Full text: Ownership as interpersonal dominance

important to this development was the advocacy of a science of human behavior by Francis 
Bacon in the late sixteenth century and his influence on Descartes (Kennington, 1963) and 
Hobbes (Moore, 1899). 
17th Century 
Inspired by Bacon, Descartes claimed that science would lead to “the mastery and 
possession of nature” and bring great benefits to human social order (Kennington, 1963, p. 379). 
He described a mechanistic, physiological psychology based on animal spirits and passions: 
...the customary mode of action of all the passions is simply this, that they dispose the soul 
to desire those things, which Nature tells us are of use, and to persist in this desire, and 
also bring about that same agitation of spirits, which customarily causes them to dispose 
the body to movement which serves for the carrying into effect of these things. (Descartes, 
Passions of the soul, Part |, Article XVII, in Drever, 1917, p. 25) 
Here Descartes describes innate knowledge of the utility of resources and innate mechanisms 
for acquiring those resources. A similar mechanistic, physiological psychology was to be used 
by Hobbes and Malebranche to begin the development of the instinct theory of ownership 
(Drever, 1917). Descartes also argued that the passion for mastery and control was the most 
important passion, and that mastery of oneself was the highest virtue and the basis of free-will, 
which in turn was the basis of generosity and benevolence (Kennington, 1963). In other words, 
control of resources, including oneself, precedes altruistic acts of sharing those resources with 
Malebranche followed Descarte’s physiological psychology and began using the term 
“instinct”, meaning both behavioral propensity and innate knowledge of good (Drever, 1917). 
Malebranche classified instincts into three types: those for good in general, those for the good 
of the self, and those for the social good. In the second group, called the self-regarding 
tendencies, he included self-love, consisting of the love of greatness and the love of pleasure 
(Drever, 1917). Love of greatness directs men to strive for superiority over others -superiority 
in riches, knowledge, and virtue- in order to be independent of others and to have them serve 
one’s welfare: 
Toutes les choses qui nous donnent une certain élevation au dessus des autres, en nous 
rendant pius parfaits, comme la science & la vertu, ou bien que nous donnent quelque 
autorité sur eux, en nous rendant plus puissants, comme les dignitez & les richesses, 
semblent nous rendre en quelque sorte indépendans. Tous ceux qui sont au dessous de 
nous, nous révérent & nous craignent; ils sont toGjours préts a faire ce qu’il nous plait pour 
notre conservation, & ils n'osent nous nuire ni nous résister dans nos desirs. 
(Malebranche, 1674/1963, p. 50)

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