Full text: Ownership as interpersonal dominance

when it comes to understanding property, and that cross-cultural examination would be 
necessary to uncover the psychological principies of property. 
Pythagoras & Plato 
The oldest and the most influential psychological explanation of ownership is that 
property is self-centered. The first inkling of this theory appears in the sixth century B.C. 
proscriptions against property by Pythagoras (Barnes, 1979; Cornford, 1912; De Vogel, 1966; 
Heninger, 1974; Kirk & Raven, 1957). Pythagoras was born on the island of Samos, studied for 
20 years in Egypt and Babylon, and eventually founded his own school in Croton in southern 
italy (De Vogel, 1966). He believed that all creation was a unity of life, that an individual's soul 
was a piece of that immortal, rational unity, but that it was isolated and imprisoned in a material 
body, subject to irrational desires and delusions of individuality (Cornford, 1912; Kirk & Raven, 
1957). Pythagoras preached that our lives and daily routines should reflect the unity of life, 
especially because transmigrating souls appeared equally in all forms of life. For example, he 
accepted women and slaves as students and he prohibited the killing of animals for meat or 
ceremonial sacrifice. Pythagoras preached against worldliness and urged sobriety, self-control 
and general abstinence. 
Consistent with his philosophy, Pythagoras was opposed to private property. His school 
was communal. New students reportedly burned their personal possessions and placed their 
wealth in trust for the five year initiation period (Cornford, 1912; De Vogel, 1966). A prominent 
precept of the school was that “All is common among friends” (Heninger, 1974). This was to 
become a popular proverb and to appear again In the property discussions of Plato, Aristotle, 
and the Roman Stoics. 
It would seem that Pythagoras faulted the owning of property for two reasons. First, 
owning property satisfies and reinforces desires and emotional attachments to the material 
world, which contaminate the self and misdirect it from its true, rational, immortal, unitary state. 
Second, owning property entails possessiveness and self-interest, which disrupt social 
harmony and separate people from one another. In the fourth lecture by Pythagoras to the 
citizens of Croton, there is a passage praising women for being more generous and more 
socially harmonious than men: 
The passage...displays a remarkable psychological insight: Pythagoras does not reproach 
women for being vain, garrulous, quarrelsome or jealous; on the contrary, he praises them,

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