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Marriott 1

Kade Marriott

Mr.Dunn

TOK 1

19 December 2017

TOK 1 PT

3. How is knowledge gained? What are the sources? To what extent might these

vary according to age, education or cultural background?

In order to address the question about how knowledge is gained and from what

sources, one needs to first think about how knowledge is garnered; whether it be

through sensory perception, language, emotion or reason. These rudimentary “channels

by which unprocessed information enters the mind” are utilized to process this

information and form “knowledge” (Dunn). Areas of knowledge classify different kinds of

knowledge and expertises, providing a way for knowledge to be accepted and justified

in its respective field. When considering what sources or ways of knowing are used to

gain knowledge, a question arose: how are some ways of knowing more useful in some

areas of knowledge than others? In this essay I will attempt to demonstrate how

knowledge is gained and from what sources through the natural sciences and arts, and

how these sources of gaining knowledge vary in an individual.

The natural sciences are sciences “that are explained by natural causation and

are not affected by the intentions of their object” such as physics and biology (Dunn).

These sciences utilize sensory perception, reason and even language to start from
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simple observations made on a daily basis to universally accepted laws and theories.

The natural sciences rely on the scientific method to “provide an explanation based on

impartial research backed by rigorous checks and balances, and not belief” (Dunn,

Michael). Due to the objective nature of the natural sciences, and their reliance on

empirical evidence, sensory perception is key in gaining knowledge in this field. The

natural sciences depend on the senses to observe the world around us in order to

formulate hypotheses to question existing theories or to propose new ways to explain

natural occurences. Without any senses such as sight and hearing, there would be no

way to gather raw data from our environment, making it impossible to observe anything

occurring around them; they would be “in the dark”. Natural scientists place much

greater value on things they can physically see or see evidence for, rather than the

subjective, as in the human sciences. When a scientist observes a phenomena

repeatedly using sensory perception, they may start may come to a hypothesis using

observationalist-inductionism. This brings us to our second way of knowing: Reason.

After this scientist uses his/her senses to see the said phenomena occurring

repeatedly, they use reason to interpret this raw data garnered from his senses and

make a conclusion, by interpreting the patterns that are evident. Using the

observationalist-inductionism approach, they reason out that because this event is

happening in the same way, repeatedly, then it will happen in the future in this same

way. The newly formed hypothesis is tested, the results are published and peer

reviewed and as no one refutes it, it becomes a theory and after time a law. Even

though this seems the logical procession of the scientific method using reason, it cannot

be true. Nothing in the natural sciences can be proved with 100% certainty, so therefore
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“ the purpose of science is not to show that things are true, rather that things are false…

we are not so much interested in theories that are true as we are theories that are not

false” (Dunn, Michael). Keeping this is mind, it means that a scientific hypothesis

striving to become knowledge has to be potentially falsifiable.

The scientific method is an effective way of rooting out any false scientific

evidence or potential knowledge. Any information/evidence attempting to pass on to

become knowledge has to endure a number of steps in the scientific method, passing

peer review, replication and falsification. When a hypothesis is tested and ready to be

reviewed and published, language is used to communicate with fellow scientisits and

other experts in the field who can provide invaluable information, who can

replicate/falisify your testing. Knowledge in the natural sciences has to pass both the

correspondence and the coherence truth test to become an accepted truth or

knowledge claim. However, the coherence test is not always necessary as the networks

of accepted theories and observations that these new knowledge claims are being

compared with or are trying to be fit into “are not themselves infallible” (Dunn). One

example of this is with Albert Einstein. His theory of relativity completely shook up the

existing accepted knowledge claims, which were largely Newton’s discoveries and

theories, and turned them upside down, and completely challenged the system in place.

Einstein’s theories were eventually accepted, proved, and are now the standing system

of accepted truths and claims. These methods of gaining knowledge in the field of

natural sciences ensure that only tried and tested claims become accepted knowledge

in this community. Sources such as sense perception, reason and language all play vital

roles in the acquiring of knowledge, especially through the scientific method.


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The arts encompass a completely different realm, being the embodiment of what,

most of the time, the natural sciences aren’t. This area of knowledge “concerns human

actions neither done as a means to some further end nor as a common standard by

which all actions should be judged” (Dunn). The arts are a medium for the artisit to

illustrate their own different view and take on whatever it is they are trying to convey;

thus each and every piece of art should be unique and can be interpreted in many

different ways. The artisit’s use of the abstract is extremely important in creating