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May 2020 TOK Titles

Here are our impressions on the latest title set. Our team has compiled key points that we think are essential to consider while constructing your TOK essay.

“Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not” (Pablo Picasso). Explore this distinction with reference to two areas of knowledge.

  1. The set of possibilities of what is, is much more limited in scope than what is not.
  2. What is not, may be derived from what is, as we use reason and memory as Ways of Knowing (WOKs).
  3. The RQ may not be applicable to the natural sciences, as these heavily rely upon the scientific method, which is based on observations. The hypothesis part of the scientific method may be based on the 'why not' argument of Picasso.

For more information on this question, feel free to have a look at our TOK Structures.

“There is a sharp line between describing something and offering an explanation of it.” To what extent do you agree with this claim?

  1. One distinction is in the phrasing of the question. The two sentence segments use different wording; "describing" is an active verb while "offering" is passive. This means that the information received by the listener may be different.
  2. The difference between a description and an explanation is that a description is typically stand alone, such as a label, while an explanation is a two-way conversion.
  3. Ultimately, it seems that there is a fine difference between the two key verbs, however these are in no way "sharp".

For more information on this question, feel free to have a look at our TOK Structures.

Does it matter that your personal circumstances influence how seriously your knowledge is taken?

  1. Personal circumstances are the conditions surrounding our lives; a synonym might be one's upbringing or background.
  2. Different backgrounds lead to different education levels; the ability to express oneself arises at least partially from one's education, hence the way knowledge is received will differentiate based on this.
  3. To counter, in an ideal society, individuals would assess an argument based purely on the merits of the argument

For more information on this question, feel free to have a look at our TOK Structures.

“The role of analogy is to aid understanding rather than to provide justification.” To what extent do you agree with this statement?

  1. An analogy is the use of one subject to explain another.
  2. Justification is a set of information that shows a statement to be true.
  3. In the non-scientific domain, justifications do not need to be universally rigorous, but can apply to the individual. In this case, an analogy, may suffice if they are understood and internalised by the individual.
  4. In the scientific domain, a justification would require an experiment, hence an analogy may not have the necessary rigor. It may suffice as a basis to form a hypothesis.

For more information on this question, feel free to have a look at our TOK Structures.

“Given that every theory has its limitations, we need to retain a multiplicity of theories to understand the world.” Discuss this claim with reference to two areas of knowledge.

  1. A theory in the sciences is expected to be falsifiable based on Karl Popper; one would thus expect a "correct" theory to exist and the remaining to have been refuted.
  2. While this is the case, one would expect there to be several hypotheses clarifying gaps that may exist that the current theory may not explain.
  3. The question itself can be further broken down; a single theory would consist of several ideas. Where would one draw the line between a single theory and a multiplicity of theories or ideas.

For more information on this question, feel free to have a look at our TOK Structures.

“Present knowledge is wholly dependent on past knowledge.” Discuss this claim with reference to two areas of knowledge.

  1. The question includes the word "wholly" which is exclusionary. One example of where present knowledge does not depend on past knowledge invalidates the entire claim. The question is also contradictory, the present and past are assumed to be the same.
  2. Knowledge is a framework, built from previous and current ideas. With the permutations in ideas being infinite, and ideas forming the basis of knowledge, past knowledge is not the only component to current knowledge.
  3. One counter argument is that knowledge is already considered in the "past" after a moment's notice. In this case all current knowledge would consist of recent and older knowledge, all of which would be considered past knowledge.

For more information on this question, feel free to have a look at our TOK Structures.