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Metaphysics / Psychology

Ownership as Control over Things

In a previous post, I explained that ownership was a moral right. I am continuing my demonstration of the definition of ownership. That definition was that ownership was the moral right to categorically control a thing. I have shown that ownership is a moral right. Now I will show that ownership is a specific kind of moral right. It is limited to control over things. Since only some forms of control count as ownership, proving this amounts to proving that no form of ownership lacks the right to control a thing.

Let’ s begin with a few simple examples. We all own regular personal items such as calculators, paper and computers. So we have the right to control these things. We can forbid others to touch them, write on them (if paper), use them and share them with others. If we are called on to justify our use of the things we own, then we simply point out ” that is mine” . This is something that everyone knows and does.

This shows only that for at least some items, ownership entails some degree of control over the thing that is owned. In order to establish the reverse, we need to show that the lack of a right to control entails a lack of ownership. So let’ s examine the case of a computer. Imagine that a person tells you that they really don’ t have the right to do anything with that computer. You will assume that they do not own the computer. If you don’ t have the right to sell something, then you don’ t own it. Having the right to sell something is one way of having control over something. Likewise, if you don’ t have the right to write on a piece of paper, then the paper is not yours.

A few other examples of ownership show this as well. Money that you do not own is money that you cannot spend any way you like. Land you do not own is land that you cannot do whatever you like with. If you do not have the right to control something in any way, then you do not own it.

This means that the right to control is essential to ownership. There is no case I can think of in which someone owns something but does not have the right to control it in any way. Not only that, but such a case seems inconceivable. Without a specific example to the contrary, it is only rational to believe that ownership entails control over things.

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