Theory of Knowledge Essay

Theory of Knowledge is a fascinating subject which is unique to the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme. Recently, I have started studying TOK as part of my IB course. Here is an essay I wrote as part of my work on the subject.

Do you think it is healthy to question established truths? Explain your answers.

Yes, I believe it is healthy to question established truths.

The definition of truths varies from person to person. What someone deems as truth, another might deem as lies or opinion. What we think of a matter at this point of time with the technology we have and the information we have been told might not be the same as what we think of the same matter in years to come when looking back in hindsight. Therefore, some apparent truths that we have been told might not actually be true at all but merely opinions.

However, that leads us to ask, “are there certain things which are true all the time? Things which remain true despite the test of time? Are there ideas which remain forever true?” or simply put, “is there such a thing as absolute truth?”. Personally, I believe in the notion of absolute truths. I believe that there is no such thing as half-truths or truths which aren’t static. There is either absolute truth or opinion—no in-betweens. Questioning established “truths” therefore helps us to differentiate between absolute truths and the things which we are told are truths. Knowing how to differentiate between the two helps us to form the principles of how we view an issue or topic. It also helps us to decide how we live our lives. For example, I believe that there must be an absolute truth on the topic of whether there is a God. Depending on one’s belief whether God exists, one would naturally live his or her life accordingly. Questioning established truths, therefore, helps us to differentiate between opinions and absolute truths and helps us to determine how we live our lives.

Next, I believe that it is healthy for us to question established truths as it would further help us to understand the truths we believe in and the reasons we do so. Finding out about our personal biases and the reasons why we believe in a certain idea should help us to judge whether it is fair, logical and uncompromising to our principles to believe in a certain “established truth”. When we find out the basis and reasons why we believe in a certain truth and we still agree to believe in it, we then have a better understanding of the truth than before we questioned it. Let’s take the example of someone who questions why he or she believes in a certain religion, faith or way of life. After going through the process of questioning, he or she will surely emerge with a better understanding and maybe even appreciation of his or her faith. All in all, questioning established truths is healthy in order for us to strengthen our beliefs in truths.

Lastly, questioning established truths is healthy as it prevents us from being misled or misguided. When we question statements and opinions which others deem as truths, we become more analytical and critical thinkers. We progress from being an individual who just gullibly accepts and believes what he hears, sees and is told by society and others to becoming an independent thinker who has his own ideas, thoughts, and views. A case study is children who always seem to take after the ideas and beliefs of their parents on certain topics without actually thinking through them. For example, most children are told to follow rules and regulations without actually knowing the basis of why they should do so. Most children follow rules just to avoid being punished and as they mature into adulthood this causes serious problems in society because they haven’t been led to a deeper understanding of why they should follow rules. Manipulation by the media or political parties or leaders can also be avoided if we take the time and effort to question established truths. When we start to question what we read, see and hear and realise the bias that exists when the media reports a certain event, we will not be easily misled and manipulated.

In conclusion, I believe it is indeed very healthy to question established truths.


IB: The Next Dot



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