Theory of Knowledge

Theory of Knowledge (TOK) is unique among courses offered by the International Baccalaureate and MCPS. As stated in the IB General Guide, the purpose of the course is "to stimulate critical reflection upon the knowledge and the experience of students both in and outside the classroom." While the scope of the course includes much which would be classified as philosophy, TOK differs from traditional philosophy courses in that it includes only one area of that discipline; epistemology. It also includes objectives reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of the IB program, examining mathematics, language, logic, and the methodologies of disciplines from both the sciences and humanities.

Aims - The aims of the Theory of Knowledge program are to lead students to:

  1. engage in reflection on and the questioning of the bases of knowledge and experience;

  2. be aware of subjective and ideological biases;

  3. develop a personal mode of thought based on critical examination of evidence and argument;

  4. formulate rational arguments.

Instructional Objectives - Upon completion of TOK, students should be able to:

  1. Analyze the roles of language and thought in communication and accumulation of knowledge.

  2. Identify the rules of logic necessary to produce validity in knowledge claims.

  3. Describe the nature of mathematics as a system of knowledge.

  4. Identity those methods used by the natural sciences which have created a unique system of knowledge.

  5. Differentiate between the natural and human sciences as each seeks to contribute to knowledge.

  6. Identify the process by which historical knowledge is created.

  7. Analyze the nature and bases for moral judgments.

  8. Analyze the nature and bases for political judgments.

  9. Analyze the nature and bases for aesthetic judgments.

  10. Differentiate between opinion, belief, faith, and truth and the relation of each to knowledge.

Time Schedule

First Semester

  1. Introduction to Knowledge - 3 weeks

  2. The Roles of Language and Thought in Knowledge - 3 weeks

  3. The Requirements of Logical Rigor for Knowledge - 3 weeks

  4. Systems of Knowledge: Mathematics - 3 weeks

  5. Systems of Knowledge: Natural Sciences - 3 weeks

  6. Systems of Knowledge: Human Sciences - 2 weeks

Second Semester

  1. Systems of Knowledge: History - 3 weeks

  2. Moral Judgments and Knowledge - 3 weeks

  3. Political Judgments and Knowledge - 2 weeks

  4. Aesthetic Judgments and Knowledge - 2 weeks

  5. Belief, Opinion, Faith, Knowledge and Truth - 2 weeks


Textbook — Man is the Measure — by Ruben Abel and many other readings


Aims The aims of the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) program are to engage students in reflection on, and in the questioning of, the bases of knowledge, so that they: develop an understanding of why critically examining knowledge claims is important; develop a critical capacity to evaluate beliefs and knowledge claims; make interdisciplinary connections; become aware of the interpretative nature of knowledge including personal and ideological biases; consider that knowledge may place responsibilities on the knower; understand the strengths and limitations of individual and cultural perspectives; and develop a concern for rigor in formulating knowledge claims, and intellectual honesty. Objectives Through taking the Theory of Knowledge (TOK 1 and 2) courses, candidates should be able to: demonstrate an understanding of the strengths and limitations of the various Ways of Knowing and of the methods used in the different Areas of Knowledge; demonstrate a capacity to reason critically; make connections between and across Ways of Knowing and Areas of Knowledge; make connections between personal experience and different Ways of Knowing and Areas of Knowledge; demonstrate an understanding of knowledge at work in the world; identify values underlying judgments and knowledge claims pertinent to local and global issues; demonstrate an understanding that personal views, judgments and beliefs may influence their own knowledge claims and those of others; and use oral and written language to formulate and communicate ideas clearly. Readings - Sophie's World, Jostein Gaarder - The Universe and the Teacup: The Mathematics of Truth and Beauty, K.C. Cole - Man is the Measure: A Cordial Invitation to the Central Problems of Philosophy, Reuben Abel