Contemporary Applications of Rosmini's View on Personhood: Slavery and Intellectual Property Abuse

By Pozzo, Riccardo | Ave Maria Law Review, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview
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Contemporary Applications of Rosmini's View on Personhood: Slavery and Intellectual Property Abuse

Pozzo, Riccardo, Ave Maria Law Review


Recent developments in mobile communications bring to light, and make urgent, connections between intellectual property rights and human rights. True, human rights relate to natural law, while intellectual property relates to civil law. However, this phenomenon has consequences which are increasing and devastating: the economic exploitation of one's intellectual property intended in its widest sense, namely, abstracting beyond the alienation of one's own thought to embrace the alienation of the image of one's own body, of one's own voice, and even of one's own cultural identity. Provided it is voluntary, such alienation is usually a legitimate economic exploitation, while a non-voluntary alienation is potentially criminal. The impact of new technologies, however, has accelerated the process. Every cell phone today can take or steal voices, images, and whole performances, which can be posted for profit. The notions of author and work of art are in constant development and require adapting to an environment in which technical progress, lawmaking, and individual needs are changing too. (1) In this sense, the notion of copyright shows implications that go beyond the mere economic issue and invest moral issues such as reputation, attribution, and association. (2) First and foremost, however, the work of art must not be an instrument for external designs. Traditional private and public spaces were always local and as such subject to local legislation; the Internet has provided instead a global space of communication, no matter how virtual and intangible. In this global space, the defense of one's private rights is proving to be increasingly difficult, for to date neither social conventions nor legal sanctions have been provided. The hope is that the dynamic networks that have blossomed on the Internet will find themselves remedies in order to protect one's private sphere. However, to do so Internet users must prove to be strong in their ethical and religious assumptions. At stake is the formulation of a legal anthropology of human rights. Blessed Antonio Rosmini-Serbati's personalist philosophy provides an effective stand for defending the sanctity of life in accordance with the Christian anthropological view. (3) A number of case studies will be considered and the predication (known already in the Roman Law) of "active slavery" will be shown to apply. (4)


Rosminian ethics is divided into three parts. He starts from "pure nomology," which is very close to Kant's moral law, and considers the supreme law or principle of ethics. (5) Under the heading of "moral anthropology" Rosmini deals then with the human moral subject in the natural order, which is very close to Kant's metaphysics of morals. (6) On top of these, Rosmini requires thirdly a "moral logic" in order to apply the moral principle to the moral subject without danger or error. (7) Finally, the three parts of "pure ethics" are distinguished from "applied ethics," which deals with the concrete cases of moral laws or formulas, considered in themselves and according to the psychological conditioning of the subject who is supposed to carry them out. (8) Just like Kant, however, Rosmini did not write any treatise on applied ethics.

Given that the moral good is objective, (9) and given that moral actions are our own and fulfill our human personality, (10) the human will is the "active power operating according to reasons present to the mind and proposed by the human subject to himself." (11) Therefore, "truth is the principle of morality, and... acknowledgment of the truth, (that is, acknowledgment of direct knowledge) is the supreme duty and the proper, essential act of morality." (12)


Rosmini's rather scholastic definitions of parts and notions of ethics continue nonetheless to be effective in the context of some case studies provided by contemporary individuals who use technology to damage themselves.

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Contemporary Applications of Rosmini's View on Personhood: Slavery and Intellectual Property Abuse


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