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IB Theory of Knowledge

them. But how do the opinions of expert help us researching for certain knowledge? Before, experts were figures whom we, as human beings, trust and depend on to find truth from our insights. They have advanced knowledge, skills and understanding. Then what is the difference between opinions and knowledge? Opinions are what we think about a particular question. We shape our beliefs based either on experiences or senses, or on the knowledge we have. However, the real source for our opinion has been vague until now. Thus, we all have different opinions on a same issue at different levels. Knowledge is what we gain from our experiences, perceptions and reasoning by associating with various matters. An important fact about opinions and knowledge is that they are correlated. We use both knowledge and opinions to acquire opinions and knowledge. Which one is more important the between the two? Is it opinion or knowledge? The question addresses how important the opinions of experts are and in what fields of knowledge they are important.

Our knowledge depends mostly on knowledge that is inherited from the past. This is because it is evidenced that we trust it more. Opinions are the basis of theory and what make convictions on the opinions stronger are physical objects, facts and people. We call them in a word, testimony. For example, a hypothesis merely begins as an opinion but develops into a theory with various testimonies. Natural science, the study of physics, chemistry and biology, also often include the usage of experts’ opinions. For example Charles Darwin who played an important role in developing the evolutionary theory insisted on the fact that evolution is a result of natural selection. There were groups against his theory. However, by his discovering a series of observations and deductions, people were convinced and believed his philosophy. People were persuaded by his testimony, evidence. Without the testimony, the opinion of experts is not valuable and theory often cannot be built; such experts will be contributing less or with no credible knowledge for us.

Human science, the study and interpretation of the experiences, activities, constructs, and artifacts associated with human beings [1] , is another area full of experts’ opinions. John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner, known as psychologists claimed the fact that all behaviors are acquired through conditioning. [2] Looking at their opinions, we assume that their opinions are based on sense perception. Sense perception refers to the perceptions that are based on five senses; sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. Then what is the relation between sense perception and theory? Believing our senses is equal to believing to see the truth. We, as in TOK, doubt our senses by insisting that we have different perceptions and experiences. We cannot trust entirely what we see, smell, hear, taste and touch. The behaviorism theory began by doubting our senses that come from experiences and conditioning. Distrusting one sense can bring about a completely different behavior. By stating that desk is a desk, I see it from different perceptions. When I see a desk itself, I see only one edge of a desk. I mistrust my senses that are from my experience and conditioning. John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner approach the theory and we develop our knowledge by asserting that we all have different perceptions from conditioning.

Is the opinion of expert always important in any area of knowledge? We, students always stay closer to mathematics not only at school but also in life. It is an essential subject we learn from the very early ages. Does mathematic require opinions of experts? Do we use them to explain and solve math problems? The mathematical knowledge is composed of certain rules. These rules require logic and reasons to reach the answers and the explanation. The mathematical knowledge is also complex and theoretical. The content and extent of math are unlimited and thus require logic thinking. Namely, opinion is not a necessary element for mathematics. An expert himself depends on logics and reasons and tries not to get involved with emotions and opinions. This is because personal emotions and opinions often influence the processes. I, as a Korean, am always surprised about the fact that Americans use various toys and methods to teach math. On television, I see cards, candies, milks, and toys etc used to raise the interest of children. In particular game is another method of math for the Americans. In Korea, not only high school students but even elementary students, do not use any toys when learning math. We believe that toys can disturb children’s concentrations and slow down the speed of acquiring mathematical skills. Using toys is nothing more than to make us curious what math is about when we are at age of 5 or 6.

Ethics is a motivation based on the ideas of right or wrong. [3] We often confuse the concept of ethics and morals. Then what is the definition of moral? Moral refers to the personal character while ethic is a social system in which those morals are applied. [4] In other words, ethics, different from moral, point to the standards or the codes of behavior expected by the group to which the individual belongs. [5] Do we use opinions of experts in ethics? Before asking this question, do we need them in this field? We assume that we do not. Ethics depend mostly on the nature of the problem. There are certain rules and patterns but these are not based on the opinions of experts. This is because the expert can express personal emotions and cultures and thus influence opinions. Ethics should not rely on the belief of an individual or a particular group. Belief refers to the emotions, opinions and cultures. Culture of the expert has a great impact on ethics when applied. This is because every expert has different culture and thus creates different ethics. The most representative ethics in Korea is politeness towards older people. Dissimilar to any other countries, we bend our waists 90 degree to bow towards older people such as our parents, grandmothers, grandfathers, teachers and older neighbors. We show our respect in this way. We value the respect more than anything. Then, do Koreans reflect the opinions of experts in this issue? It is ethics that reflects cultures rather than opinions of experts. Namely, we do not require individual’s opinion and emotions to value ethics. To conclude, we see that some fields do not necessitate opinions of experts and rather consider them as obstacles that prevent us from searching for and improving the knowledge.

Addressing the question, I have stated two areas of knowledge where I see the need of experts’ opinions; natural science and human science. I also have stated two other areas of knowledge where I think that opinions of experts are not required but rather logic and reason; math and arts. The reason why I have also discovered areas where opinions are not necessary is that I believe some fields require more logic and reason than personal opinions. I could have found areas easily when I thought of subjects I study at school. I realized that I am in touch with these fields every day. Reflecting my research, I conclude that elements in ways of knowing are essential at influencing the areas of knowledge. In addition, I consider that not only emotion and sense perception but also testimony and culture are important impacts associating with the opinions of experts.

How important are the opinions of experts in the search for knowledge? We cannot precisely answer this question because we cannot measure how important they are but rather can judge where they are important. Based on the information carried on until now, we can approach to the conclusion that in fields like natural science, human science and history require opinions of experts. These fields are easily influenced by sense perception and testimony. When testimony is put on with these fields, it contributes advanced knowledge to us. On the other hand, when looking at the human science, we find that doubting our five senses bring us different conditioning which influences our perceptions and opinions. We see that this is one reason why everyone develops different viewpoints. We also discover that some fields like math and art do not endow knowledge to us using the opinions of experts but the logic and the reason. This is because we believe that not only the opinions but also the emotions can be factors

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