15th Graduate Conference in Political Philosophy – Abstract/Miceli

Fulvio Miceli
The Voluntary Slavery and Self-ownership Conundrum

In this paper I will attempt to address the question whether the right of self-ownership entails a right to voluntary slavery or, on the contrary, it forbids to enslave themselves. The first part specifies this possible right as a legal power to waive the duty of the slave-holder to respect the self-ownership of the slave. Based on this, a more articulated version of the initial question is outlined, asking 1) If a right of self-ownership implies the unwaivability of these duties, 2) if, on the contrary, implies their waivability. Moreover, the text considers, as a further question, if there are non-paternalistic reasons for the unwaivability of the duties to respect the self-ownership. The second part focuses on the answers. I suggest that the self-ownership doesn’t imply the unwaivability of the correlative duties, whereas the implication of their waivability depends on the choice of what kind of concept of self-ownership we decide to adopt. It is possible to consider the self-ownership as a right to have right or as a property right upon a specific physical object that is our body, however, I maintain that this ambiguity has to be resolved by stipulation. I argue for an interpretation of the notion of self-ownership as meta-right, as such not necessarily waivable. A non-paternalistic argument for the inalienability of the right of self-ownership is then developed at the end of the text.