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Theory of Knowledge: The Arts as an AoK

Theory of Knowledge is one of the most broad IB courses out there, and for good reason! You can’t exactly cover the philosophy of knowing everything without being a bit broad in your scope!

Really, you could spend an entire year covering even just one area of knowledge. But, you don’t have that kind of time, so let’s just use this article to do a deep dive into one area of knowledge: the arts!

The Arts make up one of my personal favorite AoKs. Whether you’re talking about the creation of The Arts or the consumption of it, there’s plenty to talk about and connect to the various WoKs.

We’ve all consumed some form of art...

- whether it be the books we read or the TV shows we watch - and it’s very likely that many of us have made art at some point, too.

For every single medium and genre of art, there’s tons of examples, theories, debates, and situations to pull from, and, because of technology, finding information and sources about all of this is easier than ever before. This also makes it a great subject to pull on when writing your ToK essay.

In this article, we’ll go through all of the different WoKs, and see how we can apply them to how we know what we know about The Arts. Again, there’s more to The Arts than this one article can cover, so don’t limit yourself to just our ideas; use this article as a jumping off.


Way of Knowing One: Sense perception.

This is probably the easiest and most obvious WoK to apply to The Arts. For the most part, art is, ultimately, something that works on our senses. In visual mediums like painting and cinematography, the art is made for us to see; in auditory mediums like music, the art is made primarily for us to hear.

Some pieces of art combine all of the senses, while some are made to purposefully defy certain senses. Some great knowledge questions to ask yourself here are:

“How do the arts take advantage of our sense perception to get their point across?” and

“How can those with different/disabled sense perception make and enjoy art?”


Way of Knowing Two: Language.

What language do we use to refer to, analyse, or critique art, and what significance does that language hold?

Those IB Art students out there probably know that each medium of art has its own unique lingo! In professional visual arts discussions, you’ll often hear about the elements and principles of art, animators in the audience may know something about the principles of animation, and musicians out there know the basic principles of music.

We create specific language to refer to these things and better our understanding. But how important is it that somebody actually knows these terms? Can you be a great artist and not have this linguistic understanding?


Way of Knowing Three: Emotion.

This should also be pretty simple! Art makes us feel things. Art is deeply related to both the emotions of the artist and the emotions of the audience.

How does one’s emotional state play into how they look at and analyse a piece of art? Why do we feel so connected to certain pieces of art in the first place? How valuable is that?


Way of Knowing Four: Reason.

This might be a controversial one! Some may argue that there’s no reason to art at all, and that we cannot apply an objective set of logic or reasoning to all forms of art.

Meanwhile, some may say that making a good art piece is as easy as following a few simple formulas. Is there such a thing as objectivity in art? Can we scientifically evaluate art? Is there even a way to necessarily optimally teach art?

Way of Knowing Five: Imagination.

You can’t make art without imagination, can you? No, seriously, I’m actually asking. Is imagination absolutely required to make a good art piece?

What truly is original and unoriginal in the art world?

Can technical skill make up entirely for a lack of imagination?

Also, if we need imagination to make art, do we need imagination to analyse and critique it as well?

Can art inspire imagination, or is it something you’re born with.

There’s especially a lot to talk about here, so go wild!


Way of Knowing Six: Faith.

What place does spirituality play in The Arts?

How can we use art to convey our belief in something?

When making art, don’t we have some sort of faith in the artistic process to actually finish our product?

This is definitely the trickiest WoK to apply to The Arts, but it can be done?


Way of Knowing Seven: Intuition.

This one connects to another WoK: reason.

Sure, we can come up with art and color theories to help us point out what we like and dislike about a piece of art, but how much of art is actually based on logical responses like that, and how much of it is based on pure intuition.

Have you ever seen a piece of art and just instinctively thought that it was ugly or beautiful?

Where does that impulse come from, and how valid is it when we make and analyse art?


Way of Knowing Eight: Memory.

What makes art memorable?

Is it purely its skill, or something else?

Bad movies can be memorable, too---is that a different type of memory than the memories we have of really good pieces of art?

Does art have to be timeless to stay in our memories, or should it seek to evoke the emotion of when it was written?

If a piece of art is good, but unremarkable, how good of a piece is it, really?


And that’s our rundown! As you can see, there’s tons of great knowledge questions and tangents you can ask yourself about The Arts, so lean into it! Get lost in your own trains of thought. And, if you need help, consider looking into our IB tutoring services.

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About Author

Tutor City's blog focuses on balancing informative and relevant content, never at the expense of providing an enriching read. 

We want our readers to expand their horizons by learning more and find meaning to what they learn.

Resident author - Mr Wee Ben Sen, has a wealth of experience in crafting articles to provide valuable insights in the field of private education.

Ben Sen has also been running Tutor City, a leading home tuition agency in Singapore since 2010.