TOK Essay Titles May 2020: BREAKDOWN & TIPS

Below you can find some of my thoughts on and tips for approaching the May 2020 essay titles.

“Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not” (Pablo Picasso). Explore this distinction with reference to two areas of knowledge.

This title refers to the idea of acquiring new knowledge through asking ‘why’ and ‘why not’ questions.

One way to approach this question is to explore whether asking these two lines of questioning are equally valid starting points for obtaining new knowledge across two distinct areas of knowledge.

You could argue for example that asking ‘why’ is more appropriate in AoK’s based on reason such as the Natural Sciences. On the other hand you may claim that asking ‘why not’ has a more significant application in AoK’s based on imagination such as the Arts.

“There is a sharp line between describing something and offering an explanation of it.” To what extent do you agree with this claim?

If you choose this title, you should try to demonstrate whether there is anything which clearly marks the distinction between ‘aiding in understanding’ and ‘providing justification’.

You could possibly argue that such a sharp distinction doesn’t exist and that the difference is more subjective.

You may also explore the idea of whether the answer to this question varies based on perspective. In other words does analogy have a different role from the point of view of the person giving the information to that of the recipient of this information.

Does it matter that your personal circumstances influence how seriously your knowledge is taken?

For this question it could be very useful to consider why personal circumstances are viewed as such a key factor in how seriously your knowledge is taken.

You may ask if we should really ignore the perspectives of those individuals whose opinions we consider to be biased. If you choose to follow this theme, you could explore the consequences of rejecting the knowledge of those whose views don’t align with our own.

Given that we are living in a period of such severe political and social division, there are plenty of real life examples you could draw from.

“The role of analogy is to aid understanding rather than to provide justification.” To what extent do you agree with this statement?

Whilst analogies are used to explain concepts from different angles, you could also argue that they provide justification for Knowledge Claims.

The key terms you will be dealing with in this question are ‘aiding understanding’ and ‘providing justification’. We may differentiate between these two ideas by defining ‘providing justification’ as providing knowledge which supports a knowledge claim, whilst ‘aiding understanding’ is merely intended to help the recipient of the knowledge understand a concept.

To demonstrate the role of analogy in providing knowledge, you may show how examples or concepts from one Area of Knowledge may be used to explore ideas from another.

“Given that every theory has its limitations, we need to retain a multiplicity of theories to understand the world.” Discuss this claim with reference to two areas of knowledge.

For this title, you should use examples to demonstrate how using multiple theories/perspectives aids in the acquisition of knowledge in two areas of knowledge.

Consulting multiple sources in order to gain a fuller picture of post events is a crucial part of historical knowledge for example.

In the human sciences the examination of multiple psychological theories over the years have led to a deeper understanding of the human mind.

“Present knowledge is wholly dependent on past knowledge.” Discuss this claim with reference to two areas of knowledge.

An important part of assessing this claim is to explore whether it is in fact possible to define a line between present and past knowledge.

Whilst it is clear that present knowledge is formed from past knowledge, could there be any examples of knowledge in the present which are arguably independent from the past?

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