AP Essay (UGH!) #1

For centuries, prominent thinkers have pondered the relationship between ownership and the development of self (identity), ultimately asking the question, “What does it mean to own something?” Plato argues that owning objects is detrimental to a person’s character. Aristotle claims that ownership of tangible goods helps to develop moral character. Twentieth-century philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre proposes that ownership extends beyond objects to include intangible things as well. In Sartre’s view, becoming proficient in some skill and knowing something thoroughly means that we “own” it. Think about the differing views of ownership. Then write an essay in which you explain your position on the relationship between ownership and sense of self. Use appropriate evidence from your reading, experience, or observations to support your argument.

     Ownership and sense of self have an interesting relationship, to say the least. There are two ways one could look at these two things; one could think of ownership and think of tangible items, or think of intangible things. Ownership and sense of self don't go hand in hand, but rather walk side by side on the same sidewalk. You can have a sense of self without ownership, the same way you can have ownership of something without a sense of self. Many of us fit into the second category; we "own" a lot of things, but struggle to identify who we really are and what truly speaks to us. However, I believe ownership creates a sense of self, and contributes to how the world sees us.
     Tangible items create a general sense of self. It's like taking a dirty mirror and wiping it off slightly. The resulting face looking back is blurry, however we still see general outlines and features. Tangible items are highly valuable and coveted in today's society. Having more of those highly coveted items automatically makes you more valuable. It gives a sense of importance. Everyone is important, without a doubt, but how is it possible that those with more physical items are seen as more important than those people with only dimes to spare? The way the world sees you shapes the way you see yourself. Therefore, if the world sees you as important, it also makes you see yourself as important. But, perhaps for the wrong reason. Tangible items seem to define us; the cooler people have the more recent and new technology, whilst those who struggle to get by aren't seen as cool.The face looking back in the mirror is thus distorted, because nowadays we don't really have a sense of what's important. What do we see as important? The new generation of iPhones? The newest video game in the market? We lose sight of what's important. Tangible things give a sense of self... but is it really true to who we really are, and what we really think of as valuable?
     The most valuable things in life don't have a price tag attached to them. Intangible things take the dirty mirror and wipe it off, so that we're left with a clear image of the person looking back at us. Intangible things are things such as ideas. Now, this is what matters. Our ideas define us. We identify with our ideas, because they are uniquely ours. Millions of people can have the same phone, drive the same car, and wear the same shoes, but no one will have the exact same ideas we have. Sure, there are similarities, but we are products of our experiences. No two people see the world through the same looking glass. And that's the beauty of intangible things! They are ours. We take ownership of the things we believe in, and nothing can take those beliefs away. What we believe will change the way we see the world and the way we go through life. We can categorize people based on their ideas; we have democrats, republicans, and liberals to name a few groups. But ultimately, our ideas are what truly define us, because we own our ideas. Our ideas are unique to every one of us.
     If anything should give us a sense of self, it's our ownership of ideas and not irrelevant tangible things. Everyone can have the same things, so why define ourselves based on the number of zeroes on a check, or the size of a house?


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