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A Body of One's Own: An Institutional Approach to Property and Self-ownership

Carnegy-Arbuthnott, HM; (2017) A Body of One's Own: An Institutional Approach to Property and Self-ownership. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

What type of ownership do we have over ourselves? And what are the different ways in which we ought to be permitted to subject our bodies to the market? Giving blood or selling one’s hair are uses of the body which assume rights of disposal over parts of the person which are similar to, or perhaps indistinguishable from, those we have over property. Such cases pose a puzzle: intuitively we both want to treat some aspect of the body as property, and strongly resist doing so. For example, the thought of a person having the right to cut off her hair and sell it does not strike us as particularly problematic. But if a stranger were to sneak up on her and cut off a length of her hair, it would be wrong for us to treat that assault as a case of theft. In response to this sort of puzzle, I propose a negative argument: that theories of property or self-ownership which are based in some fundamental natural right are unable to provide an adequate explanation of how we should treat these cases. The positive contribution of the thesis is to argue that an institutional theory of property can give us answers as to when to treat the body as property. By an an institutional theory of property, I mean one that rejects the idea that property is fundamental, but does not rely on an underlying natural right to justify the institution of property. This institutional approach provides a robust theoretical basis for distinguishing ourselves as inalienable, some aspects of our bodies as potentially alienable, and external objects as straightforwardly so.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: A Body of One's Own: An Institutional Approach to Property and Self-ownership
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1559912
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