The Journal of Ethics

, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 57-96

First online:

Once More into the Breach of Self-Ownership: Reply to Narveson and Brenkert

  • G. A. CohenAffiliated withAll Souls College

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In reply to Narveson, I distinguish his ’’no-proviso‘‘ argument from his ’’liberty‘‘ argument, and I show that both fail. I also argue that interference lacks the strategic status he assigns to it, because it cannot be appropriately distinguished, conceptually and morally, from prevention; that natural resources do enjoy the importance he denies they have; that laissez-faire economies lack the superiority he attributes to them; that ownership can indeed be a reflexive relation; that anti-paternalism does not entail libertarianism; and that he misrepresents the doctrines of a number of philosophers, including John Locke, Ronald Dworkin, and myself. In reply to Brenkert, I show that he seriously misconstrues my view of the nature of freedom, and of its relationship to self-ownership. I then refute his criticisms of my treatment of the contrasts between self-ownership, on the one hand, and autonomy and non-slavery, on the other. I also show that his attempt to “exorcize the demon of self-ownership” is multiply flawed.

autonomy equality freedom Karl Marx liberty private property rights self-ownership socialism