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Candidate name: Sara Risti

International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme


School: Druga gimnazija Sarajevo
Theory of Knowledge
Word Count: 1478

TOK Essay
5. Ways of knowing are a check on our instinctive judgments. To what
extent do you agree with this statement?

Session: May 2015


Candidate name: Sara Risti
Candidate number: 001258-0033

To answer the question of whether ways of knowing are a check on our instinctive
judgements, one must define two things: instinctive judgement can be seen as the intuitive way

Candidate name: Sara Risti


of knowing; the ability to obtain knowledge without using reason 1, the implication that the WoK
are a check on our intuition meaning that they have the possibility of observing the data that has
been acquired via intuition and then either disputing or approving it. Two main knowledge
statements that must be addressed are intuition is the first step in collecting knowledge while
other ways of knowing are verifying its validity and sense perception provides the data which
fuels intuitive statements. While intuition is mostly a part of personal knowledge, being that it is
a subjective event whose occurrence cannot be explained, the element of shared knowledge in
intuition comes out when people either share their experiences and try to pinpoint the of their
personal intuition or when a group converses about the validity of their intuitive statements.
Examples that intuition is the first step in collecting knowledge and that the other ways of
knowing, such as reason and memory, verifies its legitimacy can be seen in areas of knowledge
such as natural sciences. Physics is the leading science that is attempting to unlock the secrets of
the universe and answers question like why are we (humans) here, what is our purpose, how do
objects interact with each other etc. The man considered the zenith of reason and rational thought
is physicist Albert Einstein. He helped discover the laws of special relativity and the nature of
light and deeply influenced the scientific community. But he could not have made his
conclusions through reason or intuition alone, one must precede the other. In 1905, his miracle
year, he published 4 papers that would radically change the way scientists thought about space,
time, mass and energy. For all four papers, especially the third one in which he tackled relativity,
he said that he was in a state of psychic tension 2 and after weeks of banging his head against a
1 intuition - definition of intuition in English from the Oxford dictionary, 2015,
<http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/intuition> (18.2.2015.)
2 Einstein's miracle year - Larry Lagerstrom YouTube, Jan 6 2015,
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91XI7M9l3no> (18.2.2015.)
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Candidate name: Sara Risti


wall and talking to a colleague Satyendra Nath Bose, was he able to come up with the principal
of special relativity. This example utilizes intuition, in the form of Einsteins dissatisfaction with
the previous theories posed by Newton and Maxwell; he knew that there was something missing
between the two theories. His intuition affected his personal knowledge that he turned into
shared knowledge when talking the subject over with Bose. In turn, he used reason, the
application of logic3, in presenting the idea of special relativity using mathematics. When his
paper, the personal knowledge, was published, it was read and looked up by numerous scientists
and through their validation, Einsteins theories became a significant part of the shared
knowledge of physics. Einstein himself said that The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the
rational mind is a faithful servant4 implying that intuition must come first and is even more
valuable than rationality (reason) because it is from where the initial idea is born.
An argument against the first knowledge statement is that ways of knowing are the first
step in acquiring knowledge while intuition verifies its validity. The example of this
counterclaim can be seen in the area of knowledge arts. Art is very hard to define, it encompasses
the expression of human creative skill and imagination in mostly visual and written media 5 and
its borders are hard to outline. The process of creating a piece of art, like a painting is a very
subjective process, differing from artist to artist. Yet, a common thread appears when it comes to
the initial beginning, the idea of a specific piece. American mixed medium artist Renee Oglesbee
3 Reason - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, unknown, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reason>
(18.2.2015.)
4 Quote by Bob Samples: The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rat..., 2015,
<http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/7090-the-intuitive-mind-is-a-sacred-gift-and-the-rational>
(18.2.2015.)
5 art - definition of art in English from the Oxford dictionary, 2015,
<http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/art> (18.2.2015.)
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Candidate name: Sara Risti


says Well, I typically get an image of what I want to do in my mind.it has to really excite me
for some reason. I take the time to meditate and allow ideas to come to me from my relaxed
mindthen I begin I dont rely on technique. I rely on inspiration and intuition every step of
the way.6 A Filipino painter Gromyko Semper has this to say on the subject It all starts like
magic... a sudden gush of inspiration, a hymn, a whisper, an idea comes to mind, conscious of
unconscious... then I begin to create...7"In both examples we can observe that the initial way of
knowing implored is imagination, followed by intuition. Though both WoKs are highly
subjective and are components of personal knowledge, one cannot be intuitive without having
data to base that intuition on something. Imagination is the ability to create new mental images
without the use of senses8 and only after those vague images are present in our mind is intuition
able to unconsciously reach some conclusions.
The second knowledge statement addressed is that sense perception provides the data
which fuels intuitive statements, an example of the statement is found in natural sciences,
especially in biology. Biology is the science of life and living organisms, including their
structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, and distribution 9. What interests us is human
physiology and more specifically, the way we are aware of what is happening outside of our

6 10 Artists and Their Process of Creating Art Artpromotivate, Apr 17 2013,


<http://www.artpromotivate.com/2013/04/artists-process-creating-art.html> (18.2.2015.)
7 What Artists Have to Say About Intuition | John Seed, Nov 3 2012,<
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-seed/artists-intuition_b_1191320.html> (18.2.2015.)
8 Imagination - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, unknown,
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imagination> (18.2.2015.)
9 Aquarena Wetlands Project: Glossary of Terms, Jun 8 2004,
<https://web.archive.org/web/20040608113114/http://www.bio.txstate.edu/~wetlands/Glossary/glossary.h
tml> (22.2.2015.)
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Candidate name: Sara Risti


bodies. By Aristotle, we have five senses, sight, sound, touch, smell and taste, but in fact we have
many more, like proprioception, the ability to know where are body is without having to look at
it, nociception, the ability to feel pain etc. Sense perception is the only way to get data from our
surrounding to our brain and it is divided into two parts, sensation and perception. Sensation is
the process by which our senses receive and relay outside stimuli, while perception is the process
in which the brain organizes that data and analyses it according to given context 10. Sense
receptors, like our eyes, transform external stimuli into raw data that feeds into the occipital
region of the brain where that raw data can be interpreted varying by our context and culture 11.
After processing the data coming in from all the senses, we have a pretty good idea of the world
and our position in it. From that initial state it is possible to use all the other ways of knowing to
further our knowledge of the world, intuition being one of those WoKs. Going back to the
definition of intuition, it is the ability to obtain knowledge without using reason 12 on the basis of
information that is activated in memory but not consciously retrieved13. In her paper, On the
speed of intuition, Annette Bolte created experiments that would test the speed of intuitive
judgements and her results indicated that intuitive judgments can be made very fast and without
extended conscious deliberation14. Ms Boltes research indicate that a) intuition depends on the
10 Sensation & Perception - Crash Course Psychology #5 YouTube, Mar 3 2014,
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unWnZvXJH2o> (22.2.2015.)
11 Perceiving is Believing - Crash Course Psychology #7 YouTube, Mar 17 2014,
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n46umYA_4dM> (22.2.2015.)
12 intuition - definition of intuition in English from the Oxford dictionary, 2015,
<http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/intuition> (18.2.2015.)
13 On the speed of intuition: intuitive judgments of semantic coherenc... - PubMed NCBI, Oct 2005,
<http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16532857> (22.2.2015.)
14 Ibid.
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Candidate name: Sara Risti


amount of information a subject is given, including the context of the data and the cultural
heritage of the subject and b) it is the first set of ordered information the brain receives from the
senses, ergo, it is the first type of perception gained from sensation.
An argument against the second knowledge statement is that other ways of knowing, and
not sense perception, are the first step in acquiring knowledge while intuition verifies its validity.
The example of this counterclaim is in the area of knowledge of human sciences. History is the
study of the past and the way it relates to humans15. To understand the past one must have
memory of the past contained either within their personal or shared knowledge. The validity of
those memories impact intuition which in turn influences our reaction to a certain situation. If a
person has a bad experience with a person of certain race that memory might be so strong that he
associates the bad interaction with that individual with the whole population of that race leading
to a faulty intuitive opinion that all members of a certain race carry negative connotation with
them. That opinion is defined as prejudice, an unjustified negative attitude towards a group16.
The way that intuitive attitude could shape a negative interaction with any individual of said
group is discrimination, the explicit behaviour of denying social participation or human rights to
categories of people based on prejudice17. Examples of discrimination can be seen throughout
history, the Holy Wars, segregation of African-Americans, the Holocaust etc.

15 What Is History? - A Collection of Definitions, Jan 21 2014,


<http://archaeology.about.com/od/hterms/qt/history_definition.htm> (22.2.2015.)
16 Prejudice & Discrimination: Crash Course Psychology #39 YouTube, Nov 17 2014
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7P0iP2Zm6a4> (22.2.2015.)
17 discrimination - definition of discrimination in English from the Oxford dictionary, 2015,
<http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/discrimination> (22.2.2015.)
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Candidate name: Sara Risti


Ways of knowing are a check on our instinctive judgements as much as our instinctive
judgements are a check on other ways of knowing. We need to rely on all our WoKs to be able to
create the most accurate picture of the world and to know how to act accordingly. Intuition is a
powerful resource, but definitely not the most reliable one so it should be coupled with at least
one more WoK when making decisions or doing actions.

Bibliography:
Einstein's miracle year - Larry Lagerstrom YouTube, Jan 6 2015,
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91XI7M9l3no> (18.2.2015.)
Sensation & Perception - Crash Course Psychology #5 YouTube, Mar 3 2014,
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unWnZvXJH2o> (22.2.2015.)
10 Artists and Their Process of Creating Art Artpromotivate, Apr 17 2013,
<http://www.artpromotivate.com/2013/04/artists-process-creating-art.html> (18.2.2015.)
Aquarena Wetlands Project: Glossary of Terms, Jun 8 2004,
<https://web.archive.org/web/20040608113114/http://www.bio.txstate.edu/~wetlands/Glossary/g
lossary.html> (22.2.2015.)
art - definition of art in English from the Oxford dictionary, 2015,
<http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/art> (18.2.2015.)
discrimination - definition of discrimination in English from the Oxford dictionary, 2015,
<http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/discrimination> (22.2.2015.)
Imagination - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, unknown,
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imagination> (18.2.2015.)
intuition - definition of intuition in English from the Oxford dictionary, 2015,
<http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/intuition> (18.2.2015.)
On the speed of intuition: intuitive judgments of semantic coherenc... - PubMed NCBI, Oct
2005, <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16532857> (22.2.2015.)
Perceiving is Believing - Crash Course Psychology #7 YouTube, Mar 17 2014,
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n46umYA_4dM> (22.2.2015.)
Prejudice & Discrimination: Crash Course Psychology #39 YouTube, Nov 17 2014
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7P0iP2Zm6a4> (22.2.2015.)
7

Candidate name: Sara Risti

Quote by Bob Samples: The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rat..., 2015,
<http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/7090-the-intuitive-mind-is-a-sacred-gift-and-the-rational>
(18.2.2015.)
Reason - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, unknown, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reason>
(18.2.2015.)
What Artists Have to Say About Intuition | John Seed, Nov 3 2012,
<http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-seed/artists-intuition_b_1191320.html> (18.2.2015.)
What Is History? - A Collection of Definitions, Jan 21 2014,
<http://archaeology.about.com/od/hterms/qt/history_definition.htm> (22.2.2015.)