Do We Own Ourselves?

Of course not, writes John Médaille:
We cannot own ourselves for the simple reason that we cannot create ourselves; we cannot seize control of our origins or be present at our beginnings. Rather, all of us are called into being through an act of love into the ready-made community of the family. From this little society, we receive certain gifts. The gift of being itself, in the first instance, and a sufficiency of material gifts—food, clothing, shelter—or else we would not have survived. But beyond these material gifts, we are graced with other kinds of gifts: language, culture, our first ideas of right and wrong, our first experience of love and beauty.
Of course, Locke was anything but consistent, however, it seems pretty clear to me that if he followed through on his homesteading principle, it would be our parents who own us. After all, they are the ones who "mixed their labor" to create us. But Locke was just throwing together whatever ideas seemed to recommend the policies he wanted, without worrying about their consistency.


  1. Why would it be our parents who own us? Why not our grandparents, and so on? And on their death, why should we bequeath to our parents or ourselves? If society has the ultimate claim on us, shouldn't we be transferred to their ownership forthright, to await further instructions? The author's postulates are every bit as questionable. I suspect that you specifically want to focus on Locke's philosophy of self-ownership, and aren't endorsing the author's counter-argument that "[we claim] ownership of things by giving them away".

    1. "Why would it be our parents who own us?"

      I don't think they should, but they ARE the ones who "labored" to create us.

    2. "Labored" in such a way as to make for great jokes, too.

  2. Anonymous11:57 AM

    Doesn't Locke argue against this view in the First Treatise?


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