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Why do humans have property?

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Property is a rather old subject. We’ve been writing about it since at least the time of the Sumerian tablets, in part, because after four and a half millennia we still haven’t settled on what property is, who has it, how we get it, or even what it’s for. Recently, arguments have surfaced that the destruction of property constitutes serious political speech. But property has a greater, very human, purpose worth understanding.In the humanities, property is theft, violence, the cause of wars and quarrels in the world. To biologists, property is the possession or defense of food, mates, or territory. By that account many animals have property. But property is not inherently evil, and in fact indicates a willingness to respect that what is “yours” by definition cannot be “mine.” Recognizing this trait sets Homo sapiens apart from the rest of the animal kingdom.How might a social scientist in the middle go about defining property? It’s clear that whatever property is, it involves people doing something with a material thing. It also appears that property isn’t discovered anew each generation. “No!” is how parents teach their children the rules of property.Answering the question “Why do humans have the custom of property?” sheds light on the purpose property serves in modern society and how to view it. Aristotle gave us four explanations: material, formal, efficient, and final explanation. When taken as a whole, the four different causes explain the custom of property.Material explanationHumans have the custom of property because when our body sees, hears, and touches the physical world, it connects a certain person to a certain thing by classifying the thing as “mine.” This explanation requires physical matter, including the human body itself. Our eyes see the world of people and things, and our ears hear the things people say about things. Our minds then classify such neurological impulses and return as output an instruction to act, to say things like “This is. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

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