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"When should we trust our senses to give us truth?"

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#1
CellarDoor

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How would you tackle the following prescribed ToK title?


"When should we trust our senses to give us truth?"


I'm quite stuck with what examples should be used. I'm a scientific kind of person and can only think of examples in the areas of chemistry and physics. Which other examples could I use? Presently, I believe that our senses will always give us truth, but I am also having trouble in finding counter-claims.
I'm not sure how to start the essay and I'm also afraid I will end up answering whether we should use our senses, instead of when. How can I avoid this slip?


I would appreciate any help.



Thanks

#2
blindpet

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I find that strictly scientific people have problems straying from their scientific rigor in ToK. You must find a way to diverge from this science thing and write a balanced essay. I'll say what I always do in these ToK threads. Find something one end of the spectrum such as Math/Science and then find another AoK to contrast it with such as Art/Ethics etc.

I don't believe we should ever trust our senses to give us truth. Why do you think we have created so much advanced machinery that can perceive what we cannot, to give us reliable knowledge? Did your teacher not show you psychological illusions to show how awful our perception and senses are? The bottom line is that we should rarely trust our senses to give us truth, but unfortunately they are all we have ;)

#3
Bandev

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One thing I believe to be true is that the abstract is a progression from the concrete.

#4
auron

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LOL!

I just wrote a 1000 word essay on this very topic about a month ago! Word for word! I guess that's the cool thing about IB - it's international, so someone from the other side of the world can have done the same thing as you....

My summarised points:

Our senses are how we view the outside world. Without them, we would be hopeless. I then gave a few examples of animals trusting senses with their lives - senses are used to understand the outside world, the world that is foreign from our bodies.

However, our senses can be deceived, like a magic trick. Also, there are some spectra's of light that our human eye cannot see. So therefore, we can't trust our senses to give us ALL the info.

Then I defined truth and linked it with the information that our senses gave. Then I stated that perhaps what we see may not be what we see after all, just what we call it. Hence, I am typing on a computer, or more accurately, I am communicating my ideas to you on a object I call a computer, whether it be it or not. The latter would be more 'true' than the former.

Quote Rene Descartes and describe the 'Matrix-effect'. Then conclude.

Can't remember what I got exactly, but I remember I did really well. Hope it helps.

AURON

#5
Leia

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I think one big way of knowing to talk about in this title would be perception - and the problems with perception, how perception are subjective/biased? and can be deceived. But as you said it's important to focus on the WHEN of perception, not the WHETHER.

#6
pretty_ah_boi

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Stuck with examples? just got to think why God gave us our 5 senses for (or even the 6th one for weirdo kids in movies). We use our senses to tell us what tastes nice, whats differenent sounds mean, what feels rough or not etc.

Example: Our senses give us truth that someone is about to harm us when we see him holding a knife out at us and hear him say "you are gonna die"

Edited by pretty_ah_boi, Aug 24, 2008 - 18:04.


#7
blindpet

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For people doing this topic, check out neo-platonism. They believed that our senses only provide us an illusion and that dreams are what is real (something like that at least, use it or don't - i don't care :ninja: )

#8
TeeBlake

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How would you tackle the following prescribed ToK title?


"When should we trust our senses to give us truth?"


I'm quite stuck with what examples should be used. I'm a scientific kind of person and can only think of examples in the areas of chemistry and physics. Which other examples could I use? Presently, I believe that our senses will always give us truth, but I am also having trouble in finding counter-claims.
I'm not sure how to start the essay and I'm also afraid I will end up answering whether we should use our senses, instead of when. How can I avoid this slip?


I would appreciate any help.


Thanks


this thread just reminded me of somthign funny happened a whil ago....
i consulted my teacher with the same topic, the example he gave me was

do you see what's outside ? (a student)
how do you know that she's really there? (i can see her)
how do you know that it's not an illusion? (i can go and touch)
*no answer*

i don'\t know if this helps, but it may give an idea...this is what i can see from the surface, not deep analysis

#9
Chrischris

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Hey hey, im writtin my tok essay on this question. Im trying to define the vocab first such as what are senses and what is truth but definin truth is a very broad and deep. How did u guys do it?

#10
Mandiloquence

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I think defining truth is a good way to get into it. Perhaps you could discuss whether you believe that there is an objective truth, or everything is completely subjective? Just don't get too lost in this portion.
Also, something I think should be pointed out for this essay is that we can usually realize when our senses are deceiving us (if our senses are truly deceiving us, since they are doing what they were made to do, maybe it's the world that's deceiving us?) such as when we see the pencil in a glass of water.
Just my two cents. All the posts in this forum put together would make an excellent essay. :)

#11
TeeBlake

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just a quick question

what would some knowledge issues associated with this topic? i have to revise another essay and i'm thinking about knowledge issues

#12
mizyou

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i wrote an essay exactly on the same topic last year, but now I am writing it again to turn it in to IB. I wrote about how we cannot always rely on our senses since they decieve us. I also explained how our beliefs and expectations, and our misinterpretation have a part in this.
But then I was talking to my teacher and he said...
"Is reliability the same as truth?"
Me and my friends were totally lost....
I said it is. He said it is only a part of truth, not all.
I asked if we should explain what truth to us means?
he said, not to get lost into all that.
does anyone have any suggestions?

i have no idea how to make my essay better

#13
bbbppphhh92

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ever heard of anything like this?

"The substantive reality around us is only a reflection of a higher truth" -Plato

BTw i hav the same topic for my TOK essay, due date: two more week XP

#14
Negin

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I finished writing a T.O.K essay on this topic about two weeks ago. >.<

The book Theory of Knowledge for the IB Diploma by Richard Van de Lagemaat is really useful when it comes to writing the essay. I used it a lot, since it gives a lot of factors that can affect our senses.

Anyway, what I did was define perception and then describe our five senses, and explain the process of how we actually perceive things every day. Then I went on to the factors that affected our perceptions - our feelings (whether we're happy or depressed or whatever), our expectations (what we expect to see and what we actually see), and our pattern of interest (a pregnant woman often notices pregnant woman wherever she goes more often because she's suddenly interested in it).

Hope this helps!

#15
silverks

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I did that question too, and I used the Theory of Knowledge text book by Nicholas Alchin (my TOK teacher said he's the chief examiner or something). If you want to take a look, you can download the particular relevant chapter (Chapter 10: Empiricism - the Use of the Senses) here:
http://rapidshare.com/files/164583151/silv_TOK_empiricism.rar


#16
apfymama

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I am doing the same paper and thanx for the few tips cause i have to turn in an outline to my teacher before i do my actually paper.

#17
KiwiFruit

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When we need to and when all else fails. Human insticnt is important

#18
Striker654

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Well, I chose the same topic but I came up with the exact opposite conclusion. Our senses are deceived easily through various illusions (optical illusions are an easy example but there are also tactical and hearing ones) where it shows that our senses aren't actually giving us the truth. Also, I devoted a great deal of the essay to defining what truth actually is and how the absolute Truth is something hard if not impossible to attain. If you're set on sticking to your idea that senses always give us truth, I'm not sure what examples you can use but for my point, I used how truth has changed throughout history (used to be a truth that the world was flat), and how nothing is absolutely true (except for a few cases in math under certain conditions). As a counter-claim, I examined religion and its method of attaining absolute Truth.
Hope that helped and good luck

#19
sweetgirl

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I chose the same topic because it seems to be the easiest one, but when I was doing the outline I found it was really hard. And thank you for your tips. Another question I hope someone will give me some advices: the question is asking about "when", does it mean I should talk about all the conditions if I think we can never trust our senses to give us truth?
thx.

#20
SharkSpider

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Well, there are two sides to this debate, one, we only percieve through our senses, which are fallible, and therefore we have no way of knowing anything but that we exist and that we think. This is the descartes method, and is essentially stating that since you can concieve a world in which we exist only as brains, and since you cannot prove that this is not the case, then you cannot know anything, since there is a chance that we are brains in a vat.

The Empiricist argument is that although we cannot fully trust what we percieve, if life is based entirely on what happens to our perceptions, then the only truth we need is what we can percieve. Essentially, we may be brains in vats in the matrix, but our lives are just as meaningful if they are fake as they are when they're real, and because of that, all we have to do is react to our senses as if they were the absolute truth. The Empirical theory is quite materialistic and atheist, because it takes on a Nihilistic view of life, in which all that matters is what is percieved, and that things that you don't experience don't matter. The rationalist argument is more dualist in nature, because it implies a separation between mind and body that cannot be overcome by anything.