Privacy, a Philosophical Approach Beyond Morality

The philosophical approach has given insufficient attention so far to the problem of privacy as such the structure of reference within which the privacy paradigm has so lately and extensively become a matter of a dispute is a modern one.

Is Privacy ‘only’ a value?

Good and Evil — Ary Scheffer, 1854

What has not been addressed, or at least made explicit, is why privacy is commonly considered a right or a value, when its ontology forces to outstrip any morality. There is no historical consensus in Philosophy that privacy is a right. Few philosophers would claim that privacy is a “physical” right or that the fundamental essence of privacy establishes it as a right. So if privacy is a right, then it must be beyond the “good” or the “evil” or any subjective judgment.

Let’s admit that the circumstances of existence in our so-called modern societies are in many ways more restrictive of privacy than conditions in the past. Recent scandals and the constant will of both the States and the giant Corporations to rape our privacy are only the visible part of the Iceberg.

The facts of a changing social and political structure cannot prove the badness of that shift. Opinion, judgment, and choice could be understood as exclusively individual and private, but this view does not set privacy as an imperative, or even charming component of opinion and judgment.

This ascertainment exists in the philosophical field due to the Judeo-Christian prism (inherited from Plato[1])through which everything must be seen as good or evil.

Image result for good thinking morality

Consequently, a certain level of privacy seems to be necessary in order to warrant to the individual the feasibility of moral choice and action. 
Too easy.

Given a definition of moral choice as a right of the indi­vidual, one might then proceed to a classification of the components necessary to satisfy the requirements of that determination, in which privacy might or might not be vital.
Problems are not solved by being disregarded. The question of how human moral status is to be set remains the most profound attention of a specific philosophy.

Let’s distance ourselves from this equation and put an end to the supremacy of the Moraline[2] when it comes to philosophy in general and privacy in particular.

Far from the ‘Moraline’

Allegory with a portrait of a Venetian senator (Allegory of the morality of earthly things), attributed to Tintoretto, 1585

The first question that is asked nowadays about the right of privacy is whether it is indeed a right at all. This is a known journey.

However, let’s try to reformulate or even craft the concept of privacy differently.

Limiting privacy to a Morality thus to a legal statement is not sufficient. The essence itself of privacy shall not be restricted to its moral aspect; it shall be seen as a process, a kind of journey where every individual tends to craft it and fabricate its liberty.

Far from the Hegelian approach of Moralität[3] and Sittlichkeit[4], let’s dare to place this thought on a path that was taken by Schopenhauer and Nietzsche and both of them spoke about the concept of “Will to go to” (Der Wille zur/zum). Schopenhauer considered the living as a Will to Life[5], (Der Will Zum Leben) and some decades later, Nietzsche offered to use the same dialectics and he continued to carve the stone of the Will by defining life as a Will to power[6] (Der Wille Zur Macht).

Will to Privacy

Will to Life / Will to Power

Let’s propose with humility to wear the same ontological glasses and to express the essence of privacy as a pure Will to Privacy (der Wille zur Privatsphäre), as a process, like a road on which each shall define his or her ontological privacy in an idiosyncratic means.

Privacy is an essential requirement for the achievement of morality in our Judeo-Christian societies when most of the time the Law is the one that assumes the responsibility to protect and provide it. However, privacy, as seen earlier, must be examined beyond the morality if we consider it as a synonym of freedom and liberty.

Privacy must be crafted daily; the crafting process begins at birth and ends at death.

The modern human is born in platonic chains, but this is not the role of the State, of the Law to free him or her.

Humanity is born to live, to survive in a certain way. This is its determined destiny where privacy has a legit seat. 
Privacy is not a right to be given. It is a right to be wanted.


[1] At the end of Book VI of the Republic (509D-513E), Plato explains what he described as a “divided line,” at the top of which is the “Form of the Good, followed by theories (noesis), hypotheses (dianoia), techniques (pistis), and stories (eikasia).

[2] Moraline (das Moralin ), according to Nietzsche, this is the Christian morality, the “right-thinking” morality. According to Christianity, to reach a “good morality” or a “morality of the Good”, the Moraline is to be called.

[3] Hegel takes its inspiration from Kant’s Kritik der practischen Vernunft (Critique of Practical Reason) (1788)

[4] Sittlichkeit is the concept of “ethical life” or “ethical order” furthered by Hegel in Phenomenology of Spirit and in Elements of the Philosophy of Right.

[5] Schopenhauer’s philosophy regards that all nature, including humanity, is the expression of an unsatisfied will to life. It is through the will that mankind finds all their suffering in the World as Will and Representation (Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung).

[6] In 1883 Nietzsche neologized the concept of “Wille zur Macht” in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. According to him, the will to power is more powerful than the will to survive. Schopenhauer’s “Will to life” thus became a subsidiary to the will to power, which is the stronger will.