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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 Ten: The subject: Caring for what is public

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The constitution of subjectivity is a question that has haunted professional philosophers, post-structural social theorists and teenagers engaging for the first time with the mind-bending question: what is a self, and what or who is a subject? Critchley (1999) points out that linguistically it comes from the Latin subjectum or ‘that which is thrown under.’ Seen this way the subject is an underlying support or fundamental stratum for other qualities. More generally, it is that which persists through change. Classically it is conceived in metaphysical terms so for Aristotle’s hupokeimenon to be a foundation, or a grounding principle by which an entity is discerned and endures. In Aristotle’s (1998 [350 BC]) Metaphysics this is the positing of an original subject, a substance of sorts, or a primary that is not a predicate of anything else. This to counter Heraclitus and his argument that the world (and the self) is in constant flux and that what seems permanent is also subject to flux. This view of the persisting subject is also a constitutive one that begins in Descartes, his separation of mind from bodily materiality, the distancing from the world that provides the subject objectivity and reason, and which arguably reaches its highpoint in that neo-Kantian transcendental sense of a self that accompanies all our representations. This continues into traditional modes of phenomenology, the ‘subjective turn,’ the ways in which the subject plays a role in constituting objects for its self, and the emphasis on experience and res cogitans, or...

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