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Profile: Hugh Breakey (Griffith University)
Profile: Hugh Breakey (University of Queensland)
  1. Hugh Breakey (2014). Parsing Macpherson: The Last Rites of Locke the Possessive Individualist. Theoria 80 (1):62-83.
    C.B. Macpherson's “Possessive Individualist” reading of Locke is one of the most radical and influential interpretations in the history of exegesis. Despite a substantial critical response over the past five decades, Macpherson's reading remains orthodox in various circles in the humanities generally, particularly in legal studies, and his interpretation of several crucial passages has unwittingly been followed even by his sharpest critics within Lockean scholarship. In order to present the definitive rebuttal to this interpretation, and so finally to lay it (...)
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  2. Hugh Breakey (2013). Who's Afraid of Property Rights? Rights as Core Concepts, Coherent, Prima Facie, Situated and Specified. Law and Philosophy:1-31.
    Natural property rights are widely viewed as anathema to welfarist taxation, and are pictured as non-contextual, non-relational and resistant to regulation. Here, I argue that many of the major arguments for such views are flawed. Such arguments trade on an ambiguity in the term ‘right’ that makes it possible to conflate the core concept of a right with a situated or specified right from which one can read off people’s actual legal entitlements and duties. I marshal several arguments demonstrating this (...)
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  3. Hugh Breakey (2012). Property Concepts. In J. Feiser & B. Dowden (eds.), Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  4. Hugh Breakey (2011). Property, Persons, Boundaries: The Argument From Other-Ownership. Social Theory and Practice 37 (2):189-210.
    A question of interpersonal sovereignty dating back to the early modern era has resurfaced in contemporary political philosophy: viz. Should one individual have, prior to any consent, property rights in another person? Libertarians answer that they should not – and that this commitment requires us to reject all positive duties. Liberal-egalitarians largely agree with the libertarian’s answer to the question, but deny the corollary they draw from it, arguing instead that egalitarian regimes do not require other-ownership. Drawing on recent property (...)
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  5. Hugh Breakey (2011). Two Concepts of Property: Ownership of Things and Property in Activities. Philosophical Forum 42 (3):239-265.
    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 (...)
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  6. Hugh Breakey (2010). Adaptive Preferences and the Hellenistic Insight. Australian Journal of Professional and Applied Ethics 12 (1):29-39.
    Adaptive preferences are preferences formed in response to circumstances and opportunities – paradigmatically, they occur when we scale back our desires so they accord with what is probable or at least possible. While few commentators are willing to wholly reject the normative significance of such preferences, adaptive preferences have nevertheless attracted substantial criticism in recent political theory. The groundbreaking analysis of Jon Elster charged that such preferences are not autonomous, and several other commentators have since followed Elster’s lead. On a (...)
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  7. Hugh Breakey (2010). Natural Intellectual Property Rights and the Public Domain. Modern Law Review 73 (2):208-239.
    No natural rights theory justifies strong intellectual property rights. More specifically, no theory within the entire domain of natural rights thinking – encompassing classical liberalism, libertarianism and left-libertarianism, in all their innumerable variants – coherently supports strengthening current intellectual property rights. Despite their many important differences, all these natural rights theories endorse some set of members of a common family of basic ethical precepts. These commitments include non-interference, fairness, non-worsening, consistency, universalisability, prior consent, self-ownership, self-governance, and the establishment of zones (...)
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  8. Hugh Breakey (2010). User's Rights and the Public Domain. Intellectual Property Quarterly (3):312-23.
    In recent years the concept of “user’s rights” has gained considerable currency in discussions of the limits of intellectual property in general, and of copyright in particular. Those arguing in favour of the public domain and increased limitations on copyright have increasingly sought to fight fire with fire – to place substantive user’s rights against the claims of intellectual property. User’s rights have in some jurisdictions received explicit Supreme Court imprimatur and they are expressly recognised in key charters of human (...)
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  9. Hugh Breakey (2009). Liberalism and Intellectual Property Rights. Politics, Philosophy and Economics 8 (3):329-349.
    Justifications for intellectual property rights are typically made in terms of utility or natural property rights. In this article, I justify limited regimes of copyright and patent grounded in no more than the rights to use our ideas and to contract, conjoined at times with a weak right to hold property in tangibles. I describe the Contracting Situation plausibly arising from vesting rational agents with these rights. I go on to consider whether in order to provide the best protection for (...)
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  10. Hugh Breakey (2009). The Epistemic and Informational Requirements of Utilitarianism. Utilitas 21 (1):72-99.
    A recurring objection confronting utilitarianism is that its dictates require information that lies beyond the bounds of human epistemic wherewithal. Utilitarians require reliable knowledge of the social consequences of various policies, and of people’s preferences and utilities. Agreeing partway with the sceptics, I concur that the general rules-of-thumb offered by social science do not provide sufficient justification for the utilitarian legislator to rationally recommend a particular political regime, such as liberalism. Actual data about human preference-structures and utilities is required to (...)
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  11. Hugh Breakey (2009). Without Consent: Principles of Justified Acquisition and Duty-Imposing Powers. Philosophical Quarterly 59 (237):618-640.
    A controversy in political philosophy and applied ethics concerns the validity of duty-imposing powers, that is, rights entitling one person to impose new duties on others without their consent. Many philosophers have criticized as unplausible any such moral right, in particular that of appropriating private property unilaterally. Some, finding duty-imposing powers weird, unfamiliar or baseless, have argued that principles of justified acquisition should be rejected; others have required them to satisfy exacting criteria. I investigate the many ways in which we (...)
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