Philosophy In Action All the ideas and discussions
25 votes Vote

I have an object in my possession that I stole almost 20 years ago. Finding the rightful owner and returning it is impossible. What should I do?

I once lived in a large, very old apartment building, with a bike room in the basement, where residents were supposed to keep their bicycles. The room was virtually unused, as residents tended to keep theirs in their apartments. There were many dusty old unused bikes in there. I cut the lock off one, got new tires for it (the old ones were flat and brittle) and used it frequently while I lived there. I rationalized that a) it was probably abandoned (although I didn't know that, really) and b) the owner was always free to call security, have my lock cut off, and reclaim his bike.

When I moved away, a couple years later, I kept the bike. Clearly I shouldn’t have done so, and I would never do such a thing today. Should I just donate the bike to charity and move on? This is really bothering me.

James , 23.01.2011, 14:34
Idea status: completed

Comments

Ed Powell, 23.01.2011, 23:13
Abandoned property is unowned, and, like all unowned property, can be claimed by the first person who makes productive use out of it. Although you should have more conclusively ascertained at first that the property was in fact abandoned, the fact that no attempt was made in "a couple of years" to reclaim it means that it was in fact abandoned. It is now rightfully your property, and has been since you fixed it, so continue to ride it proudly.

Leave a comment