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Print Vol. 104, Issue 4

Property, Dignity, and Human Flourishing

Gregory S. Alexander

15 May 2019

Human flourishing and human dignity are not empty phrases. They have real content, and they matter in real lives. The facts are that we want to live flourishing lives and we want to live lives of dignity. We cannot live such lives, however, unless certain conditions are fulfilled. Among these conditions, flourishing is personal autonomy, understood in the sense of self-authorship. Autonomy in that sense itself requires certain conditions. Property is among the conditions intimately connected with self-authorship. A person who lacks basic forms of property such as food and adequate shelter is denied self-authorship, without which she cannot experience whatever form of life she considers fulfilling. The harsh reality is that many, all too many, people do not live such a life. Those of us who are fortunate enough to know what it means to live a fulfilling life should be profoundly disturbed by that reality and unwilling to accept things as they are.

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