The Meaning of Property

Propety is a Greek word meaning “not”. It was created by philosopher Aristotle about three thousand years ago. It is a collection of ideas, terms and concepts from several other ancient Greek philosophies including Stoicism (the Stoic school of thought) and Athens’ Attic (academy) School of philosophy. The term was used first in a modern context by English philosopher Williambury, as he sought to define the concepts behind the concept of virtue.


While the exact definition of propety has never been lost, many common expositions of the term center on its use as a synonym for dignity or personal virtue. Propety was used to describe the level of personal excellence achieved by a person, as distinguished from the mediocre or the merely competent. This quality was seen as superior to the level of ability, but not equal to it, and as having an unrivalled status in the eyes of the Greeks and Romans. It thus had a positive psychological effect on the sufferer, elevating him or her to a position of real worth.

The most common way in which propety is used today is as an expression of equality and as a synonym for personal merit or self-worth. One might argue that this definition is itself a form of inequality, a difference based upon social arrangements that privilege some individuals over others. In this sense, the definition of propety could be seen as a definition of disparity. However, even if this were accepted, it would not be the source of that disparity, rather a symbol for the same level of equality.

A number of philosophers have provided alternative interpretations for the meaning of propety, and some have been influential in changing the meaning of the term. For example, he argued that it was a definition of personal property because it distinguished between distinct types of ownership. For example, a person could be said to be personal property just because they owned a thing, an animal or some other thing. The difficulty with this approach is that the very object to be owned may also be a different entity from the owner. Similarly, the concept of propety is very much related to the idea of property, and one could legitimately assert that the definition in fact simply re-defines the idea of property.

The more common interpretation of propety, however, is that it simply identifies an existing level of equality where there are no legally recognized legally defined classifications. This is a problematic approach, because even if the above-mentioned philosophers are correct about the meaning of propety, the fact remains that such a definition does nothing to justify the unequal treatment of persons. If one is to take the above-mentioned philosophy to its logical extreme, it is still true that a society could have no government, as each person would be equal in accordance to propety. Although this would effectively deny a meaningful definition of equality, it would not constitute a legal argument against equality in itself.

Propety indeed represents a vague and illogical ideal. Propeties, for all they truly represent, are simply the idea that individuals are equal according to some arbitrary, but unmeasurable measure. Such a definition, however, completely undermines any claim to equality, since it renders any concept of measurement, and thus equality, meaningless. Indeed, given that a set could be infinite, it is totally irrelevant whether the set is actually infinite (i.e., if it can be measured). Indeed, it is impossible to measure anything; therefore, it follows that Propety has nothing to do with the concepts of infinity or the negation of it.