Grade A TOK Essay: IB DP Core

“In gaining knowledge, each area of knowledge uses a network of ways of knowing.” Discuss this statement with reference to two areas of knowledge.

By Gurgen Tadevosyan
Candidate Session Number: 004090-0001
May 2016
Word Count: 1599

Theory of Knowledge: May 2016

Prescribed Title No. 1

“In gaining knowledge, each area of knowledge uses a network of ways of knowing.” Discuss this statement with reference to two areas of knowledge.


In his An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Lock has stated: “No man’s knowledge here, can go beyond his experience” (59). Does the author appear to be implying that we acquire knowledge through our experience? Every day we wake up to perceive and acquire world and knowledge. There are techniques we use for knowing; the Ways of Knowing are the engines, driving the huge machine that perceives the world. This essay is aimed to find out, whether it is necessary for WOKs to form a network to produce knowledge, or they may operate mutually exclusively? Another question that arises from this knowledge question is that if we use these networks, do we use them only while knowing the world, or we use it also while sharing our knowledge with the others?
In arriving at a possible answer, there are several factors to be considered. Firstly, it is necessary to define networks. I personally define them as a nexus of cells that collaborate and create matter. In the case of this essay, the cells are WOKs, and the matter created – the knowledge. Secondly, it is worth noting that the Ways of Knowing are more different than they are alike. This feature may become the basis for the collaboration of the WOKs and of the formation of their networks, as these differences may bring to the mutual support of the WOKs in gaining knowledge – one WOK may help to acquire what other cannot. Finally, it is important to note that we do not use WOKs only while knowing the world but we also use them while sharing the knowledge that we have acquired beforehand. Overall, the essay will explore the possible formation of networks of WOKs through looking at two AOKs – the Arts and Mathematics.

The collaboration of the WOKs in the AOK of the arts and formation of networks of these WOKs can be clearly observed in the process of gaining knowledge from it. The AOK of the arts is described as one that impacts its audience in a multidimensional way. It reveals and unfolds something new and unique to ourselves (Ayyar). It is a voyage of discovery, an exploration, just as much as science is (Ayyar). The only way to truly touch the beauty is to decode the underlying message (Ayyar). This is because of the fact that, unlike other AOKs, the arts does not have a particular kind of a subject matter. The reason to it is the inclusiveness of this AOK. It varies from mathematical patterns to religious paintings. Consequently, it develops into an AOK that conveys knowledge, which sometimes is hard to acquire by using a sole WOK. For knowing the arts, a channel might be required to be established between the audience and the author, so as to exchange the knowledge that the author has tried to share via his artwork. Romanticism is an evidence for this claim. “With its emphasis on the imagination and emotion, Romanticism emerged as a response to the disillusionment with the Enlightenment values of reason and order” (Romanticism). Personally, I experienced the emphasis of the imagination and emotion in the artworks, following the rules of this movement, and establishment of the bridge between me and the author of the artworks, when I was in the National Gallery of Armenia in Yerevan. While visiting the Romanticism Hall, I didn’t have much knowledge about the events, depicted in the paintings; however, the fact that paintings there followed the rules of romanticism, helped me to know them and to acquire the knowledge conveyed in them. I saw a painting of a man, standing in front of the sea, which was undulate due to a storm. I started imagining this situation in real life. Me, standing on a cliff, water, splashing on my face. I started empathizing with this man and started sensing what he felt in the painting. I felt like that inside this man, there was the same storm. Then I used reason, so as to logically come to the conclusion that the water reflects the chaos inside the man. Using the collaboration of the above-mentioned WOKs, which formed a network to create a bridge between me and the author, I could know the meaning of the painting and the knowledge conveyed in it.
However, someone with an alternative perspective and experience may argue that one can know the arts by acquiring information about it through using only one WOK, not a network. The supporters of this claim bring up the simple exchange of knowledge through language. I remember my grandma telling me about a man, with whom she was discussing the beauty of the Russian palace Peterhof, which she visited years ago. She told me that the man she was talking to discussed the meanings of the artworks exhibited there on an equal level as she did, and she was really surprised when the man told her that he had never ever been there. All he did was a huge amount of reading about the museum and exhibits there. That is to say, he managed to know these artworks barely through language.
In fact, one can surely gain knowledge from reading about the pieces of art; however, the weight of evidence is against the position that only one WOK is used during this ‘procedure’. While reading, people mainly use language and imagination to visualize the artworks they read about. They add more and more details to them as they go deeper. Moreover, afterwards they use their memory, so as to recall this knowledge at the moment when they need it. The person my grandmother was talking to, used a network of WOKs, which helped him to exchange his knowledge with my relative on an equal level. Overall, it could be claimed that the process of knowing the arts is a complex of the collaboration of WOKs such as reason, imagination, memory, language and emotion.

Another AOK where networks of the WOKs are worth observing is the AOK of mathematics. Due to its abstract nature, it is considered to be a universal AOK. It is based in the world of abstractionism and the knowledge created in that realm is then transferred into our reality. We create an ideal environment in the abstract world for checking the mathematical concepts, afterwards, whenever possible, we apply it to our reality. Obviously, networks of WOKs may be needed for these processes to occur
An evidence of it could be a problem that states: “Imagine a triangle with sides 3, 4 and 5 cm. Its incircle has a radius of X cm. Find X.” While solving this problem, student collaborates various WOKs. Firstly, he imagines the triangle in the abstract world of mathematics. Afterwards, he refers to his sense perception, inductive and deductive reasoning to understand the given problem, incorporate his knowledge of triangles and circles from his memory and to construct the solution of the problem based on the mathematical foundations. Then, he continues using reason, so as to logically identify the steps that he should take for solving the problem. It is also possible for the student to use his intuition for solving such problems, as he may have developed the mathematical intuition – an ability to solve strange problems through unconsciously feeling which concepts of mathematics should be applied. Finally, the student uses the language, specific to mathematics, so as to show the reasoning for his actions and to bring his mathematical thoughts from the abstract world to reality.
Nevertheless, there is a phenomenon that may contradict to the majority of the above-mentioned steps towards achieving knowledge in mathematics. Many times I have seen students memorizing solutions to particular types of problems. In this way they demonstrate their knowledge just by using the WOK of memory. They do not use reason or imagination for understanding the problem. drawing the required steps for solving it or for logically coming to its solution. Students do not think about the problem; they just recall its solution from their memory.
Depending on the student’s motives, he may not use many of the WOKs mentioned for solving the problem about the triangle. To him math stops being a process of logical discovery and thoughtful exploration (Orlin). He stops using reason. However, it becomes a call-and-response game (Orlin). He uses the network of WOKs memory and mathematical language for transmitting his ‘memorized knowledge.’ Although, the factor of the memorized solution limits the number of the WOKs involved in the network, it still makes vivid that WOKs create networks. This AOK uses various networks of WOKs for reaching knowledge or communication within its area.

The fact that WOKs are different does not prevent their cooperation. Claiming that we use only one for gaining a particular kind of knowledge in a particular AOK may be misleading. WOKs are used on a daily basis. Their collaboration is one of the factors that bring to multifaceted knowledge, as due to these interactions, the WOKs explore the knowledge from different perspectives and go deeper into them. “In trying to convey to others what we have experienced ourselves, we use our ways of knowing to create the channel between us” (Dombrowski, et al 74). One may start telling a story, using language, while using subtle gestures, which is an example of sharing knowledge through sense perception.
For exploring the world of the interactions of the networks, created by the WOKs, two AOKs were selected for investigation, which one may consider very different from each other. Their natures make it possible to apply the knowledge conveyed in this essay into other areas of study.

Word Count: 1599

Works Cited

Ayyar, Akilesh. “To Express It Is To Explain It.” Philosophy Now. Philosophy Now. 2014. Web. 16 January 2016. <;

Dombrowski, Eileen et al. Theory of Knowledge Course Companion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Print.

Locke, John. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. London: T. Tegg and Son, 1836. Print.

Orlin, Ben. “When Memorization Gets in the Way of Learning.” The Atlantic. The Atlantic. 9 Sep. 2013. Web. 17 January 2016. <;

“Romanticism.” Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. MetMuseum n.d. Web. 15 January 2016. <;


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