“Truth” is rarely a binary concept – more often, it exists on a subjective scale, formed by clashing thoughts and conflicting opinions. Although it is impossible to represent truth in all its nuance, the word can be broadly defined as the property of being in accordance to fact or reality. Only through the acquirement of knowledge, can one better understand their reality, and, subsequently, arrive at the truth. In ToK (and life in general), one is armed with the eight distinctive modes of perception on their quest for understanding. However, because truths can exist in multiple realities, there isn’t specific “ways of knowing” that may better lead to the truth. Instead, only through using a combination of these “ways of knowing” can an individual arrive at the truth.
Although some might say that certain ways of knowing are more likely to lead one to the truth, this post would like to argue that each individual way of knowing is severely limited when used alone, and only when one uses the “the ways of knowing” in conjunction to one another, can the full truth be glimpsed. Take sense perception for example. Although in real life, sense perception is often an effective means of learning the truth – I saw you talking with so and so – , it can still be crippled by the trained technique. In the optical illusion of figure 1, only sense perception is used to determine an outcome. Evidently, viewers are misled, and only through the use of reasoning can they determine that the lines aren’t actually moving. In a more complex manner, magicians operate under nearly the same framework – by controlling multiple aspects of one’s sense perception, they are able to form the illusion of impossibility.
Similarly, all the “ways of knowing” are prone to similar crippling shortcomings: emotions can be manipulated, memories gaslit, imaginations inflamed, reasons misdirected, intuitions mislead, faiths misplaced, and language distorted. It is quite evident that every single mode of perception is fallible in some way, and, therefore there is no perfect combination.
So how does one actually arrive at the truth?
Individuals need to employ their arsenal of techniques in unison to arrive at the truth. All the “ways of knowing” acts as checks and balances to one another and are all crucial to forming one’s own understanding of reality: although our sense perception tells us that the lines in figure 1 are moving, our reason tells us otherwise. Although, our reason tells us of a high likelihood of rejection, our emotions say otherwise… etc. The human mind is able to juggle and resolve these conflicting “ways of knowing” to form a coherent conclusion, and in different scenarios, the brain values different modes of perception different. In a combat situation, soldiers may rely more on intuition. While, during tests, students may rely more on memories. Therefore, all the “ways of knowing” hold equal value on the quest for truth – without one, and the mind in unable to form a complete perception and the truth is lost.