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TOK ESSAY

USING HISTORY AND AT LEAST ONE OTHER


AREA OF KNOWLEDGE, EXAMINE THE
CLAIM THAT IT IS POSSIBLE TO ATTAIN
KNOWLEDGE DESPITE PROBLEMS OF BIAS
AND SELECTION

Word Count: 1576 words

Q3: USING HISTORY AND AT LEAST ONE OTHER AREA OF KNOWLEDGE,


EXAMINE THE CLAIM THAT IT IS POSSIBLE TO ATTAIN KNOWLEDGE
DESPITE PROBLEMS OF BIAS AND SELECTION
Oh look dad, this chicken produce white balls, can I take one of them and play? was my
reaction once, when I saw a coop. My dad explained me that those balls were just eggs. It was
a simple but I was not convinced since I knew how eggs I ate in the morning and balls looked
like. Besides, I was six years old and I thought I could not be wrong. When my memento is
recalled after years, I realized how easily my perception could push me away from the true
knowledge of eggs. However, I was also aware of many other things despite my bias. As well,
the claim proposes that my justification may lead me the true belief although bias. It is
accepted that some writings of history affected by biases, and knowledge cannot be confident.
Therefore, such sources are likely to be ignored. However, this would be distortion where
knowledge is still present even it is delicately biased.
Having existence in any dynamic society, not only one but also several definitions are
revealed on knowledge. For instance, dictionaries proposed the most wide description of
knowledge as a familiarity with someone or something unknown, which can
include information, facts, descriptions, or skills acquired through experience or education.
However, the sources and the areas of knowledge can be broadly defined while the evidences
of it scarce. Many factors, which compose the existence of knowledge, are recognized.
However, the process of acquiring knowledge has been insufficient to be shaped. On the other
hand, Plato, the famous philosopher expressed knowledge as "justified true belief by
revealing the proof of it.3
Likewise, the claim highlights and links justified true belief to the way of attaining
knowledge3. However, this claim may result in two scenarios. Firstly, one could reach the

true by assuming knowledge by generalizations. Secondly, since the claim may fail to
consider the role of subjective interpretations of the truth and each individual could have
different conclusions of the object.
As describing knowledge in form of either a common point of view or subjective
interpretations2, attaining knowledge may said to follow through three stages: First, the
knower, perceives the origin of knowledge, afterwards attributes the basis of knowledge
and finally shapes the area of knowledge4. In this respect, origins of knowledge may include
culture, beliefs, emotions, experiences, environment and media. Since the origins indicate and
base on where all ideas came from, they would be uncountable. At basis stage (as proof of
knowledge), where the ideas are shaped, the process mostly depends on the knower
himself/herself. To accomplish the basis of knowledge, people perceive the source and make
assumptions, associations or communications, then use their reasoning systems (which were
shaped from experiences, backgrounds or beliefs). Afterwards, people would recognize the
true belief on their own either by a generalization of an event in comparison to all other events
(inducing); or by drawing conclusion of all events to a particular event (deducing). Thus,
through this diversion, there is no single notion what people suppose objectively experienced,
is the result of their subjective interpretation of the knowledge instead.
In the search for truth, the issue of r believing in something true eventually would be taken
under the umbrella. As well, origin of knowledge arises from searching the existence of a
creator. Questioning right and wrong, the purpose of life, the life after death and praying may
be the basis of knowledge. However, the process of gaining knowledge did not varied much.
During societies reasoning process, many different areas of religion has suggested such as
theism (the existence of one creator), atheism (not believing a creators existence) or
pantheism (the belief of creator and the nature and agnosticism (indeterminism of a creators
existence).3

At one point, perception would be associated with bias and selection in other words
subjective interpretation. Hence, people would be curious to make sense of what they have
experienced. In terms of gaining knowledge, every individual would follow a different path,
which represents a different perception and reasoning of the truth.
For example, in the process of religion, faith took a role in religion as proof of knowledge.
For some, religion is probably one of the few beliefs in this world where people do not need
to rely on facts or evidence. For another people, the faith is built upon duality or nature.
However, faith could be subjectively, in other words, individually alluring but the knowledge
that is acquired from faith cannot be passed exactly to another individual. Even in the same
religion, people would like to form sects inside their society because of conceptual
differences. Therefore, people can manage to make the different inferences even sources are
the same (like the same religious book or prophet). Perhaps, this is because every individual
has his/her own understanding as own perception or interpretation of the world.5
One could compare bias to a strainer. For instance, assume you are wearing red sunglasses. In
this case, if you were asked to describe things you were seeing, you would describe them with
red tones. Hence, you would reveal a red bias. Similarly, we all perceive life with our
sunglasses. Individuals unique interpretation of the world differs by their strainer colors like
culture, religion, idealism, race or gender. However, most people would prefer to make
generalizations and predictions to reduce the complexity of assessments and have a superficial
knowledge. Therefore, we could not say that bias or selection is always something bad but
sometimes they may lead people to errors.1
It is accepted that some writings of history affected by biases, and knowledge cannot be
confident. Therefore, such sources are likely to be ignored by historians. which would be
distortion. Because, history is known to consist both facts and interpretations; and the matter

is to interpret and choose between facts. When a historical event took place, several steps
appear and a historian follows every step by the historians selection in order to provide a
content, aim and expectation. Reasoning of the historian is important because; it builds the
historical realities into a pattern, distinguishes the sensible, then make categorization and
classification. The share of true knowledge can be found in this combination; then the
writings and books of history may seem to offer a widespread sense that the history is
objective. However, since it is hard to study all of the events that had occurred in the history,
only some events are selected to be studied and presented by depending on each historian
perception of events significance of reflecting truth. Hence, could one decide what is
subjectively true instead of objectively true because of his/her selection? In fact, for centuries
it could be noticed that, not only individual historians, but also countries may perceive
historical conflicts or arguments differently as a part of the history and present it.
Throughout history, societies tried to establish a best way of government for the perfect
society6. In 1700s, England and some other countries were administrating by absolute
monarchy. Since the proletariats were not happy about their situations, objections aroused.
The French Revolution took place in 17898. While several social groups desired democratic
rights such as social and formal equality and justice and freedom, France and United
Kingdom maintained that they would not change the existing system. Here, the key factor,
(how bias of individuals affects their reasoning and decision making systems) was indicated.
Therefore, the selection of governments and workers separately revealed different outcomes.
At the end, how could those revolutions, rebels, wars, renaissances or reforms became to real
if someone have not reason the system and have his/her bias?
In addition, the understanding of art has been discussed most times. Especially the term
beautiful was described in many ways. Some artists evaluations composed while some
others contradicted because their perception of truth or beautiful varied. As an artist, Gustave

Flaubert stated that this variety bases on different perspectives by saying Theres no true!
There are only ways of seeing.7
So far, the ability of attaining knowledge despite bias is assessed in terms of how do we
know? However, the claim also raises the question How much ones awareness of
application of truth is reliable? and By which criteria one could claim knowledge as true?
meaning whether knowledge is a true belief that has been achieved by a reliable process or
a reliable indicator of truth. In this respect, people again would pursue rationalism
(reasoning) or empiricism (perception of the world) for their true belief of knowledge.
However, the reliability of the truth would be a comparative quality that could vary among
individuals. The definiteness of truth may assist one to establish a knowledge claim, but ones
feeling of that definiteness in itself would not be enough to make it true for others. At this
time, it would be appropriate to demonstrate that truth is a tricky word4, which could be
both generalized and personalized through time and individuals very easily.
As a conclusion, despite being biased and selective, people could attain knowledge
nevertheless. Perhaps the definition is biased, but the basic idea would be there mostly.
Hence, I can assume that I have knowledge of things by generalization for most cases.
However, I believe the reality is that knowledge itself is an answer to a question someone
once wondered and it begins with subjective doubts. Therefore, I would not know neither all
of the knowledge of mine is true nor I could define the knowledge for every specific
individual, history, religion or time.
1576 words

FOOTNOTES
1.

Tversky Amos; Kahneman Daniel. Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases
Science, New Series, Vol. 185, No. 4157, pp. 1124-1131 (Sep. 27, 1974)

2.

Crane John, Hannibal Jette. Psychology Cource Companion, Oxford, IB Diploma


Programme (2009)

3.

Dombrowski Eileen, Rotenberg Lena, Bick Mimi. Theory of Knowledge Course


Companion, Oxford, IB Diploma Programme (2007)

4.

Bastian Sue, Bammi Vivek , Howard Craig, Kitching Julian, Mackenzie John, Oberg
Dennis, Salomon Manjula, Wilkinson David. Theory of Knowledge, Heineamann
Baccaularate (2008)

5.

Van de Lagemaat, Richard. Theory Of Knowledge For The IB Diploma. Cambridge


Press (2005)

6.

Alchin, Nicholas. Theory of Knowledge Second Edition. Hodder Education (2006)

7.

Steegmuller, Francis. The Letters of Gustave Flaubert 1857-1880. Harvard University


Press (1982)

8.

Kropotkin, Peter. The Great French Revolution 1789-1793. Cosmo Inc. (2009)

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Alchin, Nicholas. Theory of Knowledge Second Edition. Hodder Education (2006)
Bastian Sue, Bammi Vivek , Howard Craig, Kitching Julian, Mackenzie John, Oberg Dennis,
Salomon Manjula, Wilkinson David. Theory of Knowledge, Heineamann Baccaularate (2008)
Crane John, Hannibal Jette. Psychology Cource Companion, Oxford, IB Diploma Programme
(2009)
Dombrowski Eileen, Rotenberg Lena, Bick Mimi. Theory of Knowledge Course Companion,
Oxford, IB Diploma Programme (2007)
Kropotkin, Peter. The Great French Revolution 1789-1793. Cosmo Inc. (2009)
Steegmuller, Francis. The Letters of Gustave Flaubert 1857-1880. Harvard University Press
(1982)
Tversky Amos; Kahneman Daniel. Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases
Science, New Series, Vol. 185, No. 4157, pp. 1124-1131 (Sep. 27, 1974)

Van de Lagemaat, Richard. Theory Of Knowledge For The IB Diploma. Cambridge Press
(2005)