- “Ways of knowing are a check on our instinctive judgments.” To what extent do you agree with this statement?
I have given a short explanation of all May 2015 essay titles here. This post is a more detailed exploration of the title above, which is my favourite essay in May 2015 choices (just because it’s my favourite doesn’t mean it’s the easiest, or that you should choose this one. It’s just my favourite because of my interests).
I have outlined 2 possible ways to answer this question. These are just my interpretations of how to answer this question, these are not the only ways in which to answer the question – you may find a better way than me.
Possible Knowledge Questions.
1. In which ways is it possible to identify what a human instinctive judgment is ?
2. How can we establish that an instinctive judgment operates as a response to the environment when that judgment may have been inherited from a response to an earlier, different, environment ?
3. How do we avoid confirmation bias when identifying instinctive judgments ? (‘within_____’ specify AoK, or ‘through_____’ specify WoK)
4. How do we know whether judgments are a combination of various WoKs ?
5. Is it possible separate the internalised experience of emotion/intuition/imagination (choose a WoK) from the external environment ?
6. Do instinctive judgments limit the divergent, lateral and creative potential of the individual ?
These are just a few trigger KQ’s, the potential list of KQ’s is nearly endless. Students should not write an answer to these KQ’s (they’re just the ones which interest me), but students should look at the KQ’s which arise from their own thinking about this question.
Possible Answer No. 1
One way of looking at the question maybe to consider Instinctive Judgements as aiding some ways of knowing whilst being a check on others. I would very roughly divide it as:
- Reason & Language as a check on IJ
- Imagination, faith, intuition & emotion aid/enrich IJ.
- Sense perception & memory are both a check and an aid on IJ.
Define IJ. – Maybe use bio/psych/philosophical definitions of IJ. Show how IJ is distinctive to other ways of knowing. Spend time at this stage. How you define instinctive judgment will be absolutely key to how you write your essay, the tighter your definition the easier to consider a range of views in your essay.
Reason & Language as a check on IJ:
Explore hypothetico-deductive method of scientific investigation as an objective, impartial and neutral process. You could include discussion of epistemology as a value free process, Ayn Rand provides good critique here.
Students could use concept of Linguistic Relativity (& Sapir Whorf Hypothesis) to explain that language shapes thought, and that language is a product of environmental experience. Therefore language could impinge upon instinctive judgement if the environmental experience runs counter to those instinctive judgements. The use of empirical, or even anecdotal, evidence may be useful here.
Imagination, Faith, Intuition & Emotion aid/enrich IJ:
Imagination: Students could use an evolutionary argument that imagination is an inherited cognitive response to the future potential threats (e.g. Lakoff & Johnson on development of schema). To approach imagination from the evolutionary approach would see it as a product, or extension, of instinctive judgement. A contrast would draw upon the argument that imagination is a more environmental response which is developed through learning & experience (try this link here as a starting point)
Faith: Thomas Aquinas is so pertinent to this question. Essentially Aquinas argues that the internal truth of faith exceeds human reason. As such it is often argued that faith is a type of ‘instinctive judgement’, therefore, it could be argued that Faith, as a Wok, is enriched by instinctive judgements.
Nicholas Wade, in his book The Faith Instinct, argues that Faith is a hard wired, innate, inherited response.
Evidence against Faith as an aid to IJ (ie to argue in favour of the question) could come from a range of structuralist sociological perspectives. Alternatively, students could contrast certain religious faith based behaviours with humanist philosophy / psychological evidence.
Intuition: Most definitions of instinctive judgement would include intuition to a certain degree. Most defintions & research on intuition will include a degree of ‘instinctive judgment’ (depending upon your def of ‘instinctive judgment’). As such an argument that intuition is an aid to instinctive judgement will not be difficult to make. However, students may want to write a supplementary-argument around the premise that increasing evidence shows that intuition is shown to have an underlying neurological basis. The student could then explore how neurology links with ‘instinctive judgement’.
Emotion: Most psychologists believe that the basis of emotions is a set of survival instincts, Goleman argues that emotions developed as the sensory perceptual system developed, and that the emotions are the ‘sensory format’ of the pre-sensory survival instinct. Students could argue that instinctive judgements are a product of such survival instincts (clear link to intuition here as well), as such Emotion is an aid to instinctive judgement.
Sense Perception and Memory as both an aid and a check on instinctive judgement.
Ethological / Ecological Psychological theories argue that sense perception is a product of the physical environment – see work by Gibson. As Instinctive Judgements could be taken as inherited innate responses then it could be argued that sense perception aids/enriches instinctive judgements. However, Constructivist Cognitive Psychologists, such as Richard Gregory, argue that perception is influenced by cultural expectation and experience. As such perception can be seen to be overcoming, or at least mediating, biological influence. If Instinctive Judgement is defined as an evolutionary (quais biological) response, then from a constructivist POV it could be argued that sense perception is a check on instinctive judgment.
Possible Answer No. 2
- Definitions of instinctive judgments.
Spend time at this stage. How you define instinctive judgment will be absolutely key to how you write your essay, the tighter your definition the easier to consider a range of views in your essay.
The answer could take ‘Instinctive judgement’ as referring to Intuition. To do this you would need to set up intuition against the other WoKs at the start of the essay. You would then need a solid justification for interpreting ‘instinctive judgement’ as intuition. Some may want to touch on Thomas Aquinas definition of intuition.
Another approach might be:
Explore the concept of ‘instinctive judgement’ through the prism of selected AoK – possibly using natural science and human sciences. To consider ‘instinctive judgement’ beyond these AoK’s could be considered a diversion from the question.
Define Instinctive Judgement – Nat Sciences- looks at instincts as biologically based stimulus-response mechanisms with survival advantages. Human Sciences – Evolutionary Psychologists have developed concept of instinct to cover behaviours such as kin selection, parenting, altruism, jealousy, social appraisal, conformity etc etc (the list is near endless). An interesting discussion could be had on whether instinctive judgements are more innate or more learned, which could be linked back to the question re. WoK’s.
Body of essay.
In the following structure I consider ‘Ways of Knowing’ primarily in terms of Reason and Sensory Perception.
Instinctive judgments are complementary to ways of knowing (arguing against the question).
Look at how scientific method / evidence is shaped by IJ (e.g. the early stages of hypothetico-deductive method involve observation, which is caused by attention, which could be said to be mainly instinctive).
Look at how scientific results can be interpreted in terms of IJ – e.g. Rosenthal’s Maze Rats
Aristotle: Intuition is an internal, inherent, truth which can be neither challenged nor evidenced. To challenge evidence becomes an infinite process of asking ‘how you know that’, a sort of endless cycle.
Moral Facts or Moral Common Sense – Henry Sidgwick. Moral Common Sense is deemed an intuitive knowledge which is superior to reason or analysis. This could lead to a discussion about intuitive sense of morality (e.g. why do we believe in an inherent right to life?, as an extension – this intuition is often challenged and changed by reasoned morality – e.g. war, healthcare spending priorities etc).
Instinctive Judgements are a check on WoK (argue for question).
An obvious starting point would be the scientific logical investigation of falsifiability by Karl Popper (maybe make use of Kant).
How & why are scientific discoveries really found ? Is it actually through the cold rational process of the hypothetico deductive method, or is it through serendipity, accident, and maybe instinctive judgement ? Students could bring in a range of examples here: for example invention of saccharin, Wilson Greatbatch’s invention of the pacemaker etc. This could be contrasted with structured research which clearly follows hypothetico-deductive method. A middle muddle way through this could be to look at the research confusion recently at CERN.
This would neatly lead into a discussion on Kuhn.
Thomas Kuhn – Paradigm Shifts. The key part of the discussion on paradigm shift would be regarding how & why paradigm shifts occur. Are PS the result of instinctive judgement or the discovery of a new set of counterveiling results through rational observation?
Psychology of Perception explains how we come to ‘know about the world’ – the main theories are based around IJ forming the basis of perception:
Gisbon’s Direct Ecological Theory – perception is direct.
Gestalt Perceptual Theory – perception is based upon a visual framework which categorises & closes.
Ambitious ToK students may like to argue that even constructivist models (such as Richard Gregory’s theory) support IJ as a complementary WoK (e.g. construction is based on instinctive responses learned from the environment). However, others may prefer to hold the Constructivist Models in order to argue in favour of the question.
This content is neither exclusive nor exhaustive, there are many other ideas/concept/evidence that you could cite. This is only an example, intended to get you started and to inspire you to search out new & more interesting content than that I have cited.
I’m sure that you have better ways of answering this question – please feel free to post your thoughts, ideas and comments below !
This is a great essay for those interested in the psychology-biology-anthropology-archeology area of the world. I interpret this essay as a discussion around the extent to which the WoK’s are ‘instinctive’, that is the extent to which the wok’s are biologically based (a sort of hereditary predisposition). Immediately I can see interesting discussions around language (Chomsky LAD vs Pinker’s Language Instinct), also obvious discussion around perception (Gregory vs Gibson / Constructivist vs Ecological Theory). There’s some wonderful exploration of intuition and imagination here, Evolutionary Psychologists will be in their intellectual playground !