About
Content
Store
Forum

Rebirth of Reason
War
People
Archives
Objectivism

Post to this threadMark all messages in this thread as readMark all messages in this thread as unreadPage 0Page 1Forward one pageLast Page


Post 0

Tuesday, August 18, 2015 - 7:37pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

This is a subject I have not heard about much (if ever) in my Objectivist readings, although it is quite possible I have forgotten some passage or statement in one text or another.

 

I would like to know whether or not privacy is a value, a right, or something of some other nature which is of importance in Objectivist ethics and politics. Starting from established Objectivist principles, how does "privacy" fit into a person's life according to Objectivism?  Has any of the prominent Objectivists of the past (or present) opined on the subject?

 

(as an aside is there an easy way to search this forum from within the forum?)

 

To be clear I am interested in privacy "as such", and it is not my intention to conflate this issue with issues of trespass, unjust possession, or theft of property.



Sanction: 22, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 22, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 22, No Sanction: 0
Post 1

Wednesday, August 19, 2015 - 12:31amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

"Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men." -- http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/civilization.html

 

I believe that the lack of extensive writing on privacy reflects the deep feeling for this fundamental right. While Ayn Rand argued against the continental rationalists and British empiricists - philosophers who denied reality and reason - she did not address the invasions of privacy that were integral to the totalitarian states of her time.  

 

Consider The Fountainhead. Roark's design for the Monadnack resort gave residents private homes with their own swimming pools and tennis courts, rather than one huge fish tank and a community court for exhibitionists. That was consonant with Frank Lloyd Wright's placing the "front" of the house away from the street, with the streetside closed off to public view. Privacy was as important as hot water for the wellness of the homeowner.

 

In Atlas Shrugged, Galt's motor - which powered the Valley, and could power a locomotive - also protected the privacy of his laboratory in his New York City brownstone apartment.

 

On the other hand, one of the dramatic features of We the Living was the lack of privacy forced on the family when their home was given over to the needy. 

 

Those are dramatic touches only, not philosophical expositions, because the right to privacy is integral - if not identical - with personhood.



Sanction: 23, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 23, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 23, No Sanction: 0
Post 2

Wednesday, August 19, 2015 - 12:46amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

To answer the second question, this site does have a Search box on the home page, on the left, about halfway down.  It is a tailored Google search. You can target eight Objectivist websites or just this one.  Looking just here for "privacy", I found many instances. 

 

By Tibor Machan

http://rebirthofreason.com/Articles/Machan/Right_to_Privacy_-_is_it_in_the_Constitution.shtml

 

By Luke Setzer

http://rebirthofreason.com/Articles/Setzer/Questions_and_Motives.shtml

 

Making someone's life "public" isn't a set up for discrimination, but for fascism
Teresa Summerlee Isanhart
http://rebirthofreason.com/Forum/GeneralForum/1112.shtml#12



Post 3

Friday, August 28, 2015 - 6:37pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

Excellent references, Michael!  You are obviously very well versed in the Objectivist literature!



Post 4

Tuesday, September 1, 2015 - 5:26pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

Thank you, Bill. Your appreciation of my work means a lot to me.  Like you, I have been with Objectivism a long time.  If you follow this link http://www.galtsgulchonline.com/posts/4220f482/is-religion-required you will see me being unsuccessful at schooling newbies who think that Objectivism has no spiritual component.



Post 5

Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 8:15amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

Let me reiterate that I am interested in "privacy" issues which cannot be addressed by other rights such as right to property, the physical liberty of the person, etc.  Clearly laws which require handing over documents, forbidding conduct in the bedroom, or allow trespass and searching violate these rights without any separate consideration of privacy.

 

 

Is there a separate right to privacy of conduct, the person or information?

 

For example, your neighbor has a laser listening system (you can point this at a window, analyze the subtle differences in phase, etc. of the reflected light, and thereby obtain a reproduction of the soundwaves impinging on the window), and has used it to discover a private (whether personal or business) conversation which you did not intend for him or anyone else of the public to hear.  According to Objectivism have your individual rights been violated equally should the government intervene (say you notice what your neighbor is doing... should you be able to call the authorities?).

 

Alternatives to the snooping laser which could be considered are the "fabled" X-ray glasses of as advertised in comic books of old (actually there are some light sensors which detect IR which can go through black clothing, making them appear like sheer white/clear clothing.  Sony's camera's have a filter to avoid such snooping through blouses and skirts...etc).

Parabolic microphones.

Telescopic lenses.



Sanction: 6, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 6, No Sanction: 0
Post 6

Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 10:57pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

Colin,

 

I assume you are asking about moral rights as opposed to legal rights (including constitutional rights).  Legal/Constitutional rights are 'created' and may or may not be consistent with man's individual rights.

 

Ayn Rand has pointed out that moral rights only pertain to actions.  I might own my car outright and have good title to it, but my moral rights will only pertain to the actions that I can take with the car (drive it, sell it, rent it, etc.).  She also pointed out that all of man's individual moral rights derive from his right to his life.  That is, from property rights.

 

From her perspective, there would be no moral rights that are not property rights. 

---------------------------

 

Here is a quote from Ayn Rand's "Man's Rights" in Virtue of Selfishness:

 

"A 'right' is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)

 

"The concept of a 'right' pertains only to action—specifically, to freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men.

 

"Thus, for every individual, a right is the moral sanction of a positive—of his freedom to act on his own judgment, for his own goals, by his own voluntary, uncoerced choice. As to his neighbors, his rights impose no obligations on them except of a negative kind: to abstain from violating his rights.

 

"The right to life is the source of all rights—and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.

 

"Bear in mind that the right to property is a right to action, like all the others: it is not the right to an object, but to the action and the consequences of producing or earning that object. It is not a guarantee that a man will earn any property, but only a guarantee that he will own it if he earns it. It is the right to gain, to keep, to use and to dispose of material values."



Post 7

Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 11:25pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

Colin,

 

As to your example of some sort of x-ray glasses that would let the wearer see through another person's clothing, I'm not certain of any individual right that would prevent the wearer from violating another's privacy when they are both in a public place. 

 

I know that a person has the moral right to keep parts of his or her body covered and no one has the right to pull off those clothes or force them to disrobe, but that moral right derives from property rights to ones clothes and to ones body and that doesn't seem to deal with the x-ray glasses.

 

I could maintain that I have property rights to any images or viewings of my body - not counting any images or views I give away in a public place, like walking about with my face uncovered might give away that image.  Or, is it?  Does someone have a moral right to take my photo just because I'm in a public place? And do they have a moral right to use that image in some ad?  There may be laws against that, but are they based upon an identifiable moral right?

 

Remember that "public property" is PROPERTY.  Property has owners, and the manager of a piece of property can have authorization to set rules that are consistent with the service of the owners interests (public interest).   From that basis it might not be a violation of individual rights to prohibit the use of x-ray glasses on public property. 

 

The argument against that prohibition of wearing the glasses would be that an individual has the right to wear such glasses since they don't violate anybody's individual rights (no initiation of force, threat to initiate force, theft or fraud).

 

I don't think you will ever get away from property rights in an attempt to find a right in privacy, and it would make more sense to find the property right, if one exists, that supports privacy.  What is it that a person owns that prohibits others from looking at them with x-ray glasses?  Is the use of these glasses without the permission of the person being viewed a from of theft of the image of the person's body that they have not released into the public domain?

 

Maybe others will weigh in with better answers to this privacy question.



Post 8

Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 7:13pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

Steve developed an Objectivist response to the challenge. (Much as we do not get along, he is a smart guy.)  I would extend that with some other considerations.  

 

As he pointed out by citing Rand's words, all moral rights are property rights.  However, not all property rights are moral rights.  For example, recently a news story surfaced about a ridiculous enforcement by a homeowners association (HOA) against a purple playground set. Silly as it was, the general principle is valid: you can sign away your right to a purple playground set.  Conversely, we have lived in apartment complexes where the lease specified that all draperies must have white backing (for uniformity of appearance). So, we were contractually required to acquire those. Those examples set the context for the problems inherent in so-called "privacy."  

 

It is like "pornography versus art":  I cannot define it, but I know it when I see it.

 

We agree easily enough that your home is inviolate against physical intrusion. So, it is night time, you have your lights on and the shades up, and I can see you doing disgusting things like praying in front of a crucifix.  Have I violated your right to privacy?  No.  In most states, the person is protected against "peeping toms." If your neighbor sees you praying, that is their problem, not yours.  

Colin B: "According to Objectivism have your individual rights been violated equally should the government intervene (say you notice what your neighbor is doing... should you be able to call the authorities?)."

The question you pose is about artificially-enhanced perception (x-rays, infrared or whatever).  Again, the same standard must apply. You can see what you see and your neighbor can be seen. (You can be seen.) However, no one's rights are violated.  If your senso-tronic enhancers let you perceive that I am violating someone else's rights - say I have a "maid" chained up - and you call the police, then my rights were not violated.  My right to privacy does not shield me from their right not to be imprisoned.

 

As I noted above, Frank Llyod Wright designed homes to maximize privacy. Your privacy is your concern. You can live in a glass house if you choose, and your neighbors must suffer the indignities of your lifestyle, as you must suffer their viewing them.

 

The claim to artifical enhancements is itself artificial. Some people have better eyesight, better hearing, etc. You are in a restaurant and assume that no one can hear you whisper a secret to your companion.  But I have great hearing -- or a hearding aid, or a parabolic accumulator a mile away - and I do hear you.  You cannot stop me from perceiving reality by any means under my power.  Otherwise, I must ask: Do I need your permission to view Jupiter with my telescope?  Can it be claimed that I am violating the privacy rights of Jovians?

 

I think that one source of your motivation here - pardon me for ascribing motive - is that you are looking for an absolute standard where none can exist. Objectivism (capital-O) is a kind of objectivism (lowercase-o), i.e, rational-empiricism, like the scientific method.  It is not an absolutist philosophy such as Immanuel Kant's deontology ethics, or fundamentalist religions. In Ayn Rand's capital-O Objectivism, context is important.  Yes, absolutes exist. The law of identity (A is A) is an absolute. The fact that humans have a nature as "man qua man" is an absolute.  However, some admirers of Rand's fiction - I daresay far too many - take one line from Hank Rearden ("Try pouring a ton of steel without absolutes.") and use it to justify their own prejudices and preconceptual notions. One example is Steve Wolfer's claim that you can dress anyway you want in public. (It seems easy enough, to be sure.)

Steve Wolfer:  I know that a person has the moral right to keep parts of his or her body covered and no one has the right to pull off those clothes or force them to disrobe, but that moral right derives from property rights to ones clothes and to ones body and that doesn't seem to deal with the x-ray glasses.

 

I have devoted long and consequential thought to this because I could be a college professor of criminal justice.  What do I do if a woman (some person or persons of some kind or other) come into my class wearing full hijab?  With their face and body totally covered, they could be anybody.  The so-called "person" enrolled for my class could be the person herself, some other woman, some man... who knows?  Therefore, I deny that you have an absolute right to cover your body or that you have absolute protection against having your coverings removed.  (Airport security is too flawed an example to offer up here.)

 

(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 9/05, 7:16pm)



Post 9

Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 8:37pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

Marotta wrote:

 

...all moral rights are property rights.  However, not all property rights are moral rights.

I'm certainly willing to entertain that idea.  But I think I'd have to have an example of something that is a property right but not a moral right.  We know that moral rights exist separate from legal rights.  We know that we can talk about property rights as moral rights, and we know that we can talk about property rights defined by law.

 

That is the only way I have been able to imagine a property right that is not a moral right.  That is, where the government creates a legal 'right' (permission) to a piece of property but does so imorally.
-------------------

 

Marotta writes, "some admirers of Rand's fiction ... take one line from Hank Rearden ('Try pouring a ton of steel without absolutes.') and use it to justify their own prejudices and preconceptual notions. One example is Steve Wolfer's claim that you can dress anyway you want in public.

 

Then Marotta quoted me:  "I know that a person has the moral right to keep parts of his or her body covered and no one has the right to pull off those clothes or force them to disrobe, but that moral right derives from property rights to ones clothes and to ones body..."

 

Marotta continues: "What do I do if a woman (some person or persons of some kind or other) come into my class wearing full hijab?  With their face and body totally covered, they could be anybody.  The so-called 'person' enrolled for my class could be the person herself, some other woman, some man... who knows?  Therefore, I deny that you have an absolute right to cover your body or that you have absolute protection against having your coverings removed."

 

Marotta confuses the issues.  First I'd deny that I am informed in this instance by the Hank Reardon line in Atlas Shrugged.  And I deny that I'm attempting to justify a prejudice or preconceptual notion.  Second, I didn't say where the person was when they dressed the way they wanted.  Marotta says, "...Wolfer's claim that you can dress anyway you want in public."  I didn't say in public.  And I didn't say in private.  Both of those change the context to include property and Colin was asking about privacy rights that weren't defined by property rights.  And I was attempting to show that his x-ray vision device might run afoul of property rights just because of clothing and the ownership of the body.

 

Marotta also presumes in his example, that the school in which he is conducting a class didn't have a voluntary arrangement including a dress codes that the students must meet.  In other words, yes, you have an absolute right to dress the way you want, but not the absolute right to be on the property of others when they exercise their right to not have anyone dressed that way on their property.  For public schools the same principle applies and it is administered by government employees - still a form of property rights.  Marotta may not understand that 'Absolute' doesn't mean without context. 

 

Government could outlaw the wearing of muslim garb everywhere, even in a person's own living room.  But that would violate moral property rights.  To keep legal property rights consistent with moral property rights the government cannot pass laws about what people wear except when people are in public and then only because we have no other way to deal with public property.  And anylaw regarding the management of public property should be tailored as closely as possible to meet individual rights and where that isn't an issue, it should be as close as possible to what the public wants (to the degree that the 'public' can 'want').  And of course there should be as little public property as is possible.

 

Marotta says that he has 'devoted long and consequential thought to this'.  It strikes me as strange that he would devote so much thought to my statement that people have the right to determine what body parts they wanted to cover and that others don't have the right to tear off those clothes... and then disagree with that statement.  Really.  That is akin to saying that we humans must ask others for permission to clothe ourselves - not just on the basis of some law or another, but on a moral level, and that others have the moral right to tear off our clothes.  That seems more like wanting to disagree with something because I said it, than to have some devoted and consequential thoughts to share.



Post 10

Sunday, September 6, 2015 - 9:48amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

Steve, as I was completing my master's in 2010, the controversies in France over full hijab were in the news.  I have, indeed, given this a lot of thought over the years, long before you said anything here.  

 

Steve, can I assume that as you had no complaint or argument that you agree with these assertions:

The question you pose is about artificially-enhanced perception (x-rays, infrared or whatever).  Again, the same standard must apply. You can see what you see and your neighbor can be seen. (You can be seen.) However, no one's rights are violated.  If your senso-tronic enhancers let you perceive that I am violating someone else's rights - say I have a "maid" chained up - and you call the police, then my rights were not violated.  My right to privacy does not shield me from their right not to be imprisoned.

 

As I noted above, Frank Llyod Wright designed homes to maximize privacy. Your privacy is your concern. You can live in a glass house if you choose, and your neighbors must suffer the indignities of your lifestyle, as you must suffer their viewing them.

 

The claim to artifical enhancements is itself artificial. Some people have better eyesight, better hearing, etc. You are in a restaurant and assume that no one can hear you whisper a secret to your companion.  But I have great hearing -- or a hearding aid, or a parabolic accumulator a mile away - and I do hear you.  You cannot stop me from perceiving reality by any means under my power.  Otherwise, I must ask: Do I need your permission to view Jupiter with my telescope?  Can it be claimed that I am violating the privacy rights of Jovians?

One case that is relevant here is Kyllo v. United States (Wikipedia) in which the police used thermal imaging to spot the indoor growing of marijuana.  The drug laws aside, the question is whether or not they can look into your home with some instrument and see what otherwise would be blocked.  Again, I assert that the artificial instrument is not an essential component of the problem.  If widespread use of IR glasses made us all live in glass houses, then the next step would be shielding to re-establish your privacy.

 

The problems of drones also comes up. These toys are ubiquitous and they have cameras.  It has been ruled that you have no inherent right to privacy from the sky if your backyard is open to view from the sky.  (U.S. vs. Ciraolo here.) One man in Kentucky took a different view, and blasted a drone that flew over his yard. (Story here from Ars Technica.)  In a real estate class, I was taught that by common law, your property rights start at the center of the Earth and extend infinitely into space.  Thus, you can buy, sell, or lease mineral rights and air rights.  So, perhaps SCOTUS erred in Ciraolo and did not rule from an objective basis.



Post 11

Sunday, September 6, 2015 - 6:47amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

An interesting exchange here but for "sake of convenience" can we use the term "rights" as designating the objective and valid concept of actual rights according to Objectivism?

 

To my mind there are only rights of man, not animal rights, not legal rights (as expounded by an improper government) etc.  Political activists and oppressive governments come and go, and although they bandy about the term "rights" that is not what they are actually conceiving of nor what they are actually talking about.

 

 

I will chew on the exchange a little more before weighing in on the answers to my questions thus far.



Post 12

Sunday, September 6, 2015 - 12:33pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

Colin,

 

I'd caution against tossing out "legal rights" as you suggested.  There are different claims as to what is a moral right.  Some folks even say there is no such thing as a moral right of any kind.  But, as Objectivists we know that there are moral rights, and we know that there are some proposed moral rights that aren't logical and don't flow from Man's nature or from his right to his life.  So, we have valid moral rights and invalid moral rights and invalid claims that no such thing as a moral right exists.  Or first task as Objectivist is in understanding what constitutes a valid moral right.

 

The second thing to notice is that we make laws.  The laws often establish a legal right to an action.  Or, as in most criminal law, they prohibit an action on the premise that it would be a violation of a moral right to engage in the defined behavior.  E.g., Man has the moral right to his life, so we make a series of laws that describe (and criminalize) the actions that are prohibited and given them names like "manslaughter," "murder in the first degree," etc. 

 

In civil law we define things like what constitutes a valid contract.  In doing that we are describing those actions a person can or can't take without permission - that is, we define the legal rights that best represent the actions that are in accord with property rights in those circumstances where two or more individuals engage in a contractual relationship.

 

Without a doubt there are bad laws, bad governments, and bad descriptions of moral rights - but there are legal rights and they are as necessary to having a society that makes individual rights their governing principle.

 

The general form for understanding a "right" is that it is about an action one can take without anyone's permission.  (Permission is about another having the 'right' to chose in regards to that action.  The common link between the parties is often described as "property.")   If I rent my car out, I am giving permission to another to possess and use my car for a period of time in exchange for some consideration.  During the time of that rental I have no right to drive the car unless I get the renter's permission.  The car is the object, but, strictly speaking, it isn't the "property" - the property is the set of rights (moral and legal) that are made part of the contract - in this case the right to take the action of driving said car during said period of time.



Sanction: 6, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 6, No Sanction: 0
Post 13

Sunday, September 6, 2015 - 1:16pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

Marotta wrote:

 

Steve, can I assume that as you had no complaint or argument that you agree with these assertions:

The question you pose is about artificially-enhanced perception (x-rays, infrared or whatever).  Again, the same standard must apply. You can see what you see and your neighbor can be seen. (You can be seen.) However, no one's rights are violated.  If your senso-tronic enhancers let you perceive that I am violating someone else's rights - say I have a "maid" chained up - and you call the police, then my rights were not violated.  My right to privacy does not shield me from their right not to be imprisoned.

 

As I noted above, Frank Llyod Wright designed homes to maximize privacy. Your privacy is your concern. You can live in a glass house if you choose, and your neighbors must suffer the indignities of your lifestyle, as you must suffer their viewing them.

The claim to artifical enhancements is itself artificial. Some people have better eyesight, better hearing, etc. You are in a restaurant and assume that no one can hear you whisper a secret to your companion.  But I have great hearing -- or a hearding aid, or a parabolic accumulator a mile away - and I do hear you.  You cannot stop me from perceiving reality by any means under my power.  Otherwise, I must ask: Do I need your permission to view Jupiter with my telescope?  Can it be claimed that I am violating the privacy rights of Jovians?

Yes, I agree with those assertions.  My points to Colin were about an attempt to establish privacy without reference to property.  I don't think it can be done.  I agree with the statements you made, BUT you assume a right to privacy but don't ground it in an explanation of what it is, and your statements appear to be based in property (I assume you would never have said that because a person can reach out and touch another, that they can do so without permission - in otherwords they can look but not touch).  Enhanced sight doesn't violate a trespass against private property.

 

The Supreme Court case regarding the thermal imaging is also based upon private property rights which are the boundary defining where permission must be acquired for purposes of search (property owner's permission or courts permission based upon probable cause related to commission of a crime).

 

As to drones I'm not sure what the laws are.  I do know that there is a body of laws and court precedents regarding the overflight of regular airplanes.  As is normal these things don't come up till there is a conflict to be resolved.  With airplanes it is usually about the noise near an airport.  Does the airline have the right to fly as they are despite the noise, or does the property owner have the right to be free of that noise.  Drones are new, needing some new laws it seems from this new set of conflicts.  I once had a chance to fly the Goodyear blimp for a few minutes.  The pilot would, every  now an then, hover just above his backyard and yell out the window to his wife who would run out into the backyard.  This was about 40 years ago and I doubt that it would be legal to do that now and that today's neighbors might not tolerate that.

 

Air rights have to be considered inside of a jurisdictional context.  What is owned according to real estate laws might not cover what is owned in the issue of airline overflights.  If they are well written laws they won't conflict.  Instead they might say that one's property extends above the surface of the earth till the outer limits of the atmosphere but do not include overflight permissions as defined in other statutes.  Much of real estate ownership is restricted by 'covenants' - not all of which are spelled out on a paper we sign at closing.

 

I like the concept of the sort of arms race between advancing techology that enhances vision and advancing technology that provides clothing that protects against enhanced vision... typical free enterprise in action.  The only time we'd be right in trying to obstruct that is where we could establish the violation of rights.  In our history, it has taken a physical action to broach property lines.  The cops and others have to stop at your door and ask permission.  But if some future technology were able to read your mind, with waves that didn't alter your thoughts or actions or leave a trace and could be done from some distance, I'd say that we would have to create laws that define the illegality of that kind of "vision" and it would be a slightly new aspect of privacy - one based upon property rights (you own the right to express or not express what's in your mind) but without a physical intrusion of the type we usually think of.



Post 14

Sunday, September 6, 2015 - 4:58pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

Thanks, Steve. That is a lot to think about.  One thing that bothers me is that you claim that new laws would need to be written to cover new cases such as mind-reading.  Myself, I would prefer to have courts find precedent in existing (common) laws, but that might be just tomayto-tomahto, as the legislature would only be codifying a common assumption.  And yet, I am still nagged by the way that, for instance, airlines (and railroads) gained "rights" over and above the property rights of the persons whom they violated. 

 

In sum, I do not see the value in "might have been" arguments about railroads and airlines, but I do accept a valuable insight from your post #13 in that in the future, different societies in different contexts would enact different laws to protect the actualization of the same rights we recognize today per Colin in #11 above.  In particular, when humanity moves off-planet privacy may be (at first) insured by distance.

 

For the here and now, I find it curious that some people claim to be mind-readers. In some states, it is against the law to make the claim, and so therefore not against the law to do the deed. 

 

What is an EEG (electroencephalogram)? When they were invented, they initially required that needles be placed under the scalp. (Ouch!) But now, they just use conductive gel and cups.  Also, MRI and PET and other wavelength technologies also are available.  So, this discussion of "mind reading machines" is not hypothetical. It is common (though expensive) to beam a laser at a window and pick up the speech of the people inside the room.  

 

We might object to "reading thoughts" but how is that different from "cold reading" a person, or understanding body language?

 

I agree that this is all intimately entwined with property rights. In your home, we might say, you are inviolate.  Do you take your home with you when you go out in public? 



Post 15

Sunday, September 6, 2015 - 5:18pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

Paraphrasing El Guapo from The Three Amigos, "Tell me, Jefe, what do you mean by 'absolute', because I hate to think that you would use a word like 'absolute' without know what 'absolute' means."

 

Marotta may not understand that 'Absolute' doesn't mean without context. 

 

Yup, that is exactly what "absolute" means, jefe.



Post 16

Sunday, September 6, 2015 - 5:42pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

One thing that bothers me is that you claim that new laws would need to be written to cover new cases such as mind-reading.  Myself, I would prefer to have courts find precedent in existing (common) laws...

 

There are but one 'set' of individual rights in the sense that there is an objective understanding of human nature and the strictures of logic.  But when we attempt to understand how to implement them in law, we see how things can change with advancing technology.  There were property rights (moral and legal) before we had aircraft.  After the airplane came into use we needed laws to describe how our existing property rights applied to the air over our land.  Until we have a conflict we don't have a need to make a law.  There is danger in relying solely on courts setting or finding precedent.  A new precedent should not set from the examination of existing precendents if there is another way to resolve the issue - because it can lead to judicial legislation - because it can lead the 'law' away from the primary principle a given statute was intended to serve (it's purpose).  Judication is to be about the judging of the law, not the making of the law.

 

If we don't continually focus on what specific individual right a law is protecting, it shouldn't be a surprise when we find many laws don't.

 

As a bit of a side note: "Purpose" is one of the truely elegant intellectual contexts available.  Individual rights have a purpose.  Law in general has a purpose.  A specific law has a specific purpose.  Purpose gets us to questions like whose purpose? A stated purpose gives implies a proposed end which lets us judge the practicality and logic of the proposed means.  Be cause we act to gain and or keep that which we value, we don't act without purpose.  To even be of value, a thing is implied to serve a purpose.

-----------------

 

On the imaginary mind-reading technology, my example was just a kind of thought experiment to show that privacy is customarily violated by a physical intrusion.  And the only reason for that was to wonder what if anything could be a basis for privacy that didn't involve property rights.  "Cold readings" don't involve any intrusion, physical or via some sci-fi 'waves.'  If someone is walking through the park and I notice something about them from their body language, there has been no violation of their privacy or property rights.  If I make what I saw public, depending upon what it is, they most certainly might believe that their privacy has been lost... but I don't see any individual right being violated. 



Post 17

Tuesday, September 15, 2015 - 12:22amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

I think Michael Marotta gave an excellent answer to the questions involving x-ray glasses and super sensitive hearing.  See his Post #8.  

 

There is no right to "privacy" in the sense that Colin is alluding to here.  If there is to be a violation of someone's privacy, it has to be a violation of the person's private property rights, which would necessitate the intiation of physical force or fraud.  A peeping tom who peers in a woman's window would normally have to do so by trespassing on her property.  In that case, the violation would consist in the trespass, not in the violator's peering into her window.  We can assume that she would not have consented to his being on her property, especially not for the purpose of his spying on her.

 

Of course, there are occasions in which a person could spy on another's private activities without violating the person's property rights.  In those cases, while the spying would not violate the other person's rights, it could still be viewed as voyeuristic and therefore morally questionable.

 

(Edited by William Dwyer on 9/15, 12:31am)



Post 18

Friday, December 30, 2016 - 5:22pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

I think a distinction needs to be drawn between perception and perception enhancing devices.  Perception is directly perceiving an object with sense organs, while using a perception enhancing device the person is perceiving the output of the device.  Motives can be questioned once a person isn't using normal perception.

 

Information is property, and isn't information about yourself your own property?

 

So when venturing out into public wearing clothes you are protecting information about yourself, but if someone uses a device to go beyond normal human perception, an individual right is violated.  In the case of reading a person's body language or overhearing them in a restaurant without the use of a device, then no right is violated.  Taking taking an up-skirt photograph is, taking a normal photograph isn't.

 

Anyway, that's my take on it after thinking about it for a while.



Sanction: 6, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 6, No Sanction: 0
Post 19

Friday, December 30, 2016 - 7:29pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

Korben, you make some very interesting distinctions, but I'll play Devil's advocate on a few of them.

 

I think a distinction needs to be drawn between perception and perception enhancing devices.

A perception can exist in the mind only because of our sensory organs, which are our basic 'perception enhancing devices'. 

 

And, if I put on a pair of eye-glasses, or use binoculars, those are enhancing what I see. 

 

I'm not sure where you are going with the questioning of motives when a person isn't using normal perception.  Unless "motives" are tied to a violation of property rights, then I'm not sure we should attempt to read a person's mind for their motivation.
------------------

 

Information is property, and isn't information about yourself your own property?

That is an interesting question.  But I'm not sure it is as simple as that.  My name is clearly information about me, but it has gotten out into the wild.  It is only my property to the degree that no one else can claim to be me (because that would be fraud if done for gaining something that is mine).  If you were looking at me, you'd be able to gather a lot of information about me (appearance, some behaviors, relations to others, etc.) but none of that information can be called my property.

 

You make the point that NOT using a device to read body language or to overhear a conversation in a public place makes it okay, but using a device makes it a violation of individual rights.  The only way that approach works is to claim that using a device makes it theft/fraud/force in acquiring property that belonged to another. 

 

I feel uncomfortable with either alternative.  Using an up-skirt camera seems more than perverted, uncivil, and immoral - it "seems" like it violates of the woman's rights.  But on the other hand it also "seems" like the use of a camera in a public place is not force/fraud/theft.  I put "seems" in quotes because I can't find better logical ground to stand on.

 

I'm leaning towards the hard line that Bill Dwyer drew in his post above.  There has to be a violation of a property right (ignore "privacy").  That puts the burden on the person that wants to keep things private.  The woman will have to wear underwear that gives the degree of privacy she wants - doesn't matter how disgusted she might be of someone taking up-skirt views.  Society, through commonly held values can ostericize perverts.  Few people pick their nose in public (except for some countries in Asia) because they want to keep that 'private' - same with other body functions, and sex.  In most of these behaviors we rely on private property enforced privacy (behind locked doors).

 

(Notice that violation of property rights to information (like a copyrighted novel) only finds its "trespass" in distribution without permission.)

 

It is an interesting topic.



Post to this threadPage 0Page 1Forward one pageLast Page
User ID Password reminder or create a free account.