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Title: By what right do we own things? : a justification of property ownership from an Augustinian tradition
Author: Chi, Young-hae
ISNI:       0000 0004 2711 8279
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2011
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The justification of property ownership based on individual subjective rights is tightly bound to humanist moral perspectives. God is left out as irrelevant to the just grounds of ownership, which is established primarily on the basis of human self-referential, moral capacity. This thesis aims at developing an alternative justification, both for property as an institution and as a private holding, with a view to bringing God back into the centre stage and thereby placing property ownership on the objective concept of right. A tradition hitherto generally left unnoticed, yet uncovered here as the source of inspiration, vests the whole project with a moral-teleological tone. The tradition, enunciated by St. Augustine and developed by St. Bonaventure and John Wyclif, invites us to see property from the perspective of a moral end: it ought to be used for the love of God and neighbours, and as such it can be owned only by the just. In spite of important insights into the moral nature of property, the Augustinian thesis not only fails to spell out what ‘use for love’ means but also suffers from elitism. Nor does it offer an adequate justification of private property. Such weaknesses call for revision. When we reinterpret the Augustinian thesis through the concept of the divine imperative of service coupled with a proper understanding of human work, property acquires a distinctive justification. Property, as an institution, is justified as a requisite for carrying out God’s redemptive work towards the world. From this general justification ensues the particular justification. We hold property as specifically ‘mine,’ since each person’s ordained mission to participate in God’s work requires a uniquely personal material means, although the recognition and fulfilment of individual mission still demands communal efforts. The duty to carry out the God-commanded mission at first allows us to possess private property only in a non-proprietorial and non-exclusive manner. Yet in the prevailing condition of economic scarcity and human greed, civil jurisdiction must provide a structure of rights to enforce property institution. As God’s invitation for the transformation of the world is a universal command, everybody should have a minimum of property, and yet in differentiation of the scope and kinds commensurate with the particularities of individual mission.
Supervisor: O'Donovan, Oliver M. T. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Modern theology ; Church history ; Ethics and philosophy of law ; property ; property rights ; property ownership ; rights ; dominium ; ius ; justice ; private property ; theory of property ; justification of private property ; St. Augustine ; evangelical poverty ; medieval Franciscans ; St. Bonaventure ; John Wycliffe ; St. Thomas Aquinas ; individual subjective rights ; natural rights to property ; objective moral order ; mission ; calling