LAW 642

Philosophy of Property

Law & Philosophy

This seminar investigates the philosophical foundations of private property. The law of property defines what is mine and what is yours: is this definition purely conventional or does it reflect a natural order? If the right to private property is, as Blackstone maintained, ‘that sole and despotic dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in total exclusion of the right of any other individual in the universe’, how is the intervention of the state in the protection of that right justified? We will consider justificatory and critical accounts of private property, including accounts of its genealogy, and investigate the relationship between property and sovereignty, a relationship at the intersection of public and private law. We will also examine relations between property and the body, including whether we own ourselves and whether there are limits on what may be treated as property.

Students will be asked to read challenging writings of philosophy and political and legal theory, attend and participate regularly, write some short reaction papers, and write a seminar paper.

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