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TOK Essay Title #4

Do you agree that it is “astonishing that so little knowledge can give us so much power” (Bertrand Russell)? Discuss with reference to the natural sciences and one other area of knowledge

This prompt takes a lot of thinking. While you might interpret the relationship between knowledge and power as a bad thing, it's also a good thing -- think about how much we are able to do in space, despite not knowing that much about it. This is a dark horse for my favorite Theory of Knowledge Essay prompt of the year. More thoughts and a video will be uploaded shortly. If you want extra help, tutoring, or proofreading, click here to have me read your essay! My Notes:

  • The curious thing about the prompt is it’s not asking us whether or not little knowledge can give us power. It’s asking us whether we agree or not about this fact being astonishing. This is key to successfully exploring the prompt. This is an assumption made by Russell here. Is it true or not? You could critique that assumption!

  • N22 Prompt – is it more important to have power or credibility?

  • This is very timely: Qanon, Donald trump, fake news, people denying truths about the covid vaccine and vice versa. Make sure that you don’t just talk about current events – everything needs to be connected to an AOK.

  • Be careful with Donald Trump! I tutor all around the world, and so many students come off as both overly biased and uninformed when they talk about American politics. If you’re going to talk about Trump, actually do some research.

  • This enables imagination to come up with interpretation. Relate this to how History as an AOK is more about interpretation rather than what happened in the past

  • Natural Sciences: Andrew Wakefield, who is the father of the antivax movement. He did some terrible research but it became super powerful. Should we be astonished or not?

  • Importantly: why did this knowledge become powerful? Why does it continue to have power when it has been discredited by more powerful people?

  • I was trying to think about an example for The Arts here and I couldn’t. I can think about many times in which someone with little skill received so much power. Arts may be a stretch here.

  • Human Sciences – TED talk about addiction being a disease. This idea got a lot of power, though it wasn’t true. Should we be astonished? I’d say no, because it’s a great narrative that we’d all like to believe.

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