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What Counts as Knowledge? (TOK Exhibition Prompt #1)

What Counts as Knowledge?

TOK Exhibition Object Sample and Example
My TOK Exhibition object is a french fry.

My object is a French fry, and my daughter wanted one. The only problem: she did not have knowledge of language. Instead, she put sounds together as an attempt to get more. One sound combination she made were the d and a sounds. She looked at me and said DADA! Thrilled that my daughter’s first words mentioned me, I gave her fries. Then she pointed at the fries and said DADA! Then she looked at our dog and said DADA! Like the architect, my daughter was lucky enough to be correct.

She may have been correct when she pointed at her father and said DADA!, but she did not have knowledge that I was her father, nor that children are to call their fathers dada. Did this accidental truth, or false knowledge, count as knowledge? It did not, because as a young child, she had little memory to justify her action enough to be knowledge. Something can count as knowledge if the knower knows it as knowledge.

Additionally, these fries pose a bigger dilemma regarding knowledge and the knower: a dilemma of perspective.

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Can I claim that my daughter called me dada? I can. But my claim— though justified, true, and believed – is also false. My claim may be true on the surface, (she did make the sound dada) but when I make this claim I am applying shared knowledge about a word and its meaning. In a sense, my claim is both true and false.

Because I understand the connotation of dada and the intent of her word-sound, my claim is false and doesn’t count as knowledge. To communicate with language, a speaker must have knowledge of the meaning of words because language is a social construct. The knower must know their claim to be knowledge. Without knowledge of a word’s meaning, a word is just a sound. My daughter did not have knowledge of the word. I did. But I was the meaning-maker, not her. My claim does not count as knowledge because I created the knowledge through my ability to recognize language, but I also know the context of the produced sounds – that they were created one without knowledge – and know that there could not have been meaning created.

This Theory of Knowledge sample Exhibition was written for Get an A in TOK and should not be copied or paraphrased as your own work. The International Baccalaureate and Diploma Programme take plagiarism seriously. Don't get caught stealing from a website.


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