TOK Guide

Nov 8, 2017 | 0 comments

Nov 8, 2017 | Miscellaneous | 0 comments

6. “We may agree about general standards in the arts but disagree as to whether a particular work has artistic merit. In ethics the situation is reversed: we may disagree about ethical theories but we all know an unethical action when we see one.” Discuss.

  1. What’s the question getting at?
The statement in the title deals with general ideas (standards is best interpreted as ‘established or accepted model’, following the definition found in Chambers, rather than ‘quality’) and specific cases within the arts and ethics. First, it asserts that we can agree on about what constitutes art, and certain rules about what ‘good’ art is, but it is more difficult to reach a consensus on whether individual works of art have value.
What areas of knowledge & ways of knowing would work well for this PT?
This is the only one of the 6 prescribed titles that specifies both areas of knowledge – the arts, and ethics – so there is not much room for maneuver in this respect. However, this essay should also lead you onto a consideration of the role the ways of knowing play in both these areas of knowledge. In terms of laying down principles for what constitutes ‘good’ and ‘bad’ art, we probably rely more on reason, which is why it seems that agreement is easier to attain. But individually, works of art often reach us on an emotional level, which explains why our judgements are often different.
  3. What are the potential knowledge issues?
The knowledge issues for both areas of knowledge are fairly clear: consensus can be reached in the arts in terms of principles, but not so when it comes to individual works of art. The opposite is true for ethics.
  4. What sort of real life situations can be drawn on?
Real life situations shouldn’t be too difficult to find for this prescribed title: first, think in terms of individual works of art, and principles that are followed in order to create art (in all the different fields, not just visual art). You could look at abstract art, more ‘challenging’ music such as free jazz, and avant-garde films in order to consider the way in which individual works of art can be interpreted in very different ways.
 Which perspectives and implications could be considered?
  5. What are the difficulties and challenges of this question?
This is the most ‘ready-made’ of all the essays, with clear instructions on what you must explore in order to answer the questions. But there are certain difficulties, such as finding a balance between overgeneralizing and being too narrow. Many candidates will focus their discussion too much around isolated examples (particularly when they are considering individual works of art, and specific ethical issues).