Why do humans have to be owned?

Posted by j_IR1776wg 5 years, 3 months ago to Philosophy
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A recurring post here in the Gulch for the past several years asks whether the government owns you of if you own you.

Why do humans have to be owned at all?


My whole life I've been told that:
1) god own me.
2) my parents own me.
3) government owns me.
4) I own me.

But I've never read any proof or justification of why exactly is ownership of humans necessary?

In logic, the offering of a limited number of choices as if they were the only choices is a fallacy known as bifurcation. Is this what we are being offered?

Is ownership of humans necessary?


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  • Posted by khalling 5 years, 3 months ago
    If you do not take ownership of yourself, how do you contract? It is the most fundamental property right.
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    • Posted by 5 years, 3 months ago
      If I contract with a publisher to write a book, I am trading my work output for their money. I'm not selling myself per se. Ownership of my being would not seem to have any part in the transaction.
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      • Posted by salta 5 years, 3 months ago
        You would not have responsibility to enter that contract if you did not have self ownership. Somebody else would be making a contract with the publisher to force YOU to write the book (it would be unworkable)
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        • Posted by 5 years, 3 months ago
          The main requirement for entering into a contract is attainment of legal age and certifiable ownership of whatever you are selling. How would self-ownership be demonstrated philosophically or legally?
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  • Posted by Herb7734 5 years, 3 months ago
    Depends on your definition of "own" when it comes to people. In a free society no one can own you. Not religion, not government not any you-name-it. As to owning yourself, the complete answer to that is too long to go into here. Let me just indicate that you should be able to answer the following questions and still correspond to objectivism:
    Can you define Man? (Metaphysics). How does Man learn and deal with information? (epistemology). How does he deal with other humans? (ethics) How does he organize his relationship with other humans? (politics). How does he express beauty? (art). Answer those and you'll not only answer your "ownership" question, but it will put your big toe into the vast pool of what it is to be a human.
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  • Posted by $ Thoritsu 5 years, 3 months ago
    If no one owns a person, than they are free resources. I would have to go and harvest a few.

    Ones body is the vessel to carry one through life. Clearly slavery is wrong, so another person should not own a person. I would expand this to include the government. It could be argued that parents own a child until maturity, but clearly not into adulthood, or even further, after the parents' death. God owns me leads to what god and is there a god. What if you (like me) don't believe in one at all?

    This comes down to who makes decisions about a person, and that is the person. Therefore, a person owns themselves, because they make all the decisions regarding there self, and "yes" ownership is required because they must also maintain themselves and feed themselves, or they can waste themselves and die. No other entity can do this ethically without cause.

    I don't even see a foothold for another proper view.
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    • Posted by $ Radio_Randy 5 years, 3 months ago
      I agreed (in another comment) with your suggestion that a parent "owns" their child, until adulthood. This, I stated, was due to the fact that I am wholly responsible for that child, until they become responsible for themselves.

      If we expanded upon that premise...I would suggest that any man who works and supports himself, owns himself. However, we have many, in our society, who are supported by the government and will not work. These people might be considered as being owned by the government, or am I missing something?

      There are many in society who are supported by the government and don't work, but would, if they could. The government could, also, own these people, but for the fact that they will do any kind of job, no matter how inconsequential, to maintain their freedom.

      I suppose it all comes down to how we each comprehend "ownership".
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      • Posted by 5 years, 3 months ago
        "I suppose it all comes down to how we each comprehend "ownership"."

        And therein Randy lies the essential reason for all of Mankind's problems; viz. the failure to derive a universally acceptable answer to the question of Who owns what and why? This failure is the very reason that we humans have lurched from one form of dictatorship to another over the centuries. Does the Individual have an absolute right to the productive output of his mind and the distribution of the wealth so created? Or is this right relative to the needs of his fellow humans? The sad truth is that history's greatest group of advocates of Individual Rights, the founding fathers of America, saw property rights as relative to public need (5th Amendment U.S. Constitution). This is the crack in the foundation which has allowed the termites to gnaw away at the supports of our Republic whose collapse becomes more apparent every day.

        The coming global dictatorship will produce horrors on a level not even envisioned by Ayn Rand in her Atlas Shrugged.
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    • Posted by 5 years, 3 months ago
      If no one owns a person, than they are free resources. I would have to go and harvest a few. "
      That is precisely how Marx, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Obama, Chavez, et alia looked at people i.e. as animals to be controlled and destroyed as it pleased them to do so.
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      • Posted by $ Thoritsu 5 years, 3 months ago
        I was teasing of course. If one owns themselves, and society respects individual property rights, then there is no issue here.

        It seems to me these people arguing that it is not possible to own oneself are sophists attempting to reap a living from nonsensical, inflammatory or bizarre assertions.

        It is amazing to me that it keeps coming up.
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  • Posted by salta 5 years, 3 months ago
    Think of ownership in terms of responsibility.
    To say "I own myself" means it is my responsibility to provide for myself, to maintain good health, to not harm others, to keep the product of my efforts, etc.

    We use "owner" as a shorthand for that whole concept, not really meaning a possession.
    After all how would logic analysis handle the statement "I own myself, and I am myself"
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  • Posted by $ blarman 5 years, 3 months ago
    To own is to be responsible for and in control of. If we choose not to own ourselves, we choose to allows others to do so. To choose neither is to choose a life of absolutely zero action whatsoever.
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  • Posted by Lucky 5 years, 3 months ago
    I agree with j_IR and cg here.
    To use the word ownership regarding oneself is meaningless. The self-reflexity goes round in circles. It is another example of putting words into a sentence with proper grammar that means nothing.
    See Bertrand Russell- whether the class of all classes contains itself.

    Better to say that the individual is Sovereign.
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  • Posted by JoleneMartens1982 5 years, 3 months ago
    I think the bottom line here is yes, we all have our responsibilities, rights and privilages, however we don't have to do them. We don't have to pay for anything, we don't have to take care of ourselves or our families. We still have free will. That choice that free will cannot be taken. That choice is in my opinion proof of our self ownership, despite oppression, responsibilities and life choices like careers or to whom we marry.
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  • Posted by LibertyPen 5 years, 3 months ago
    Only you control your mind and body. If your body is incarcerated, is it god, your parents, your government or you that primarily suffers? Without the concept of self-ownership, there is no such thing as personal or property rights. Without personal or property rights, there can be no meaningful concept of crime.
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  • Posted by $ Olduglycarl 5 years, 3 months ago
    Humans by nature of inheriting the sovereignty of consciousness willingly are rightfully owners of self.
    In a sense, just every cell in your body is solely responsible for it's own survival, that community of cells plus an individual identity of mind is in fact 'Self Interest'...rationally speaking.
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  • Posted by CircuitGuy 5 years, 3 months ago
    My understanding is we do own ourselves. Owning oneself, IMHO, is different from owning anything else. As Salty says, you can't permanently sell yourself, relinquishing all ownership. This is because permanently selling yourself would mean splitting the part of you with agency from some other part, which is impossible. That doesn't mean, to my understanding, that we do not own ourselves.
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    • Posted by Zenphamy 5 years, 3 months ago
      People have sold themselves throughout all the history of mankind. Into slavery, into safety, into marriage, into religion for immortality, on and on.
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      • Posted by CircuitGuy 5 years, 3 months ago
        In a just society, could someone voluntarily permanently relinquish their rights as sentient being?
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        • Posted by woodlema 5 years, 3 months ago
          Actually yes, several thousand yeas ago, people sold themselves into "voluntary servitude." Sometimes this was done in repayment for a debt, or servitude for the promise of something, i.e. I will be your slave for 5 years in exchange for "x" piece of land or your daughter's hand in marriage...


          Someone who stole from someone and was proven would have to repay the debt and also serve as slave for a number of years as a form of punishment.

          Jews has slavery of all sorts, and every 7 years the "Jubilee" year all slaves were summarily set free, although some sold themselves right back into slavery for another 7 years.

          Slavery in ancient times could be both good and bad depending on the circumstances.
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        • Posted by Zenphamy 5 years, 3 months ago
          Many do by going to work in the morning to an assembly line, then coming home to watch TV before going to bed and doing the same thing every day thereafter.
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          • Posted by CircuitGuy 5 years, 3 months ago
            I think you're saying that tongue-in-cheek, meaning you think working at an assembly job and watching TV would be loathsome for you. You don't literally mean choosing a certain job and recreation means abdicating human rights.

            I suspect that some people like having a "stable" job. I have heard people say they want to be told where to go to work, to have a somewhat-stable paycheck, and not to have to worry about anything beyond one job function. Someone told me, "I like being a cog." I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Some business (hopefully) makes a profit from the "cog" and the "cog" gets to go home to his family and not worry about running the business.
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            • Posted by JoleneMartens1982 5 years, 3 months ago
              I am and have been a very active person most of my life. A few years ago I had gotten into Sprint car mechanics. I loved going all over the state and working on these cars. It caused major problems at home. I was working full time and at the track when I wasn't working. My mom in her infinite wisdom told me that I am married and that meant my husband and children owned me. She said I needed to get cable and stay home all the time unless I was working or with my family. I came home and told my husband I wanted a divorce. We worked through it and I did quit racing, but I cannot be or feel owned. It is not in me.
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              • Posted by CircuitGuy 5 years, 3 months ago
                "She said I needed to get cable and stay home all the time unless I was working or with my family."
                It sounds like she didn't go out and live her life as she believed, and she didn't want to see you live as you believe because misery loves company.

                If that is true, maybe that might help you not be angry at her for telling you not to live your dreams. She didn't do it herself, so she's not singling you out for mistreatment.
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                • Posted by plusaf 5 years, 3 months ago
                  and sounded like Mom wanted to write the contract that Jolene 'should' sign... just a bit of 'ownership' there, eh?
                  Divorce=> reasonable solution. Enjoy your 'own' new life, Jolene.
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            • Posted by Zenphamy 5 years, 3 months ago
              Well some tongue in cheek, but I do know people like that and from my observation, their minds are blanked. It's how they've chosen to live and to me that defines relinquishing sentience.
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  • Posted by SaltyDog 5 years, 3 months ago
    I think that first of all, before analyzing the use of own logically, you should first define your term 'own'. If you mean it in the sense of possession, your premise is invalid. If I truly own something, I have the right and ability to, sell, give away or destroy the article. I can sell my car, I can give someone a guitar and I can burn my newspaper if I so choose. None of these apply in the case of a human being. In that sense, the concept of belonging does not refer to ownership, but rather to membership. I'm a member of the band; they, however, don't own me in any real sense.
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    • Posted by Zenphamy 5 years, 3 months ago
      "If I truly own something, I have the right and ability to, sell, give away or destroy the article."

      Of course you can do that to yourself. People worldwide do that every day to themselves. Stupidly so IMO, and many because they aren't taught by their parents or shown by society that they do own themselves.

      Here in the US, the poor and disadvantaged own you, the NSA owns you, your community owns you, society owns you, the state owns you, etc. They all place demands upon you that you must satisfy or go to jail or die. If you think not, try not paying your taxes, let your grass grow too tall, park your car on the street-sit up on the hood and drink a beer, try to burn the oil from your last oil change, try to carry $5,000 of your own money in your pocket, on and on.
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      • Posted by tdechaine 5 years, 3 months ago
        Having to pay your taxes or follow other rules (rational or not) does not negate the fact that you own your own life in principle. It is the same as having rights despite govt. or others interfering with them. There is a difference between moral ownership/rights and political ones. We simply need to fight against the political ones to preserve the moral ones.
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        • Posted by Zenphamy 5 years, 3 months ago
          Owning your life 'in principle' doesn't stop the government from taking your life, either by locking you up for years or killing you if you say, NO. If you can't say NO, you don't own yourself in any meaningful or definitional way.
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  • Posted by $ Radio_Randy 5 years, 3 months ago
    How about this tact...if I am responsible for something, I own it. Perhaps that was stated in the wrong manner...if I own something, I'm responsible for it. I believe the two statements to be interchangeable.

    I was responsible for my children...therefore, I own(ed) them. Now that they are independent, I no longer "own" them.

    I am responsible for doing a good job at my place of employment...therefore, I "own" that particular job. Ask yourself...if you are responsible for your work tools and you lose them, wouldn't your employer require you to purchase new ones? Couldn't that be considered "owning" those tools (for awhile)?

    Our government is not responsible for us, but they are responsible for our well being...therefore, they "own" that part of the job.

    The way I see it...if I'm responsible for another human being, I own that person. Otherwise, why would I accept responsibility for them?
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    • Posted by 5 years, 3 months ago
      So if your child's school takes him on a field trip and the teachers are responsible for his safety, does that also imply the teachers own your child?
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      • Posted by $ Radio_Randy 5 years, 3 months ago
        Look down my post, to about the 4th paragraph, where I make the remark about our government.

        In the scenario you describe, I believe the teacher would own that part of their job...not actually my children, themselves.
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  • Posted by $ MichaelAarethun 5 years, 3 months ago
    When they have a choice they make a choice in exchange for some feeling for safety without responsibility. A self imposed condition. When they don't have a choice or perceive no choice they either adapt and accept or the exact opposite and choose to improve their condition.By choosing a God or other belief system or after childhood choose to follow an imposed situation (family is a micro version of government) they accept the will of others. The last the choice #4 demands responsibility and action. It's all about accepting the value of self and with it the demands of self respect versus the evaluation of others under the imposed definition called self-esteem. I tried self evaluated condition versus the Good Try constraints imposed by others. Independence versus some form of servitude. From that all other acceptable beliefs follow.
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  • Posted by term2 5 years, 3 months ago
    I suppose the real issue is not "ownership of" but "control over". The concept of ownership is just a way to discourage others from taking "control over" something. Think about itcreally
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    • Posted by 5 years, 3 months ago
      I agree. The central issue is whether the individual should have the right to absolute control of himself and the distribution of his productive output, or, if this control should be shared or allocated with his fellow men and their agencies.
      I choose the former.
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      • Posted by term2 5 years, 3 months ago
        Not sure people have control over themselves even. BUT, that said there shouldnt be unilateral control of one person by another unless the victim agrees to be controlled.
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  • Posted by $ Radio_Randy 5 years, 3 months ago
    How about this tact...if I am responsible for something, I own it. Perhaps that was stated in the wrong manner...if I own something, I'm responsible for it. I believe the two statements to be interchangeable.

    I was responsible for my children...therefore, I own(ed) them. Now that they are independent, I no longer "own" them.

    I am responsible for doing a good job at my place of employment...therefore, I "own" that particular job. Ask yourself...if you are responsible for your work tools and you lose them, wouldn't your employer require you to purchase new ones? Couldn't that be considered "owning" those tools (for awhile)?

    Our government is not responsible for us, but they are responsible for our well being...therefore, they "own" that part of the job.

    The way I see it...if I'm responsible for another human being, I own that person. Otherwise, why would I accept responsibility for them?
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  • Posted by term2 5 years, 3 months ago
    I don't think the government wants to actually own you (which would imply they have to take care of you too). What they want is to tap off all your productive work for their own use. Once you can't/don't produce- they want you gone. The real model is the nazi use of slave labor or the American use of slaves. Today they are smarter and leave us a little to keep us motivated. But their real desire is the same as the nazis and southern slave owners
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    • Posted by $ MichaelAarethun 5 years, 3 months ago
      Why limit the models? British use of their lower classes especially on ship's crews in the old sailing ship days, German use of trained infantry regiments rented or sold to other nations, The entire historic Russian and eastern Europe serf system from Tzar to the Commissars, Most of the middle east model as dictated by religion, The result of the always government fettered version of capitalism or socialist union and political party controlled work place, the sponsorship of human trafficking by many governments including our own (by providing the customers on world wide basis for the sex trades) by refusal of those with ability to make a difference to follow through (NOW during the nineties) and support their stated ideals. Limiting the models to southern slaves or Nazis Socialist Fascists is far far to limiting and lest I forget the government imposed slave system model of welfarism as a natural and acceptable condition. Most owners or despots are handed permission by those they own or control as the easier choice or lesser choice requiring the least effort. The most insiduously evil tool in modern society is the welfare check, the big screen tv and the propaganda based model of modern sociology along with a denigrated evaluation of self worth and self respect. One of the results is accepting the more overt forms as acceptable - but not in my back yard. Sorry - the backyard for which I bought the right to pay the government rent
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      • Posted by term2 5 years, 3 months ago
        I am beginning only as I get older the importance of learning the history of the world. It was presented in such s boring and irrelevant way in public schools I went to that I had little interest in it. The history channel and Netflix have showed me so much and I appreciate your comments above. Thanks for that
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        • Posted by $ MichaelAarethun 5 years, 3 months ago
          Get ahold of some books by authors such as Bernard Cornwall, Conn Iggulden, Michael Shaara, Steven Pressfield, Jack Weatherfield who write fiction based on fact and are meticulous in their research. A rather pleasant way to gain a framework of history with a great meany insights and all written in the context of the times.Another author W.E.B. Griffin will provide the same with his personal observations of actual historical figures or interviews with those who knew them and those whose age reached back to the beginning of the 1900's. For example how many know the US involvement in Greece late 1940's or in Africa in the 1960's from the point of view of the soldiers and marines who were boots on the ground.

          From there it will be much easier to the straight up historical books.

          Many of the professor written books are victims of a. the publish or perish crowd whose views are tainted with some other agenda such as selling required text books.

          Insofar as movies are concerned the choices are far more limited. We Were Young And Soldiers and Forrest Gump (really I'm serious) were the only two about Vietnam with any reality or accuracy. One example of a book with accurate quotes from biased and self serving sources is Lam Son 719 about the Laotian incursion in 1971. The author didn't dig near deep enough.
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  • Posted by $ jlc 5 years, 3 months ago
    I think I mostly agree with salta, though woodlema has a good historical point. I can go with either the inclusionary statement of, "I own myself." or with the exclusionary statement of, "Nobody and nothing owns me." Even - and this is a bit of a stretch - Even, I can deal with people who say, "I am owned by a deity whose nature does not influence any logical or rational decision I make."

    Any of these statements evidences a type of person I could get along with, though the lastmentioned is pretty far from my personal stance.

    I guess what I am saying is that how someone phrases lack of ownership is less important than that they behave as if they are not owned.

    Jan
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  • Posted by PiPhD 5 years, 3 months ago
    Ownership of humans is the result of the majority of humans having a very low IQ and therefore never realize that they are owned by someone with a higher IQ than they have. The only way not to be owned is to have a sufficiently high IQ that you avoid having someone else control you as a slave.
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    • Posted by VetteGuy 5 years, 3 months ago
      It sounds like you are making an argument for an Intellectual Ruling Class (of which you, naturally, would be a member). Those with "insufficiently high IQs" would then be the slaves of that class.

      Am I getting warm? Or do you intend to enslave me as well?
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      • Posted by PiPhD 5 years, 3 months ago
        It is your own IQ or lack thereof that will enslave you, no one else. There is no such thing as "class" of people, that is an "Illusionary Construct" as mentioned in "The Matrix."
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    • Posted by strugatsky 5 years, 3 months ago
      Not sure if I could agree with you. Most humans throughout history have been born and raised in circumstances well beyond their control. Few were able to escape slavery or some sort of ownership on their own. Present day America is a unique occurrence where hitherto essentially free people are voluntarily selling themselves into slavery, and for the price of empty promises of future or present comforts.
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