The proper philosophical justification for private property and self-ownership

A non-antrocentric approach

Past philosophical attempts on justifying the “moral” ground for private property and self-ownership have been unsuccessful. The foremost example of justifying private property rights and self-ownership are those who originate from Hans Hermann-Hoppe’s argumentation ethics. Argumentation ethics’ flaw comes from its inability to account for Hume’s law. I will not discuss any other past attempts but henceforth only present my own arguments.

The first hurdle that I will tackle is antrho-centrisim. Past philosophical attempts on justifying any ethic, morality or value have had uncessfull attempts on answering the question:

Why does a principle only apply to humans and only them?

Attempts to argue or prove a certain morality will fail if it is unable to answer said question, else the whole argument falls flat due to Hume’s law. This persistent flaw in philosophy is due to its inability to incorporate the philosophical implications of evolutionary theory.

Evolutionary theory shows us that the categories we use to differentiate organisms, such as homo sapiens, do not exist a priori. All of these categories, whether it is species, tribes or families do not exist independent of the organisms that categorized or observed them.

Organisms who are categorized according to same or alike have features , but every single of those features vary within themselves and are never exactly the same. They all exist in a continuum. Everyone has a hand, but the features composing the hand are different, the shape, fingerprints, grip strength, size, finger length and so on.

The measures we choose to determine different organisms from each other are decided by those who categorize them, meaning, the definitions can be stricter or looser, all depending on those doing the categorization.

This means that ANY philosophy utilizing the framework of “humans” and “non-humans” is philosophizing within an anthro-centric framework which can’t exist independent of those doing the categorization.

Instead, one must take account of every single organism when attempting to justify a certain morality, ethic or value. The principles must be valid independent of evolutionary trajectory and not contingent on the current evolutionary trajectory that created us humans. This heuristic will guide us for the rest of this text.


Let’s start by imagining that only the organisms A and B exist in this world.  All organisms need resources to continue their existence. Resources in this world are scarce and times of extreme resource scarcity are unpredictable. In events of extreme resource scarcity,  there is a risk of not everyone surviving.

In anticipation of unforeseeable events, it is in the interest of both A and B to eliminate the other organism to prolong their own existence. The cost of being aggressive in a two organism world is zero. After eliminating the other organism, the aggressor has free access to all the resources.

However, if we add organism C, D and E, things change a lot. Aggressing in a world with third parties leads to the aggressor incurring a cost, being regarded as an aggressor. C, D and E would incur no cost from forming a coalition and aggressing upon A, since she is aggressive. I will use the term the non-aggression pact to refer to coalitions which aggresses upon aggressors

In a world where non-aggression pacts can be formed, it is still in your interest to eliminate other organisms for the unforeseeable events of extreme resource scarcity. And as there are more organisms in the world, it becomes harder to eliminate other organisms. The threat of the non-aggression pact increases with the size of the third party.

It is therefore in the interest of the individual, to avoid the non-aggression pact and instead align itself with it. The elimination of other organisms will always be in the interest of your long-term existence and the possibility of doing so without incurring any costs becomes possible with the non-aggression pact.

This is the foundation of self-ownership. In the event of the formation of a non-aggression pact, it is in your interest to have adhered to the non-aggression principle during your lifetime. The threat of the non-aggression pact is what protects your self-ownership from being violated.

Private property

Suppose our island example with multiple organisms again and all organisms may consume any amount of resources they so desire. All organisms differ in the amount of resources they require and suppose one organism requires a high amount of resources which affects the resource supply heavily. In the event of an extreme resource scarcity, this person’s resource consumption will put everyone else’s existence under threat. Therefore, it is of interest to do away with organisms with unusual high amount of resource consumption. An example of such an organism is a hog who usually destroys a lot of land in the process of feeding itself.

However, doing away with organisms with a high resource demand will still brand you as an aggressive organism. It is impossible to measure what the appropriate amount of consumption is due to the variability of the consumption level between organisms but also the variability of the consumption level between time for a single organism. Such a system, in varying degrees, will always end in a slow race towards mass societal aggression.

The alternative is private property. Private property is the least non-aggressive form of resource distribution. In the absence of unambiguous, rigid, and easily understood delimitations, the possibility of conflict becomes almost inevitable. By respecting other’s private property, you are commiting yourself to non-aggression and become predictable for others. The delimitation between your and other’s resources, limits the costs of your consumption to only yourself.

Therefore, the foundation of private property lies on its non-aggressive nature. There is no more efficient way of resource distribution that avoids the possible wrath of the non-aggression pact. In the light of private properties non-aggressive nature, commiting yourself to other alternatives than private property can be possible regarded as an aggressive stance to others.


These principles are valid independent of our evolutionary trajectory. In our previous examples all of the organisms can be of any combination. The island examples with A, B and C, could be a human, dog and a firefly. It is this difference from previous moral philosophy, that makes the principles of anarcho-capitalist ethics valid independent of evolutionary trajectory.

So, the right to self-ownership is protected and realized through the non-aggression pact. It is through adhering to non-aggressive actions that we can make sure that any possible aggressors incur the cost of being branded as aggressors by the non-aggression pact.

To avoid aggressive actions and fully commit ourselves to non-aggression, we adhere to the principles of private property. Through clear delimitations between what’s yours and mine we avoid getting into conflicts which may brand us as aggressors. In the event of uncertain events, it is in our interest to approach it in a non-aggressive manner, by doing so, we avoid the possible wrath of the non-aggression pact.

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