Convention and the Origins of Ownership

Rory Smead & Patrick Forber (2020)

Philosophy of Science 87(5), pp. 884–896

Abstract. We examine contemporary game-theoretic accounts of ownership as a convention. New results from dynamic networks complicate matters, suggesting that if ownership is conventional, it should not be as prevalent as it seems to be. In fact, such models reveal a tendency toward antiownership norms. The value of resources may be crucial: low stakes lead to conventional ownership, but ownership norms rarely evolve; high stakes lead to a predominance of ownership at the cost of its conventionality. We argue that conventional ownership norms can originate in nonconventional ways and discuss some philosophical implications.

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