APPRENTICESHIP IN TOK ANALYSIS

This third written assignment champions the Analysis criterion in future TOK Presentations and Essays. The assignment offers a simple triadic framework for setting up multiple perspective responses to Knowledge Questions and then attempting to resolve them.

The framework loosely follows the traditional thesis-antithesis-synthesis approach. Essentially students respond to aspects of a Knowledge Question with claims and counterclaims. This sets up a tension. The tension is at least partially resolved by the to and fro of the final synthesis. Furthermore:

  • The claims and counter claims should be supported with real world (non-hypothetical) examples.
     
  • The emergent synthesis may adopt a strong position (perhaps a “third path”); or it may concede that two seemingly contradictory positions may be tolerated in parallel; or there may even be recognition of inherent ambiguity and/or impasse.
     
  • It is also worth mentioning, even at this stage in the TOK course, that losing one’s nerve in the synthesis, and resorting to outright relativism, is a weak strategy.
     
  • Even worse is taking a debate-like, adversarial approach that culminates in singular, “neatly sewn up,” winning argument. Knowledge Questions are open-ended. The idea is not to resolve them. Rather, the reader of the response should be taken on a fascinating journey—a somewhat surprising, nuanced and sometimes counterintuitive to and fro experience—that enriches understanding. Providing a definitive answer is the realm of closed questions.
Carel Fabritius (1654) Goldfinch. Oil on panel. Mauritshuis collection, The Hague.

Carel Fabritius (1654) Goldfinch. Oil on panel. Mauritshuis collection, The Hague.

WRITTEN ASSIGNMENT

The third written assignment is based on some of the guiding questions for the Truman Show movie.  Students should respond with grammatical paragraphs. No final overarching prose essay is required. Printable pdf.


1.   Truman is “on the air, unaware.” Is ignorance bliss? 

  • Provide two real-life examples where ignorance is bliss in a positive sense.
  • Provide two real-life examples where ignorance is not bliss
  • With reference to your four chosen examples what is your overall perspective on the phrase “ignorance is bliss” as it applies to real human beings going about their lives.

2.   Are there legitimate parallels between Truman’s imprisonment in the Seahaven dome and the denizens of Plato’s cave?

  • Describe two aspects of Truman’s life in the Seahaven dome that are analogous to the lives of the captives in Platos cave.
  • Describe two aspects of Truman’s life in the Seahaven dome that differentiate him from the captives in Platos cave.
  • With reference to your four chosen examples, evaluate to what extent the Truman Show is a successful contemporary adaptation of the Allegory of the Cave

3. How is Truman eventually able to recognize his predicament? What does this say about human fallibility and capability?

  • Provide two specific examples from Truman’s life in the Seahaven dome that reflect his ignorance and fallibility.
  • Provide two specific examples fromTruman's life in the Seahaven dome that reflect his intelligence and capability.
  • Truman is a fictional character. If he is the map, real human beings are the territory. How useful is “the Truman map” (for gaining insights about real humans going about their lives)? Refer to your four chosen examples as you formulate your synthesis. 


This lively TED-Ed video informs the third written assignment. Also it plant seeds for what is to come. The Problem of definition: Beef and cows unit is up next. It delves deeper into several themes evoked in the video including the relationship between signifiers, generalizations and Platonic Forms. 

The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.
— Alfred North Whitehead, (1929) Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology,