Problems and Proposed Solutions in Defining and Defending Property Ownership

In my discussions with anarcho-socialists and others who question the idea of property ownership I’ve been thinking quite a bit about property, what it is, where it comes from and how to prove it. I am somewhat disappointed by the typical libertarian and even anarcho-capitalist explanations because I feel that they don’t do well enough to address certain concerns.

The typical reasoning goes like this. Ownership is defined as exclusive control and since “I control my body” proven by the fact I’m writing this I own myself. Therefore by extension I own the products of my actions or labor. Yet at the same time it seems that some libertarians, voluntaryists or anarcho-capitalists consider property to be a mere concept, something not derived from reality, but rather just a nice idea that is successful at creating harmony between people, so long as property is actually respected (unlike with the state).

So there are four problems I see here:

1. If ownership is solely defined as “exclusive control” and property as “that which is exclusively controlled” then if someone steals something he becomes the owner since at that point he’s the only one who controls it (exclusive control). This completely removes the possibility of theft occurring.

2. “I control my body” and subsequent “I own my body” and even “I own me” doesn’t satisfy anarcho-socialists because in a statement “I own me”, “I” and “me” refer to the same thing yet they tend to insist that property must be external to its owner. I think we have to do better than what we typically do (from my experience) to resolve this.

3. Why exactly does self ownership extend to ownership of things other than self? What is the logic behind that? Also, what happens if we stop being human-centric about this and look for evidence of property outside of the human sphere? This is important if such evidence exists because it provides a significant additional proof for property beyond the disputed “I own me” reasoning.

4. How can you at the same time say that self-ownership arises from a physical objective fact that you control your body and then go about speaking of property as if it doesn’t have roots in the physical and objective world and is rather just an abstract, but useful concept that we can dismiss once we have abundance and infinite resources?? Do infinite resources suddenly change the fact you control your body?

My responses to these issues, albeit they are to some extent a work in progress, follow.

PROBLEM 1. If ownership is solely defined as “exclusive control” and property as “that which is exclusively controlled” then if someone steals something he becomes the owner since at that point he’s the only one who controls it (exclusive control). This completely removes the possibility of theft occurring.

Apparently defining ownership as “exclusive control” makes violation of property, that is theft, impossible. Regardless whether you take by trade or just steal something, ownership is just transfered, as physical control over an object is transfered. I don’t think any supporter of property ownership actually means it like this so this definition fails to communicate the actual meaning properly.

The most simple alternative definition would be “the right to exclusive control”. However, I’m becoming quite vary of references to rights, something I’ve realized in a discussion I had yesterday with another anarchist (socialist type). To illustrate consider the moral of non-coercion which basically says that “to coerce is wrong”. On this basis we typically describe “not coercing” as right, yet it isn’t right, but rather just the absence of “wrong”, an unmodified natural state. In that sense “right” doesn’t even exist. Whenever it is thus invoked it actually involves a positive entitlement or a positive obligation. If we’re speaking of negative moral statements (“you should not coerce” or “coercion is wrong”), rights don’t exist.

Thus defining ownership as “right to exclusive control” seems faulty because it implies a positive obligation where none exists. All we’re then left with is a negative moral statement, but we don’t quite know what it is yet because we haven’t yet defined ownership. We have a scaffolding of a statement, which is basically “do not act as if you own what you do not own”, but we haven’t yet defined what “own” is.

So I would take another approach. Let’s define ownership by including every condition necessary for it to be in effect. We will then know exactly which conditions need to be met before we can proclaim someone an owner and before we can classify any particular action as a violation of someone’s ownership, or theft.

The definition I thus propose is the following:

“Ownership is exclusive control of object B by object A where object A caused the object B’s current form and position or existence in time and space”.

This definition of ownership rests not only on exclusive control, but on causality and a principle of priority which I will explain below. Therefore exclusive control is no longer the only thing necessary for something to be owned, but rather we also need there to be the closest causal relationship between an owner and the object’s current form and position or existence in time and space. In other words, you only own what you caused into existence as such by your own actions (or labor).

Problems with this definition?

There is one thing about this definition which may seem problematic at first. It’s the fact that action and reaction is a continuous process to which we know of no beginning (except the big bang perhaps) and no end. It could thus be said that a thief who moves a thing from your garage to his own garage now owns this thing by virtue of causing it to exist at a different point in time and space and if he modified it, in a different form as well.

Principle of Priority

The antidote to this problem however is implicit in the very definition of ownership put forward above and it is what I might call a “principle of priority”. In simplistic terms it is about asking the question: who owned it first? If someone already owns something then it is only that someone who can cease that ownership before another can take over. Overriding that would be theft as I explain below.

This isn’t any more silly than the fact that action causes a reaction. The fact that a thief moved a thing from my garage to his own and modified it doesn’t change the fact that for him to be able to do that I had to be the one to acquire it and put it in my own garage first. Thus his subsequent possession is completely dependent upon and predicated by my prior actions which is precisely what makes me into an owner.

What makes him into a thief, however, isn’t just the fact that his possession depended on my prior actions, but the fact that my action wasn’t the one that caused him to come to possession of it, such as the act of trade or giveaway. My exclusive control of an object ends where my stream of actions is terminated by the final act of disposal yet he terminated that control before me, taking advantage of the fruits of my actions or my control without acknowledging those actions and this control.

To take an example from fundamental process of the universe, the process of causality or action-reaction, it is as if a reaction happens without absorbing the energy of an effect of a prior action that caused it. It is like removing an “effect” from a domino effect while still observing the dominoes falling. Obviously, this is impossible as causality cannot function without both cause and effect.  Every action essentially “pays” for the effects of prior actions the costs imposed by a prior actor in the same sense as a force that pushes in one direction pushes equally in another.

Thieves try to override that on a macro scale of human interaction by absorbing the effect without absorbing the energy costs of it. When this happens a natural imbalance occurs. The non-paid actor is diminished (which humans express as a sense of loss and injustice and frustration that comes with it) whereas the thief is enriched. But just like everything else in the universe seeks a state of equilibrium, so will the violated person seek reparations or even revenge, causing violence in a society.

Another issue that might be raised against this way of defining ownership is that it seemingly makes parents into owners of their kids because parents caused their kids into existence at some point in time and space. However to stop at that conclusion would be to fail to acknowledge the nature of an “object” that is a human being. Namely, it cannot be externally controlled exclusively and if you somehow created beings who could by some technological means (The Borg drones bred in an incubator?) they wouldn’t really be humans anymore. The nature that makes them into humans would not be developed.

Since this is obviously not the case with pretty much all babies born it is safe to assume that to the extent to which a child exercises self control it cannot be owned by its parent. Instead it is self-owned. It directs itself to its own form and position in time and space. This ties to the established ideas about sentience, sapience and self awareness as differentiators necessary to discern between external ownership of animals and external ownership of humans whereas former becomes acceptable and latter not.

More could be said about the innards of animal ownership however which would reveal more about these extents or degrees of ownership which is oppositely proportional to the objects capacity to exclusively self-control. I will just say that every object does possess some extent of self-control which factors into its nature as itself. A rock for instance exhibits enough self-control to merely sit in place and keep itself together until outside forces break it down or move it. Given the huge gap between control that humans can exercise over a rock and control that rock can exercise over itself it is clear why humans have no qualms about owning rocks and other inanimate matter yet have huge qualms about owning other humans and some qualms about owning animals. :)

PROBLEM 2. Statments like “I control my body” and subsequent “I own my body” and even “I own me” don’t satisfy anarcho-socialists because in a statement “I own me”, “I” and “me” refer to the same thing yet they tend to insist that property must be external to its owner. I think a defender of property ownership has to do better than what we typically do (from my experience) to resolve this.

The basic issue here is the assumption that if I AM me then I cannot own me that comes from the assumption that what is owned must be separate or external from the owner itself. From my experience defenders of property ownership don’t do a very good job at tackling this issue because most of the time they don’t even try. They generally take self-ownership as an axiom and then call everyone who denies it as crazy because they evidently use ownership of their bodies to deny it.

I do largely agree with this, however, but I don’t think stating this is enough if you really want to have an anti-property person understand property. Sometimes even seemingly self-evident “axioms” need explaining. What use is an axiom if a person fails to see it due to his pre-conceived notions. If many religions prove anything it’s that preconceived notions can make people utterly blind even to the most obvious self-evident realities.

That said, there are two questions to be asked here.

1. Does the definition of ownership require the owner to be separate from what is owned?

Let’s take a look at the definition stated previously.

“Ownership is exclusive control of object B by object A where object A caused the object B’s current form and position or existence in time and space”.

Identifiers A and B imply a separation between objects, but it is not explicitly stated. So if we would favor the explicit over implicit we could say that the requirement for separation doesn’t exist in this definition. Otherwise it would.

But there is another thing that is more explicit in this definition and that is the statement of a causal relationship. It could be worth asking if causality itself requires two objects in a causal relationship to be separate? Can an object have a causal relationship with itself? Can an action of an object cause a reaction of that same object? To answer that question we have to define the object itself. In other words, we have to answer the second question, since the object in reference here is the “self”:

2. What is “self” or what is “me”?

There can be varying ways to define the “self”. In psychological terms the focus may be solely on the brain and its chemistry, the headquarters of who you are as a person, mentally speaking. Physically however we may need to refer to an entire body as this is the vessel which you travel in and by which you are to a large extent identified and discerned from other selves. We cannot however refer to anything that is outside of a body, that is, which refers neither to the brain nor any other part of the body nor the entire body since we simply do not have any evidence that this is where “self” resides. Indeed, such claims are in the realm of the mystical and religious.

The typical argument by property ownership advocates does however involve “control over my body” so I think it would be reasonable to take that as the definition of the “self” here. We can now return to questions asked above:

“Can an object have a causal relationship with itself? Can an action of an object cause a reaction of that same object?”

The object referred to here is the “self” and it is above defined as “the body” and a body is actually consisted of a multitude of organs which are further consisted of a multitude of cells and then finally molecules and atoms. For this body to be alive and animated many processes must be ongoing within it which essentially represent action and reaction between organs, between cells and between molecules. In other words if we define the object as a consistence of many other objects then that object can have a causal relationship with itself by means of one part of an object having a causal relationship with another to in turn make the entire object be what it naturally is.

In other words, self consistence (the state of being formed by structure of smaller parts which harmoniously interact with each other) allows self-ownership. It’s of course worth pointing out that the same is true of all objects in the macro universe we are living in. Rocks are self consistent as well and thus self-owned. Trees are self-consistent and thus self-owned.  We sometimes describe certain object by what we say to be its “properties”. This is quite interesting because as we’ve established here, it indeed has properties within the very context of ownership. It owns its properties.

We may for instance describe the properties of a flower to be its shape, composition, color, smell etc. Incidentally, the causal processes within a flower allow it to have these properties. These processes and smaller parts that it’s consisted of define the flower’s “self”. The flower thus owns itself and these properties as what it caused into being, consistent with the definition of ownership expressed above.

The objection that might be put forward at this point is that if flowers own themselves, how come we can own flowers. To respond I would refer to what I’ve said when I addressed the issue of parents owning their children which is the reference to the nature of the object itself. It changes everything. A flower may be self owned, but its ownership cannot include the capacity to consciously say no to a man cutting it down. So it has exclusive self-control only to the extent to which it by its nature CAN have exclusive self-control. This is also precisely why cutting it down is not a violation of its property. Its ownership extends only as far as its capacity to control does.

As an interesting side not, if there were beings so superior to humans that they would look at us the way we look at flowers, according to this they would be right in considering us their property because our capacity to own doesn’t extend as far as theirs. However the existence of such beings is currently limited only to the realm of pure fantasy. In any case, we are evolving and just like flowers we can strive to the maximum capacity that we can muster, but no further.

PROBLEM 3. Why exactly does self ownership extend to ownership of things other than self? What is the logic behind that? Also, what happens if we stop being human-centric about this and look for evidence of property outside of the human sphere? This is important if such evidence exists because it provides a significant additional proof for property beyond the disputed “I own me” reasoning.

I think that my answer to the resolution of this problem is dispersed in my answers to the above two problems. My definition of ownership is completely agnostic to humans and simply applies to “objects”, whatever they may be. The definition rests solely on exclusive control, causality and an implied principle of priority. When either of these conditions isn’t met ownership ceases. Control itself has a built-in limitation to ownership in that it only extends as far as the object in question is capable of controlling another object or itself. Human beings are capable of controlling more than just themselves and to the extent to which this is so they can thus own objects external to themselves.

There is also no fundamental distinction between the self and other objects in terms relevant to this definition of ownership. Both involve exclusive control of objects whose existence in time/space and form is caused such as they currently are. This fits a libertarian explanation of homesteading as means of acquiring the most disputed kind of property; ownership of land. The homesteading principle involves “mixing your labor” with the land which is just another way of referring to actions which cause the land in question to change some of its properties. A simple enclosure of the land typically does the trick and the more is done with the land the stronger the ownership case for it.

PROBLEM 4. How can you at the same time say that self-ownership arises from a physical objective fact that you control your body and then go about speaking of property as if it doesn’t have roots in the physical and objective world and is rather just an abstract, but useful concept that we can dismiss once we have abundance and infinite resources?? Do infinite resources suddenly change the fact you control your body?

This problem is expressed in form of the above rhetorical questions which by themselves illustrate the contradiction and my point which is the gist of my answer to such a contradictory practice.

Ownership as defined above relies on processes which are fundamental to everything in reality. Control is a stream of actions and causality is the relationship between an action and a reaction whereas an action is a cause and a reaction is an effect. The principle of priority which I derived from it also directly derives from a chronological nature of causality as we can observe it. Denial of priority would essentially be akin to the denial of time. So all of the components of ownership as defined here are completely fundamental to the functioning of the universe as we know it.

Ownership is essentially about the relationship between the cause and the effect whereas cause owns the effect. While causality refers to cause and effect themselves and the fact that they form an ongoing process, ownership refers to the very relationship between that which causes and that which is caused. To fully understand ownership would be to fully understand how a particular effect relates to any act within the causality chain it is a part of and to which extent can that act be credited for it.

It’s not too difficult to see how this applies to humans. We are after all a part of the same universe, the same ocean of causality chains. We have our specific natures which gives us specific capacities and therefore specific potentials to cause and therefore control and therefore own. To fully understand ownership as it pertains to humans is to understand how exactly does the effect (a particular piece of property) relate to all of the acts in the action-reaction chain that was necessary to put that object in the form it is, at the time it is in and in the place that it is at. Who was the first cause? Did he or she act to dispose of it? Who was the next controller? Did he act to dispose of it or was it stolen against his will? Etc. etc.

Infinite resources or infinite amount of desired objects never changes the fact that ownership exists any more than it changes the fact that the process of cause and effect continues. It merely changes the amount of value assign to the exclusive control of any given object and the likelihood that a dispute over its ownership will arise. Just because prosperity removes the distinction between haves and have nots doesn’t mean that what made them prosperous to begin with ceased to exist – the capacity to act in order to cause what is needed or desired, control the resulting effect and trade it in for effects caused by others – the free market of caused properties.

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  • H.Kwint

    Hi Daniël,

    I like your exploration of the properties of property, but I don't agree, and I like to share my opinion.

    Basically, you're trying to postulate some scientific definition of 'property'. I think that's not necessary, and not natural, because let's not forget we're humans after all. Like I stated in 'the other forum' (you know which), I don't believe everything can be expressed by means of matter and formulae.

    So what I basically concluded was this:

    Property and ownership only occur whenever there is an agreement between two or more involved parties.

    As stated, I'm not a big fan of abstract definitions (those take much concentration and energy to understand and I'm a bit tired most of the time), so let me try to explain using some definition. Nonetheless, I'll try to take the idea of property "beyond humans only" as you wish (I think that's a nice idea).

    Let's look at two robots and a ball. If the two robots agree the first one owns the ball, then probably every spectator would agree the first one owns the ball. Let's say the robots don't agree, and keep fighting, and we ask the spectator who owns the ball. I suppose they'd say that currently "no one owns the ball".

    Let's look at two dogs and a rope, something I did in practice because my parents have two dogs. If the two dogs agree the first one owns the rope, than the rope is property of the first. Suppose they fight, and after the fight they 'agree' the rope is property of the second dog. Then it is, also to the spectator I guess.

    Let's look at two civilizations of 'space invaders'. If they agree Mars is property of the first civilization, then that civilization owns Mars. If they disagree, probably there will be a fight and neither one of them will own it.

    Let's look at the ocean. It used to be owned by nobody. However, nowadays there seems to be an agreement between countries (basically a bunch of organized people) that some country 'owns' a certain part of the ocean, or Antarctica for that part. If they agree, I'd say that part is property of a certain country.

    Let's look at copyright. If all people on the world would agree someone has exclusive right to a certain 'configuration of chars', to the spectator it would look like that 'configuration of chars' was owned by the author. No matter if that 'configuration of chars' was physical or not (it could be just in the head of the author, and like said before, I don't believe consciousness can be explained in terms of matter).

    If however not all people on the world would agree someone has exclusive right, than it's basically the same as with the fighting civilizations or dogs: The spectator would probably decide currently no one is owning that particular 'configuration of chars'.

    Let's look at an "anarchistic" society where people don't believe in property. Because all people agreed all matter cannot be property, an outside spectator would probably say, "In this society property doesn't exist".

    Let's look at two people, and they both agreed the second person owns the first. Ask to an alien (someone without 'human moral' and who have not read the law), and he'd probably tell you the first person is property of the second.

    I don't know if it's of any help, but speaking for my own I quite like the concept above since it almost seems to provide a coherent idea of property, at least for me.

    Wish you best, H

  • H.Kwint

    <cite>so let me try to explain using some definition. </cite>

    I'm sorry, that was supposed to read: Let me try using examples.

  • http://memeverse.com memenode

    <blockquote cite="H.Kwint">

    Basically, you’re trying to postulate some scientific definition of ‘property’. I think that’s not necessary, and not natural, because let’s not forget we’re humans after all. Like I stated in ‘the other forum’ (you know which), I don’t believe everything can be expressed by means of matter and formulae.

    I'm not sure I fully understand what you mean here, in two ways.

    1. I don't see how being human can mean it's not natural to postulate a scientific definition of property.

    2. If not scientifically (which I assume is what you mean by "matter and formulae" how else do you think it's possible to explain some things? Or do you mean that some things simply do not have a possible explanation? If so, why not?

    <blockquote cite="H.Kwint">

    Property and ownership only occur whenever there is an agreement between two or more involved parties.

    Well agreement or lack thereof makes or breaks everything in human relationships. It almost goes without saying. If two people agree that the sky is made of glass the two of them wont be in conflict even if they are essentially in conflict with reality. In that case I don't necessarily have to budge from my ideas on ownership above if I can get anyone to agree with me on the same definition.

    The problem comes when we just can't agree. When an agreement between two people alone is impossible a third party is necessary, a third party which actually does not have any interest in the object in question. On what basis then would a third party judge who is the rightful owner? On his whim alone? I think this is where objective scientific definition I'm trying for would have to make its entrance.

    <blockquote cite="H.Kwint">

    As stated, I’m not a big fan of abstract definitions (those take much concentration and energy to understand and I’m a bit tired most of the time),

    Unfortunately, that's a problem. If you don't have a definition it's hard to know what precisely do you even mean by "own". If there is agreement and someone "owns" something what does that mean? What does it mean to "own"?

    The only thing I could discern from your examples is that the existence of ownership depends on agreement, and that who owns something depends on what they agreed to. I can't quite extract what does it actually mean to "own" from them however.

    <blockquote cite="H.Kwint">

    Let’s look at two robots and a ball. If the two robots agree the first one owns the ball, then probably every spectator would agree the first one owns the ball. Let’s say the robots don’t agree, and keep fighting, and we ask the spectator who owns the ball. I suppose they’d say that currently “no one owns the ball”.

    Let’s look at two civilizations of ’space invaders’. If they agree Mars is property of the first civilization, then that civilization owns Mars. If they disagree, probably there will be a fight and neither one of them will own it.

    In addition to what I said above the problem here is that they keep fighting. Saying "no one owns the ball/Mars" didn't solve the conflict.

    Also, if the spectator is neither the judge nor interested in the ball or Mars his opinion doesn't matter at all to the case. So I'd assume that by referring to a spectator you're referring to yourself. Spectator's judgment is your judgment.

    <blockquote cite="H.Kwint">

    Let’s look at the ocean. It used to be owned by nobody. However, nowadays there seems to be an agreement between countries (basically a bunch of organized people) that some country ‘owns’ a certain part of the ocean, or Antarctica for that part. If they agree, I’d say that part is property of a certain country.

    A country, regardless of the fact that it is a bunch of organized people, cannot own anything, at least if you would agree that ownership implies exclusive control over something. The fact that it's "exclusive" excludes other people. Only a single individual can be the true owner, not a group of millions. Of course, like I said before, you didn't define what it actually means to "own".

    <blockquote cite="H.Kwint">

    Let’s look at copyright. If all people on the world would agree someone has exclusive right to a certain ‘configuration of chars’, to the spectator it would look like that ‘configuration of chars’ was owned by the author. No matter if that ‘configuration of chars’ was physical or not (it could be just in the head of the author, and like said before, I don’t believe consciousness can be explained in terms of matter).

    If however not all people on the world would agree someone has exclusive right, than it’s basically the same as with the fighting civilizations or dogs: The spectator would probably decide currently no one is owning that particular ‘configuration of chars’.

    Let’s look at an “anarchistic” society where people don’t believe in property. Because all people agreed all matter cannot be property, an outside spectator would probably say, “In this society property doesn’t exist”.

    Let’s look at two people, and they both agreed the second person owns the first. Ask to an alien (someone without ‘human moral’ and who have not read the law), and he’d probably tell you the first person is property of the second.

    Again, I would assume the spectator is actually yourself, but regardless it's just a statement of his/your opinion which requires some basis before it can become a fact which cannot be established without establishing precisely what "own" means first.

    This spectator, or yourself, is almost like someone who can't make up his mind about what he actually thinks about ownership and thus relegates the entire job to the people dealing with the necessity to answer that question. :) You probably wont be surprised if I say that's just not good enough.

    <blockquote cite="H.Kwint">

    I don’t know if it’s of any help, but speaking for my own I quite like the concept above since it almost seems to provide a coherent idea of property, at least for me.

    Of course it is. :)

    I don't mean to be rude, but I want to explain why I think it's coherent and why I still think it's bad.

    It's like a person who says that he has a coherent method of knowing everything that is known about the universe and his method is: "I just listen what other people say about it and make their conclusions my own."

    Your concept is basically "whatever them two say is owned must be owned". But you or your spectator don't seem to try to answer that question by him/your self. See what I mean?

    Best regards.

  • H.Kwint

    <cite>1. I don’t see how being human can mean it’s not natural to postulate a scientific definition of property.</cite>

    To me, property is a result of social interaction, not of science or physical laws.

    <cite>If there is agreement and someone “owns” something what does that mean? </cite>

    Something like "the right as agreed upon to change an object (be it in place / form / appearance)" would suit I suppose.

    In your opinion, if a meteor collides on earth, because the meteor caused the form of the earth to exist, that meteor would own the earth. To me that doesn't work, and that's what you get when defining a social phenomenon by means of science.

    <cite>The fact that it’s “exclusive” excludes other people.</cite>

    Do you mean property cannot be shared, that means, you and I cannot share ownership of something? To me that seems flawed. Even while true we cannot both have exclusive rights at the same time, sharing ownership is a natural and accepted phenomenon in society – which a theory about property should account for.

    <cite>Also, if the spectator is neither the judge nor interested in the ball or Mars his opinion doesn’t matter at all to the case.</cite>

    That's a result of the neutral third party you were asking for!

    So what I basically have a problem with, is with talking about property as being some "physical phenomenon" while disregarding any agreements which might have been made. To me, property doesn't exist without agreement. Even when two objects interact and cause the form of one of them to change (the moon changes the form of the ocean), speaking about ownership (therefore the moon must own the ocean) sounds flawed, and meaningless.

    Same for a nucleus and an electron: The nucleus causes the orbit of the electron (and probably has some exclusive rights to it too), but does that mean some nucleus owns some electron? That sounds like meaningless propositions to me.

    <cite>Your concept is basically “whatever them two say is owned must be owned”. But you or your spectator don’t seem to try to answer that question by him/your self.</cite>

    The spectator can't and doesn't has to answer that question by himself, because as I said before talking about ownership without talking about some agreement is meaningless to me.

    So back to the first question:

    <cite>If not scientifically (which I assume is what you mean by “matter and formulae” how else do you think it’s possible to explain some things?</cite>

    I think you're trying to define some social phenomenon by means of physical definitions, and that's something that cannot work – unless property only involves 'matter'. I'd say property is a non-material "agreement", because an agreement – most of the times – cannot be touched, is non-material. So while we don't agree, I feel the reason why is becoming clearer to me, so at least I learned something ;)

    Best regards, H

  • H.Kwint

    Hmm, for some reason cite didn't work.

  • http://memeverse.com memenode

    <blockquote cite="H.Kwint">

    To me, property is a result of social interaction, not of science or physical laws.

    There is something called Social sciences which have three types. I would probably belong to the positivists.

    I think this distinction you're making (which I think is a false dichotomy) fails to acknowledge that to objective reality everything is just matter and energy in various forms, including humans. We're objectively just objects interacting with other objects just like everything else in the universe. The fact that we're self aware and have volition arises from our properties just as the color and smell of a flower are its properties.

    <blockquote cite="H.Kwint">

    Something like “the right as agreed upon to change an object (be it in place / form / appearance)” would suit I suppose.

    So to own would be to "have a right as agreed upon to change an object"? The problem that trips that definition however is the lack of clarity as to what a "right" actually is which is something everybody loves to refer to and almost nobody ever tries to actually define. I've come to think that rights don't actually exist. They're just entitlements, beliefs of belonging, just a consequence of something more fundamental which would be the moral classification of acts as morally right or morally wrong.

    You can't really have a right. You can only do right acts or wrong acts whereas we might sometimes say that right acts are acts which you're right to do or have a right to do.

    So that definition could be rephrased as: "to own is to change an object rightfully". To steal would then be, for example, "to change an object wrongfully". It might seem like playing semantics, but it helps to reveal one thing. "To change an object" translates to "actions upon an object that modify it" and "control" is actually just a stream of actions upon an object being controlled. So we are talking about control, right? To own is to control?

    <blockquote cite="H.Kwint">

    In your opinion, if a meteor collides on earth, because the meteor caused the form of the earth to exist, that meteor would own the earth. To me that doesn’t work, and that’s what you get when defining a social phenomenon by means of science.

    Not true at all. I actually pointed this out in the article. The nature of an object as what it is contains limitations to its capacity to control and thus its capacity to own. In case of an asteroid hitting Earth its capacity to control doesn't extend much farther from simply remaining in one piece and colliding with other things. Nothing else is in its scope of control and thus its scope of ownership. Furthermore, once collided with Earth the meteor is no longer what it was. It's nature has changed. It became a part of Earth itself.

    And don't get me started on who fell on whom.. It might have as well be said that the Earth fell on the meteor. :D

    But the bottom line is that the nature of objects matters and it poses natural limitations to the extent to which it can own other things. This is why a flower can't own a human being, but a human being can own a flower. It's a simple difference in natures and natural capabilities.

    <blockquote cite="H.Kwint">

    Do you mean property cannot be shared, that means, you and I cannot share ownership of something?

    <blockquote cite="H.Kwint">

    To me that seems flawed.

    More like, it doesn't correspond to what most people are duped to believe without checking their assumptions. ;)

    <blockquote cite="H.Kwint">

    Even while true we cannot both have exclusive rights at the same time, sharing ownership is a natural and accepted phenomenon in society – which a theory about property should account for.

    What phenomenon? The governments saying something is doesn't make it so. The law isn't the basis of reality. In fact a lot of the times reality isn't even the basis of the law, even though it should be.

    Same goes for what the majority of people think it is. Majorities don't make the truth into what it is. Truth is regardless of what they say. There is a simple logical contradiction in saying that ownership, defined as exclusive control, can be exercised by two people at the same time over the same object. You said it yourself: "Even while true we cannot both have exclusive rights at the same time". And then you contradicted that. Exclusiveness and inclusiveness (which is what "shared" implies) are opposites.

    So not only does the concept of shared ownership contradict simple facts of physical reality such as that multiple persons cannot occupy the same point in space and time simultaneously but it self-destructs logically before you even begin to check it with empirical reality.

    <blockquote cite="H.Kwint">

    That’s a result of the neutral third party you were asking for!

    If the observer is you a spectator is redundant, especially if it's you who speak through "him". I think you misunderstood me. I never spoke of a neutral third party, but rather of not basing the definition and proof of property on humans alone, but on something more fundamental like objects (forms of matter and energy), causality, time and space..

    <blockquote cite="H.Kwint">

    So what I basically have a problem with, is with talking about property as being some “physical phenomenon” while disregarding any agreements which might have been made. To me, property doesn’t exist without agreement.

    That was precisely my intention, to remove the concept of ownership from dependence on whim and agreement. If it can be derived from objective reality then it becomes, as it is anyway, the final arbiter.

    The thing is, if I actually can observe ownership in objective reality that means it exists and that you're subject to the laws it implies whether you want to acknowledge it or not.

    And I already illustrated how could this failure to acknowledge reality backfire when I pointed out that when you base ownership on agreement alone lack of agreement means perpetual conflict. That's after all what always happens when you're in conflict with reality: imbalance, disharmony and eventual destruction. As you know from evolution, adaptation to reality is the key to survival and prosperity, not a conflict with it.

    <blockquote cite="H.Kwint">

    Even when two objects interact and cause the form of one of them to change (the moon changes the form of the ocean), speaking about ownership (therefore the moon must own the ocean) sounds flawed, and meaningless.

    Same for a nucleus and an electron: The nucleus causes the orbit of the electron (and probably has some exclusive rights to it too), but does that mean some nucleus owns some electron? That sounds like meaningless propositions to me.

    I already addressed that above with your meteor example.

    <blockquote cite="H.Kwint">

    I think you’re trying to define some social phenomenon by means of physical definitions, and that’s something that cannot work – unless property only involves ‘matter’. I’d say property is a non-material “agreement”, because an agreement – most of the times – cannot be touched, is non-material. So while we don’t agree, I feel the reason why is becoming clearer to me, so at least I learned something

    Human beings (which are involved in "social") are physical so I don't see how looking for physical definitions somehow contradicts "social phenomenon".

    Property does involve matter because that's the only thing that exists. Matter and energy. Einsteins equation equates the two. You don't believe consciousness is material, but I'd be willing to bet that you have no alternative explanation for it other than vague mysticism. I don't see how consciousness can be anything other than fundamentally material, like everything else in the universe. To say something isn't of matter and energy is like saying it doesn't exist in the universe at all.

    Anyway, glad you got at least something out of this..

    Thanks for the comments

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    The banks own everything

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