Self-ownership has fallen out of favor as a core moral and political concept. I argue that this is because the most popular conception of self-ownership, what I call the property conception, is typically linked to a libertarian (of the left or right) political program. Seeing self-ownership and libertarianism as being necessarily linked leads those who are not inclined toward libertarianism to reject the idea of self-ownership altogether. This, I argue, is mistaken. Self-ownership is a crucial moral and political concept that can earn its keep if we understand it not as type of property right in the self, but rather as a set of territorial rights one has over one’s body. This territorial conception of self-ownership, which I call the sovereignty conception of self-ownership avoids the traditional arguments raised against the property conception of self-ownership and has other benefits besides. Accepting this conception of self-ownership, I argue, has considerable moral and political benefits without taking on the costs associated with other forms of self-ownership.
John Thrasher, “Self-Ownership as Personal Sovereignty,” Social Philosophy & Policy 36, no. 2 (2019): 116-133. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0265052519000396
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