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

By ToKTutor, Oct 8 2018 05:02PM

Example for Question 5:


Knowledge about Reincarnation


The case of the 3-year-old James Leininger is celebrated amongst believers in reincarnation as providing strong evidence to support the conclusion that souls or the individual consciousness of dead people can live on in other bodies. What sort of ‘evidence’ is this? And in reality, don’t such conclusions go ‘beyond the evidence for them’? In Natural Science, experts deal in empirical evidence; that is, evidence generated by means of experiment or observation based on measurable facts or data: quantitative evidence. In Ethics and Human Science, experts deal more in evidence such as eye witness accounts or surveys and polls; that is, evidence generated through human sources based on subjective responses: qualitative evidence. Where does the ‘evidence’ for knowledge about reincarnation or other paranormal events fit? Leininger’s parents initially offered evidence of the boy’s fascination with war planes and recurring nightmares about plane crashes for the conclusion that he was the reincarnation of a WW2 fighter pilot. Clearly, such evidence is hardly measurable beyond an anecdotal interest in a child’s early development. Subsequently, they researched books about children who had lived ‘past lives’ and built up a profile of James’s own past life. This hints at the possibility of the confirmation bias – searching for data to support one’s already preconceived idea of a situation. This was reinforced by the fact that also in their book, Leininger’s parents explain how they took advice from a past life regression specialist to make sense of their son’s situation: keep reassuring the boy that he was indeed a reincarnated WW2 fighter pilot. Now, when you apply the skeptical dictum ‘Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence’, you’re saying that you’re willing to accept strange conclusions like Leininger’s but that you want something more concrete than the qualitative evidence provided by the parents. How am I to KNOW that the soul of a WW2 fighter pilot has been reborn in this child? Presumably, the boy should know how to fly a WW2 plane, so let’s test this by putting him in a flight simulator. But this raises some serious philosophical issues like how and when do inanimate souls actually find the right body to reincarnate themselves? Or, to what extent do such souls retain their original memories and experiences? The strange thing about the Leininger case is that, as the parent’s later explained, after the short period in which James’s case had caught the public’s eye, James’s memories of ‘past life’ experiences seemed to disappear altogether…

By ToKTutor, Sep 23 2018 11:29AM

Question 6:


'Not waving but drowing', by Steview Smith.


Stevie Smith’s poem is a powerful example of when the failure to take on contrasting perspectives becomes a life or death matter. The poem is woven out of different perspectives – the speaker’s, the dead man’s and the bystanders’ – but the tragedy of the poem is that none of them ever coincide. In relation to our Q, the tragedy is that no one knew the crisis in the dead man’s life; nobody actually knew the man at all. On one level, the idea that the man ‘loved larking’ suggests he brought on the tragedy himself: he always projected the stereotype of a happy-go-lucky man who no-one could take seriously. So, from everyone’s perspective, he looks like he's messing around when he’s waving from far away in the water. Hence the almost unsympathetic excuse that he died of a heart attack because it was ‘too cold’. On another level, perhaps his humour was a façade to hide his deeper hurt: he was projecting a comic mask of himself to compensate for the ‘cold’ he felt continuously in his life. So, from his own perspective, he was really asking for help all along. Hence the threefold echo of the expression, ‘not waving but drowning’ to underline the emotional pressure he was under. The message of the poem seems to be that the distances and barriers people put up between themselves mean that they cannot see beyond the narrow perspective of their lives to acknowledge others’ suffering. The universe described by Smith’s poem is a bleak one, inhabited by indifferent, unempathetic beings, trapped in their own small worlds and alienated from others. In this universe, the nurturing of contrasting perspectives is crucial but always appears out of reach…

By ToKTutor, May 13 2018 08:49AM

Example for Question 2:


The Bwiti cult of the West African region propose a creation myth: there is a greater spiritual world underlying the world of nature. The souls of the dead pass into this spiritual realm, carrying with them personal knowledge that could be useful for the tribe. Gaining access to this knowledge isn’t a matter of believing in a set doctrine; it’s a matter of individual experience. Initiates of the cult go through rituals and a rigorous process of cleansing before they set themselves individually on the spiritual path or quest to the other world. One ‘technology’ to help gain access to this world is the ‘iboga’ tree root which works by transforming the mind’s perspective as a way of gaining entrance to the spiritual realm. In other words, the hallucinogenic properties of the iboga root enhance the initiates’ personal ability to assimilate the lost knowledge. In fact, the magical properties of the tree root were so respected that some believe the iboga tree to be the same as the biblical Tree of Knowledge. In the second half of the 20th Century, the psychoactive or mind altering effects of the plant were technologically harnessed to treat addiction by means of the drug Ibogaine. The method was two phased. Phase 1 the ‘visionary phase’ in which addicts’ senses are intensified to bring about dreamlike or psychedelic experiences. Phase 2 is the ‘introspective phase’ which brings a more reflective or analytic calmness which is part of the therapeutic effect of the drug. In Phase 2, addicts’ minds are supposed to be focused on personally assimilating the source of the trauma that caused their addiction in the first place. However, the side effects, such as slowing of the heart rate, vivid hallucinations or muscle stiffening, are part of the reason why Ibogaine hasn’t been approved of ongoing medical use.

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