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Title: The Abductive Argument for Libertarian Self-Ownership
Subtitle: Attractive but Inconclusive
Author(s): OSSENBLOK, Kasper
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 24    Issue: 3   Date: 2017   
Pages: 441-466
DOI: 10.2143/EP.24.3.3248538

Abstract :
Full self-ownership is the distinguishing principle of libertarian theories of justice. All libertarians agree that agents have a comprehensive set of maximally stringent ownership rights over their own person. Liberals, on the other hand, either reject the concept of self-ownership altogether or defend a conception of self-ownership that is partial or less than maximally stringent. This article investigates the plausibility of the libertarian conception of self-ownership. It does so by focussing on one popular libertarian argument, the ‘abductive argument’, which states that the self-ownership principle is best placed to accommodate our strong intuitions about some paradigmatic cases of rights and wrongs. Most famously, libertarians refer to the institution of slavery or the forced redistribution of bodily organs to demonstrate the intuitive plausibility of full self-ownership. In this article, I defend two claims. Firstly, I argue that the abductive argument for libertarian self-ownership is attractive. This is because the self-ownership principle provides an easy and unifying explanation for many of our considered judgements. Secondly, although the abductive argument is attractive, an acceptable version of the argument can only show the prima facie plausibility of full self-ownership. That is, in the end, the abductive argument for libertarian self-ownership is necessarily inconclusive. Liberals are equally well placed to accommodate our strong intuitions in cases of grave wrongs and obvious rights.

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