The Thesis Statement
At the beginning of your composition, a thesis statement unfolds the main argument in one sentence.
Your thesis states the argument reduced to its most basic form. It should contain two parts: a claim (the opinion for which you are arguing) and evidence to back it up (a brief reference to the reasons and examples which support your opinion). In this way, the thesis emphasizes the conclusion but also contains the primary premise from which that conclusion derives.
The philosophical and interpretive essays involve two different sorts of arguments. For this reason, they involve different sorts of thesis statements.
1. The philosophical thesis statement takes the following form:
Idea X is true because Idea Y is true.
Idea X may be any idea drawn from your mind. For example, you could argue in your thesis statement, “Death is always terrible no matter how bravely one dies, for death removes the good gift of life.” More commonly (at least for a literature course), Idea X is some idea found in a book, and you could argue thus: “Homer depicts death wrongly because he makes it seem glorious when in fact it removes the good gift of life.” This sort of philosophical essay is a hybrid essay, not a purely philosophical one, and it involves interpretation. Because you are making a claim about a text, you must interpret the text. But your conclusion is ultimately a philosophical one having to do with general truths.
2. The interpretive thesis statement takes a different form.
It is true that Book X argues for Idea Y because it is true that Book X says Z.
For example, you might argue the following: “Homer’s Iliad makes death glorious by showing that fame follows a noble death.” Or you could argue the opposite: “In the Iliad, Homer makes death a fearful thing by showing how it destroys both the body of Hector and the mind of Achilles.”
Again, notice how both kinds of thesis statements, whether philosophical or interpretive, include both claim (i.e. the conclusion) and evidence (i.e. an important premise).