Prompt 2 - For artists and natural scientists, which is more important

Prompt #2 – For artists and natural scientists, which is more important: what can be explained or what cannot be explained? 

TOK essay 2023 May Prompt #2 – of “what can be explained versus what cannot be explained” is a fascinating and complex one that touches on artists’ and natural scientists’ different goals, methods, and perspectives. 

But let’s be real, sometimes it’s just like trying to explain a dad joke, it’s not meant to make sense, it’s just meant to be funny. Artists and natural scientists both create and explore knowledge, but they do so differently. So let’s dive deeper into this thought.

What is this second TOK prompt all about?

Artists often focus on expressing their emotions, ideas, and experiences through various mediums, such as painting, music, or theater, intending to make you feel something, even if you can’t quite put your finger on it. 

Meanwhile, natural scientists are like the detectives of the science world, using their microscopes as magnifying glasses and their lab coats as capes, all in the name of solving the mysteries of the universe. 

In the realm of art, it is often more important to have an open-ended and interpretive understanding rather than an explanation. This is because the artist creates to express something that is not necessarily measurable and might not be explained. 

On the other hand, scientists aim to provide a definitive explanation, but let’s be honest, understanding the universe is like trying to put together a puzzle with missing pieces, you’ll only have a partial picture. 

In conclusion, the topic of what can be explained versus what cannot be explained is a complex one that highlights the different perspectives, goals, and methods of artists and natural scientists. 

But if you’re ever feeling lost and confused, just remember, sometimes the best explanation is just to say “I have no idea, but it sure is pretty/interesting”. 

Beeeeeep! Wrong! Just joking; your supervisor won’t like such a part of a TOK essay 😉

Let’s talk about areas of knowledge that an IB student can use to cover the TOK essay on Topic 2. For artists and natural scientists, which is more important: what can be explained or what cannot be explained? 

AOKs for TOK essay 2023 title #2

Here are five different Areas of Knowledge (AOKs) that could be used to complete a TOK essay on the topic of “what can be explained versus what cannot be explained” for artists and natural scientists:

  1. The Arts: AOK of the arts can be used to explore the different ways in which artists create and express themselves and how their work can evoke emotions and ideas in the viewer. It can also be used to examine the role of interpretation in art and the idea that the meaning of a work of art can be open to multiple interpretations.
  2. Natural Sciences: AOK of the natural sciences can be used to explore the methods and goals of natural scientists, such as experimentation, observation, and logical reasoning. You can also use it to examine the concept of falsifiability and how it is used to evaluate scientific theories and hypotheses.
  3. Philosophy: AOK of philosophy can be used to explore the concept of truth and how it relates to the idea of what can be explained. Philosophy can also be used to examine the relationship between reason and emotion, and how these two elements interact in the creation and interpretation of art.
  4. Mathematics: AOK of mathematics can be used to explore the concept of proof and the idea that mathematical proofs are considered to be the most certain form of explanation. It can also be used to examine the ways in which mathematical concepts and principles can be used to understand and explain the natural world.
  5. History: AOK of history can be used to explore the ways in which the interpretation of past events has changed over time and the role of perspective in shaping understanding of the past. You can also use it to examine the relationship between historical facts and interpretation, and how the perspectives of different cultures, societies, and time periods shape understanding of events.

These AOKs can be used to explore different aspects of the topic of “what can be explained versus what cannot be explained” for artists and natural scientists and to examine the various ways in which different areas of knowledge approach the question of explanation.

Real Life situations applicable to this TOK essay prompt

Here are a few examples of TOK real-life situations that connect to the topic of “what can be explained versus what cannot be explained” for artists and natural scientists:

A painter creates an abstract painting that is intended to convey a feeling of turmoil and emotion. 

Some viewers may see the painting as chaotic and disturbing, while others may see it as peaceful and meditative. The artist’s intent may be to express something that is difficult or impossible to put into words, and the meaning of the painting is open to interpretation.

A scientist studies a species of bird that appears to have a unique mating ritual. 

Through observation, experimentation, and analysis, the scientist can determine the specific behaviors and physical characteristics involved in the ritual and develop a testable explanation for it. However, the scientist may not be able to fully explain why the bird engages in this particular mating ritual or what it feels like to be a bird experiencing the ritual.

A physicist proposes a theory that could potentially explain the behavior of subatomic particles in a new way, but the theory is not able to be tested with current technology. 

The physicist argues that the theory is still a valid explanation even though it cannot be tested, while other scientists argue that a theory that cannot be tested is not a scientific explanation.

An artist creates a sculpture that appears to be a random collection of shapes, but upon closer examination, it reveals a hidden message. 

The artist intends to create something that is initially uninterpretable, but a message is revealed upon closer examination. The meaning of the sculpture is open to interpretation, but the artist also has a very specific message behind the work

A researcher found new evidence that contradicts a long-held scientific explanation, leading to a shift in the understanding of a particular phenomenon. 

The researcher’s new explanation may not be able to account for all aspects of the phenomenon fully, but it does provide a more accurate and testable explanation than the previous one, showing the importance of progress and change in scientific understanding.

These examples illustrate how art and science can approach the question of explanation differently, and how the meaning and understanding of a work of art or a scientific discovery can be influenced by factors such as interpretation, context, and perspective.

Ready to write your TOK essay on Prompt #2?

In summary, the topic of what can be explained versus what cannot be explained is a head-scratching and mind-boggling one that touches on the different perspectives, methods, and goals of artists and natural scientists. 

Artists and scientists are like the Batman and Robin of knowledge creation, each with their own set of skills, but together they make the world a better place. It’s like comparing a Monet painting to a scientific theory; both are beautiful in their own way, one is like a fancy cake, it looks pretty, but it’s hard to understand; the other is like a math equation, it makes sense, but it’s not as pretty.

And just like a good comedy and a good thriller, art and science are the perfect duo, they complete each other. So, let’s continue to appreciate the beauty of both the explainable and the unexplainable, and the absurdity of it all.

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Our team of experienced writers and educators have a deep understanding of the TOK rubric and can help you develop a strong thesis, organize your thoughts, and provide evidence and examples from different areas of knowledge. We also offer editing services that can help you refine your writing, eliminate errors, and improve the overall quality of your essay.

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You can also be interested in another article where I have explained different TOK essay prompts:

  1. Is replicability necessary in the production of knowledge?
  2. Does it matter if our acquisition of knowledge happens in “bubbles” where some information and voices are excluded? 
  3. Do you agree that it is “astonishing that so little knowledge can give us so much power” (Bertrand Russell)
  4. Are visual representations always helpful in the communication of knowledge?
  5. To what extent is the knowledge we produce determined by the methodologies we use?

Good luck with your TOK essay.

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