Full text: Ownership as interpersonal dominance

natural desire for possessions is properly a desire for God, expressed as a desire for God's 
goods. Fredrickson (1954) summarizes Thomistic thought on property thus: 
Love of self is right and natural. Love of self, furthermore, enjoys its proper manifestation 
in personal possession of temporal goods. Since temporal goods are instruments of 
virtuous living, their subjection to a human person enhances his ability to live a truly human 
life, and elevates their participation in the general good of the universe. Possessors of 
temporal goods, even the wealthy, are reprehensible only when they consider themselves 
the principal or absolute owners of things. It is, fundamentally, in human nature that the 
right to personal possession of temporal goods resides. The goodness or evil of the 
pleasure attending the exercise of that right is measured by the actions it attends. Personal 
ownership is also peculiarly adapted to the realization and conservation of temporal felicity. 
The property pleasure one enjoys in things personally possessed is a well ordered 
manifestation of love of self...The psychology of ownership, consequently, is realistically 
concerned about the due order to be observed in love of self. Personal ownership of 
temporal goods ailows the extension of personal characteristics into social and political 
institutions. (Fredrickson, 1954, pp. 12-13) 
Following Aquinas and his revival of Aristotle, fourteenth century Scholastics began to 
challenge theological and civil explanations of property. They thus cleared the way for 
explanations of property based on human nature and for speculations as to what the 
pre-civilized, natural condition of man must have been. For example, Aegidius Romanus, a pupil 
of Aquinas, argued that the regulation of property relations among men arose naturally prior to 
organized political societies; property rights, therefore, supersede civil authority (Schlatter, 
1951). John of Paris argued that man is naturally social, that social instincts ordered the 
property relations in the community prior to the institutions of law, and that dominion over 
property is independent of, though subject to the adjudication of civil authority (Coleman, 1983; 
Schlatter, 1951). William of Occam argued that because property is a natural human creation 
based on reason and was instituted before civil law, it is independent of both Church and state 
(Copleston, 1953; Schlatter, 1951). 
One consequence of the independence of property from civil and theological justification 
was that natural explanations of property began to be expressed. For example, John of Paris 
argued that private property is acquired by individual labour in appropriating resources from the 
state of nature, and thus “individuals as individuals have right, power, and true dominion” over 
their goods (Schlatter, 1951, p. 66). Similarly, Sir John Fortescue argued that labour depletes a 
person’s sweat and blood, and that property, the product of labour, compensates for the loss in 
bodily integrity (Schlatter, 1951). Marsilius of Padua found the natural origin of property in an 
innate sense of free-will and argued that the force of ownership deriving from that sense of 
free-will makes it impossible to use something without a sense of owning it:

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