The arts are something we enjoy as they can be entertaining for instance, in a dance or theatre performance. But the difference between the arts and other areas of knowledge is that art is based on opinion or personal “taste”. In Paul Graham’s article Taste for Makers, Graham goes in depth as to how the ideas surrounding the arts can be used in other areas of knowledge such as mathematics.
The concept of something being aesthetically beautiful is well known in the art world but we usually do not connect it to other areas of knowledge like mathematics or science. In Graham’s article he explains how the word “beautiful” is used in many different areas and yet we do not typically connect those areas,
Mathematicians call good work “beautiful,” and so, either now or in the past, have scientists, engineers, musicians, architects, designers, writers, and painters. Is it just a coincidence that they used the same word, or is there some overlap in what they meant? If there is an overlap, can we use one field’s discoveries about beauty to help
us in another?
This quotation from Graham raises the important question of whether the discoveries and concepts created in other areas of knowledge can be applicable in other instances. This is important to think about because we do not typically think about the importance of aesthetic beauty in objects and things we make. When we look at a flower vase that we think is beautiful we don’t ask ourselves why. Why do I think this is beautiful? What draws me to it? How does something be considered to be beautiful? These are all questions of substance in this case that we are not yet asking ourselves unless you are some sort of art critic.
The most important thing to understand about all of this is art is not meant to be understood by every individual. Not every individual thinks the same way so therefore we cannot possibly all like the colour chartreuse. There is no definite answer as to how you can label something as “beautiful” because it simply is subjective. Although Graham’s article brings up many important arguments, my stance on the arts still stands the same.
History has always been a very influential part of our lives. It continues to teach us to not repeat the mistakes we have made in the past and how we can learn from those mistakes to better ourselves. History is the storytelling of our past, as people. Our cultures all stemmed from different areas and blossomed and branched out to new areas of the world, creating new history for the future generations coming from those new cultures to learn about and grow from. A common phrase we hear throughout our life is, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Although this statement by George Santayana is seemingly true, we also learn a lot from new experiences, that have not yet been taught to us.
Unlike other areas of knowledge, history is written then taught. Another AOK such as the arts, is not typically written as it usually comes in the form of self expression through music, visual arts, performance arts, etc. But history is in its own special box. When we are taught history we are typically told that it is reliable because it is written on true events that happened. However, in a quote by Schopenhauer, he states that history can easily be imbedded with lies, “Clio, the muse of history, is as thoroughly infected with lies as a street whore with syphilis.” Although the example he used to compare this with is quite vulgar, it is also straight to the point. Not every area of knowledge is completely pure of lies. Not even history. This means you cannot base your own understanding of something off of just one area of knowledge. All areas of knowledge work together simultaneously no matter what topic you are talking about.
The interesting thing about history is that there is no perfect definition for it. It is always changing. Everyday is a new part of history. In fact, right in this moment we are all experiencing a very important part of history, a global pandemic. Just as the quotation mentioned earlier said, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. We have had multiple global pandemics throughout history and yet we have still managed to repeat how we handle it. We may be influenced by history, but many still do not learn from it.
We tend to think of storytelling as a form of teaching children simple life lessons or morals, such as do not talk to strangers, be nice to everyone, sharing is caring, etc. However, throughout our life we never stop believing stories that are told to us. Whether it is through marketing at a car dealership or a politician advocating their reasons you should vote for them, we will always be influenced by stories told to us in person and through the media. In the article, Storytelling – Our Most Important Way of Knowing, written by our very own Mr.MacKnight, he mentions multiple persuading points that have caused me to believe that storytelling is one of the most important ways of knowing. Storytelling is how we are taught most of what we know and therefore, “Shapes our view of reality.” If you read the story Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? by Dr.Seuss to a child, they will grow up with that moral in the back of their mind and they will give back to those who are less fortunate. Most of us do not remember when we learned all the moral things we know, we just believe things are right or wrong, based on what we have been taught. Even if we are taught these morals through Dr.Seuss books, we still learn them all the same. Most people believe storytelling is not that important and it is just to teach kids to be nice and share, but we have seen some very deep discoveries come out of storytelling. MacKnight also mentions a point related to this, “The most important stories we tell delve into the most profound questions about our existence.” Storytelling may be regarded as something for children, but as we have seen, it explores so many aspects of our life and shapes us into the people we become as adults.
Within the topic of human sciences lies human geography, the study of people and how we connect with each other and our interactions with the environment. It has been heavily debated whether human sciences are reliable due to their content being misconstrued. However, human geography has been noted as more reliable do to its content. For example, in human geography, we typically see more factual points about how our communities work with the environment rather than other human sciences such as economics which looks at virtual numbers. You may find in a human geography class to be talking about how human life has developed and how life expectancy has increased in multiple HIC’s or High Income Countries. Whereas physical geography typically runs in the path of how the 4 spheres that make up our earth flow together seamlessly. Geography as a whole is seemingly more reliable because the facts are living around us and wee can experience them ourselves, making it seem more reliable. But how do you know if a source is reliable?
In our daily life we can experience multiple emotional or mood changes based on the events that happen over the course of our day. However, some emotions lay deeper then just day-by-day changes. Some emotions have a deeper connection to you personally because of past events. For example, sadness can lie deeper than just a surface level emotion. If you have experienced something traumatic, it may stick with you for years and cause you to be sad for a long time whereas if you are happy it may not last as long as other, stronger emotions.
The dispute whether universal moral values are real or not has been around for years and it was generally decided that there are no universal moral values. However, most people would agree on certain subjects such as murder. Everyone knows that murder is bad, however most people do not think that murdering animals is bad. So where do we draw the line between what is ethically correct? and why is killing animals still considered ethically correct? There are still so many things we have not considered in this dispute.
The Golden Rule of ethics is the principle that you should treat people the way you want to be treated in return which is similar to the law of reciprocity. I like this theory the best because it is a well supported theory and it is used in societies all around the world. In our society in Canada we use it in everyday situations such as holding the door open for others, which to the people who were born and raised here, seems like common courtesy, it is also an act of reciprocity. When we hold the door open for someone, we hope that they will treat us with the same level of respect, even if that means just saying thank you with a smile. We can also find it in a chain reaction type of situation. For example, if someone in the drivethru pays for the order behind them, they are doing that to make others happy in hopes that another time when they go through the drivethru, someone will do the same for them. Commonly, if one person pays for the order behind them, that person will pay for those behind them and the chain will continue. We have been using the golden rule, unknowingly since we were children which is most likely why most Canadians are deemed as polite and kind.
Ethics is a branch off of philosophy that commonly refers back to the concepts of right and wrong principles. Ethics is the most commonly used area of knowledge because it relates into our everyday life the most. We learn the principles of ethics as children and carry them with us throughout our whole lives. For example, we commonly hear the phrase “if all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump too?”. If you use ethical thinking you would clearly say no because your own life is not worth risking even for a friend and we sometimes refer to ethical principles as common sense. In my life I use these principles quite a lot. For example, I have never broken the law. Even when there is an opportunity to do so, I always use the ethically correct choice. It can sometimes be difficult to define what is right and what is wrong. generally we have a pretty good understanding of social rights and wrongs. For example, if you cross the road while there is a lot of traffic, you will get hit. We can tell an action is ethically wrong because there will be a negative consequence attached to it, however sometimes we do things that we know are wrong even with the knowledge that there will be negative consequences. For example, as teens and adults we drink alcohol, smoke ad vape even though we know there are severe negative consequences that come with doing so.
Logic. It’s something not everybody seems to have. Especially in the common sense form. We use logic as a tool to justify something or to give something reason. For example, in math you may use previous knowledge as a form of logic to prove why your answer is correct. We use logic in our everyday lives all the time without even noticing. It’s as if it has been programmed into our brains that doing something logically or with reason is always better than without. Which of course seems obvious for us because we’ve been taught that our whole lives. The problem with logic, however, is that we use it for most if not everything, so we tend to stereotype when using it. For example, in the handout we saw the example of a hasty generalization. In the example, Australians were stereotyped to be thieves. Of course we know that that stereotype is not correct, therefore it is a wrong assumption. In more recent years we have become more aware of our stereotypes and how we are generalizing people, so assuming people’s spirituality, gender, sexuality, etc. has become more of a rocky topic to talk about due to the possibility of offending others. The reality is, we use logic for every decision and thought we make about pretty much everything and sometimes that results in wrong assumptions being made about a person or a place and that’s when logic becomes harmful.
In part 5 of Plato’s Meno, Socrates and Meno finish their discussion and now finish with a new discussion about knowledge versus belief. On page 41, Meno mentions how he
wonders how good people come to exist and if there are any good people at all. I found this quite interesting because even in modern times we still struggle with figuring out if a person is good or bad or what defines a “good person”. All these ideas they spoke about throughout part 5, and through the rest of the Meno are relevant ideas to today. I found a particular part in part 5 intriguing. When Meno and Socrates were talking about good guidance or right opinions being just as valuable as knowledge:
Hence true opinion is as good a guide to rightness of action as knowledge; and this is a point we omitted just now in our consideration of the nature of virtue, when we stated that knowledge is the only guide of right action; whereas we ﬁnd there is also true opinion. (42)
In the quotation, it explains what they were talking about, as mentioned before as well as a deeper understanding about the concept they are trying to explain. I found that part 5 was the least confusing out of all of the parts and the idea behind it was the easiest to follow.
In part 3 and 4 of Plato’s Meno, Socrates and Meno continue their talk about virtue and what it really means to have virtue. Some questions that came up were, Are there teachers of virtue? Which they found in part 4 that there are many Athenian gentlemen that could do the job, just as past ones have done for them. Another question that came up was, what is virtue? They came to the conclusion that virtue is wholly or wisdom in the end of part 3. The conversation about good and bad and how men can do bad things consciously, continued and I came across this quotation at the end of part 3:
No, for then, I presume, we should have had this result: if good men were so good by nature, we surely should have had men able to discern who of the young were good by nature, and on their pointing them out we should have taken them over and kept them safe in the citadel, having set our mark on them far rather than on our gld treasure, in order that none might have tampered with them, and that when they came to be of age, they might be useful to their country.(32)
This quotation explains how the world works today. In today’s society we lock up people who we, the privileged and “sane” live in “peace” as if there’s no problem with it. It’s been the same system since medieval times and in some cases, the system works fine, but when innocent people are locked up because the privileged are scared of them, that’s not fair judgement.
In part 2 of Meno, by Plato, Socrates and Meno begin to talk about many different topics, including mathematical theories that they test on Meno’s servant, a young boy. The boy proves he knows quite a bit about these mathematical theories and Socrates comes up with a theory that implies that the boy is in a “state of knowing”:
Now if he always had it, he was always in a state of knowing; and if he acquired it all some time, he could not have acquired it in this life. Or has someone taught him geometry? You see, he can do the same as this with all geometry and every branch of knowledge. Now, can anyone have taught him all this? You ought surely to know, especially as he was born and bred in your house.(27)
This quotation expands on the idea about being in a state of knowing. Another topic they spoke about was how the boy was confident in his answers even when he doesn’t fully know the answer. We still use this method of answering today. We guess things when we aren’t fully sure of our answer, and yet we still answer confidently. They also mentioned the different branches of knowledge which we talked about in our first TOK class.
In part 1 of Meno by Plato, Socrates and his student Meno spoke about the definitions of virtue and figure. The language they used was confusing and hard to follow, even for a fluent english speaker like myself. Their sentence structure and repetition of certain words is what threw me off when reading it, not the idea behind the writing. For example, on page 3 this quotation is an example of confusing sentence structure and language.
And will virtue, as virtue, differ at all whether it be in a child or in an elderly person, in a woman or in a man?
The reason I was confused by this was the repetition of virtue. The rest of the quotation makes sense.
The other idea that was thrown around at the end of part 1 was why people do evil things or how they can desire to do evil things. This was pretty much the only part in part 1 that understood almost fully. I think the idea that was being communicated through this part was that people can have evil intentions even when they know they are doing something wrong.