We have already noted that the empiricists see Perception as the foundation for all knowledge. What we “know” through our senses gives us the founding observations for all induction and provides us with the premises for any deduction.

Rationalists claim the primacy of Reason as a way of gaining real knowledge, especially the kind that can be tested. And really, the fruits of reason are just such darn useful things like automobiles, ball point pens, suspension bridges, polio vaccines, and the screwdriver!

Others claim that people gain most of their knowledge about the world through Language, particularly from authorities of some kind (like parents, teachers, scientists, books, historians). You don’t have to have been to China or the moon to know something about it.

It is important to note that if TOK is about knowledge, and if you are the knower, then we are really looking at what we as human beings know. Perhaps we can contemplate the knowledge of some artificial intelligence or try and consider what an oyster buried on some beach “knows,” but for all practical purposes, we are talking about knowledge claims and it is us who make those claims.

Emotion has the advantage of being open to all, the weak and the lowly, the illiterate and the scholar. It is seen to be as efficacious as any other method and is sometimes said to be stronger than the others, since it is its own fruition, while other methods are means to some other ends.

-Bhagavad Gita

Emotion may then make a claim for primacy as a way of knowing. We are born emotional and do not need either language, our senses, or reason to express, experience or explain emotion. This isn’t to say that emotion doesn’t interact with the other ways of knowing on many levels but it is arguably, the single Way of Knowing that exists at our core. Perhaps at the core of what or who we are, we find emotion, and if you know anger or hate or love, you are finding that knowledge internally. What kind of knowledge could be more human than emotion?

Consider an emotion like Love. We all know what it is, right?

The lyrics
  • What is this chemical love? Does this count as an emotion?
  • "But I still have the urge to ask her name, But that's not me, that's the hormone in my brain" What's the difference between you and your chemistry anyway?
  • What other kinds of love are there?
  • What are the implications for knowing via an emotion like love?
  • Dopamine?


Though it might be attractive to some to explain away all emotion as mere chemistry, we should try not to be reductive and "reduce" something complex (like human emotional and mental states and functions) to its constituent parts. Simply put: sometimes the whole is greater the sum of it's parts. One can define a cathedral as a pile of rocks but then this misses a great deal about the cathedral


Consider the following quotations. As you do so, try to understand exactly what was meant by the quotation and what the implications are if such claims are true.

  1. We think and name in one world, we live and feel in another (Marcel Proust )
  2. Conquer your passions and you conquer the world (Hindu proverb)
  3. The heart has reasons of which reason knows nothing (Blaise Pascal)
  4. Philosophy is the finding of bad reasons for what we believe on instinct (F.H. Bradley)
  5. Deep thinking is attainable only by a man of deep feeling (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
  6. Axioms in philosophy are not axioms until they are proved upon our pulses (John Keats)
  7. If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs...you have probably misunderstood the situation (Anon)
  8. Nothing great is accomplished in the world without passion (George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel)
  9. Laws are only reached by non-logical methods. To make a law one has to have an intellectual love of the subject. (Albert Einstein)
  10. All emotions were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle-concerning Sherlock Holmes)
  11. Man is a rational animal who always loses his temper when called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason. (Oscar Wilde)
  12. The opinions that are held with passion are always those for which no good ground exists, indeed the passion is the measure of the holder’s lack of rational conviction. (Bertrand Russell)
  13. Reason is always and everywhere the slave of the passions (David Hume)

Discussion Posting

  1. Write a thoughtful response (around 250-300 words) to the task below in your class discussion page in the toolbar on the left.
  2. Comment on at least two other responses. One of your comments must be to a response without any comments. Make this something more substantial than, "Great Response!"

  • Choose one of the quotes above (from our class discussion) and explain A) what you think the author intended to say and B) do you agree with the statement and C) the implications of this truth on our daily lives.

Lesson 1: Know your emotions

Lesson 2: What is emotion?

Lesson 3: Does Emotion hinder our quest for knowledge?

Lesson 4: Emotion and Reason

Lesson 5: Intuition and Emotional Intelligence

Emotion WOK Vocabulary:

apathy, debugging intuition, emotional coloring, emotional energy, passion, emotive language, empathy intuitions, James-Lange theory, primary emotions, rational fool, Romanticism, social emotions, Stoicism

TOK Lexicon of all our vocabulary