My First Impressions of TOK

An Impression is something that lasts, stays with you. So here I am, a week or so later, searching myself for what has stayed.

My initial thoughts, like many others were an unsettling amalgamation of fear, panic and one that stood out very clearly: ‘I’m already tired of this and we haven’t even begun!’

From the first lesson, I was already feeling or perhaps imagining an overwhelming sense of tiredness. I could foresee myself drowning in the inevitable amount of work and confusion. A reasonable worry that comes with the IB course is that of the workload. In fact, it’s undeniable that there will be a mountain of work that will not get smaller, no matter how far back you stand.

But as the weeks went on, I noticed that while I did enjoy my subjects, there is one word I could find to sum up TOK and that is: refreshing.

TOK is refreshing to me because it feels as though we are the pioneers. Every lesson, we are asking questions about knowledge and the basis of knowledge and there is always something new to learn. In other subjects, someone else has already found out the facts and done the experiments and we are learning from them. In TOK however, we the students are creating the subject, we are asking the questions and we are questioning the basis of humanity, taking apart the building blocks of society, examining them and asking why?

We may never be able to answer the questions that we ourselves ask, but I find it inherently refreshing to finally question everything.

Until next time,

Tani Fakile

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Step Out Of The Bubble

Alternatively titled: Immanuel Kant was an idiot (morally) – here’s why in five minutes or less.

Morality – an extremely difficult concept to nail down. One of my biggest bones of contentention with the discussion of morality is simply that. The discussion of it. Yes, of course, we need morals and we seem to need a moral code that we live by and discussing them is an important way to pin them down. I think that all too often when discussing ethics, we get trapped in this sort of philosophical bubble where we’re happy to make definitive statements about what’s right and wrong but if we ever did find ourselves in the driver’s seat, having to make that decision ourselves, we would be hardpressed to actually do what we say we will. The almost chronic philosophical inability to put your money where your mouth is, persay. Now, this is not to say that I’m not involved in this, I most certainly am. I am aware that the things I say when in discussions about morality are things that I’m not sure I could do if it ever came down to it, but that’s simply the nature of the field.

Outside of applied ethics, conversations about morality are meaningless. Unless we’re thinking about moral principles in strict realistic terms rather than philosophical thought experiments then the conversations are useless to the real world. Yes, it’s incredibly interesting to postulate and consider grand theories and definitions for morality and to dream up unrealistic situations and wonder whimsically how we would react to them but this in no way furthers our understanding of application of real ethics. Half the things we swear by in these discussions are lies anyway because it’s incredibly difficult to stick by what we’ve said in a controlled classroom environment, tempered by debate and discussion but in the actual event? The chances are very slim that we’d follow through. In fact the article that Mr. Saha showed us in the lesson illustrated this perfectly. As humans, as philosophical thinkers, we are blessed (read: cursed) with an amazing inability to follow through. This post is not an attack on philosophy and philosophers, merely a commentary on the way we approach ethics; I, myself, am certainly guilty of the same trait.

Now, before I continue I would like to apologise to any Kant supporters and perhaps advise them to close their eyes.

Closed?

Good.

Kant’s categorical imperative is utter nonsense. Balderdash. Claptrap. Blather. And any other synonym for nonsense that I can find as I thumb through the thesaurus. It’s ridiculous. Yes, it’s all well and good to think that we could all live by an absolute morality. But in real life? Impossible and if not then plain foolish. With the world that we have, we can’t possible hope to abide by a set of absolute morals. We are designed to occupy the grey area, to measure up the situation and then make a decision, our law system is built around this. Yes, murder and lying is wrong, but in self defence or in defence of others? Understandable, perhaps even excusable. We must be able to adjust in order to make reasonable decisions in different situations. While these conditions are subjective and rely on the flexibility and views of the individual making life more complicated and difficult as each person is dancing to their own tune; it still makes more sense and allows for a more sensible life. Yes, lying may be wrong but if Kant would really sit there and say that he wouldn’t give a false answer if a murderer asked about the whereabouts of his loved ones then he is either (ironically) a liar, or simply a fool. Now, I do realise that it’s ballsy of me to speak of someone who is regarded as a great philosophical mind but I see no other way to put the fact.

Kant lovers? You can open your eyes.

So yes, absolutism has no place in the real world. Perhaps its place is in the perfect theoretical world or the philosophical bubble –  but not here where real people suffer real consequences

I’m simply suggesting a change in the way we view ethics. We should focus on purely applied ethics that have a place in the world. Yes, these fantasy thought experiment conversations should still continue, but not in the way that we “pretend” to apply it to the world. They have no use to us humans, as decision makers. Doing so only breeds detachment from reality and lies both to oneself and others. Instead, we should be looking at causes, motives, and results of the real world actions. Because, looking at the state of the world currently, we don’t seem to be doing such a good job of it.

Until next time,

Tani Fakile

 

P.S. Sorry Kant, A for Effort.

A Collection of Thoughts From Our Lessons on Language

 

 

Growing up, Yoruba felt like music to me. Not just because of the songs we listened to but my lack of knowledge of the language turned the unidentifiable mixture of syllables of sounds into music.

I have begun to notice that some of my inner thoughts are actually in Yoruba, but more unusual than that, I’ve noticed that these thoughts are spoken in the voices of my mother or father. For me, Yoruba is more than a language, rather it’s an unbreakable to my family and history.

 

Accessible Language (Braille, Music, Sign Language, Art, Drama) – What I mean by this is that concepts such as Music, art and drama exist as a form of communication beyond words. Sometimes when we don’t have the words for a concept, it is more easily communicated in these forms, no matter which language we speak.

Every word is a metaphor apart from the word ‘word’ itself e.g the word ‘flower’ isn’t actually a flower

All language is metaphorical, it is a representation of the thing not the thing itself

If definitions aren’t universal, communication becomes difficult

Grammar supports the meaning of language however a grammatically correct sentence

 

 

Ideas don’t necessarily need to be verbal

Language had to have been shaped by thought, if thoughts were shaped by language how did we create language in first place or create new words? Sometimes when we speak, we don’t quite have a grasp on the word we intend to use. The thought comes first.

Mentalese (non verbal symbolic representation), language of thought hypothesis

Language comes from necessity

Phallogocentric – the privileging of the masculine in the construction of meaning, expressing male attitudes and reinforcing male dominance. (Dictionary definitions)

Language is racist and sexist because it’s white males that were in power but this becomes a problem because people refuse to accept that it’s a problem. As a result of the type of people in power, creating language (white males) our language is weighed down by linguistic bias. E.g the negative connotations of black and darker colours.

Some words may not necessarily have negative implications but we culturally add that to it

Actor vs Actress, should we just have one word rather than two?

 

I think we are definitely limited by language as there are so many emotions and concepts that we don’t have words for, and if we don’t have words for things that we feel, our understandable and communicable grasp on these emotions/abstract concepts become tenuous. Based on this, it could be said that different cultures with languages that words for concepts that other cultures do not may have a stronger grasp or connection to these things. For example, the concept of sadness and melancholy stemming from loss or missing something that you once had can be summed up in the Portuguese word saudade. This differs to the word melancholy in that it has a specific root and cause while melancholy is a feeling of sadness with no cause. The concept of saudade is quite prominent in the novel The Carpenter’s Pencil by Manuel Rivas and from our discussions of language in TOK, I found myself more able to understand and evaluate this novel in regards to this concept.

Personally, I am incredibly fascinated by language and linguistics and I’m aiming to study Psychology, Physics and Linguistics at Oxford or perhaps Psycholinguistics at the University of Toronto or at Warwick, so I really enjoyed studying this WOK.

Until next time,

Tani Fakile

Which Pill Would You Choose?

The Red pill: Taking this pill reveals the ‘truth’ of reality to you.
The Blue pill: Continue living your life as it was with no memory of the possibility that it could be a lie.
I don’t think it’s possible to nail down a universal initial response. There is a natural curiosity that exists in every human being that could perhaps make us want to lean towards the red pill. But, there is also the instinct to stick to what you ‘know’ and understand and what seems to be more comfortable.
However, this scene presents major issues if we step out of the suspension of disbelief that exists in cinema. I haven’t watched The Matrix so I don’t have complete understanding of the premise, but if a random man came up to me and told me my entire existence was lie, you can believe me when I say that my first instinct would not be to believe him. How could I? What he says would go against my personal understanding of reality and my perception of the world. How could I trust that he’s telling the truth? And if my entire existence is a lie, is he not also a lie, or does this mysterious man exist beyond this ‘lie’? Is he proclaiming to be above or more powerful than reality? what if the pills aren’t what he says they are? How can I trust that these will do what he says they will and that they aren’t poison? In fact, I think I’d prefer not to take any pill at all.
However, suspicions aside, there is a very natural human curiosity that exists in every one of us. This is what prompts us to learn, even from a very young age. It is this curiosity that may lead someone to want to take the red pill and I understand this attraction. The truth is very tempting, no matter who you are.
Yet, there is also another natural human instinct which is to stick to that which is familiar to you. We tend to be scared of new things and new experiences, a survival instinct that is yet to realise its redundancy. This may lead some to take the blue pill.
Your choice also depends on the state of your life currently; if I enjoyed the life I had been living up to that point, who’s to say I’d enjoy the ‘reality’ better? In fact, odds are, it would be worse. Would I risk my happiness for the sake of the truth? For someone who’s life wasn’t very pleasant, would they take the red pill on the grounds that their life couldn’t get much worse?
All my waffling aside, I cannot give a straight answer to this question and I will continue living my life ambiguously in the hope that my ‘Matrix Moment’ never arrives.
Until next time,
Tani Fakile

My TOK Song

The song I’ve chosen to represent TOK is a song called ‘Are you Real’ by Farao.

I’ve chosen this song because although its lyrics are very simple, its simplicity gives it its beauty. The singer repeats the line ‘Are you Real?’ and the haunting melody lends to the inquisitive tone while leaving the song open to interpretation which is key aspect of TOK. The fact that all things, even those that we regard as fact are open to interpretation and as TOK learners, we must be able to interpret and analyse everything given to us.

The unrelenting questioning of this song also relates to another aspect, perhaps the main one, which is being inquisitive. When listening to the song, I imagine the singer looking at the world around her and wondering what she can and trust, what is real and whether she can trust her senses or other forms of knowledge to tell her that. As the melody becomes higher, I imagine her asking this question about the bigger, more important things in life, like friendships, relationships, family. As the song reaches its crescendo, I imagine the singer looking up the sky and asking if God is real, if anything at all is real.

The song ends with a hollow texture and the singer stops singing and the drums continues playing then ends abruptly. This ending reflects something that we as TOK learners may have to accept; that is that the questions we ask may not have answers.

Until next time,

Tani Fakile