Perspectives: Local

Vol. 15 No. 1 (2017)

What Exactly Is This Thing That We Call Knowledge?

May 6, 2019


In July 1945, American military commanders sent a message to the Japanese government demanding they surrender unconditionally or face "prompt and utter destruction". The Japanese responded with the term "mokusatsu" which apparently has two meanings, "to withhold comment" or "to ignore". The Japanese used the word in its first sense while the Americans understood it in the latter and as a consequence unleashed the nuclear attack on Hiroshima. A history question might ask what factors led to the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan? An ethics question might ask was the United States justified in dropping the atomic bomb on Japan? A Theory of Knowledge (TOK question) takes a more theoretical approach to the communication of understanding and might ask "How reliable is language in sharing knowledge across cultures?".

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