in a single text or an explanation? How many pages would it take to create a book of such an explanation?  Their answers are always interesting for further reflection.

Developing – 35 minutes

This part of the class starts with the story of the first philosophers in ancient Greece who we call “the first physicians” . The aim of said is not to go deep into philosophy, rather to explain to them how amazing were some people in the ancient past, who wanted to discover what was the first (the first principle of creation, the first element) and how different was the beginning of physics compering with the modern physics. An explanation about Tales, Anaximenes, Anaximander, Heraclites, Democrites and other presocratic philosophers knowledge-is-limited-wallpapers_31089_1366x768should be shorter in comparison with typical philosophical explanations. The accent in TOK is not on philosophy although we welcome philosophical thoughts when on classes of TOK. The objective in this part of lesson development is to indroduce them with an application of experience in the first theories who offered fertile soil for later foundation and development of other sciences. In addition to this explanation students may watch a video of Murray Gell – Mann`s TED talk and after watching the video, they may give comments on it. They are also asked it is possible to construct personal knowledge (that might become a part of shared knowledge) without an involvement of personal experience so as reflection later on?

Closure – 10 minutes

This is a time for class activity. Students are ask to think for few minutes about one experience that happened in their life and then to explain the role of that experience in constructing of their personal knowledge.

Resources used on a class and for homework:

Students are  advised to read an article “Life experiences are critically important” for homework.

http://deepexistence.com/life-experiences-are-critically-important/

Introduction to my Theory of knowledge blog

 

I`ve just woken up and saw such a snowing scene on the other side of my window`s glass here in Banjaluka, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Then I thought how many people in the world have never heard for my country. But is it really important for me today? No, it is not. So, here I am, somewhere in the space of Internet while trying to create my very first post on this blog.  What I would like to achieve is weekly publishing my Theory of Knowledge lesson plans.  So, for the very beginning here is my TOK curriculum for the younger generation of the IBDP students.

September 
½ Introduction with the annual`s plan and program
3/ 4 What is knowledge/ Types of knowledge (personal,shared, experiental knowledge)
5/6 How do we know? Introduction to ways of knowing
7/8 Skills, knowledge claims and knowledge questions

October 
9/10 How do we formulate knowledge questions
11/12 Culture and knowledge (influence of culture in shaping knowledge of an individual and groups)
13/14 Religion and culture
15/16 Sense perception/ How can we know if our senses are reliable?

November 
1st week holidays
17/18 Language, How does language shape knowledge?
19/20 Does the importance of language in an area of knowledge ground it in a particular culture?
21/22 Reason/ What is the difference between reason and logic?

December 
23/24 How reliable is inductive reasoning?/ Rational versus irrational
25/26 Emotion
27/28 Faith/ Should humanism or atheism be described as a faith?
29/30 Can theistic beliefs be considered knowledge because they are produced by a special cognitive faculty or “divine sense”?

January
31/32 Does faith meet a psychological need?

February 
33/34 Areas of knowledge
35/36 Human sciences /The origin of human sciences
37/38 The relationship between the human sciences and the natural sciences
39/40 Observation and the effect of the observer

March 
37/38 Prediction, trends and laws / Knowledge questions
39/40 Natural sciences/ The scientific method/
41/42 Scientific revolutions and paradigm shifts
43/44 History / Reliability of sources/ Objectivity in history

April
Holidays from April 3rd to April 10th 
41/42 The relationship between history and human sciences
43/44 Progress and patterns in history
45/ 46 Ethics/ Emotion and reason in ethics/ Ethical dilemmas

May
47/48 Ethical theories (utilitarianism, virtue ethics, Kantian theory)/ Ethical language
49/50 Religious knowledge systems /
51/52 Religious language
53/54 Religious experience and miracles/ religious pluralism
June
51/ 52 Indigenous knowledge systems/ The nature and role of artifacts
53/54 The impact of technology on the relationship between indigenous people and their environment

References:

Theory of knowledge guide, 2015