What are Knowledge Questions?


Knowledge questions are:

P         questions that directly refer to our understanding of the world, ourselves and others, in connection with the acquisition, search for, production, shaping and acceptance of knowledge

P         open-ended and intended to open inquiry into the nature of knowledge.

P         uncover possible uncertainties, biases in approach, or limitations related to knowledge, ways of knowing and methods of verification and justification appropriate in different areas of knowledge.



Knowledge questions can begin in many different ways:

How do we knowK        if a knowledge claim can be trusted?

                                    what is morally right or wrong?

                                    what basis our conclusions rest on?


How doesK                  language come to be known?

                                    mathematics relate to the world?

                                    the social context of scientific work affect the methods and findings of science?


HowK                          reliable are our feelings and intuitions?

                        does living a moral life matter?

                                    trustworthy are our senses?


IsK                              reason purely objective and universal, or does it vary across cultures?

                                    historical knowledge open to criticism?


DoesK                         art have to have meaning?

                                    truth differ between the human and natural sciences?


To what extentK           can we act individually in creating new knowledge?

                                    does personal or ideological bias influence our knowledge claims?

                                    is emotion biological or hard-wired, and hence universal to all human beings?

                                    is emotion shaped by culture and hence displayed differently in different societies?


CanK                           human behavior be predicted?

                                    mathematics be characterized as a universal language?

                                    history be unbiased?



Knowledge questions usually contain TOK language and ask about:

P         the WOKs

P         the AOKs

P         related knowledge terms: authority, belief, certainty, culture, evidence, experience, explanation, interpretation, justification, reliability, truth, values



Knowledge questions can be related to:

P         the ways of knowing and their definition / use / importance / limitations / negative effects in relation to an area of knowledge, e.g. does some knowledge lie beyond language or can there be creativity without emotion?

P         the areas of knowledge, e.g. is mathematics present in nature or how reliable is proof in the natural sciences?

P         distinctions & connections between areas of knowledge, e.g. how the different subjects are defined and what makes them different from one another or what the relationship is between one area of knowledge and another, for instance is mathematical proof necessary for the development of scientific understanding?



Adapted by from workshop material produced by Mary Garland and Paul Hart, 2014