Journal of Political Philosophy 9 (4):404–434 (2001)

To understand private property, it is generally assumed, we must recognize the contribution objects make to human life. On the prevailing view, ownership is valuable only insofar as its subject matter is of value. In the order of valuation, objects come first, owning them comes second. But despite its air of obviousness, the assumption does not suit our ordinary concept of ownership. Ownership can be valuable quite apart from the value of the owned object, and it can be the source of an object’s value as well as derive from the latter its own value. At its core, our ordinary concept of ownership does not describe a normative but an ontological relationship to objects, analogous to our relationship to our bodies, and best revealed by attending to our self-referential use of first person pronouns, personal and possessive. The result is a non-reductive and non-consequentialist account of property, or, more accurately, of the idea of ownership
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DOI 10.1111/1467-9760.00134
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