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Privacy and Philosophy

New Media and Affective Protocol


Andrew McStay

What can philosophy tell us about privacy? Quite a lot as it turns out. With Privacy and Philosophy: New Media and Affective Protocol Andrew McStay draws on an array of philosophers to offer a refreshingly novel approach to privacy matters. Against the backdrop and scrutiny of Arendt, Aristotle, Bentham, Brentano, Deleuze, Engels, Heidegger, Hume, Husserl, James, Kant, Latour, Locke, Marx, Mill, Plato, Rorty, Ryle, Sartre, Skinner, Spinoza, Whitehead and Wittgenstein, among others, McStay advances a wealth of new ideas and terminology, from affective breaches to zombie media. Theorizing privacy as an affective principle of interaction between human and non-human actors, McStay progresses to make unique arguments on transparency, the publicness of subjectivity, our contemporary techno-social condition and the nature of empathic media in an age of intentional machines.
Reconstructing our most basic assumptions about privacy, this book is a must-read for theoreticians, empirical analysts, students, those contributing to policy and anyone interested in the steering philosophical ideas that inform their own orientation and thinking about privacy.
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Chapter Four: Utilitarianism, radical transparency and moral truffles

← 35 | 36 → CHAPTER FOUR


Utilitarianism has a mixed relationship with privacy. While ostensibly liberal in its approach, there is a latent tendency within certain strains of utilitarianism towards not only enlightenment norms of transparency and calculative rationality, but also what I term radical transparency. This chapter accounts for the relationship between utilitarianism and privacy, and assesses the notion of radical transparency. This is developed in reference to Richard Posner, the Benthamite judge and economist, who argues that privacy is tantamount to market inefficiency and hinders that which delivers net benefits to society. These discourses are increasingly prevalent today, not least in the legal wrangling alluded to in the previous chapter on constructions and implementation of consent.

Utilitarianism is important for privacy because of the ways utilitarians think about rights. Rights in this arrangement have a more expedient character than in the previous chapter. Bentham’s championing of the principle of utility characterizes this well, particularly in regard to his support of doctrine that sees two masters or poles along a continuum by which we should navigate: pain and pleasure. The principle of utility is a norm that recommends that individuals and governments should ← 36 | 37 → promote happiness in respect to the community at large. While associated with Bentham and subsequently Mill, Mary Warnock points out in her introduction to Mill’s (1962 [1859]) Utilitarianism that its key principle of ‘the greatest happiness for the greatest number’ does not originate in Bentham or Mill himself. Warnock instead locates this in Joseph Priestley and his pamphlet...

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