Belief System Mapping (500 points)

Objective: to develop a realistic model of an individual belief system with reference points to personal history, argument maps, literature sources, relations to other belief systems, and practical impacts.

Description: Over a period of ten weeks, each learner will produce five well-developed Belief System Maps. Belief system maps are diagrammatic and verbal models of clusters of related beliefs, values, and supporting thoughts. As much as is possible, we will strive to draw from your genuine individual belief system to produce representations that other people can examine and assess. This activity is an attempt to use philosophical techniques and technology together to create powerful expressions of your unique thought. The quality and accuracy of this result is dependent upon the honest effort that you give it. I suspect that much of your educational experience has been about the thoughts of others. Here is an opportunity to make your own thought the central subject of inquiry. Give it a generous try and I am confident that you will find the results interesting.

Criteria: This is a required activity necessary to completing the course. A major part of the grading of this activity will be the care that you put into the craft of your product and the timeliness with which you produce the parts. You will not be graded strictly on the content of your thought; that is, I will not dictate which positions, beliefs, values, and conclusions are allowable here. Your thoughts are what count - but they must be reasoned accounts, clearly developed statements, and well-supported by the available literature. Some views may not fit well within the topic areas of philosophy and I will help your find that appropriate area. Within the philosophical range of topics, your beliefs are as valued as any. Also note that there is no credit given just because it is your belief. What counts here is the process of reasoned support, analysis, explanation, and evaluation. The strength of your uses of those processes are the main matters under evaluation here.

Required: You will need a registered copy of the Reason!Able program, a word processor (preferably one that can save to an .rtf file, though others may be worked out), and access to the Blackboard course area http://my.oregonstate.edu.

Week 1. Select a Philosophical Framework. Identify two main beliefs related to that framework (i.e. beliefs that you are personally committed to and are important to your thinking). Clarify those beliefs into statements. Write a personal history background (200-500 words) for each belief. Save your Personal History backgrounds as separate files in .rtf format. Make sure to include your name and specific reference to which belief statement the Personal History Background is based on. Send those files to your instructor using the Drop Box in Blackboard.

Week 2. Working with the two statements clarified in week 1, produce two argument maps using Reason!Able. Each should develop a complex argument that genuinely represents your reasoning for the central statement (i.e. the conclusion).

Week 3. Exchange your argument maps with other class members. You will take the other person's argument map, open the map into your Reason!Able program, and after reviewing it carefully, do two things with it: (a) Switch to evaluate mode in the program and evaluate the reasons given. (b) Switch back to build mode and add reasons or objections where you see fit. Send the finished work back to your partners. (Use the Drop Box in the groups area to make the exchanges of files). Now have a look at the revised maps. Consider the evaluations make and think of ways to make weak parts of the argument stronger - you might add reasons or reword them; adding support citations and relevant quotes can be helpful.

Week 4. Working with your argument maps (I assume that you are continually working to improve them), write a Practical Impact Assessment (200-500 words) for each of the two conclusions and at least one of the reasons in each of the arguments [that is four Practical Impact Assessments in all]. A practical Impact Assessment is a description of the actions and practical impacts that follow from your beliefs. Please save these Practical Impact Assessments as separate files in .rtf format.
Export your Reason!Able files to .gif images. Send those images to your instructor using the Drop Box tool in Blackboard. Also send the

Week 5. This week includes two important activities needed to round out your belief system mapping activities thus far. You will:
(a) Specify philosophical sources (parts of articles and books) that add support to your arguments and beliefs. You may also point out sources that pose challenges to your arguments and beliefs.

(b) Create Argument Map Glossaries: Identify the major terms in the statements used throughout your argument maps. The major terms are the words or phrases that convey the important ideas of your statements. For each of these major terms, provide a definition of the term, that is, a definition that is relevant to the meaning if the term in the context of the statement that you are making. Make a single page with all of the major terms for each argument map: each such page is a glossary of terms for your argument map, so that another person can better figure out what you mean. Save your Argument Map Glossaries as separate files in .rtf format. Make sure to include your name and specific reference to which belief statement the Personal History Background is based on. Send those files to your instructor using the Drop Box in Blackboard.

Week 6. Select a different Philosophical Framework from the main one that you have been working with. (a) Identify a significant belief that you have that is related to that framework. Your belief may be in agreement with or in opposition to aspects of the framework. Express that belief clearly as a statement. Part of the point is to broaden the scope of your Belief System Map. Since these are your beliefs, the ideas are likely to connect and overlap, but please make an effort not to merely duplicate prior efforts. Your mind is a wealth of beliefs and values, let's strive to demonstrate how rich your thinking actually is.
(b) Write a personal History Background for that statement.
(c) Produce an argument map for that statement.
(d) Produce a Practical Impact Assessment for that argument map and conclusion statement.
(e) Produce an Argument Map Glossary for that argument map.
(f) Produce at least one Rhetorical Precis from the research literature for that framework and relate it to an objection or reason in your Argument Map.
Collect all of this work together, following the procedures used in the previous weeks activities (e.g. converting argument maps to .gifs, saving files as .rtf, etc.) Send the collected Belief System Map for the new Philosophical Framework you selected to work with to your instructor by the Blackboard Drop Box.

Week 7. Select another different Philosophical Framework from the main one that you have been working with. (a) Identify a significant belief that you have that is related to that framework. Your belief may be in agreement with or in opposition to aspects of the framework. Express that belief clearly as a statement. Since these are your beliefs, the ideas are likely to connect and overlap, but please make an effort not to merely duplicate prior efforts. Your mind is a wealth of beliefs and values, let's strive to demonstrate how rich your thinking actually is.
(b) Write a personal History Background for that statement.
(c) Produce an argument map for that statement.
(d) Produce a Practical Impact Assessment for that argument map and conclusion statement.
(e) Produce an Argument Map Glossary for that argument map.
(f) Produce at least one Rhetorical Precis from the research literature for that framework and relate it to an objection or reason in your Argument Map.
Collect all of this work together, following the procedures used in the previous weeks activities (e.g. converting argument maps to .gifs, saving files as .rtf, etc.) Send the collected Belief System Map for the new Philosophical Framework you selected to work with to your instructor by the Blackboard Drop Box.

Week 8. Select another different Philosophical Framework from the main one that you have been working with. (a) Identify a significant belief that you have that is related to that framework. Your belief may be in agreement with or in opposition to aspects of the framework. Express that belief clearly as a statement. Since these are your beliefs, the ideas are likely to connect and overlap, but please make an effort not to merely duplicate prior efforts. Your mind is a wealth of beliefs and values, let's strive to demonstrate how rich your thinking actually is.
(b) Write a personal History Background for that statement.
(c) Produce an argument map for that statement.
(d) Produce a Practical Impact Assessment for that argument map and conclusion statement.
(e) Produce an Argument Map Glossary for that argument map.
(f) Produce at least one Rhetorical Precis from the research literature for that framework and relate it to an objection or reason in your Argument Map.
Collect all of this work together, following the procedures used in the previous weeks activities (e.g. converting argument maps to .gifs, saving files as .rtf, etc.) Send the collected Belief System Map for the new Philosophical Framework you selected to work with to your instructor by the Blackboard Drop Box.

Week 9. Now you have five well-developed Belief System Maps. The task for this week is to review those maps carefully and review them for points of connection and relation. Your goal is to provide directions for how to link the parts of these maps together. One place to look for connections is in the terms that you use. You will find some terms being used more frequently than others; they may be of high importance to your thinking and might be the conceptual links between some of your different beliefs. Another point to look for connections is in the statements themselves. Are any of the statements made in the maps obviously related to statements in other maps? Such relations may be: reasons, objections, explanations, and clarifications. Consider all such possible relations. If the study of these relations leads to any changes that you want to make in parts of the maps, let your instructor know what changes you want to make, make the changes, and send the appropriate revised files with instructions for using them. Lastly, send a clear set of directions for what parts of maps you want to have linked to parts of other maps. Send these instructions to your instructor.

Week 10. Your belief maps and those of your InterQuest cohort are now online. Review the maps and take notes on important points and impressions that strike you about them. Post your points and impressions to the Discussion Board Belief System Maps Forum.