Q1: Ownership

What Does it Mean to “Own” Something?

And two tangential questions:

  • Who or what grants ownership? God? Government? Consensus? Strength?
  • Are there things that cannot be owned? Places? People? Thoughts? God?

And yes, I fully realize the historical irony of someone with my last name asking this sort of question. For more on what to do with this question, read this post.

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3 Responses to Q1: Ownership

  1. Dante says:

    At the very least you understand the very irony of your question. Then again the irony is much broader than you may initially think. 🙂

    The question of ownership, rather, the question of natural right is one that is hotly contested to this very day. Particuarly the very man who is responsible for the heated debate is Leo Strauss, a modern philosopher and the father of the modern resurrection of the philosopher Xenophon. In Natural Right and History, he tackles the problem of the origin of natural right, with some statements that are key in the debate going on today.

    However, we will not focus on the questions involved in relation to the modern debate but rather the classical orgin to natural right, and will give a origin to the idea of origin. In the Greek tradition, the idea of natural right is that which comes from nature (natural = nature, get it?). Locke took the idea a step further by introducing the concept of God into the mix. Locke’s idea of natural right is that God has given rights to individuals and society is created to goven over said rights (and restrictions thereof).

    Though just for grins and giggles, the one man who has contributed to modern natural right is *gasp* Machiavelli. He plays a huge role in terms of relaxing the standard of government in relation to their God given purpose.

    That does not answer any of your question, but should prove to be a good jumping off point to discuss you questions on ownership. I’ll drop off later with my thoughts on the matter.

  2. Ginger says:

    This is a great question and one that I’ll continue to explore long after I’ve given this response. Therefore and unlike any true philosopher, I reserve the right to change my mind and be wishy-washy about it. (This is why I’m terrible at debate but a rock star at idea sharing.)

    Own – (adj) of, PERTAINING to, or belonging to oneself, or itself; (pron) something that BELONGS to oneself; (v.t.) to have or hold as one’s own; POSESS; to acknowledge or admit; (v.i.) to CONFESS

    Ownership – (n) 1. the state or fact of being an owner 2. the LEGAL RIGHT of possession

    Before I answer the question, I think it important to know the definition of “ownership” because words, as you are well aware, carry so much baggage; connotation alone creates bias, especially in this particular word as it certainly has been applied to material possessions, land, people, thoughts, and ideas.

    The government, consensus, and strength (and some would even say God) are comprised of/created by people, which means that people “grant” ownership.

    I am particularly drawn to the second definition of ownership. The phrase “legal right” stands out. This is probably the foundation of the question/issue because it suggests that there is a “superior” who makes the decision or who is deserving of something at the expense of someone/something else. How else does one attain superiority other than through self-determined, self-righteous competition (war) and fear? In 1984, Orwell suggests that even our thoughts can be commodities, governed through fear. Certainly, religious dogmatists (also people) have dictated/determined ownership of other people, land, and ideology (see the Inquisition, Manifest Destiny, the Crusades, slave trade, etc.).

    In an effort to promote the ideal of true equality (at least in theory, since I am a true Westerner and am bad at equality in practice), I therefore have to say that no one should truly own anything. Not owning requires that we completely go against human nature and have no money (or have the same money), share our space, treat everyone with respect and love, trust unconditionally, etc. In effect, I guess one might call this utopian communism.

    That being said, it is human nature to want to be better than someone and to own things, even if that thing happens to be “the right religion” (I’ll talk about needing to be on a team – buying the uniform, saluting the flag, dying for the cause, etc.- another time, though it does tie into ownership quite nicely). Even in the cave, Grog was proud that he found a better rock than Thad did.

    Also, because we live in a capitalistic society this ideal of non-ownership or true equality is pretty much taken hostage – hands and feet hog tied, duct tape over the mouth to ensure silence, remains securely tied to cement blocks and then dumped into the bilky mire of transaction. There is no chance at utopia. Because of ownership, equality in any form is and will remain dead.

    Owning up to something (confession), however, is another form of the word and requires more stream-of conscious ranting -another topic for another day.

    So there is my opinion for now.

    Tangent indeed!

  3. anniem says:

    Reading (in the loosest term) a book for a class right now that discusses this in comprehensive (globalization) terms, called City of Gold (a mix between Plato’s City of Pigs and Augustine’s City of God) by Westbrook. Let me know if you’re into it…

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