Here is a detailed explanation of the parts of Composition #1. The assignment reads as follows:
Let's consider each of these aspects:
1. Present and explain your problem. The word "problem"
has some negative connotations. Some people respond; "I don't have a problem
with my belief system!" But, in the present context it does not indicate
any such flaw. Your belief-system can be thought of as a set of answers
to various questions about the world. Questions such as;
2. Present and explain alternate view(s) on your problem. You already know that your belief-system is not the only way to view the world. One of the important tasks in understanding your belief system is figuring out why you have the particular beliefs that you have and not some others. To accomplish this you must be able to say what different beliefs about the world would be like. In doing this you will set up your own beliefs as one answer to the philosophical problem, in contrast to a different answer. The alternate (i.e. different) beliefs that you describe must be plausible responses to the problem. That means that these stated alternatives should be views that other people can actually have. They may even be views that people really do have. It will help It will not do to rig the outcome by contrasting a sensible answer (yours) with an absurd answer (any other than yours). This does not suppose that all of the views are correct. Just that different views can be expressed on the problem.
3. Describe which alternative(s) you reject and your reasons why. Now you begin the process of assessment of the views. Start with the alternative(s) that you do not accept as adequate responses to the philosophical problem. Point out the ways that they are not adequate and explain why. One of the most powerful things that you can do in this section is to give the strongest reasons in favor of the alternate beliefs that you can. If you can show why those reasons are not strong enough to warrant those beliefs, you have a strong reason to reject them (i.e. to not believe them yourself). Give a full and thoughtful account of the alternative view(s) that you reject. Note that these views may not be completely weak. It is appropriate to note the strengths and values that they do have.
4. Describe which alternative(s) you accept and reasons why. This is similar to step 3, except that you are now giving your strongest reasons in favor of the alternative view that you do accept. These are likely to be your own beliefs. Still, remember that your readers may not share those beliefs with you. It is important that you give a detailed and thoughtful account of these beliefs, especially in presenting the reasons you have for them. What are your strongest reasons for thinking that these beliefs provide the best response to the philosophical problem you have posed? What makes these reasons so strong? It is appropriate to also consider any weaknesses and missing parts of your own view.
5. Describe the aspects of the philosophical problem and your belief-system that may benefit from development. Describe steps that you might take to strengthen your belief-system. One of the values of studying philosophy is realizing how much personal development remains possible. Some people seem to think that their beliefs already answer cover all of the possibilities and leave no room for growth. But, the potential for growth is not a flaw. Knowing yourself involves having a sense of direction for future development. Close this composition by speculating on some ways that you may work to develop an even stronger belief-system.
The presumption of this course is that you already have a belief-system with philosophical ideas in it. The philosophical aspects of your belief-system, what we are calling here your philosophical framework, has great influence on how you perceive and interpret the world. The first composition is your effort to re-present your own philosophical belief-system in a written form. Expressing your beliefs and attitudes is important. Making them clear is very important.
Now see the Sample Composition for an instance of such a work.
You are encouraged to treat this as an opportunity to think your beliefs through. It is not expected that you have complete proof and explanation of your belief, here. You must show an attempt to make progress towards those aims.
A Sample Composition is provided to help clarify how the parts of this sort of writing go together.
You will also find useful information for
writing this composition in Writing Philosophy Papers: A Student Guide.
This guide is available from the Oregon State University Bookstore, direct
Publisher, and is now available in an Online
Edition (see the Assertion
Essay portion in particular).