Adichie’s analysis of ‘single stories’, which she explores in a fabulous TED talk, is perfect for TOK, and will help students explore the concept of perspectives. Listen out for the word ‘Nkali’, which is also very helpful.
Chomsky believes that humans have a inbuilt ‘language acquisition device’ that helps us to learn the grammar of languages. Has also written a wide variety of other topics, and taken a provocative stance on ethics.
Crockett is a neuroscientist, who specialises in moral decision-making. She has written and spoken widely on how ‘neuro-babble’ is used to misrepresent scientific knowledge, and manipulate us into buying products we don’t need.
Damasio is a neuroscientist who studies the relationship between emotion and reason, and whose ‘somatic marker hypothesis’ is influential. He also provides a useful definition of ‘emotion’ which distinguishes it from ‘feeling’.
Davis is the ‘National Geographic explorer-in-residence’, and argues (via various TED talks and books) that ‘different visions of life making for completely different possibilities for existence’.
One of the great communicators of scientific knowledge, deGrasse Tyson argues that science, and scientific thinking, is the “pivot” of modern civilisation.
Descartes, a French mathematician, mistrusted the senses, and said proof of our existence lay in the fact that we think, thus establishing the rationalist approach to knowledge.
Eagleman’s amazing work is built on the fact that our brain does not care about the way in which sensory information is relayed to it - so he has enabled blind people to ‘see’ via other senses.
Arguably the greatest modern scientist, Einstein advocated the importance of imagination in understanding the world and universe.
Gray is a philosopher who is rather pessimistic about humanity’s future. Look at his ideas alongside those of Steven Pinker, and try to figure out how two very smart people, who are, in theory, objective thinkers, can arrive at two completely different conclusions about society.
Hazleton is a writer and journalist, who has done extensive research into the life of early religious figures, such as Muhammed. She argues that doubt is an essential part of faith, which makes us completely question our assumptions about religion.
Kahneman is a Nobel Prize-winning psychologist. He has many ideas that are transferable to TOK; amongst them, the ideas that we have “experiencing selves” and “remembering selves”, which perceive emotions differently.
Hoffman’s analogy of the computer ‘operating system’ for how sense perception works is a very helpful model to explain why we ‘construct’ reality, rather than see it how it actually is.
James was an American philosopher, who advocated the ‘pragmatic truth test’ as a way of assessing the usefulness of knowledge.
German philosopher, who argued that ethics should be approached in a deontological way - in other words, decisions or actions are inherently right or wrong, regardless of their outcome.
One of the key ‘empiricists’, Locke believed that knowledge comes to us primarily via the senses, and that we begin life with a ‘tabula rasa’ or blank slate.
Loftus is a psychologist best known for her work on ‘false’ memories. She argues that memory is constantly being reconstructed, and therefore works like a ‘Wikipedia page’.
Lotto argues that ‘context is everything’, which means we construct our own sensory realities according to what makes evolutionary sense to us. His visual illusions have the power to genuinely shock and surprise students.
Erin McKean’s work shows brilliantly how language is constantly subject to evolution, and that everyone is the authority when it comes to words.
Mill was a philosopher and economist, whose ‘utilitarian’ principle of ethics argued that we should calculate the rightness of an action based on the happiness it creates. This makes it opposed to Kant’s deontological approach.
Oreskes is a historian of science, and her work - including some great TED talks - reveals how faith, just as much as reason, causes us to put our trust in the work of scientists.
Pinker has a lot to offer on cognitive psychology and linguists. His ideas on how society has never lived in a more peaceful time can also be considered alongside those of John Gray, to highlight how academics can arrive at very, very different conclusions.
Plato defined knowledge as “justified, true belief”, something that all TOK students must grapple with at some point. He was also responsible for the ‘Allegory of the Cave’ to show how the majority of people exist, and see the world.
The brilliant Robinson argued that “Learning happens in the minds and souls, not in the databases of multiple-choice tests” - in other words, education is (or should be) a complex, personalised, profound experience.
The scientist and writer Carl Sagan maintained that we rely almost completely on science, but know almost nothing about it. He also advocated the importance (but not perfection) of the scientific method.
In a brilliant TED talk, Selasi shows how the question of ‘where are you from?’ is meaningless, whereas, ‘Where do you feel a local?’ reveals so much about who we are.
Shafak is a writer who believes that imagination is the way of knowing that allows us to break through into other people’s realities, and connect with them.
Socrates, the key pioneer of Western philosophy, argued that “the unexamined life is not worth living”. In other words, it’s always worth knowing the truth, regardless of the price you pay for that.
Villani is a mathematician who portrays this area of knowledge as an adventure and emotion, rather than one in which cold logic leads to the production of knowledge.