Tok Essay Disagreement

Title 5 – TOK Essay May 2017 KQ 6 : How do ‘Emotion’ and ‘Reason’ affect the disagreements between experts within a discipline?


When disagreements of the nature like the proper use of statistics , or about the fundamental assumptions or concepts occur , there are rational ways , by the means of arguments and evidence ,to deal and reconcile with , in a particular discipline.

“For example, in the early 20th century, the advent of quantum mechanics utterly transformed physics. Before 1900, most physicists subscribed to the Newtonian idea that all physical systems operate according to deterministic laws in which outcomes can predicted with certainty if one knows enough about the initial conditions. Quantum physicists, such as Neils Bohr, Max Planck, and Werner Heisenberg, rejected this idea, based on their interpretation of experiments designed to test whether electromagnetic radiation acts as a particle or a wave. They proposed that physical systems at the atomic scale operate according to probabilistic laws, and that outcomes cannot be predicted with certainty. Albert Einstein abhorred the idea of quantum indeterminacy, and he spent many years trying to prove that this phenomenon is an artifact of experiments and their interpretations, and that the world is fundamentally deterministic.”

On the contrary , is it not possible to see the same things and interpret and process in multiple ways? Even a knower undergoes a change in beliefs, thoughts , existing prior knowledge , level of understanding , nature of emotion and reason. Besides the multiple perspectives , disagreements and conflicting knowledge claims are not immune from the presence of multiple biases, uncertainty and eternal infallibility.

Disagreements can be resolved by producing new facts, concepts, and theories and ideas, but can never be resolved from emotionally and financially charged positions.

Taking example of the ‘ Climate Change ‘ controvery and the associated disagreements : “First, the standard official concept of global warming increasingly seems to be invalid.  It’s predictions about rising temperatures, melting of polar icecaps, and alarming changes in weather patterns do not match reality.   Second, the complexity of this controversy is enormous.  In addition to science, it involves finances, politics, industries, and governments.  Arguments involve much more than scientific facts and figures; egos, emotions, careers, repression of questions, and, predictions of alarming disasters are prominent.  Third, the use of “global” in the questions being addressed is questionable because there are very many quite different regions and different human activities involved; many so-called global datapoints actually are averages or extrapolations.  How exactly can the temperature in Nepal be meaningfully averaged with that of Greenland, New York City, Tunis, and Tahiti?  Similarly, how can the different human activities within these 5 parts of our planet be averaged in a meaningful way?  Fourth, this long dispute has been made more difficult for science to resolve by the uncovering of data manipulations and repressions of dissent .”

Get the exact title from your ToK Teacher, the approximation of the title above is due to copyright reasons.

Obviously if you choose this essay you’re going to spend time discussing the concept of Robust. Your definitions should be developed in terms of knowledge, they should be AoK based (ie the 2 AoK that you are discussing), they could even draw upon the Knowledge Framework (especially the scope & applications section of the KF). You can do so much better than just cite a generic dictionary definition of Robust, you’re better than that, you’re a ToK student !

For example, in Historical KS it could be argued that Robust Knowledge is knowledge which is widely supported by different types of evidence, and agreed by the majority of historians. Whilst in Indigenous KS it could be argued that Robust Knowledge is not only hegemonic, but forms a core part of identity/PK to the extent that the knower is unable to separate themselves from the knowledge. – You should develop your own definitions for your chosen AoK.

Similarly, you can explain what constitutes consensus and disagreement within each AoK. For example, disagreement in the Natural Sciences can be a quite different process to disagreement in Religious Knowledge Systems. In Nat Sci’s, it could be argued, that disagreement is inherent to the process of knowledge production, whereas in RKS it could be argued that disagreement is representative of a decrement in the knowledge production process. You should develop your own definitions for your chosen AoK.

Your choice of AoKs is going to be key when writing this essay. I would recommend trying to use contrasting AoKs in order to help you to develop your claims/counterclaims and consequently, a more evaluative approach. Consider the role of disagreement/consensus in the methodology of knowledge production in each AoK, look at the Knowledge Framework for help. The stronger the contrast between the two AoKs the easier it will be to draw contrasts. Obviously you should also choose AoK of which you are knowledgeable, and that interest you. I think that IKS (& to an extent RKS) are really good contrasts to the Hypothetico-Deductive focussed Sciences & Maths (both of which largely embrace disagreement as a core part of the process).

Consider the Knowledge Production processes of the IKS. The Knowledge Framework for IKS states that part of the methodology of Knowledge Production is ” the oral tradition handing down through the generations—role of memory“, and ” ritual—shared emotion“. It could be argued that both of these processes are about establishing consensus and eschewing disagreement. A student looking at this AoK could then use these methods of knowledge production to explore the role that they play in building robust / non robust knowledge in AoK IKS. You can do similar for the AoK that you are considering. Start with the Knowledge Framework, and develop your arguments outwards from there.

The ToK Essay criteria requires students to consider the implications of the conclusions of their arguments. This is an area which is often neglected by students, to their disadvantage. The implications of the conclusions of this PT are particularly pertinent, and cogent, in these times of ‘alternative facts’, and ‘expert shaming’. If we conclude that consensus & disagreement are required for robust knowledge then this would imply that there is a need to protect the right of freedom of speech, to support the independence of academic research bodies, to maintain academic research funding regardless of the results of such research. It could be argued that there are potential dangers in terms of the quality of knowledge when we start to have degrees of ‘facts’.

In summary, this is a fairly straightforward essay if students focus on the knowledge production processes, and the quality of the knowledge outcomes from that process. Be very wary of getting bogged down in the RLS, this is the biggest danger in writing this essay. Finally, spend time reading & understanding the Knowledge Framework for your chosen AoK, especially the Methodology Section of the Knowledge Framework.

Enjoy your writing !


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