“Backing Into Self-Ownership”

On March 27th, John Thrasher will be giving a talk, “Backing Into Self-Ownership”, as part of the Freedom Center Colloquium Series. John is a recent graduate of the Philosophy Department’s PhD program, and assistant editor for Social Philosophy & Policy. Please join us in the Kendrick Room at the Freedom Center for John’s talk!

Recent work by David Sobel, Peter Railton, and Steven Wall has exposed a serious problem with traditional libertarian accounts of self-ownership and property. Either libertarian self-ownership is so strong that it cannot distinguish between serious and minor violations or it is not strong enough to justify strong libertarian property rights. If it cannot distinguish between the serious and the trivial, all violations from slavery to minor trespassing will be prohibited. These prohibitions will, however, undermine the libertarian’s commitment to individual. If the libertarian cares about freedom, this argument goes, they will have to give up on self-ownership. I argue that the libertarian can solve this problem by rejecting a rationalistic “propertarian” commitment to self-ownership and should instead embrace a conventionalist defense of self-ownership. In so doing, the libertarian will be able to defend both self-ownership (albeit in a different form) and freedom.