Two concepts of property: Ownership of things and property in activities

Philosophical Forum 42 (3):239-265 (2011)
Abstract
I argue there is a distinct and integrated property-concept applying directly, not to things, but to actions. This concept of Property in Activities describes a determinate ethico-political relation to a particular activity – a relation that may (but equally may not) subsequently effect a wide variety of relations to some thing. The relation with the activity is fixed and primary, and any ensuing relations with things are variable and derivative. Property in Activities illuminates many of the vexing problem cases arising in property theory. Communal, intangible, fugacious, hunting, fishing, customary and recreation property rights are not ersatz instances of owning things – they are paradigms of Property Protected Activities. The same is true of the functioning of property in various aspects of contemporary law, its application in philosophical arguments such as Locke’s, and much of its historical application prior to the Nineteenth Century. By illustrating how one stable concept can resolve this myriad of otherwise puzzling cases, I argue that Property in Activities is as important and influential a concept as Ownership of Things.
Keywords Property Rights  Property in Law  Common Property  Environmental Property  John Locke  History of Property
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