Composition #1: Self-Sketch
A SAMPLE PRESENTATION ESSAY
This is a sample presentation essay which is the form of writing you are asked to produce for Composition #1. This sample is provided as a working model for this type of writing. The sample is annotated with comments so that you may study the way this type of writing may be structured.
This composition is about 1,000 words long (four double-spaced paper pages) which is close to the length of the first writing assignment you are expected to produce for this course (500-1,000 words). This composition is based on the sample Philosophical Framework, Nothing Is. Use this sample composition as a general guide to how sufficient writing of this form goes. Do not try to use this essay as a mere template. Your content and method will be different; it will reflect your thinking. The important thing is to notice how the elements of the Presentation Essay form are employed here. Where you see the icon , there is a commentary concerning that part of the text. Place your cursor on the icon to view the commentary on that portion of the text. Please let me know if any part of this sample composition toll does not work properly for you.
My Philosophical Framework is based on the answer to a single question; "Is there an ultimate purpose to life?" My answer is "no." This answer is upsetting to many people, since they suppose this means that life is not worth living. While I agree that life does not have an absolute worth, that does not mean we should stop living or shuffle along in endless depression. When I say that life has no ultimate purpose I mean that when you consider the extent of the universe as a whole, nothing that we do has any meaningful impact in the end. Something that has no significant impact is of negligible value. For example, consider the significance of tossing a lighted match into the sun. The effect would be negligible - practically zero. Well, in relation to the vastness of the universe, our actions have even less practical value than the match. In contrast to the universe, our lives mean nothing.
I have two basic reasons for this position: the vastness of space and the vastness of time. Space is incomprehensively large. Our sun is a relatively small star in a remote solar system in a small galaxy which appears as a mere speck in the universe as a whole. On the scale of the whole universe, the size of a human being is equivalent to the size of a single atom. From our perspective the actions we perform seem large and consequential. For example, when a baseball player hits a homerun with three players on base we consider it a big deal. But at the very best we are talking about several hundred yards here. Not miles, or millions of miles, or light-years. From the perspective of the universe which measures in millions of light-years a few hundred yards might as well be less than an inch. It is only because of our scale that we regard our actions as having any magnitude at all. But compared to the vastness of space, nothing we do adds up to any significant measure whatever.
The situation is even more apparent when considering the infinity of time. A human being currently lives to be about 80 years old on the average. But the earth itself is billions of years old. Even by earthly standards an individual life is a mere flash. All human history itself is a unnoticeable blip in the vast sea of time. Most of us realize that 100 years from now what we do today will make no difference one way or the other. Well, one billion years from now when the sun explodes taking out most of the galaxy, none of human history will make a bit of difference either.
In the Amazon jungle there was a species of fly with eggs that hatched only once each year. In a single day, all of the eggs would hatch, the flies would mate, lay new eggs, and die. Each fly's life lasted less than 24 hours. Just enough time to mate and lay new eggs. Now we might say that these flies do have a purpose in life, namely to mate and propagate the species. But as it turned out the swamp where the fly eggs lay dormant was drained and paved over to make a parking lot for a shopping mall. The species of fly is now extinct. The only possible purpose of any individual fly's life is now non-existent. Essentially it turned out that there was no ultimate purpose for the life of a fly. It is the same for us. The duration and extent of our lives in relation to the vast expanse of time and space is much less than the life of a twenty-four hour fly in relation to us.
In saying that there is no ultimate purpose to life I am not saying that we do not have any purposes and goals in our lives. In saying that there is no ultimate purpose to life I am not saying that we do not have any purposes and goals in our lives. Of course we have goals like getting good grades, having a decent job, enjoying time with friends, pursuing a dream, and so on. These are all purposeful activities. But their purpose exists only in relation to our limited lives in time and space. An ultimate porpose must be something much greater than that. It must be something that makes a difference to the universe as a whole. While the lack of an ultimate purpose does not take away the limited purposes and goals we have, neither should we mistake our individual aspirations for a universal value. In his essay, The Fixation of Belief, Charles Peirce considers four methods of fixing belief; that is, ways to hang onto our own beliefs. Two of the methods, the method of tenacity and the method of authority, work by rejecting information that does not fit the beliefs we have. If we never allow consideration of any alternative ideas, then we never have to reassess our own ideas. The question is: are my own beliefs propped up by tenacity or authority? The method of authority involves an organized set of beliefs enforced by social institutions (e.g. governments, churches, corporations, peer groups, parents). The standard view on the purpose of life is exactly the opposite of my view. That life has a purpose is the view wanted by social institutions. I have been personally ridiculed for expressing these views so I do not think that I am following any authority in holding this belief. It is possible, however, that I use the method of tenacity to defend my perspective. I am open to reading just about anything, whether it agrees with my view or not. But I do tend to see people who talk about life's purpose as ridiculous and deluded. Television preachers and politicians try to convince us that life can have a great purpose if we only follow their orders. Whenever I hear that, I say ; "Yeah sure!" I suppose I am writing these people off before I really consider what they have to say. Maybe if someone ever showed enough interest in my view to really think about it, I would be more willing to do the same.
Dorbolo, J. <Jon.Dorbolo@orst.edu>. (1996). Nothing Is. InterQuest: Introduction to Philosophy. Oregon State University. http://osu.orst.edu/instruct/phl201/samples/nothing.html. Accessed September 1, 1996.
Peirce, C,.S. (1877). The Fixation of Belief. In Dorbolo, J. <Jon.Dorbolo@orst.edu>> (1999). InterQuest: Introduction to Philosophy. Oregon State University. http://osu.orst.edu/instruct/phl201/fobprint.html. Accessed September 1, 1996.
This is an instance of a thoughtful and competently-written Presentation Essay. Note that its being "well-written" is not a matter of whether or not your instructor agrees with the views stated. Study how it meets the objectives of that essay form. Provided here is an Composition Submission Form you may use to submit your essay. This essay form is not a very sophisticated writing tool. To use it I recommend you learn how to transfer a written file from your word processor. Let me know what assistance you may need. Now please complete the following form: