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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-S049-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 17, 2024, from

Article Summary

Most of the great philosophers have expressed views on property, its justification and limits, and especially on the justification of having private property; generally, one must understand these views against the background of the economic and social conditions of their times. Notable theories include first possession (roughly, ‘whoever gets their hands on it justifiably owns it’), labour (‘whoever made it deserves to own it’), utility and/or efficiency (‘allowing people to own things is the most effective way of running society’) and personality (‘owning property is necessary for personal development’).

Few thinkers now defend the first possession theory but all the other three have their contemporary supporters. Some philosophers combine two or more theories into multi-principled or ‘pluralist’ justifications of property ownership. Many express concern about wide gaps between rich and poor and argue for constraints on inequalities in property holdings.

Citing this article:
Munzer, Stephen R.. Property, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-S049-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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