IB TOK: What is personal knowledge and shared knowledge?

The distinction between personal knowledge and shared knowledge invites you to think about the difference between what ‘I know’ and what ‘we know’.

If you begin to think of examples to complete the sentence ‘I know….’ there’s a mass of things you could think of. Your list is unique to you. If you make a new list of things that ‘we know…’ there’s more common knowledge that people agree on.

In each of your six IB subjects, there’s a body of shared knowledge. The task of TOK is to reflect on the nature of knowledge across these subjects. Which subjects contain certain knowledge? Which contain useful knowledge? Which knowledge does your culture value most and why? What are the methods used to generate knowledge in each subject?

Examples of shared knowledge include the following. Historical facts and certain historical interpretations make up shared knowledge in history. In Economics, the principle of ‘ceteris paribus’, translated from the Latin to mean, “all other things being equal or held constant” might count as shared knowledge. In ethics the principle of utility, the ‘greatest happiness of the greatest number’, has been used to measure whether an action is right or wrong, and might be considered as shared knowledge.

If you think about the features of each type of knowledge, shared knowledge can travel across cultures and onwards to the next generation. In this way shared knowledge stands the test of time. I may have personal faith in God but if I am a member of a world faith, my religious knowledge system might pass on shared knowledge. For example in Roman Catholic thinking, the beliefs, doctrines and practices that make up the tradition might count as shared knowledge for the 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-21443313

Alternatively I may personally believe that there is no God but there is shared knowledge that atheists may have in common. Alain de Botton’s book, ‘Religion for Atheists’ might offer some shared knowledge for atheists and a community for like minded people at his ‘School of Life.’ http://alaindebotton.com/religion/

If we think of knowledge as ‘know-how’, consider the difference between ‘I know how to do x’ and ‘We know how to x’. For example I may not know how to solve the rubiks cube, but together we may know how to learn to solve it, and it’s shared knowledge who the fastest in the world is. The clip here is from the 2013 Rubik’s Cube World Championship in Las Vegas, Nevada:



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1 Response

  1. Zahin says:

    its good and very knowledgeable.

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