Full text: Ownership as interpersonal dominance

and this in a very original way. He calls women ‘just’, for they are willing to share what is 
their own with others, and this with perfect ease and harmony. This will never be found in 
men, he thinks: they require legal security in the form of witnesses or a pledge, when they 
lend anything to others; or they do not lend things at all. This point is again illustrated by 
an old myth: the story of the Graiae who had but one eye between the three of them. (De 
Vogel, 1966, pp. 133-134) 
Pythagoras and his school fell into disrepute, but his ideas had influence for centuries and 
clearly appear in the fourth century B.C. in the thought of Plato (De Vogel, 1966; Heninger, 1974). 
Although Pythagoras was perhaps the first to consider the psychology of ownership, his 
principle contribution was to provide the background for Plato's thoughts on property, which In 
turn instigated a full psychological consideration by Aristotle. 
Plato’s philosophy had central Pythagorean principles. For example, it is clear from the 
Phaedo (Hamilton & Cairns, 1961) that Plato was an idealist, who believed that man had a 
rational, immortal soul imprisoned in a imperfect material world and that the goal of life was to 
escape delusion and imperfection through self-control and clear thinking. Like Pythagoras, 
Plato believed that the self becomes unduly reinforced by attachment to weaith: 
But those who have made their money are twice as attached to it as others; for as poets 
love their poems and fathers their children, just so do money-makers love their money, not 
only for its use, as others do, but because it is their own production. (Plato, Republic, 1907, 
pp. 4-5) 
Like Pythagoras, Plato placed a premium on friendship and social harmony when he argued 
against personal property for the ruling guardians in the ideal Republic. The ruling class, and 
preferably the whole society, were to be unitary and selfless with no conflicts of interest and 
no divisions among themselves: 
The first-best society, then, that with the best constitution and code of law, is one where the 
old saying is most universally true of the whole society. | mean the saying that ‘friends’ 
property is indeed common property’. If there is now on earth, or ever should be, such a 
society -a community in womenfolk, in children, in all possessions whatsoever- if all means 
have been taken to eliminate everything we mean by the word ownership from life; if all 
possible means have been taken to make even what nature has made our own in some 
sense common property, | mean, if our eyes, ears, and hands seem to see, hear, act, in the 
common service; if, moreover, we all approve and condemn in perfect unison and derive 
pleasure and pain from the same sources -in a word, when the institutions of a society 
make it most utterly one, that is a criterion of their excellence than which no truer or better 
will ever be found. (Plato, Laws, 739¢c, in Hamilton & Cairns, 1961, p. 1324) 
Here it should be noted that Plato implies, perhaps the first to do so, that ownership of one’s 
own body is self-evident and the strongest instance of private property. 
Plato may also have been the first to suggest that ownership essentially means control, 
and the first to make the analogy between cognitive control and material control: 
‘Having’ seems to me different from ‘possessing’. If a man has bought a coat and owns it, 
but is not wearing it, we should say he possesses it without having it about him....Now

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