European Journal of Philosophy

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My body and other objects: The internal limits of self‐ownership

Abstract Common practices such as donating blood or selling hair assume rights of disposal over oneself that are similar to, if not indistinguishable from, property rights. However, a simple view of self‐ownership fails to capture relevant moral differences between parts of a person and other objects. In light of this, we require some account of the continuity in the form of ownership rights a person has over herself and other objects, which also acknowledges the normative differences between constitutive parts of a person, on the one hand, and external objects, on the other. This paper provides such an account by arguing that there are reasons internal to a general justification of property rights to limit the extent of powers included in ownership of different kinds of object, depending on how the person is situated in relation to them. Rejecting a typical Hohfeldian view of property as a univocal, gradable concept allows us to make space for a new approach to property and self‐ownership: one which can make sense of various uses of the body as property without entailing that our relation to those parts is exhaustively characterised by an ordinary property right.

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