Faversham Stoa is a philosophy discussion group meeting on the 3rd Tuesday of every month from 7.30 to 9.30pm in the The Bull in Tanners Street. We cover a large range of topics. If you have an idea for a topic that you would like us to cover why not drop us a line? There's no charge for membership and everyone is welcome to drop in. Just bring your brain and some beer money!



It seems to be a universal desire of all humans to preserve some area of personal space and information that is secret to themselves and hidden from others. Even some animals appear to have the same desire. It may be bound up with very idea of being an individual self. Without some concept and experience of privacy it is difficult to see how one could 'be' a self. There needs to be some clear boundary between 'me' and 'others'.

However, there are obvious cultural differences too. In the ancient world it is said that monarchs would, without enbarressment perform bodily functions, including having sex, in front of servants. This is because the servants were regarded as hardly human at all and so their gaze did not invade the monarch's privacy.

So one question we will want to look at is how far desire for privacy varies between culture and individuals.

We will also want to examine the different types of privacy - two in particular that are are very relevant in the current political climate:

Physical privacy

Being able to be alone in one's own space, unseen by others and, of course, the wearing of clothes is an fundamental part of that privacy: hiding one's own nakedness from others.

We are being placed under survelliance increasingly. Even in Faversham there are cameras everywhere. Is this intusion on our privacy a reasonable price to pay for security?

It has generally been accepted as a principle that as long as what you do in private does not harm others then it is of no concern to others - or to the State. Recently Max Mosely won 60,000 in court for the News of the World's expose of his S&M parties. The courts regarded the story as an unwarrented invasion of his privacy. On the other hand it has been argued that being a celebrity or public figure means you forgoe the right to privacy. And, anyway, Max Mosely was betraying his wife by committing adultery which tells us something about his personal integrity and that is of surely of public interest? Where are the boundaries?

Data privacy

Ensuring that personal data stored by organisations is accurate and kept secure. I imagine some cynical snorts of derision at the 'safety' concern. After all there have recently been a number of high profile cocks ups by government agencies losing large databases containing sensitive data. Do we really trust them to keep this data safe? And what of the proposal to issue ID cards to all citizens? Will it really help in the war against terror or will the State use it as an excuse to get more and more personal data on us? How would you feel about everyone being on a DNA database? Wouldn't it help to detect and catch criminal? If so - wouldn't the small sacrifice be worth paying? On the other hand - one can imagine that insurance companies would be very interested in the database!

Facebook and Big Brother!

Having looked at the importance of privacy to us all, and probably argued that it is terrible how it is being undermined these days, we should then look at the why so many people give it up voluntarily. Many people are quite happy to post all sorts of personal information about themselves on the web - and we have all heard the horror stories of employers looking up information on their subordinates - or candidates for jobs! Why are people willing to expose themselves in this way?

It's a puzzle.


Get the free Acrobat reader Print-friendly versions of articles are in PDF format and require Acrobat Reader