Exploring perspectives: ‘thinking beyond thinking’ and sensing the present


Knowing how to improve your quality of thinking and reasoning plays a key role in education. Indeed, developing critical thinking skills, coherent arguments, and rational analysis, are all aspects of TOK. However, TOK also promotes your ability to ‘think about thinking’, to evaluate the role of thinking, and critique reason as a source of knowledge.

Matthieu Ricard, a French writer and Buddhist monk has been described as ‘the happiest man in the world.’ Indeed, MRI scans can reveal what happens in his brain during meditation and the changes in brainwave patterns and the positive physiological effects are well known.

Mindfulness encourages knowledge of how to be still, and how to become more aware of the present moment. Many of us might find that our thoughts are dominated by the past and the future and we seldom pay much attention to sensing the present moment. However, awareness of the present moment is a type of practical knowledge that can be increased thought meditation and mindfulness.

The ‘Mindfulness In Schools’ project, also called .b, is a programme inspired by J Mark G Williams’ ‘mindful based cognitive therapy’ and established by Richard Burnett.



Using Matthieu Ricard as a real life example, TOK students might also want to examine the following:

  • What justification could be offered for the claim that Matthieu Ricard is ‘the happiest man in the world’?
  • What can particular Areas of Knowledge such as Natural Science, Psychology and Religious Knowledge Systems tell us about the value of mindfulness and meditation?
  • Examine knowledge claims made by different Areas of Knowledge about the effect of meditation and mindfulness.
  • What do we know about the science of happiness?
  • What justification can be made for claims in the Human Sciences?

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