Is mathematics a gateway to empathy?

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Is the study of mathematics really a gateway toward empathy? I’m not fully convinced by the argument presented by mathematician Roger Antonsen , but I like him for making it. We need all the empathy we can get in our world. Certainly, his mathematical visualizations do demonstrate the importance of mental flexibility and imagination in mathematics, and do stand metaphorically […]

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Getting it wrong, getting it right, and generating knowledge questions: “The Forgotten History of Autism”.

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Rarely does a 14-minute talk hit so many ideas we explore in Theory of Knowledge or treat them so engagingly. In his 2015 TED talk “The forgotten history of autism”, Steve Silberman hands us a splendid case study of failures and successes in the pursuit of knowledge, and the features that distinguished them. He treats central concepts such as classification (of conditions, […]

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“Who’s an Indian now?”: concept, definition, and significant ruling

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A unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada on April 14 gives us a dramatic example to take to a Theory of Knowledge class: Métis and non-status aboriginal people in Canada are now defined as “Indians” by the federal government. The people who now fit into this category are celebrating. The implications are significant for the rights they can now claim, the programs and […]

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“Natural selection” and the early career of a metaphor

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“Metaphors, as we all by now know, aren’t just ornamental linguistic flourishes—they’re basic building blocks of everyday reasoning. And they’re at their most potent when they recast a difficult-to-understand phenomenon as something familiar.” So writes cognitive scientist Kensy Cooperrider. In giving the backstory of Darwin’s choice of “natural selection” for evolution, he provides a short article for any Theory of Knowledge […]

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Perspectives and manipulation: 6 photographers and a single subject

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At first glance, this three-minute video ( 6 Photographers Capture Same Person But Results Vary Widely Because of a Twist ) provides a visually engaging, if rather obvious, illustration of differing perspectives at work as 6 photographers take distinctly unlike pictures of the same subject. Taken at face value, it’s an appealing resource for a TOK class on the effect of what we think (perspectives, WOK intuition/reason) on […]

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Big lies, clever cons, and TOK ways of knowing, Part 2: What does storytelling do to knowledge?

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Stories have power. In the scams of con artists, they have the power to “get you emotionally transported enough that you stop asking questions, or at least the questions that matter.” So warns Maria Konnikova, whose recently published book The Confidence Game prompted my post last week, and this week. At the same time, however, […]

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