Full text: Ownership as interpersonal dominance

of mental association. In Hutcheson’s instinct theory, as In the writings of Shaftesbury and 
Butler before him, altruism derives from innate social tendencies rather than from egotism 
{Drever, 1917). More importantly, the desire for property and power is not a primary instinct, but 
arises secondarily through the association of ideas. 
This last point was most important to Hume. Though noted in political philosophy for his 
argument that the state and law are merely conventional and should serve social utility 
(Schlatter, 1951), Hume argued that the instinctive, perpetual, universal desire for possessions 
is counterbalanced by the natural law of abstinence from the possessions of others (Hill, 1963). 
Based on his radical empiricism and the association of ideas, he argued that people want to 
maintain the cognitive comfort and utility of their established associations of ideas: 
Such is the effect of custom that it not only reconciles us to anything that we have long 
enjoyed, but even gives us an affection for it, makes us prefer it to other objects which may 
be more valuable, but are less well known to us. What has long lain under our eye and has 
often been employed to our advantage, that we are always most unwilling to part with; but 
can easily live without possessions which we never have enjoyed and are not accustomed 
to. itis evident, therefore, that men would easily acquiesce in this expedient that every one 
continue to enjoy what he is at the present possessed of. (Hume, 1739/1962, p. 71) 
Finally, like Hutcheson before him and Adam Smith after, Hume described a natural sympathy 
between people which was the basis of altruism (Drever, 1917), 
Dugald Stewart consolidated much of the eighteenth century psychology of property. 
First, he argued that property had multiple psychological foundations: 
...general utility [and] natural justice are two principles which, when properly understood, 
are, | believe, always in harmony with each other...the same effect is accomplished in the 
multitude by habit and the association of ideas; in consequence of which all the 
inequalities of fortune are sanctioned by mere prescription; and long possession is 
conceived to found a right of property as complete as what, by the law of nature, an 
individual has in the fruits of his own industry. (Stewart, in Schlatter, 1951, p. 173) 
More particularly, Stewart considered exclusive possession and ownership to be motivated by 
the desire for power: 
The idea of power is, partly at least, the foundation of our attachment to property. It is not 
enough for us to have the use of an object. We desire to have it completely at our disposal; 
without being responsible to any person whatever. (Stewart, 1829, p. 410) 
The eighteenth century closed with major political revolutions in America and in France. 
Both of these were buttressed in part by appeal to natural law theories of property. Schlatter 
(1951) has argued that when private property regimes eventually re-emerged, natural law 
explanations of property were suspect within political philosophy. This demise was 0 ETY 
noted by McKeon (1938):

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