An Argumentative Paper on the Composition of the Self and its Ethical Outlook
only 1 double-space skip after your title
I. BUILDING AN ACADEMIC CONTEXT [Approximately the first 2 ½ – 3 pages] “Map” the notion or working model of the self that your position will differ from by giving a
broad but helpful summary of it.
A. By “mapping” a concept, I mean that you are explaining to/contextualizing for the reader the important and defining features of that concept or working model. Even
though you will eventually disagree with or challenge this notion of the self, you want to map it in a respectful, mature tone and without undue bias (remember your
Summary and Synthesis skills). The point is to demonstrate to the reader that you understand opposing points of view; you won’t make a strong argument of your own
until you can knowledgeably paraphrase the rationale of those who see matters differently. Think of these mapping or explanatory features as forms of evidence that you
will absorb and incorporate into your position only after you fairly, even though succinctly, explain them.
1. INTRODUCTION [first ¶ ]: Start generally, but don’t be too cliché; be efficient with your space, yet try to add style to your opening paragraph without sacrificing
clarity and need-to-know information
2. THESIS [end of first ¶ or its own ¶ ]: state in a few clear, specific, and focused sentences which notion of the “self” you find most compelling and why. In your
thesis statements, let your reader know succinctly but specifically (you will of course expand upon these in the main body):
a.) a few key authors and/or views you will be explaining and responding to
b.) which specific view of the “self” you will defend (use precise and correct terms from the handouts and Unit readings) and state concisely why you find this view
more truthful (you will justify your “why” in the main body)
c.) what difference your view of the self might make to our experience of life
3. POSSIBLE THESIS FORMULATIONS TO GUIDE YOU:
a.) “Although scholars/researchers have claimed that…[insert the relevant view about the self (biological, psychological, scientific, etc.) here], they have not
adequately considered…” Therefore, I will examine texts by…[insert a key author or authors here] in order to argue that…
b.) “Evidence by x author, y author, and z author suggest that [insert a seemingly well-established view on the self here]. But upon closer examination of [the view
you are questioning/critiquing], these authors’ views fail to address [insert a logical or experiential phenomenon that serves as potential counter-evidence] In this
paper, I will argue that…”
c.) “If [insert a view or views that you will oppose] is an accurate account of what we are, then why is it that [present your counter-evidence or equally accurate
observation here]? Thinkers/writers such as [insert authors with whom you may disagree here] argue that…[state their seemingly persuasive view here]. While that
position is convincing, other findings/arguments such as… challenge that dominant position. Since these findings have been undervalued or overlooked, my aim in this
essay is to argue that…”
d.) “In addition to the valid critiques of [insert particular notion of the self here] by author x, author y, and author z, I wish to augment that view by
positing/hypothesizing a view of the self that has the capacity to better explain [insert, for example, a universal or poorly understood human experience here]…”
4. PARAGRAPHS #2 ~ #5 (your number of ¶s and their topics will depend on your approach):
a.) What seems convincing and coherent about the view(s) of the self you are mapping/explaining for your reader?
b.) What main problem(s) does this view have, if any? What facts of experience or consistent evidence does this view seem to have trouble explaining/accounting for?
c.) What overall picture of the self (and, by extension, reality) is this view presenting?
d.) Incorporate relevant, thought-provoking quotations by the author
i.) Use good transitions, signal phrases, punctuation, and MLA style
ii.) Don’t just quote and move on; analyze the exact words/language in the quotations by discussing its strengths, problems, and/or rhetorically effective elements
iii.) If you notice significant problems or fallacies in the author/text you are reviewing, consider discussing them more fully when you argue for your position on the
issue in the second half of the paper
B. You might wish to end this portion of the paper by succinctly reiterating or restating your own thesis: remind the reader that you are now going to argue for a more
persuasive/truthful take on the notion of the self. For example, you might offer this transitional statement: “Having mapped this view of the nature of the self, I
will argue that Platonism’s notion that we have a soul and not just a body is a more satisfying explanation for what the reality of the self might be than the
explanation offered by scientific materialism. In the next half of the paper, I will defend this view by examining the views of…/certain experiential phenomena such
as…”. (This initial “mapping,” explanatory portion of the paper should not be longer than 3 pages, so you have to be efficient.)
II. MAKING YOUR ARGUMENT [Beginning at the start or middle of page 3. This portion of the Body should make up about 3 – 4 pages] Develop and support your argument by
incorporating the Unit readings, any of your own research, distinct kinds of reasoning (deductive, inductive, abductive), discussions of a priori and a posteriori
knowledge (and which is more compelling and why), and, no less important, your direct experience and intuitions from reflecting upon—or “close-reading/analyzing”—
A. Does your view succeed in warranting (i.e. justifying/accounting for) its interpretations and unique claims about what the “self” is? At this point, integrate
compelling reasons, reflections, and experiential evidence for your view
1. PARAGRAPHS #6 ~ #10 (your number of ¶s and their topics will depend on your approach):
a) What are the unique and defining features of the view of the self that you are defending. How does it understand experiences like our “qualia,” “perception,”
“time,” and even “death”?
b) What assumptions or core beliefs does an opposing view of the self hold, and is this view warranted in continuing to hold those assumptions?
c) Textual evidence from your readings (and other sources if you wish)
d) Reference to media if relevant and productive to your argument
e) Which kinds of reasoning and knowledge is your view relying on? (deductive, inductive, or abductive reasoning? A priori or a posteriori knowledge? Both?)
B. Cite from at least 5 of the Unit’s textual readings (not media), incorporating at least 2 quotations from each source (thus, you’ll have a minimum of 10 quoted
statements). Choose relevant, thought-provoking quotations by the authors that are worthy of critical thinking—that are capable of being critiqued or supported in
service of your thesis.
2. PARAGRAPHS #6 ~ #10 (your number of ¶s and their topics will depend on your approach):
a.) Use good transitions, signal phrases, punctuation, and MLA style
b.) Don’t just quote and move on; analyze the exact words/language in the quotations by discussing its strengths, problems, and/or rhetorically effective elements
(e.g., is a metaphor effective? Does language that is too scientific/technical fall short at explaining how we actually experience time/the body/perception, etc.? Are
there latent contradictions?)
c.) If you notice significant problems or fallacies in the author/text you are reviewing, use them to bolster your argument.
C. Provide a concise but thought-provoking discussion of your view’s potential ethical consequences [~2-3 paragraphs]
3. PARAGRAPHS #9 ~ 11: What kind of life might we have if the majority of people sincerely practiced the view that you are supporting?
a.) If you notice significant problems or fallacies in the author/text you are reviewing, use them to bolster your argument and continually suggest that the view of
the self that you support makes a meaningful difference to our experience of time, our emotions toward suffering or death, our interactions with each other, and the
possibility that everyday life could be genuinely transformed by this knowledge.
b.) Cite textual evidence from your readings (and other sources if you wish)
c.) Reference media if relevant and productive to your argument
d.) Experiential reflections from which you can draw reasonable inferences/hopes about your view of who or what you are
III. CONCLUSION: Consider closing speculatively but gracefully [1 strong paragraph]
A. Recap in a few sentences which notion of the self you have argued for and why you think that it is a potentially more ethical view than other prevailing notions of
B. End your essay with a few sentences in which you reflect honestly on how the latest discoveries on what the self—and by extension, reality—may be composed of have
impacted your own sense of yourself, if it indeed has. In all cases, there should be an element of epistemic humility in your conclusion: nobody has all of the
definitive answers and ending with any kind of sense of dogmatism or arrogance will incline me to deduct from your grade, for such a stance is unbecoming of this
course and of the pursuit of genuine knowledge. I will also find your argument lacking if you avoid or side-step rigorously arguing for a particular worldview of the
self (and critiquing others) by simply falling back on a religious view and saying (more or less), “This is what I believe because my religion says so.” This
assignment is tasking you with making experience, focused reasoning, and clear intuition the test of reality, not belief or habitual assumption.