How can you or your society decide ethically which knowledge should or should not be pursued? Watch

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noodle
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Ideas needed for my Theory of Knowledge essay, anyone?
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#2
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How can you or your society decide ethically which knowledge should or should not be pursued?

The root of this question lies in the deconstruction of ethics. What is ethics? What should is the purpose of ethics? Social anthropology informs us that different cultures hold different ethical opinions. Some cultures, most notably the French seem to feel that the purpose of ethical systems is to faciliate freedom, self-expression, and other such cosy thoughts. Other more beleaguered nations, such as the Russians, seem to see ethics as a question of survival.
Once we have begun to answer this question, we can begin to interrogate the stated question of "Which knowledge should be persued". For example, applying the above to the question of social science research, such as Queer theory, we can conclude that the former would probably condone it, whilst the latter would probably dismiss it outright as dangerous.
Nevertheless, the stated dichotomy of self-expression/survival need retain a monopoly on the purpose of ethics. If one studies the work of Schumpeter, one may realise that the diverse political factions that inhabit the domain of society determine what is and what is not ethical. Islamism in Iran creates decidedly different ethical systems to western liberalism in America. Take the notion of cloning : for one group, this research is a violation of god's mandate for humanity, whilst for the other, it is something necessary because it improves people's lives and promotes the freedom to exist. Indeed, Schumpeter's argument again complicates this issue : the religious right in america contests the view held by mainstream western liberalism on issues of cloning research.

maybe might want also throw in some things about marx and social constructs (ethics being determined by the ruling class - science was seen as something inherently worthwhile by the bourgeoisie, whilst social research was not).

Hope this helps,
Regards,
Peter.

TOK doesn't suck btw, it's one of the best subjects for IB. Enjoy it while it lasts.
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noodle
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Thank you Peter, for the reply.

I guess my biggest problem is that I don't quite understand the title. The question asks "how can you or your society...", but obviously what I think of right and wrong may not necessarily be the norms of the society. If I talk of me as a knower and how I can think of something ethically, then I'll be talking about my biology, my perceptions, my emotions and how my thoughts are formed, ect. This, seems to be a bit off the track. Why didn't they just title the question "How can your society decide ethically which knowledge should or should not be pursued?" I'm confused.

To further complicate this, I have trouble understanding the meaning of "pursuit of knowlege". Does this comprise both the thinking and doing parts? If so, to what extend? If I take the over-used example of earth is round, those people who agreed upon this statement, could we say that they were pursuing knowledge? I mean, it was deemed controversial at the time so they had to think something about something in order to make that decision.

This leads to another question. I agree that deconstruction of ethics is needed, however, I don't know where to start. Because of the different types of the society, there're different dimensions of ethics, e.g. social, theological, and political. Isn't the self-expression/survival model an oversimplification? (I might be wrong, but I'd like you to elaborate on that.)


Thank you for your time,
M.W.

ps. What I really meant with TOK sucks is that I suck at Tok, but I guess I wasn't too clear about that.
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It is insightful of you to recognise that there are a multiplicity of problems that confront anyone trying to answer this question. State those problems and elaborate upon them.

I think it would be useful to try to present a system for determining what knowledge can be pursued, rather than just saying "we can't, because all morals are relative". If you want, present one that panders to your ideology and rationalise it as objective. Argue the case for one particular interest group. Choose from

Utilitarian - knowledge which results in the greatest happiness

Positivist - only knowledge that can be falsified

Marxist - knowledge that is free of the interference of the superstructure

Or any one of many others.


Regards,
Peter.

P.S. A good text on the relativity of morals is "The Genealogy of Morals" by Nietzsche.
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noodle
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Thanks for the tips.
Maybe I'm hopeless, I still don't have a thesis.

What's the difference between "How can you or your society decide ethically which knowledge should or should not be pursued?" and "Can you or your society decide ethically which knowledge should or should not be pursued?" What's the importance of "how" here?

What are the topics that need to be dealt in the essay? Personal ethics? Cultural ethics? How can I relate this to ways of knowing? What exactly is being asked in the title question? If you were to put the question into different words, what would that be? Is it asking for knowledge which a person or a society has a responsibility to acquire or not acquire?

By the way, isn't knowledge intrinsically worthwhile? The objects and instruments it discovers and produces can of course be used for many diverse purposes, even evil ones. It is only the misused knowledge that is a subject to ethical concern. But, can it be called pursuit of knowledge or is it just simply an application of knowledge? e.g. those people who developed cloning technology, they were pursuing knowledge, but what about those people who then used the technology to "improve people's lives and to promote the freedom to exist"?

I'm puzzeled. What is the question asking?
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Generally, how assumes can. I think it wants you to give an answer and cogently argue for a system for determining whick knowledge is ethical, rather than simply saying that no answer is possible.

This question gives a lot of scope - you can choose to use whichever branch of philosophy or knowledge you wish to reference, although you must refer back to some core epistemology. After all, it's TOK.

Not all knowledge is instrinsically worthwhile, as your example demonstrates. Research Oppenheimer, he became quite concerned after his invention was used.

Also, the production of knowledge often has material costs and involve trade-offs. Should we do AIDS research, or should we do space research?

HTH
Peter

Best of luck with your essay
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noodle
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Hi Peter, I'm asking you about so many things that I start to feel morally in debt. Guess I'm desperate, and in times like this, anxiety has destabilized me to the point where the TOK essay undermines my ability to function effectively. Woouuuoaa...

Anyways, back to the essay. If "pursuit of knowledge" = "search for truth", then, are we morally obligate to acquire knowledge? If so, we could never be morally forbidden to do what we are morally obliged to do, unless one believes that truth itself is wrong, right? By the way, ethics, is it about good/bad or is it about right/wrong? (I'm not too sure about the concepts.)

Another point, this concerns examples. So far, in our conversation, all the examples we used have being drawn from science. (earlier you've mentioned cloning, manhattan-project, ect.) In short, they're all scientific research of one form or another. What about other areas of knowledge? (e.g. maths) Aren't the other areas applicable? Or has this to do with the particular nature of the subjects? Why does it feel easier to present counter examples? Is there knowledge that we SHOULD pursuit? Once again, I'm totally lost.

Acknowledging the difference between various societies and between their values. How can I go about to discuss the problem of morally permissible knowledge? From which society's view? Won't it be unsound whichever way I choose, because that'll only give a partial picture of the whole? And if I were to attack the question from my personal point of view, will I be addressing those knowledge that I think myself should or should not pursuit or will I talking about knowledge which I think others should or should not pursuit. (I just want to understand the question, why is it so hard?!)

And finally, when you wrote "cogently argue for a system", did you mean that I've got to work out something like a cost & benefit-analysis, along the lines like Recognizing-Evaluating-Decision making? Like a step-by-step guideline? I really do find TOK demanding, how do you manage it?
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You had any luck with these questions? Looks as though you are thinking quite hard about them.
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noodle
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Not really, after 3 re-drafts, I think I'll have a go at another topic. How about you?
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You seem to progressed a great deal on this subject, seems silly to give up.
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Hey noodle don't give up! Me and several other students are also doing that essay, and its definately the best one! I started by reading a few chapters from a book "An intelligent persons guide to ethics" by Mary Warnock. Even though I only read the first chapter and the last (running out of time), it gave me enough inspiration to keep going.
Think about Private morality- the kind that only needs justification to the individual and is determined by emotions and self-sacrifice.
and Public morality or democratically acceptable morality. This requires explanations and justifications so that society can decide whether this united morality should become a law that everyone accepts.
Sorry I haven't written much but I hope this gives you a start!
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toby
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my approach to TOK has always been trying to fit as much bull**** as possible on a paper without getting it to seem like it..

point being that find a couple of aspects and then discuss them over and over again from different point of views and whatnot, that's what TOK is all about..

Personally.. I think it sucks.. but.. all the things you do to get that diploma eh?
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Originally posted by toby
my approach to TOK has always been trying to fit as much bull**** as possible on a paper without getting it to seem like it..

point being that find a couple of aspects and then discuss them over and over again from different point of views and whatnot, that's what TOK is all about..

Personally.. I think it sucks.. but.. all the things you do to get that diploma eh?
I quite enjoy TOK. It gives you lots of freedom to peruse whatever line of enquiry you want to, and unlike many subjects, it is genuinely intriguing.

But yeah, you're right, you can very easily bull**** your way through it.
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toby
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I guess it very much depends on your TOK teacher... I simply don't like the teacher.. and that might also affect what I think about the subject.

However, I do feel that TOK goes around in circles.. and I can't really say that I know more now than I did when I started IB-1 almost two years ago.

Basically what TOK has been about for me is the "question everything"
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noodle
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Any body doing "Is it a simple matter to distinguish a scientific argument from a pseudo scientific argument?"

Please contact me as soon as possible!
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Hello I am answering the same queston and I have no idea on what I am doing, If you want to keep in contact and help each other out my email is [email protected]

Melissa
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Originally posted by noodle
Not really, after 3 re-drafts, I think I'll have a go at another topic. How about you?
I'm doing the essay on the same topic, I mean the knowledge pursuit thing. I think you've developed very good ideas there, don't give up now! It's the same thing with all the topics, first there's an enormous confusion and brainstorm in your head, but after a while it all seems clearer (heeh, sounds like some spiritual enlightment, huh? I have almost finished my essay now and am quite satisfied with it.

btw. I think 'HOW' doesn't mean the same as can but rather 'what's the criteria' or 'what does an invidual/society need to take into account when making decisions'.

But good luck for you and don't lose your hope! We've almost done it!!! (after the TOK-essay I only have one oral left before the finals)
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well, I am a chinese IB student, and I am doing the same topic as Noodle, "how can you or your society decide ethically which knowledge should or should not be pursued?"
I started this essay last week, and I found your discussion about the essay, now i realised my essay is just on a basic level, I think any of you want to discuss with me, please e-mail me, i will be very appriciate to your help!
[email protected]
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god this is a pain, is anyone still on it so we can discuss it? or are you all finished already?
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#20
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#20
What is TOK? Diploma level Sociology or something?
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