Article ID: CBB618138784

The influence of classical Stoicism on John Locke’s theory of self-ownership (2021)


The most important parent of the idea of property in the person (self-ownership) is undoubtedly John Locke. In this article, we argue that the origins of this idea can be traced back as far as the third century BCE, to classical Stoicism. Stoic cosmopolitanism, with its insistence on impartiality and the moral equality of all persons, lays the foundation for the idea of self-ownership, which is then given support in the doctrine of oikeiosis and the corresponding belief that nature had made all human beings equal, self-preserving, and self-regarding. On the Stoic account, self-ownership (or our preferred term self-guardianship) is a natural correlate and consequence of oikeiosis, the natural urge to self-preservation, proprioception, and the individuation that came with it. In recognising that people are separate and individual, and entrusting each individual’s welfare to herself, Zeus appears to make everyone a ‘self-guardian’. We uniquely argue that Locke was directly inspired by these Stoic ideas, which he then develops and incorporates into his own theory.

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Authors & Contributors
Robin Weiss
Gaca, Kathy L.
António Pedro Mesquita
David Machek
Sellars, John
Taylor, Michael
British Journal for the History of Philosophy
Apeiron: Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science
Revue d'Histoire des Sciences
Micrologus: Natura, Scienze e Società Medievali
Intellectual History Review
Oxford University Press
Cambridge University Press
Matter theory
Locke, John
Hobbes, Thomas
Cicero, Marcus Tullius
Zeno of Elea
Tönnies, Ferdinand
Time Periods
17th century
18th century
19th century
Early modern
Great Britain
Roman Empire
Rome (Italy)

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