Is self-ownership a misnomer?

If something is owned, then by definition there is something external to it that is doing the owning. Likewise, something that is owned is by definition something external to the agent that owns it. Taking this very basic point into account, does it really make that much sense to think in terms of "self-ownership"? For if the self is something that is owned, then it is being owned by something or someone else. So then what is this entity that owns us and yet is us at the same time? Surely if it owns us then it is not us, or if we own the thing in question then it is not us?

In short, we run into the problem of creating a metaphysical duality in which the self is split into an essential and unessential self or a dominant and passive self in which the body is merely something that is inhabited by a "soul" or "spirit". One way of trying to get out of this problem would be to sever this duality into two separate entities, although the problem of explaining the existance and nature of this immaterial "soul" or "spirit" would remain. Another way of getting out of this problem would be to disregaurd the "soul" or "spirit" as a floating abstraction and to consequentially recognize the actual self as a coherant whole, devoid of any dominating metaphysical entity.

The idea of an external metaphysical entity that owns oneself renders the individual into nothing more than the slave of an abstraction, for their actual material being is placed into a submissive position in relation to this metaphysical entity or this particular manifestation of it. Individual autonomy and self-realization can actually be said to come under threat as a result of such a concept. In reality, this abstract metaphysical self functions as a false identity and implies some sort of internal struggle. Such an internal struggle can only be avoided by casting out or denying such a metaphysical duality to begin with, at which point the actual self can be meaningfully recognized and rights can be meaningfully derived.

None of this is being said to belittle the importance of individual sovereignty, but rather it is being said to save it from internal disintegration, while avoiding the problem of solipsism at the same time. This is a rather simple matter of recognizing the distinction between one's actual self and that which is either external to oneself or non-existant to begin with. If such a distinction is not made, then there will forevermore be a confusing haze with respect to discussions about rights and their derivation.


# Brainpolice said on 16 September, 2008 12:34 PM

*prepares for the bombardment* I'm sure I offended someone or will be misunderstood.

# Yancey Ward said on 16 September, 2008 03:25 PM

Why talk of self-ownership at all?  Simply assert that you cannot be owned.

# Nitroadict said on 17 September, 2008 09:19 AM

Most likely; but like all misnomers, it has it's purpose as a label.  I do think that though that in light of this post, a more accurate term may be needed to avoid the problems in using such a misnomer.  


# atrickpay said on 18 September, 2008 04:10 PM

I think Yancey might be onto something...

Asserting that an individual cannot be owned by something external might be a better way of putting it.

Btw, do you guys think "self-ownership" is axiomatic (that is a self-evident truth)?

# anarcho-mercantilist said on 19 September, 2008 10:26 PM

Those who define self-ownership as axiomatic would oppose voluntary slavery because it contradicts self-ownership. Murray N. Rothbard, Alex Strekal, Geoffrey Allen Plauche and Roderick T. Long expressly opposes voluntary slavery. The Ethics of Liberty by Murray Rothbard argues against the existence of slave contracts:

# Brainpolice said on 20 September, 2008 01:22 AM

Technically I don't define self-ownership as axoimatic. That's half the point of this very post.

# Attackdonkey said on 27 September, 2008 03:35 PM

There's two ways to look at it. The first is what Yancy says, which is such a foreign concept, that we use the idea of self ownership to keep others from claiming ownership over others. it is a retainer of sorts.

The other way is to simply say there is a duality. That the spirit and the body are separate. This shouldn't be any big stretch of the imagination and it is implied that there is something about us which is not our body, for we say things like you can't attack my body... or they will bury my body, and so on..

# Attackdonkey said on 27 September, 2008 03:35 PM

Oh I forgot, what I was going to ask you about is the Mises U.

Have you ever been? would you go? give me your thoughts.

# Theosownsall said on 30 October, 2008 02:38 PM

If the soul exists it is not a misnomer; if God exists it is. Frankly, all self-ownership is trying to convey is what people call the will - it is a statment of natural fact - it states the obvious. It says nothing of how or why it should be a 'right' or how one should act in relation to other rights that conflict. If there are no objective moral values (and I think there is not if God does not exist) then it is all about who has the stronger will - thats it - and if you can enslave people then so be it. You evaluate the risks and rewards and seek to proceed or not proceed to enslave. You can't just say 'you can't enslave people' - sure you can, its been done many a time.