What is Property?

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Deckard
 
Reply Mon 28 Dec, 2009 11:31 pm
There are many answers to this question from Locke to Proudhon. I have yet to develop my own answer so I will take on the role of the questioner. I submit the question to the forum:

What is property?
 
Quinn phil
 
Reply Mon 28 Dec, 2009 11:50 pm
@Deckard,
Property is something owned by someone or something.
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Mon 28 Dec, 2009 11:58 pm
@Deckard,
I agree with Hume:

Quote:
What is a man's property? Anything which it is lawful for him, and for him alone, to use. But what rule have we, by which we can distinguish these objects? Here we must have recourse to statutes, customs, precedents, analogies, and a hundred other circumstances; some of which are constant and inflexible, some variable and arbitrary. But the ultimate point, in which they all professedly terminate, is the interest and happiness of human society. Where this enters not into consideration, nothing can appear more whimsical, unnatural, and even superstitious, than all or most of the laws of justice and of property.

...

It may appear to a careless view, or rather a too abstracted reflection, that there enters a like superstition into all the sentiments of justice; and that, if a man expose its object, or what we call property, to the same scrutiny of sense and science, he will not, by the most accurate enquiry, find any foundation for the difference made by moral sentiment. I may lawfully nourish myself from this tree; but the fruit of another of the same species, ten paces off, it is criminal for me to touch. Had I worn this apparel an hour ago, I had merited the severest punishment; but a man, by pronouncing a few magical syllables, has now rendered it fit for my use and service. Were this house placed in the neighbouring territory, it had been immoral for me to dwell in it; but being built on this side the river, it is subject to a different municipal law, and by its becoming mine I incur no blame or censure. The same species of reasoning it may be thought, which so successfully exposes superstition, is also applicable to justice; nor is it possible, in the one case more than in the other, to point out, in the object, that precise quality or circumstance, which is the foundation of the sentiment.

But there is this material difference between superstition and justice, that the former is frivolous, useless, and burdensome; the latter is absolutely requisite to the well-being of mankind and existence of society. When we abstract from this circumstance (for it is too apparent ever to be overlooked) it must be confessed, that all regards to right and property, seem entirely without foundation, as much as the grossest and most vulgar superstition. Were the interests of society nowise concerned, it is as unintelligible why another's articulating certain sounds implying consent, should change the nature of my actions with regard to a particular object, as why the reciting of a liturgy by a priest, in a certain habit and posture, should dedicate a heap of brick and timber, and render it, thenceforth and for ever, sacred1.

An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, Section III Part II
Online Library of Liberty - SECTION III.: of justice. - Enquiries Concerning the Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles of Morals
 
Deckard
 
Reply Tue 29 Dec, 2009 01:28 am
@Pyrrho,
Pyrrho;115223 wrote:


Question:
Property is the object of Justice. Is Property the only object of Justice?

Comment:
Here is another excerpt from the sited text.

Quote:
Thus, the rules of equity or justice depend entirely on the particular state and condition in which men are placed, and owe their origin and existence to that utility, which results to the public from their strict and regular observance.
The particular state and condition in which men are placed changes, sometimes slowly and sometimes very quickly.
For example, during a time of crisis, e.g. hurricane disaster, economic disaster, war it changes very quickly.
In other cases the change is very gradual, over decades, perhaps over centuries. For example the rising population, or the accumulation of advancements in technology.

In both cases "the particular state and condition in which men are placed" has changed. This implies that the rules of justice and equity will likely require changing as well.

In the case of gradual changes, if the rules have not been adjusted along the way they may require an abrupt and seemingly extreme adjustment in order to catchup with the reality of "the particular state and condition".

Furthermore, a particular set of rules of equity and justice itself produces changes, usually slow changes: the accumulation of wealth by a particular class for example and the gradual accumulation of debt by a particular nation for another. These are gradual changes that were brought about by a particular set of rules of equity and justice themselves.
 
Arjuna
 
Reply Tue 29 Dec, 2009 08:43 am
@Deckard,
I wrote a story one time about some people who came to believe that a particular star was valuable, so various ones claimed it. Subsequently they all killed each other.

I think Property has to do with controlling aggression.
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Tue 29 Dec, 2009 12:33 pm
@Deckard,
Deckard;115229 wrote:
Question:
Property is the object of Justice. Is Property the only object of Justice?



No, but that is the focus of his discussion of justice. Various other virtues are discussed in other places in his books.


Deckard;115229 wrote:
Comment:
Here is another excerpt from the sited text.

The particular state and condition in which men are placed changes, sometimes slowly and sometimes very quickly.
For example, during a time of crisis, e.g. hurricane disaster, economic disaster, war it changes very quickly.
In other cases the change is very gradual, over decades, perhaps over centuries. For example the rising population, or the accumulation of advancements in technology.

In both cases "the particular state and condition in which men are placed" has changed. This implies that the rules of justice and equity will likely require changing as well.

In the case of gradual changes, if the rules have not been adjusted along the way they may require an abrupt and seemingly extreme adjustment in order to catchup with the reality of "the particular state and condition".

Furthermore, a particular set of rules of equity and justice itself produces changes, usually slow changes: the accumulation of wealth by a particular class for example and the gradual accumulation of debt by a particular nation for another. These are gradual changes that were brought about by a particular set of rules of equity and justice themselves.



Yes, the rules change over time, either slowly or quickly, and can even be suspended in some cases, depending upon the rapidity and extremity of the change in circumstances. Hume gives examples of such things at the link I already provided, as, for example, in a shipwreck, one does not worry about who owns a piece of debris that is floating before deciding to hang onto it to save one from drowning. Having lost its usefulness at that point, the concept of property is no longer of any concern.
 
Deckard
 
Reply Tue 29 Dec, 2009 12:54 pm
@Pyrrho,
Pyrrho;115331 wrote:
No, but that is the focus of his discussion of justice. Various other virtues are discussed in other places in his books.


Is property is the sole object of social justice? I mean it seems that the case for this could be made with a little finagling. On the other hand if there are other objects of justice then listing some of them might help to illustrate what type of thing property is.
 
sometime sun
 
Reply Tue 29 Dec, 2009 01:01 pm
@Pyrrho,
What one owns or is owned by, but can be exchangable.
We are property only when given and received. Bought and sold.
We buy into ourselves, believe in ourself and makes us own ourselves more heavily with the more we hold purchase.
There is always more self to own, whether it is worth anything is only if someone or thing else appreciates it.
So alone you can have purchase on your self but not property of the self becauese there must be a market.
Can you only own the self if someone wants to buy or has a similar artifact for sale?
We are only something if we are worth something?
Property is the substance of not the subject but by what measure it is valuable, by what measure we and the matter costs and pays.
Truth by virtue of the appreciation of truth, (same as with lies funny enough)
Having. Holding. Handle.

DEEDS. we can give out as well as get back.
 
Arjuna
 
Reply Tue 29 Dec, 2009 01:07 pm
@Deckard,
Deckard;115334 wrote:
Is property is the sole object of social justice? I mean it seems that the case for this could be made with a little finagling. On the other hand if there are other objects of justice then listing some of them might help to illustrate what type of thing property is.
I might not be understanding what you mean by object. Do you mean subject or goal?

Social justice aims at applying sanctions intended to reinforce the ideals of the group.

A group that doesn't have property rights as an ideal won't have any laws related to that.

But they might have laws against sedition or vagrancy.
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Tue 29 Dec, 2009 02:31 pm
@Deckard,
Deckard;115334 wrote:
Is property is the sole object of social justice? I mean it seems that the case for this could be made with a little finagling. On the other hand if there are other objects of justice then listing some of them might help to illustrate what type of thing property is.


I don't think that would help with the idea of property. Property is, as Hume stated, anything that the owner(s), and only the owner(s), may lawfully or rightly use. This means, of course, in the absence of any society, there is no property. It is a social construct, which is useful for people, given human nature and the nature of the world in which we live.

Whether we classify other things, such as murder and rape, as "injustice" or not does nothing to clarify the concept of "property". Although some might be tempted to say, that one owns oneself, in most societies, it is a bit more complicated than that, as one may not sell oneself into slavery, but one may sell whatever property one lawfully owns (absent any "entailment" or lien, of course).

"Social" justice, though, deals with interactions with others. Where there is nothing social, there can be no social justice (or social injustice).
 
Deckard
 
Reply Tue 29 Dec, 2009 05:38 pm
@Pyrrho,
Arjuna;115339 wrote:
I might not be understanding what you mean by object. Do you mean subject or goal?


Yes I think this is very important. Hume, somewhere in the above quoted text calls property "the object of justice".

This may be an archaic way of using the term 'object' but I like it very much.
We find this use of the word 'object' in reference to virtues.
We can draw many good examples of this in Aquinas who identifies various virtues and vices by their objects. For example the object of hope, the object of charity, the object of faith, and also the object of justice.

For Aquinas the object of justice is ius, which most translate as 'right'.
By this we can say that Property is a right.

Thus saying 'property rights' is a bit redundant in the same way it is redundant to say 'ATM machine' (since ATM machine = Automatic Teller Machine machine.) Whereas saying 'rights of possession' is not so redundant. 'Right' is implicit in 'Property'. There is no such thing as Property unless a Right is involved.

So Property is a Right and as a Right it is among the objects of Justice (i.e. other rights). Other Rights include life and liberty, though contrary to Locke, I believe Hume was less inclined to call these rights 'inalienable'. (Pyrrho?)
Pyrrho;115362 wrote:

Although some might be tempted to say, that one owns oneself, in most societies, it is a bit more complicated than that, as one may not sell oneself into slavery, but one may sell whatever property one lawfully owns (absent any "entailment" or lien, of course).

You mentioned selling property one lawfully owns. Does this include selling ones labor. Is labor property? Or is labor something else?
 
Fido
 
Reply Tue 29 Dec, 2009 08:09 pm
@Deckard,
Deckard;115218 wrote:
There are many answers to this question from Locke to Proudhon. I have yet to develop my own answer so I will take on the role of the questioner. I submit the question to the forum:

What is property?

One of those enlightenment philosophers said a right is a property... So that would sort of define both a little...Yet; I must disagree... First; let me consider for you the word alienable... What is a property that it can be alienable, or a right that it can be alienable...With property it is the process where one is made an alien on a piece of property, and another is made its owner...Are all rights alienable...The Catholic church held all its property inalienable..Once it had property it kept it...It did not pay taxes, but a fee for fief...But most property in the middle ages was inalienable...Lords could no more say they owned it than the peasants on it...All had rights, and all were holders by agreement, as a social form...Yet; that was the same realestate that was later sold off from under the peasants...The French of the revolution had a developed sense of property, yet they had little...The saying of the day was the right to life, liberty and property...It was the genius of Jefferson that made the revolution for a higher spiritual value: Happiness, and he took the war out of the hands of property owners who had enough support from English Law to support their civil rights themselves...But English laws are thick with precautionary actions, social forms protecting the lord's land from his king... Press me on this and I will clue you....What our rebellion amounts to is a war for civil rights, and it reveals a people who really want no law at all, which looked upon the enslavement of mankind as only easier than killing Indians, and taking there land...And every where this last is a tenet of property, that he who has it owns it...Melville talks about this In Moby Dick; about a fast fish, which is an established principal of law...But what is property...

Property is matter, primarily...The rules we have for dealing with this matter is law, and the name of the matter is property...The law, like the subject of the law is the form of a relationship... If one person has no property, and another has some property, and each accepts the inviolability of proerty then they have a form of relationship...Property is a concept each shares, and the rules regarding this relationship is a form, but also every aspect of the property that each shares is a form...This form has changed over time... Though people with their forms hope to keep their form unchanged, it changes for better or worse with them, and beyond them...Once the whole of the Franks owned most of Germany and France... With the stirrup came knights and feudalism, and gone went the freedom and equality of the masses, but five hundred years of feudalism kept essential rights through generations on the earth...Those hereditary rights were lost to the peasant with the conception of private property, and if England can stand for the rest, when the commons were first closed is when poverty first became an issue, as a social issue with a name... Those people are lost to history... Those people turned off their land with a simple change of definition fed their lives into the industrial revolution, never having enough ahead in their entire lives to reproduce, and died childless in the slums of England...Their property was their lives, and removed from one was removal from the other...Yet they said that sheep drove the Irish and Scotts from their land...Even during the Potato famine this removal went on apace, all to feed the looms of liverpool...

This much is clear, as man has progressed, his conception of property has changed...Primitives had rights as inheritable property...Virtually anything can be considered a property for us...The steps from communal property only and private property alienable to its owner to commonwealth, to feudalism, to capitalism and wide spread private property rights in a commonwealth is like all human progess: A Change of Forms...Every form has its moral argument, its philosophy, and as I said: Private Property had enlightenment support, but also the support of the religions of capitalism that represents changes of forms in their own respect...

How ever you define property today, it will not be the same tomorrow, next week, or a hundred years from now... It takes a lot to change a form out right, and only outright necessity will force such a change... But all forms evolve... We see this happening from the very bgining of this country in the supreme court... So; as a form it is being redefined, and refined, and it will be so until it becomes clear that the old form does not, and cannot serve society...And this is enough for now...
 
Arjuna
 
Reply Tue 29 Dec, 2009 08:55 pm
@Fido,
Yea, things change over time. I question if the existence of Property defines a more advanced culture. Maybe just one culture?

In the traditional Russian peasant culture, the available resources were divided according to need as if the village was one big family. Even after the USSR destroyed this culture, many Russians still see Property as an evil idea. This makes the progress of Russia to a western-style economy more complicated.

Dostoyevsky believed that in the mir (the village form), the Russians had something very special that could bring happiness to the lives of all people. The only way he could imagine this happening, though, would be if all the people of the world would accept the political authority of Russia. Fat chance.
 
Fido
 
Reply Tue 29 Dec, 2009 09:19 pm
@Deckard,
Things change because our concepts change...So how did we end up with property law very like the Roman concept, and heading for the same distruction as Rome did???I mean, unless you were a knight, Feudalism had little to recommend it, but it was universally embraced... Well, it could, be that in building up after being over run by barbarians that they took a long time building up technology, so the efficiency of Feudalism worked to preserve European society...Yet through all that period, property was inalienable...Children were born to rights in the land that they could never dispose of... Only when technology had increased to the point were wealth could be built up were the wealthy themselves made powerful enough to take possession, and give their possession the force of law...When the capitalist were powerful enough, the even took the inalienable property of the church, which was also the possession of those who lived on it...The whole deal was hardly fair; and disease provided an army for the rich, and the capital to pay for it... When the black death spread over Europe, it freed the capital of generations, and all that could not be defended was taken...It was this capital which bought such an increase in trade, and science... Even the free working man benefitted, and laws had to be made to reduce his wages...The fortunate deaths of so many saved the wealthy many battles, and loaded the burgoning capitalists with capital...Nothing could be compared to it but the taking of America which soon followed, and the great hordes of Inca and Aztec Gold, and that lit a fire under capital...
 
Arjuna
 
Reply Wed 30 Dec, 2009 12:06 pm
@Fido,
Fido;115442 wrote:
Children were born to rights in the land that they could never dispose of...
Every story is made up of unreconcilibly opposed truths. It was the warlords who went off to Jerusalem to pay homage and kill a bunch of total strangers. They brought back loot. Loot was an essential part of the European economy circa 1100. The warlords destroyed things and paid their soldiers with the takings. No structures were built to last, and they didn't... except the fortress-like monasteries, crab-like enclosing the last vestiges of Greece and Rome.

But the middle eastern loot was from a more sophisticated society. Silk, cool iron work. The Europeans loved it and they wanted more. This supported the reopening of ancient trade routes to the cradle of civilization.

Along the routes, communities appeared to meet the needs of traders toting their precious apostle bones and such. And how did these communities grow? It was the serfs who came... those who'd been bound to the land, restricted to a life of servitude because of the circumstances of their birth. They came to these communities to find out what they could be... unbound by custom and religion that condemned their question with the brand of blasphemy.

This was the European Merchant class in its infancy. They were slaves. So here I am, the slave off the land, coming to be a merchant. I see you: an experienced merchant, and I expect you to take care of me. And you do: you exploit my ignorance and leave me to die. It's awful. And yet, if you were to take care of me... then how would I ever learn the first rule of the market place: trust no one. If I make it back to the market it one piece, I'll never make this mistake again. I'll never look to anyone else to take care of me. I'll finally be free.
 
Deckard
 
Reply Thu 31 Dec, 2009 01:17 am
@Fido,
Fido;115435 wrote:
when the commons were first closed is when poverty first became an issue, as a social issue with a name... Those people are lost to history...


Can you say a little more about the "closing of the commons". It sounds like a real turning point in history. I'm having some trouble finding more info about it.
 
Fido
 
Reply Thu 31 Dec, 2009 07:32 am
@Deckard,
Deckard;115811 wrote:
Can you say a little more about the "closing of the commons". It sounds like a real turning point in history. I'm having some trouble finding more info about it.

I would like to know more myself, and, it was a turning point because it made a necessity of life for many people, and their common property into private property with no more than a simple petition to the court, and a court inclined to have property in the hands of those who could put it to the best use... Once the commons were Gone, people had to sell out their small holdings, and hit the strreets...

The conservative (reactionary)William Christals mother, Himmelfarb Is her name wrote a two volume set on the subject, I think, called the origins of poverty.. The Idea of Poverty: England in the Early industrial age....Gertrude Himmelfarb..1983, Knopf inc...I only have the first part,(and I'd like the second) and if I remember, she does sort of gloss the subject; but the facts in brief were that the industrial revolution reached a point where the power and machinery were there, for textiles, and what was wanted was wool... So many yewmen farmers living off of much that they produced did not feed the looms...Closing the commons gave pasturage, and put great numbers on the street without hope of employment, which drove wages to their absolute rock bottom...Marx made the comment based upon this fact, that wages were set by the necessity to keep meat on bones... That does not mean to have children; to reproduce... And he documented the flight of workers into service jobs, where they would not breed, and the general degradation of humanity through facts, such as the size of military recruits from generation to generation... If you consider, that sugar was as responsible as coal for the industriial revolution, and that this, and improved diet from America, and Africa actual improved health, increased life expectancy, and decreased infant mortality, and yet vast numbers, food or no food could not afford to breed, but only fed their lives into the machine; then the historical spectacle is amazing...

Today we find we are in the same situation. of wages driven down, family farms being lost to corporate farms, and masses of people, 80% by one estimate, working in service jobs that produce no value, and do not really support those doing them; without any industrial revolution, with out any great advance waiting at the end of it- is amazing too... No more than the English can we change our institutions to serve all the people once they have begun to justify all on the greater profit of a few...

There really is no excuse for not knowing more about this part of history... Along with the black death it was a defining moment for capitalism, and each helped to define property as more private than common... Consider, that the commons were inalienable, but inalienable or not they could be taken wholesale for some debt never owed...Economic inequality leads to total social and political inequality... At one time the kings quality of life was not better by much than the peasant farmer... He had more time but suffered the disease of ignorance as everyone...Considered against the rising tide of technology which should lift all over the reef of dispair, the path of the wealthy is only so much better becasue they can keep humanity on the verge of desparation, living paycheck to paycheck, insecure, and without hope...We do not hold up the rich, but they hold themselves up by holding our condition down...If the criminals ran the courts is the question capitalism answers... We have lawlessness, a class that refuses to be governed making and enforcing all laws...The moves of government are too hand to mouth, too much of using force of arms and coersion to wring the sweat from every brow, and feed it to the open mouth of capital... WE need protection from our government, and from business...The government exists for no other reason but our protection, and it is the danger...

The law locks up the man or woman who steals a goose from off the common,
But leaves the greater felon loose, who steals the common from the goose

From Constitutional and Legal History of England...W.M Knappen; 1964 Archon Books
 
Justin
 
Reply Thu 31 Dec, 2009 10:27 am
@Deckard,
I think property is a possession... an illusion. Some men think of their wives or their homes as their property which is ultimately an illusion. To think we can possess property or own property is also an illusion.

Property is something that is needed to satisfy the ego. The ego that becomes us is identified through properties. That property can be in the form of a spouse, a car, a house, a church, a forum, anything and everything that is external to ourselves including our body. The ego identifies with property and builds upon it. Property clothes the ego, disguises it and dresses it. We use property to describe ourselves and our ego and to fill in the blanks or empty spaces.

Property is the illusion we live in. Thinking that we own and posses and these things are our property and in that property we seek and find identification. Property is used to describe who we are and our status quo. The more property we have the more powerful we feel and the more we identify with it.

Property is an illusion of our ego. We live in this illusion and die with it. After we die, that property is no longer ours is it? Our possessions our ego all that we thought we were dies with it and we go on realizing that we are not our ego and we are not our property and that we cannot really possess any property.

There are many ways of looking at. I've chosen one. Ultimately though, property is used to describe something possessed and owned by an ego or a group of egos because in the divine, there is no such thing as property. It's a word.

Property = Ego = Identification = Who I am = What I am = Detachment = Faith = Ego = Illusion
 
Fido
 
Reply Thu 31 Dec, 2009 01:10 pm
@Justin,
Justin;115885 wrote:
I think property is a possession... an illusion. Some men think of their wives or their homes as their property which is ultimately an illusion. To think we can possess property or own property is also an illusion.

Property is something that is needed to satisfy the ego. The ego that becomes us is identified through properties. That property can be in the form of a spouse, a car, a house, a church, a forum, anything and everything that is external to ourselves including our body. The ego identifies with property and builds upon it. Property clothes the ego, disguises it and dresses it. We use property to describe ourselves and our ego and to fill in the blanks or empty spaces.

Property is the illusion we live in. Thinking that we own and posses and these things are our property and in that property we seek and find identification. Property is used to describe who we are and our status quo. The more property we have the more powerful we feel and the more we identify with it.

Property is an illusion of our ego. We live in this illusion and die with it. After we die, that property is no longer ours is it? Our possessions our ego all that we thought we were dies with it and we go on realizing that we are not our ego and we are not our property and that we cannot really possess any property.

There are many ways of looking at. I've chosen one. Ultimately though, property is used to describe something possessed and owned by an ego or a group of egos because in the divine, there is no such thing as property. It's a word.

Property = Ego = Identification = Who I am = What I am = Detachment = Faith = Ego = Illusion

The essential verbs in English and French, which modify all other verbs are to be, and to have.
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Thu 31 Dec, 2009 01:19 pm
@Deckard,
Deckard;115400 wrote:
...
So Property is a Right and as a Right it is among the objects of Justice (i.e. other rights). Other Rights include life and liberty, though contrary to Locke, I believe Hume was less inclined to call these rights 'inalienable'. (Pyrrho?)


Rights are a social construct, and as such, could vary from place to place. I think that is what Hume would say about this, but it has been a while since I read enough relevant passages from Hume on this idea, so if you are very interested in Hume, you might want to do some reading on your own. If I am not mistaken, if one were put in a Hobbesian "state of nature", talk of "rights" would be meaningless. Rights are not, for Hume, eternal Platonic Forms.


Deckard;115400 wrote:
You mentioned selling property one lawfully owns. Does this include selling ones labor. Is labor property? Or is labor something else?



I do not recall Hume saying anything about this, but the question you are asking is one of classification. Off the top of my head, I do not see any reason to classify labor as property. Although some intangible things, such as copyrights, are classified as property, I don't think that most intangible things are classified as property. But whatever manner of classification one chooses should be based upon how useful it is to classify things that way.
 
 

 
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