This is the essay about whether there is a need for application of knowledge in order for that knowledge to be valuable. I can’t write the exact title here as IB have copyrighted it – students should ensure that they get the exact title from their teacher.
This is a great essay question – it gives students wide scope to use a range of examples and to develop perspectives. There are a multitude of approaches available for this essay – I will only look at a couple here, but many other approaches are possible & acceptable.
On first reading the title the word ‘valuable’ jumps out – offering lots of opportunity for critical analysis:
Valuable for what ? valuable to whom ? When is it valuable ? How do we measure value ? Is value relative or absolutist ? Is it valuable in a particular AoK but less so in another ? Who judges value ? of personal or of shared value ? what are the underlying assumptions of value ? These questions could continue….,
As we consider ‘value’ then the process of ‘application’ (in the title) becomes more important. We can ask similar questions regarding application:
How / who / when is knowledge applied (by) ? In which situations is knowledge applied ? Is application uniform and universal, or is it more specific, relative and varied ?
My first interpretation of this essay title is in terms of Shared Knowledge and Personal Knowledge structure. It could be argued that application of knowledge in a a shared context is essentially denotive. In this approach the process of application (as referred to in the title) is ‘sharing’ of knowledge. That is that the denotation of a shared meaning is the very definition of Shared Knowledge, without collective dentotation we don’t have an overt shared knowledge system. This, of course, is only one way of understanding the process of application, the IB ToK Guide makes a very specific reference to ‘application’ in Shared Knowledge systems:
Shared knowledge changes and evolves over time because of the continued applications of the methods of inquiry—all those processes covered by the knowledge framework. Applying the methodology belonging to an area of knowledge has the effect of changing what we know.
IBO, Tok Guide, 2015
On the other hand, when we refer to personal knowledge we are usually referring to a more conative aspect of knowledge. This is a form of knowledge application which results primarily in behaviour rather than shared understandings. By recognising the conative aspect of knowledge we start to understand the relationship between different ways of knowing in relation to personal knowledge. We obtain knowledge, at a personal level, through various ways of knowing, as that knowledge means different things to us in terms of emotions, reason and behaviour. It could be argued that ‘application’ of the knowledge, at the personal level, is it’s translation into behaviour. Such an argument could also be generalised to Language, and Memory as WoKs.
In the quote, from The ToK Guide, above it is the application of methods which changes knowledge. If we are to treat knowledge discovery and understanding as inter-related processes then it is in the method of discovery that we can judge the value of the use of knowledge. This argument rests very much in the sphere of academic and practical research processes. For example an understanding of certain mathematical models may be of limited value in the abstract, but when applied to epidemiological research are of immense value.
The temptation with this essay is to discuss usefulness when referring to the term ‘valuable’ in the title. Utility is not necessarily the same as valuable. Students could explore the concept of utility through the lenses of AoKs or WoKs. However, the essay is probably best formed through a discussion of the concept of value through the lenses of various WoKs. What is valuable in terms of emotion, reason, language or memory as ways of knowing ? Is memory based knowledge more ‘valuable’ when it serves emotion or when it serves reason ? Is language most valuable when it serves memory, reason or emotion. Is any language valuable when it serves only one WoK ? I’m sure that you can start to see the potential for breadth of discussion in this debate.
However, the discussion is further developed when we consider whether something which is not useful can actually be valuable ? As such, we could take cultural artefacts and consider both their relative used and value, for example is a piece of art useful or valuable ? Or a contrasting approach – how do we understand the relative use and value of an emotion ?, and are the two domains interlinked ?
Finally, let’s return to the concept of ‘application’. Knowledge can be applied by different people in different ways. There could be a formalised / shared knowledge application e.g the way in which pilots apply knowledge of avionics. On the other hand there is an individualised / personalised application of knowledge, this could be seen in behaviours such as fear of flying, or conversely a particular like of flying.
To further extend the concept of application – it could be looked at through the various lenses of the WoKs/AoKs. Knowledge applied according to one particular WoK may be valuable in ways that it would not be valuable if applied through the lens of a different WoK. For example knowledge of how to boil water may be highly valuable in AoK Natural Sciences but not in Ethics. Or, a WoK based example: knowledge of how to boil water may be highly valuable when applied to knowledge gained through sensory perception, but less valuable when applied to knowledge gained through faith.
To further develop the concept of application we could consider it in terms of the methodology of the Knowledge Framework of the AoKs. Let’s take experiential emotional knowledge, in terms of the formal methodology of the Natural Sciences it would be of limited use. We could contrast that with the methodology of the The Arts, and say that in this context experiential emotional knowledge is of great value. However, such an answer is far too superficial, and cliched. If we look below the surface it is clear that scientists use experiential emotional knowledge in their research (it could be argued that inductive reasoning involves intuitive thought), further the creative processes of The Arts often involved a reasoning framework within which experiential emotional knowledge may be of limited value.
Overall – this is a great essay, with wonderful scope for discussions and use of examples. Enjoy those discussions of what makes something valuable !