Philosophy Ph.D. Dissertations


Me, Myself & Mine: The Scope of Ownership

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Philosophy, Applied

First Advisor

Fred Miller (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

David Shoemaker (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Steven Wall (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Daniel Jacobson (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Neil Englehart (Committee Member)


This dissertation is an attempt to defend the following thesis: The scope of legitimate ownership claims is much more narrow than what Lockean liberals have traditionally thought. Firstly, it is more narrow with respect to the particular claims that are justified by Locke’s labour-mixing argument. It is more difficult to come to own things in the first place. Secondly, it is more narrow with respect to the kinds of things that are open to the ownership relation. Some things, like persons and, maybe, cultural artifacts, are not open to the ownership relation but are, rather, fit objects for the guardianship, in the case of the former, and stewardship, in the case of the latter, relationship. To own, rather than merely have a property in, some object requires the liberty to smash, sell, or let spoil the object owned. Finally, the scope of ownership claims appear to be restricted over time. We can lose our claims in virtue of a change in us, a change that makes it the case that we are no longer responsible for some past action, like the morally interesting action required for justifying ownership claims.