Environmental Ethics

Volume 46, Issue 1, Spring 2024

Private Property and the Environment

Emmanuel Picavet
Pages 9-25

The Problematic Rationality of Private Property Rights
Concerning the “Private” and the “Common”

The “private” dimension of social life is problematic, posing conceptual, political, and ecological challenges. Some of these problems arise from the very nature of private property as it is enshrined in social life, which demands special privileges be granted to “private” matters on the grounds that these are private, because the predominant representation of the involved rights is that they reflect claims of the holders, rather than legitimate claims of society as a whole in allocating responsibilities, benefits, and duties. The claim to the rationality of allocations of property rights, this article argues, must be questioned in light of the kind of commonality that is revealed in a striking manner by environmental issues (although it is not restricted to environmental matters). This questioning makes sense in relation to an analysis of social interactions, beyond the problematic opposition between the private sphere and public life.