Essay#5 May 2017 – access to the same facts, why do experts disagree ?

Given access to the same facts, how is it possible that there can be disagreement between experts in the same discipline ? refer to two AoK.

I start with the usual advice regarding AoK: choose disciplines from AoK that you know something about, choose disciplines within those AoK that you are interested and engaged in. You need to be starting from a strong enough knowledge base that you are aware of the disagreements between experts in a discipline.

Further, don’t focus on the different perspectives within the discipline, but do focus on why disagreements may come about within those disciplines. The focus here is on the production, understanding and interpretation of knowledge, not the knowledge itself.

When considering how disagreements could happen you could consider exploring the following broad topics. I don’t recommend that students attempt to explore all of these topics (you only have 1600 words, each topic on it’s own should be sufficient for most of a substantial interrogation):

Interpretation as influenced by

  • Schematic representation and context.
  • Emotional impact of knowledge.
  • No fact lives in isolation.
  • Knowledge as a proactively motivated process or purposeful intent.
  • What constitutes an ‘expert’ ?
  • Methodology of knowledge production
  • Are “the same facts” actually the same ?
  • What constitutes a “fact”? Is the definition in the process of interpretation ?

Remember that you need argument-counterargument and implications.


All knowledge is subject to interpretation by the knower. The knower brings personal knowledge to the interpretation of knowledge, personal knowledge has a mutually bi-directional relationship of influence with shared knowledge. The knower infers the meaning of knowledge by viewing it in a shared knowledge context, and through a personal knowledge framework. If students consider Reason as a WoK in the interpretation of facts it is possible to set up a dichotomy by which it is considered that use of Inductive Reasoning will lead to a different understanding of a fact than use of Deductive Reasoning will.

Interpretation as influenced by schematic representation and context:

Psychologists have coined the term ‘schema’ to represent the framework surrounding knowledge, the schema brings a specific set of meanings to knowledge. Different schema can bring different meanings to the same knowledge. Students could use schematic knowledge studies from cognitive psychology as real life situations to illustrate this argument.

Cognitive Psychology also shows us that the interpretation of knowledge is also influenced by the emotional state of the knower. As such, knowledge is ‘filtered’ and ‘shaped’ through an emotional cipher. This is particularly relevant when forming, and recalling, memories. As such emotion as a way of knowing is a crucial part in the construction of knowledge, which can lead to disagreement between experts in the same discipline. Numerous examples of research from Cognitive Psychology could be used as RLS, alternatively RLS could be drawn from major world events such as eyewitness reports of 9-11, Brexit, Occupy Movement Protests, etc etc – you take your pick and find your evidence.

In counter arguments to the role of schema and emotion in interpretation of knowledge students could consider consistency of interpretation between the majority of knowers, the relevance of shared knowledge over personal knowledge in terms of analysing the PT, and the inadequacy of relativist argument when trying to establish a ‘fact based’ Area of Knowledge.

Intentional, or purposeful, knowing vs ‘value free’ knowing.

It could be argued that Knowledge is not constructed in a ‘value free’ antiseptic environment, but knowledge construction is both intentional and purposeful from the outset (students could apply the Hypothetical Deductive Method as an RLS exemplar). As such, ‘facts’ are not nuggets of neutral, impartial, objective truth. In this argument ‘facts’ are constructed in order to support, or demonstrate, a theory. Facts are the RLS deployed to give theory a real life application and context. Examples of this in Natural and Human Science could be drawn from the historic great debates of nature-nurture, or linguistic development models (nativists vs social learning) etc.

In counterargument students could argue that there needs to be a threshold of conditions fulfilled before something could be defined as a fact. Alternatively students could look at the various ways in which philosophers have defined facts. Or, you could try to construct an argument that a fact is the product of a value-neutral, objective process of knowledge identification.

Another approach may be to interrogate the very concept of a fact in terms of Theory of Knowledge. What constitutes a fact ? Is this the same in each AoK ? or is a fact in The Arts very different to a fact in Natural and Human Sciences ? I like this approach, one in which students could explore what a ‘fact’ looks like in contrasting disciplines within two Areas of Knowledge (e.g. Folk Stories within AoK Indigenous Knowledge compared with Physics within AoK Natural Sciences, or Visual Art within AoK The Arts compared with Algebra from AoK Mathematics). This approach would allow students a much more open approach to the question. For example when considering disagreement within AoK The Arts candidates may want to think about subjectivity within artistic interpretation of artistic objects, or fundamental differences in the criteria by which an object is labelled art, and the subsequent disagreement in the understanding of the piece. Obviously such an approach would require a strong framework in defining the constitution of a fact in the discipline being considered.

Further, students could draw upon their learning in Group Literature, or Language and Literature. Disagreements of authorial intent, semiotics, ethical stance or moral values of a text could be explored – why and how do literary commentators disagree on these issues when considering the same text ? It soon becomes clear that there is much knowledge that students can transfer from their other Diploma subjects to essay #5.

Developing the issue of language further, students could draw upon their studies in Group 2 Language Acquisition to develop the response around issues of Linguistic Relativity and the Sapir Whorf Hypothesis. Again, the response would require students to define a fact as a word, or translatable concept.

I could continue by looking at each Area of Knowledge, but hopefully the ideas given above will provide students with a way of opening up this question in the AoK/discipline that they are really interested in.


20 thoughts on “Essay#5 May 2017 – access to the same facts, why do experts disagree ?

  1. Which AoKs would work particularly well to contrast with each other? I am thinking about using History as one, but I am not sure about the second.

  2. Hello. Is it possible to argue that disagreements arise between experts of DIFFERENT DISCIPLINES but regarding the same issue?

    Thank you!

    1. Whether WoKs feature in the essay very much depends upon your approach to the essay. If you focus on the Methodology of Knowledge Production in the Knowldge Frameworks you could probably write it without talking about WoKs, but it would better if you did discuss WoKs as integral to knowledge production. Choose AoKs that you are interested in, choose to draw examples from disciplines that you know soemthing about, and that you are interested in.

      1. Do you recommend a specific structure for the essay? As in what to include in the introduction and body paragraphs.

  3. If I were to discuss History.. do you think it would be a good idea to look at emotions and how they can cause disagreements amongst historians? for example, the holocaust.. different historians have different perspectives about the statistics represented in the media …

    1. Interpretation happens in the mind, whether you interpret the essay question as significant or not depends upon your values, motivations and purposes. I’m not sure whether your question is a ‘how’ question or a ‘why’ question.

  4. I have argued that disagreement will occur especially in the field of art. I have added evidence in which I compared two artist whose intention was to illustrate new york city and both came up with a completely different image. This has shown that interpretations varies and therefore different opinions result in disagreement.
    Could you tink of a counterclaim?
    Thank you in advance

    1. I can think of a counterclaim, but in writing your essay you should really think of a counterclaim. I can give you some help to think of a counterclaim – think about the homogenisation of marketised imagery.

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