Justified knowledge in my IB subjects

In this post, I will be talking about 4 of my 6 IB subjects. I will be categorising them into 2 groups: ones that provide the most justified knowledge, and ones that provide the least justified knowledge.

I have maths in my top two ‘most justified knowledge’ but it is debatable, and I too have mixed feelings about the meaning of the subject. To start with, everything in maths is relative to the foundation that was set a long time ago. Because we deemed those foundational ideas to be ‘true’ therefore we can justify what we know now to be ‘true’. It is a subject where sometimes complex ideas arise through revelation, but this is not a concrete enough reasoning for the mathematical community as they often value a logical proof over a revelation, and therefore a logical reasoning is also developed to ‘prove/ backup’ the same idea. The process is probably not that simple though. Often when doing maths I ask myself what it all means because, to be honest, I don’t really understand. To me, the idea of numbers also seem abstract, and although I am quite often the one to ask my teachers about the real-life application of the subject, I still find it weird that it is a form of knowledge that exists in the grand scheme of things. When looking back to the level of maths we are exposed to, I would say it is an area of justified knowledge because of the logical proofs we are exposed to. I think it is also justified as it has real-life applications that we see to have implications. It is also applicable in the field of science, where once again you can physically see your calculations have an effect on the way an object moves, and in these applications, your senses can make you believe in the knowlegde of the subject.

Economics is another subject I think that has highly justified knowledge. It is a subject where you can observe the real-life implications. It is also based on observations of human behavior, therefore, backed up by real-life examples. In class, we often focus on providing examples in correspondence. There is also an element of behavioral psychology to it which is justified by value judgment. That being said there is uncertainty in economics as well because the theories do not always directly translate to the issues, and a lot of assumptions are made when creating models. In just a few economics lessons I have had up till now I already see a shift in my view of the world. Economics is about the choices that are made, and these choices are often driven by value judgment.

I would say English is one of the bottom two because it is a very interpretative subject, I guess then everyone is able to draw individual knowledge which they then justify with evidence that they draw from the language. But compared to science and maths the knowledge gained in this field is not as universally justified or accepted, because not everyone has agreed to agree with all the ideas that literature brings about. Personally, I think, although, English gives me a different insight into human behavior, culture, values and the use of language, the work we focus on is not so much about gaining knowledge than it is skills of analysing.

Lastly, the other subject that would place in the bottom two would be Spanish. I am taking ab inito this year and am yet to discover the nuances of the language. My knowledge in this area is basic, so currently, the only reasoning behind my learning is authority, becasue my teacher says it to be true, it is true.

I am curious to see how my ideas might change over the course of the two years.

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One Comment

  1. nal@gapps.uwcsea.edu.sg Reply

    Great post Aarushi; thank you. Your comments about Maths are perceptive. We will return to this when we look at Maths later. I think you are close to saying that while Maths may not be *true* it is certainly very well justified. We tend to take those things as largely synonymous, but they are not. You also touch on the *social* nature of maths. We tend to think maths is about individuals -but there are also communities of mathematicians who work to establish proofs collectively; indeed, nothing is regarded as proven until it has been *agreed* as such by the community.

    interesting also that you have English and Spanish together. As Languages A and B they are of course totally different; and I see why you say tat in Spanish it’s all about authority. That’s because the nature of knowledge in Spanish is grammar, syntax etc etc. But in English, it’s far more subtle. While there is interpretation, for sure, is there *knowledge* that you get in English? When you study a poem, or a shakespeare play are you learning something that goes beyond that specific poem or play? I would hope that you are – something that might not be about poetry or plays at all. What do you think that might be?

    In terms of thinking about improvements, I guess it’s worth pointing out that you have taken ‘justified’ to have a clear meaning; that the same standards of justification apply to English as Maths. But that may not be true. One might argue that different areas have *appropriately different* standards of judgement. And that you have implicitly held English a Mathematical standard; hardly a surprise it comes up short. Had you held Maths to an English standard (which, I guess could be where something is justified to the extent that it resonated with your life experiences) then I guess Maths would come up short.

    What I am getting at, I think, is that you have made some assumptions. Or more accurately, perhaps the question had some assumptions built into it that you accepted unquestioningly. Worth perhaps remembering for another time!

    Good post
    thank you

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