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Property and Community$
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Gregory S. Alexander and Eduardo M. Peñalver

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195391572

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195391572.001.0001

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The objects of virtue

The objects of virtue

Property and Community


Oxford University Press

The values underlying private property are illuminated by an appreciation of the virtues served by objects of property. Turning to Aristotelian and Thomistic ethics, particularly to understanding Aristotle's phrase in the Politics, “private in possession, common in use,” both in the light of Aristotle's justifications for private property and in the larger context of his ethics, light is shed on the virtues that the institution was meant to foster. Thus, “common in use” is to be understood in the service of larger individual and social goals. Aquinas provides further clarity by “Christianizing” the virtues and teleology to be fostered and served by private property. The foundational values identified still resonate in modern property discourse, and point to a contextual appreciation of property objects as the focal point for the dialogue over how resources ought to be distributed and used. Objects of property are thus the objects of virtue.

Keywords:   Aristotle, Aquinas, natural law, virtue, property, flourishing

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