Theory of Knowledge Event

Ellen Peirson-Hagger, a Year 12 student from Bexley Grammar School writes…

On Friday 17th January, IB Theory of Knowledge students were invited to attend a series of lectures, led by Dr Peter Vardy, at Tonbridge Grammar School, who also run the IB course in their Sixth Form. The author of fifteen books on philosophical thought, ethics and critical thinking, Dr Vardy led discussions with BGS students, as well as with students from other IB schools, who all study ToK.

He began by making us question what our education is, and how it is necessary for it to change as the world around us evolves, in order to prepare us for the whole of our lives ahead. In doing so, we were asked to think about moral dilemmas including unethical companies and whether they should be allowed to use slave labour as long as they turn out a large enough profit, and what we interpret by the idea of ‘fairness’ or ‘truth’ across our subject areas. The lectures were very accessible because of the ToK we have covered so far, and Dr Vardy helped us to enrich what we had already discussed in class, particularly when he discussed what art is, and whether there should be guidelines for what artists should, or should not, be allowed to name as art. He used Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’, which is essentially a men’s urinal torn off the wall and sat to be showcased within an art gallery, to illustrate this idea that there are, no longer, any absolute truths of beauty or meaning, but that art reflects the choices we make to find our own purpose within the universe.

The lectures connected well with subjects that we all study as part of the IB, including History, Geography and English, and through using film clips to exemplify his ideas, Dr Vardy referred to Schlink’s ‘The Reader’, which many of us have studied in English, continually proving ToK as a way of thinking that brings all of our individual subject areas together.

Dr Vardy gave us information on perhaps two of the world’s best known philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, and their contrasting views on how the world should be assessed or evaluated, led to the final debate on whether science provides the only reliable basis for knowledge, or whether intuition is just as worthy a foundation.  After grilling the philosopher with several carefully worded questions on his position within the spectrum of education, the day was complete.

It was a highly enjoyable and interesting day, and enabled everyone there to grasp a wider understanding of the importance ToK plays within our diploma, and hearing a professional as highly regarded as Dr Vardy speak was really worthwhile.       


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