There is no such thing as a neutral question. Evaluate this statement with reference to two areas of knowledge.
Theory of Knowledge Essay
What are the key words & terms that need pinning down?
The command term in the prescribed title is neutral question. A quick look in any dictionary will give you a workable definition of this word – its essential meaning is unbiased, non- partisan, or something that does not take sides.
In other words, the prescribed title is suggesting that questions within the different areas of knowledge lead us in a certain direction, and have some sort of agenda. These are known as leading questions, and are well known in the legal world, where witnesses are often asked questions designed to produce a particular answer that confirms what the questioner wants to prove. Gathering knowledge in this way can also be termed confirmation bias.
The essay is therefore suggesting, that all questions are leading questions, and that it isnt possible to ask or investigate knowledge without having a preconceived notion of what you want to find.
b. What knowledge issues & associated WOKs/AOKs could be explored?
For both of your chosen areas of knowledge, you should assess whether questions typically asked, issues explored, or research carried out are done so with or without an agenda. Your knowledge claim and counterclaim should be looking at both sides of this position.
The obvious AOK that comes to mind is the natural sciences, which in theory should be involved in the acquisition of objective, non-biased knowledge, but which is, at the same time, also built on the investigation of hypotheses. Scientists do not spend their time blindly investigating natural phenomena, they generally have an idea that they want confirmed or not (either way, this doesnt seem to be neutral knowledge).
Human sciences might also work well; indeed, theres often even more of an agenda in human sciences (think about politics, statistics, economics, social planning, etc.). But given that its always best to choose contrasting AOKs, it might be better to include only one of the sciences.
Its not just the areas of knowledge that deal with hard knowledge that could work well for this question. Ethical questions are often asked in order to confirm ones own moral outlook; artistic work is generally inspired by an artist, writer, or musicians own experiences and outlooks; and so on.
c. What sort of real life situations could be drawn on?
In support of the assertion in the prescribed title, you need to present examples of how knowledge is produced in order to confirm a certain opinion or interest. This may be done consciously (for example, groups who fund scientific research designed to produce just one outcome, statistical data that supports a pre-determined answer; historical investigations that are carried out in order to confirm a hunch about the past), or unconsciously (the reason for confirmation bias may be subconscious, and reflect the society or background from which we come without us being fully aware of it). Sometimes the areas of knowledge overlap, and questions asked in one are explored using evidence taken from another.
For counterclaims, real life situations should support the idea that its possible to look for knowledge without having a particular agenda. This sort of research or knowledge production could be prompted, for example, by other discoveries, leading us to venture into fields that we werent intending to investigate, or by unexpected inspirations or random occurrences.
d. Which perspectives and implications could be considered?
Youll be considering different perspectives when you address the motives for asking questions in a biased way; at the same time, youll have to bear them in mind when you think about the possibility of not being swayed by biases (either ones based on personal knowledge, or ones based on shared knowledge). An evaluation of the extent to which this is true in the areas of knowledge you have identified
One implication of the title is that if it is impossible to ask a neutral question, it may also be impossible to acquire unbiased, objective knowledge. If all questions are asked for a reason, then perhaps the knowledge that we receive is always influenced by self-interested groups, organizations and individuals. Youll need to think about whether or not thats true, and what it means for our search for truth.
e. What are the difficulties and challenges of the question?
Although it may seem at first sight that this is a prescribed title that is easy to refute, the more you explore the different areas of knowledge, the more you find that it is very difficult to escape the kind of biases that produce leading questions. So one difficulty might be that its hard to counter the claim within the prescribed title.
You could argue that the search for knowledge is in itself an agenda: as soon as you ask a question, you cease to be looking for knowledge in a neutral way. If you subscribe to this view, then it would be virtually impossible to counter the claim in the prescribed title.
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