This past semester I taught a class on the ethics of human rights. One of the more interesting discussions took place concerning the right to privacy. Today I’m starting a series of weekly(?) posts that will discuss what exactly is meant by the right to privacy, in part, by looking at a set of thought experiments, which will be discussed in following posts.
Yes, the title of this series comes from the classic Hall and Oates song, “Private Eyes”. (Make sure you get the hand claps correct as you watch this classic from the 80s.)
A couple words to help clarify what I mean by human rights in these posts. I am referring to moral human rights, that is, rights that are held by all people whether or not there is a legal recognition of these rights. These rights should play some role in how we treat one another in interpersonal relationships, as individuals and groups of individuals. The focus is not on whether or not these rights can be put into legislation or what it would look like if they were put into legislation. These rights are independent of any legal rights and do not require any kind of legal recognition in order for humans to have these rights.
While typically a good philosopher would define terms upfront, in these posts, I’m going to intentionally hold off on defining “privacy”, in part, because the forthcoming thought experiments will help us to be clear on what privacy does and does not entail. (One may also infer that I am not defining the terms because I am not a good philosopher. However, I will leave that up to the reader to decide.)
Lastly, these posts will be more interesting the more people comment on them, so please engage in the discussion. These thought experiments have generated significant discussion with every group I’ve presented them to, and I hope they do the same with you guys.