Self-Ownership, Fact-Insensitivity, and Separateness of Persons
Much of the criticism on libertarianism has been focusing on criticizing either the implausible interpretation of the Lockean proviso and its undesirable consequences (right-libertarianism), or the inherent tension between the two core principles of the left version (the very stringent right to self-ownership on the one side, and an extensive egalitarian distribution of the worldly resources on the other). Another, more fundamental criticism, is aimed at what is considered to be the basic and distinguishing principle of most libertarian positions – the principle of selfownership.
In this paper, I consider the criticism aimed at the very concept and principle of self-ownership. For the purposes of this paper, I will focus on the type of criticism that targets self-ownership’s counterintuitiveness when applied under circumstances different from the ones that hold in the current world. According to Cohen, plausible moral principles need to uphold the intuition test even after we manipulate contingent facts of our world that can often unduly influence our moral reasoning. Since self-ownership fails to pass such a test, it cannot be regarded as a fundamental moral principle. In this paper, my aim is to show that much of this criticism is either misconstrued by an inappropriate interpretation of what self-ownership entails, or simply puts a demand on the principle that any other conceivable principle can hardly satisfy either. I conclude that the plausibility of intuitions on the basis of self-ownership is being grounded in deontological constraints, an idea that not only libertarians are committed to. In turn, these deontological constraints are grounded in the morally relevant fact of separateness of persons. While libertarians are often criticized for the harsh conclusions that follow from their premises, it is possible to show that the same issues plague any dedicated deontologist.