Full text: Ownership as interpersonal dominance

Property and dominance are based on the same instinct of self-regard. Malebranche also 
explained the symbolic functions of wealth. Men not only want to possess wealth, but also the 
reputation of possessing wealth, because the reputation produces in the imagination of others 
the same effect that actual wealth would: 
La réputation d’étre riche, sgavant, vertueux, produit dans imagination de ceux qui nous 
environnent, ou qui nous touchent de plus prés, des disposition tres-commodes pour nous. 
Elle les abbat a nos pieds: elle les agite en nétre faveur: elle leur inspire tous les 
mouvements que tendent a la conservation de nétre étre, et a Plaugmentation de notre 
grandeur. Ainsi les hommes conservent leur réputation comme un bien dont ils ont besoin 
pour vivre commodément dans le monde. (Malebranche, 1674/1963, p. 51) 
Malebranche went on to describe how contagion of imagination expands the effect of reputation 
to larger numbers of people and also determines which objects are socially desirable to 
possess (Drever, 1917). 
Across the Channel in England, Hobbes was also trying to base social morality on a 
mechanistic science of human nature (Berns, 1963). In so doing, he turned over the traditional 
premises of natural law by arguing that the state of nature was not a garden but a war, and that 
egotism and self-centeredness were not sinful but the very basis of morality (Drever, 1917). 
Although Aristotle, the Scholastics, and Descartes had described innate tendencies for 
acquiring property, Drever (1917) and Beaglehole (1932) cite Hobbes as the origin of the modern 
theory of instincts for property. Like Descartes, Hobbes (1650/1839) also based his mechanistic 
psychology on passions, which he defined as self-regarding tendencies for self-preservation 
and personal happiness (Moore, 1899). The passion for power included the desire for riches, 
and this passion was insatiable since men would always compare themselves with others and 
strive for superiority (Hobbes, 1655/1839). Since nature had given all things to ail men, who each 
were motivated by selfish passions, the state of nature was a continual war for the possession 
of property. Reason led men to see that their self-interests were best served if they divested 
themselves of the right to all things and agreed to social property norms and civil authority 
(Hobbes, 1655/1839). 
According to Copleston (1958) and Rosen (1963), Spinoza de-anthropomorphized Hobbes’ 
theory and argued that ail parts of creation struggle for existence and that each has innate, 
natural powers, and thus rightful powers, for this purpose. Thus, property might be rightfully 
possessed on the basis of conquest, or passion, or reason, since all were innate, natural powers 
for self-preservation. Spinoza opened the possibility of possession of property by non-humans, 
though this was not to be appreciated until the nineteenth century. Reason led men to agree to

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