Re: privacy/openness

From: Technotranscendence (
Date: Mon Jul 16 2001 - 11:48:05 MDT

On Monday, July 16, 2001 6:21 AM Anders Sandberg wrote:
> I seriously doubt this is a major reason behind the widespread use of
> terms like human dignity, integrity, autonomy and vulnerability in ethics.

Integrity, autonomy, and vulnerability are definitely less fuzzy, to me,
than dignity here. See my last paragraph.

I don't necessarily think it's a major reason, but I think it can be a
motivating reason for some. After all, the more fuzzy a term, the less
commitments one has to make, the less restrictions one has to put up with.

> It may be more of an European culture thing, where highly complex concepts
> which are fairly clear after 10 years of scholarly study are preferred in
> the debate to strictly defined and narrow concepts. Also, the stuff we are
> trying to debate in ethics or the privacy discussion is very complex - it
> might turn out that even the natural categories needed for this kind of
> discussion are very complex and fuzzy.

That's probably the major reason for usage. Another is that these are
probably common points of a lot of different legal and ethical systems. One
can talk about integrity in the context of JudeoChristianity as well as,
say, Objectivism or Kantianism.

Not to be against scholarly study -- my mode of life anyhow:) -- but don't
you think that after X years of such, the fuzziness of the term will become
less? The problem, too, is one of context. A term or model used in a
scholarly context is often used with much mroe qualification than outside
it. For instance, the notion of rights are much more clearly delineated --
even if there are disagreements -- among academics. Most of them know the
difference between positive and negative rights. (Of course, some argue for
both and some argue for one or the other, but they're aware of the
distinctions.) The general public seems to lump all this together.

> That said, it is clear that the fuzziness of these termes does lend itself
> to being stretched/squeezed to fit political aims. But this might be more
> of politicals exploiting lack of understanding of the concepts in the
> general public than a promotion of bendable concepts in academia. That
> promotion likely have other causes.

Agreed, though this still brings up the matter of whether the "bendable"
concept is better. If it's more likely to be abused, then, all other things
being equal, it might not be so good. Maybe all other things aren't equal
and the payoff is higher, but this remains to be proved, don't you think?

> Exactly. I might have a right to say whatever I want, but you don't have
> listen to it and you definitely do not have to believe it.
> On the other hand, privacy as it is generally used seems to deal more with
> the more external aspects of ones self and life than integrity.

I've always thought of integrity in two ways. One is the more physical
usage of the term. A container has integrity when it's not been breached.
The other is more ethical. A person has integrity when he or she practices
what he or she preaches. This second form obviously doesn't meld with the
first all that well. They don't contradict.

I tend to think a general right to privacy would include something like your
concept of integrity anyway. After all, if we think of a private space, we
generally don't mean one that just others can't peek into, but also one
where the world does not impinge on. You know, one's private home is
thought of as a place where one controls not only who can look in, but who
or what can disturb the interior or yard.

I'm not willing to go to the barricades over which term we use, but I fear
some might sneak in other things by using integrity instead of privacy here.
This seems to be the case with dignity. When people use that term it can
mean things like choosing who to marry or not to be harassed by the
government, but it can also mean things like the right to an education, job,
healthcare, unemployment insurance, housing, culture, a certain living
standard, and the like. These can be smuggled into other concepts too.

What might be smuggled into the idea of integrity here?


Daniel Ust
    See "The Many Births of Free Verse" at:

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