Social Philosophy and Policy 36 (2):94-115 (2019)

Ian Carter
Universita' degli Studi di Pavia
:In this essay I attempt to vindicate the “asymmetry thesis,” according to which ownership of one’s own body is intrinsically different from ownership of other objects, and the view that self-ownership, as libertarians normally understand the concept, enjoys a special “fact-insensitive” status as a fundamental right. In particular, I argue in favor of the following claims. First, the right of self-ownership is most plausibly understood as based on the more fundamental notion of respect for persons, where the concept of a person is in turn understood, along the lines set out by P. F. Strawson and P. M. S. Hacker, as referring to an entire biological organism with a certain set of mental and corporeal characteristics. If we restrict our attention to human persons, we can say on this basis that there is a special moral status attaching to the entire human body, and to no more than the human body. Second, self-ownership is not, as critics have sometimes supposed, based on a more fundamental right to equal freedom or autonomy. Criticisms of self-ownership as insufficiently justified on the basis of such rights are therefore off target. Rather, equal freedom and self-ownership are each based directly on the more fundamental notion of respect for persons. For left-libertarians, the asymmetry thesis serves to give priority to self-ownership when delineating a set of original property rights, given that there are many alternative ways of realizing equal freedom not all of which involve fully respecting people’s property rights in themselves.
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DOI 10.1017/s0265052519000384
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Rescuing Justice and Equality.G. A. Cohen (ed.) - 2008 - Harvard University Press.
Anarchy, State, and Utopia.Robert Nozick - 1974 - Philosophy 52 (199):102-105.
What Are We?Eric T. Olson - 2007 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 14 (5-6):37-55.
Respect and the Basis of Equality.Ian Carter - 2011 - Ethics 121 (3):538-571.

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