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Explore a range of examples and ideas for your Essays and Presentations and leave your comments.

By ToKTutor, Mar 18 2018 05:00PM

Example for Question 1:

Classifying the disparate evidence as to the origins of the Earth’s geography has lead to a revolutionary (in the Kuhnian sense) progress of knowledge. ‘Catastrophism’ is part of the paradigm which explained that the Earth’s formations were shaped by devastating environmental factors such as a worldwide flood. This was replaced by ‘contractionism’ which, in brief, explained how the process of cooling and shrinking created the formation of the land masses as we see them today. To account for why identical fossils were discovered in different continents, experts proposed the mechanism of ancient ‘land bridges’ which have now submerged undersea. Alfred Wegener’s ‘continental drift’ theory proposed a radical new paradigm of thinking: the Earth was originally one landmass, Pangea, before drifting apart and stabilising into its present formation. Right up until the 1960s, Wegener’s idea was discarded partly because the theory lacked an explanation of the mechanism for such drifting. Today we know that this mechanism is ‘plate tectonics’. This mechanism explains how the Earth’s crust is broken into rigid plates which generate movement through a process of convection. The relevance of all this to knowledge is that it illustrates how the need to classify or organise knowledge into neat categories may help to refine our knowledge. However, sometimes for new knowledge to emerge, it takes a transformation of thought, perspective and methodology. The resulting acceptance of new knowledge may take time and cause much individual suffering…

By ToKTutor, Feb 26 2018 09:25AM

Example for Question 1:

In the 21st Century, it’s almost clichéd to assert that Science and Religion don’t mix well. There is some overlapping of these disciplines, as evidenced in the debate between Creationists and Evolutionists, but on the whole, there seems to be a consensus that Science should keep a distance from any knowledge claims made about non-physical, non-empirical phenomena like the existence of divine beings, miracles and the afterlife. Of course, there are some exceptions, like John Polkinghorne, of scientists who are also deeply religious, and who use the scientific method to draw the limits of scientific knowledge. There have been numerous occasions, however, in which the discipline of the scientific method has been employed actively to ‘prove’ religious knowledge claims but have lead only to confusion. Consider, for example, Duncan MacDougall’s attempt to weigh the soul. Under the challenge to refine the evidence to support his claim that the soul weighed 21 grams, MacDougall set up an experiment to photograph the soul at the point it left the body. Ultimately, his ideas were never accepted fully into the body of scientific knowledge, owing to flaws in his methodology, the smallness of his sample size and imprecise measuring tools. However, if MacDougall’s approach to the overlapping of Science and Religion didn’t strictly lead to a ‘confusion of knowledge’, it highlights, much like Polkinghorne’s work, what it means to work at the boundaries of scientific knowledge. Even today, when we approach the edge of scientific knowledge about our universe, such as the existence of dark matter, we can be overwhelmed by the same kind of mysteriousness that we sense when contemplating a universe inhabited by a divine force...

By ToKTutor, Feb 11 2018 09:22AM

Example for Question 3:

What does an ethical ‘uniformity’ look like exactly? It means, presumably, that there are absolute standards of moral judgment like ‘Killing is wrong’ which can be applied equally to all real life situations of killing with the same result at the end: punishment for the perpetrators. Now this kind of absolutism might work in, for example a Christian context, in which the moral absolutes of the 10 Commandments are delivered by an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God, but such a view of morality has been undermined at least by the Euthyphro problem. What about other ethical theories like ‘consequentialism’ and ‘deontology’? Can the principles of these theories be applied uniformly to reach knowledge about ethical dilemmas? Take the notorious ‘trolley problem’ which tests the utilitarian principle ‘the happiness of the greatest number of people is to be maximised . Even here, it has been shown how many people who would pull a lever to save the five track workers and sacrifice the one track worker, therefore maximising the happiness of the many at the expense of the few, would fail to apply the same principle when posed with the choice of throwing a fat man over a bridge to save the five track workers. So if there’s no uniform application of principles, are we doomed to ethical relativism: what’s right for you is wrong for me? Moral Foundation theory suggests that we don’t actually apply ANY rational principles or standards in the face of ethical dilemmas, such as is it wrong to eat our dog after it dies? Or is it wrong to have sex with our sister? What we do is to express a moral emotion first. Often we can’t explain why we feel this way but end up constructing a post hoc rationalisation of why we feel like we do when pressed by some else to explain ourselves. Our moral emotions, according to this theory, are shaped by six fundamental types which make up the uniform moral landscape of our lives. The theory draws on evolutionary theory, suggesting that our moral emotions have a distinct survival value. The intensity of our moral feelings in different ethical dilemmas fluctuate between a spectrum of each binary emotion: care/harm; fairness/cheating; loyalty/betrayal; authority/subversion; sanctity/degradation and liberty/oppression…

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