A Right to Bodily Integrity and Libertarian Theory
The concept of a right to the body, specifically, a right to bodily integrity, is the starting point of the self- ownership thesis, which is foundational for Libertarian theories of justice. Libertarianism is a doctrine that places a premium on individual liberty. Libertarians maintain that we can treat people equally by respecting rights that they have, rights that protect their liberty. Libertarian theories span a considerable range, and differ greatly with respect to duties and rights demanded by distributive justice. In particular, such theories differ with regard to initial acquisition and distribution of resources, outside of those produced solely as a result of one’s labour. Some theorists, such as Otsuka and Steiner, impose egalitarian provisos on the initial acquisition and distribution of such resources. Nozick employs a variant of a Lockean proviso on appropriation of such resources. Others, like Rothbard and Kirzner, do not impose such qualifications. However, all such Libertarian theories begin from the concept of self- ownership, the starting point of which is a right to the body. However, this starting point is presumed, not justified. Considering the influence that the different variants of Libertarian theory have wielded with regard to distributive justice, it is important to unpack this starting point of self- ownership. In this paper, I offer a justification for this starting point, this right to bodily integrity. The justification for this right is situated within Choice Theory and draws on a particular conception of personal identity.