Self-ownership  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Self-ownership or sovereignty of the individual or individual sovereignty is the condition where an individual has the exclusive moral right to control his or her own body and life. This condition can be described as being a sovereign individual, in which individuals have supreme authority and sovereignty over their own choices, without the interference of governing powers. This notion is central to individualistic political philosophies such as abolitionism, ethical egoism, individualist anarchism, classical liberalism, libertarianism and objectivism. Those who support self-ownership usually support private property by various arguments, such as if a person owns himself, then he owns his labor and therefore the products thereof. Sovereign individuals hold to the premise that government only has authority and power which is given to it by the individual, with decentralized administrative organizations acting as servants to the individual and never their master.

Nietzsche uses the term sovereign individual quite differently in On the Genealogy of Morals.

The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is sometimes viewed as an implementation of the concept of self-ownership, as are some portions of the Bill of Rights.

The trouble of defining the border of the self can be seen in the debate surrounding abortion where the fetus could alternatively be seen as its own or as a part of the property of the mother's body, and the right of the woman to control her own body could therefore be viewed as being in opposition to what may be considered as "the fetus' right to live". This contrast is even more pronounced in situations where women are forced to undergo surgery in order to deliver a healthy baby. However even though self-ownership advocates civil rights, it does not extend these rights over others, which is exactly the pro-life campaigners issue with abortion.

In addition to the abortion debate, there are also debates surrounding euthanasia and suicide. However, some of these actions can be viewed as self-destructive which is somewhat removed from the original meaning of self-ownership, as this also meant taking responsibility for self.

Defining the borders of the self can also be difficult if one accepts the notion that the self includes objects that are external to the human body, as is proposed in Andy Clark's essay, Natural Born Cyborgs.

Self-ownership could be viewed as a decentralized bottom-up philosophy, as opposed to totalitarianism being a centralized top-down system. Henry David Thoreau regarded self-ownership as a key component in achieving utopia, while Robert Nozick, an influential libertarian political philosopher, based his theory of property-ownership on the premise of self-ownership.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Self-ownership" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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