Theory of Knowledge
Whilst this quotation sounds rude to TOK-lovers (like myself), there is some amount of truth hidden in this claim. TOK contains much epistemology, but not with the traditional terms - there are TOK specific terms that you need to get familiar with. For instance, all IB students should be familiar with all of the AOKs and WOKs. There are also some rather psychological questions that are asked in TOK, such as when discussing the WOK of Memory - so it doesn’t hurt to know some Cognitive Psychology as well.
Anyhow, here are my top tips and key thinkers for TOK students around the world. Also, check out my summary of pivotal key thinkers that I cited in several of my own TOK assignments. These include: St Thomas Aquinas, Yuval Noah Harari, Karen Armstrong, C.S. Lewis, Elizabeth Loftus, Jared Diamond, Noam Chomsky, Michael Sandel, St Teresa of Avila, and St John of the Cross.
Complete assignments early - This goes without saying for most subjects, but it is most important in TOK, because you can really invest a lot of time into the presentation and essay early on, so you don’t need to stress about them during exam season. Many schools I’ve heard of start TOK really late, so I would really recommend doing TOK early - it gives you a huge advantage over everybody else. For the Essay, start researching as soon as IB releases the prescribed titles in grade 12. For the presentation, start ASAP - it can be on anything you choose - so long as you formulate a strong research question.
Presentation: Pair up! - I don’t care what your teacher says you can do - in theory, yes - you should be able to do a good TOK presentation by yourself and in a group of three. In practice, however, I have never seen a good single or group-of-three presentation. Since you get 10 minutes per person, a single presentation can never be as thoroughly in-depth as a 20-minute couple presentation. Three makes a crowd, and a 30-minute presentation is bound to be boring. I did my presentation with a partner and scored 10/10 - and have seen other pairs do very well.
More importantly though, presenting with a partner helps you learn from the “expertise” of the other person - especially if the partner has other HLs than you do. Also, it obviously helps you build collaborative skills. It’s just better to get this done in pairs - there are so many incentives that will help you out.
Critique methodologies in the AOKs - The Scientific Method is a popular one that never gets old - look for the implicit premises hidden in the way we find knowledge in this particular AOK. For Natural Sciences, the Scientific Method presumes that we can know best through sense perception and inductive reasoning - that’s why experiments are conducted over and over again. Is there anything wrong with this methodology? For instance, is everything able to be tested using empirical evidence and sense perception? How about emotions, for instance?
An obvious methodology in Religious Knowledge Systems is telling parables and allegories full of figurative language. In my final TOK essay, I argued that this methodology relies on appeals to the collective imagination. An interesting question we might ask about religious traditions is - what happens when the times change and this collective imagination also changes? For instance, when Jesus is called “Lamb of God” in the Gospels, this appeals to the collective imagination of ancient, second-temple-Jews and evokes imagery of sacrifice. To the modern reader, the image evokes meekness and a cuddly farm animal - a hearty meal at best.
All the AOKs have their characteristic methodologies, which are worth exploring in TOK, which asks “how do we know?” constantly - to break down that question, the methodologies we use in the various AOKs and the implicit ideas that construct these methodologies is important to take note of.