As an Ib Student, How Has Your Learning of Literature and Science Contributed to Your Understanding of Individuals and Societies

Question 9
Sarah Bollen
TOK
Word count: 1263

As an IB student, how has your learning of literature and science contributed to your understanding of individuals and societies

During the last year I have been taught not only in the different ways of knowing but also how to evaluate different types of literature, which has helped me to understand different societies and individuals. In the following I will explain, with the help of the different knowledge issues such as reasoning and science, how it has contributed to my understanding different ways of behavior.

Last summer I read, ???The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down??? by Anne Fadiman. It is about a Southeast Asian refugee family who came to America. Her daughter suffers from epilepsy; however, they do not understand the danger of the illness because of misunderstandings with poor translation and a language barrier. Another reason for this is the lack of scientific knowledge from the South East Asian refugees. They are not capable of using the same methods as the Americans do, as they do not have the same equipment. This leads to a mistrust which can be seen in a passage where other Southeast Asians ask those who already live in America whether they are cannibals or practice cannibalism.

???Nathan the Wise??? is a German piece of literature, which I read last year. Nathan, the main character, tries to make the other people understand that the different religions are not at all that different. During that time people from other religions often fought against each other because they did not understand their different beliefs and were not able to accept their different ways of thinking. Here language is a huge problem as they were not able to understand each other. In translation important information often gets lost which leads to different or mistaken conclusions.

The behavior of those different cultures and people can be understood by human science. Psychology is a form of human science which determines why people act the way they do by researching for different types of individuals and categorizing them. This form of categorizing can be seen in every type of society and after every event that happens. It is necessary, however, is to understand that in those categorized groups there are again individuals. We cannot fully categorize the whole world but to make life easier we have to, as otherwise everything would get out of control.

Through reading, I understood there are many types of people and there is no clear justification as to how to categorize them. There are many reasons why everyone is different. Starting from the sense of perception, it is the active way of perceiving things and everyone has their own taste and feeling. Again psychology is the type of science, which tries to understand how this is possible. There are a lot of limitations in sense of perception as our senses are not completely accurate and that is another reason why everyone is different. Let us take for example a man who is colorblind individual and somebody who is not and show them a picture, which is green. The color blind would be totally convinced that this picture is red while the other one will be convinced that this picture is green. If we ask another person who is not colorblind whether this picture is green they would agree. But are those two people actually right Do they really see the color green The obvious answer would be yes but actually they see pigments of color on a sheet. This shows that our sense of perception cannot be trusted and therefore it cannot be prooved if what we read is really true, as our sense of perception can deceive us.

Novels and plays, which I have read over the last year, consist of words, which make up our language. As a none-native English speaker there is a language barrier, which a lot of other people have to overcome in order to really understand what English, speakers want from us. The reason for that is that my vocabulary had to develop to understand my interpretation of texts. Another problem is that language is ambiguous, which means many interpretations are possible. An example is the meaning of the word ???love??™ for a six year old has completely different meaning than to an adult. Consequently, misunderstandings develop and this can also happen while reading.

Many novels get translated. There are three main problems with translating: context, untranslatable words and idioms. Context changes; as the meaning of one word is different from the meaning of the same word in another language. There are also words that are not translatable. For example ???Schlimmbesserung???, a German word that means ???an improvement that actually make things worse??™. The third reason why there is a problem with translating is idioms, which are colloquial expressions that have a greater meaning than the words it consists of. To translate these colloquial expressions into another language is difficult because the actual meaning gets lost. In my life I have read a lot of translation as for example ???The Visit???. What I suddenly realized while discussing ???The Visit??? in my English class I did not realize in my German class. It shows that through translation meaning and translation change. However there is also a good thing about translation as there one can see things can be added that maybe that was not there in the original version.

In science many misunderstandings can also occur through expectations. Expectations can influence what we see. When we for example put a glass, which is empty into water upside down, we expect it to fill up. However the air in this glass does not escape and the glass stays empty. Those expectations are one of the reasons why prejudices occur. When we see a new person from another country we expect them to behave the same way as other people we met from the same country. The expectations we have for certain factors as for example new scientific experiments or new people we meet is something that includes a lot of racism or misinterpretation. This often leads to uncomfortable situations. Many of those prejudice often includes what happened in the past and during history. The anger for example that still exists when we talk about Germans can never fully be overcome as it is one part of history that will never be forgotten. Society in such is full of those examples, however one should consider if this from of exclusion is only because of what happened in the past is justified.

Popper, is one of the greatest Austro-British philosophers of science and worked London School of Economics, [1]once argued that scientists should always question their own assumptions while Kuhn, an American historian and philosopher of science,[2] drew attention to the fact that during periods of what he calls ???normal science??™ scientist was mostly busy solving problems. A while a go I read that there was black earth found in the Amazonas, which could make the soil fruitfully again. Actually the Amazonas delta is not fruitful at all. However this substance made the soil rich in notions. Yet it is to be questioned how the Native Americans were able to produce this sort of ???Terra Preta??? without having any technologies to find it out. Even scientist nowadays has problems to find out what the different substances are.

As an IB student, I realize science influences people in what they have to believe and how they are supposed to see the world, while literature shows us in a more complex way that people behave. Literature is the form of written language that gives us examples of our society to show the current problems. Science however gives us coherent facts in how societies and the environment we live in change.
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[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Popper
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Kuhn