We may live in the same world but we are unique individuals that come from different cultural backgrounds, have different upbringing and personal life experiences. These factors will form our worldview, which is part of us and what we already know. Worldview is important, as it will lead to compromises within our ways of knowing, such as perception, language, emotion and reason. Hence, we will not understand things ‘as they are’, which means pure, unbiased understanding by objectively viewing things just the way it is.
We may all physically ‘see’ the same things but we will understand things ‘as we are’. This is because our ways of knowing will influence our interpretations and become part of what we observe, resulting in having different understanding and various truth claims. Thus, in my TOK essay, it will be shown that it is inevitable that we will make subjective interpretations due to differences in our worldviews and the shortcomings of our ways of knowing. Firstly, I will discuss how perception affects the way we ‘see and understand’ the world.
Being different individuals, we will have our respective personal experiences and thoughts, and different perceptions of certain things in our minds, which alter our objectivity. Coming from different backgrounds, we are influenced by our own surrounding areas and culture, which shapes our individual perception ‘filters’. We use culture to give meaning to reality and each culture is distinctive with their own language, customs, ethics and values and these practices are not shared with other cultures.
This is why people from different cultures will subjectively perceive reality in different ways. Next, sense perception is vital in our understanding as our sensory devices create and transmit stimuli to our brains, which processes the information. For example, telling me that spinach leaves are green in colour. If I only base my knowledge on what I physically ‘see’, my perception of spinach leaves would be limited. However, using natural science as an area of knowledge can deepen my understanding as it derives knowledge from the scientific method of observation, reason and experiment.
In my Biology class last year, I learn about the theoretical scientific explanation behind the green color of spinach leaves. Absorption of light is the mechanism behind photosynthesis in plants and green light is reflected by chlorophyll, causing the leaves to appear green in color. To prove this scientific explanation, an experiment can be conducted to determine how different wavelengths of light affect the rate of photosynthesis. While sense perception allows us to observe and describe the results, experiment results are objective, as procedures have to be repeated to produce replicates.
Subsequently, mathematical reasoning will have to be applied, as raw data has to be processed. I have to use the mathematical formula to calculate the mean: This formula uses the concepts of addition and division and these arithmetic operations have been tested and proven to be valid. The knower’s cultural background, personal experience and emotional bas will not be taken into account when using this formula to derive mathematical knowledge. Hence, Mathematics is a valid deductive argument and an objective area of knowledge.
Mathematics is also used in calculating standard deviation values to check if readings are precise. Limitations and inconsistent readings in the experiment will have to be recorded and justified to ensure that results are weighed objectively. This gives a logical scientific conclusion that proves that green light is not used by chlorophyll during photosynthesis. This example highlights how if I based my knowledge just on what my sense perception tells me; I would be limited in my subjective perspective.
Sense perception can be used to make observations but we also need to rely on objective knowledge, such as established scientific explanations that have been proven through the scientific method and mathematical reason to help in forming logical conclusions and deepen our understanding. Secondly, I will discuss how language affects the way we interpret reality. Language directly influences our thoughts as it gives us the words for expression, allowing us to label, make classifications by breaking reality up into different groups.