Privacy, Intimacy, and Isolation

Privacy, Intimacy, and Isolation

Privacy, Intimacy, and Isolation

Privacy, Intimacy, and Isolation

Synopsis

Privacy is a puzzling concept. From the backyard to the bedroom, everyday life gives rise to an abundance of privacy claims. In the legal sphere, privacy is invoked with respect to issues including abortion, marriage, and sexuality. Yet privacy is surrounded by a mire of theoretical debate. Certain philosophers argue that privacy is neither conceptually nor morally distinct from other interests, while numerous legal scholars point to the apparently disparate interests involved in constitutional and tort privacy law. By arguing that intimacy is the core of privacy, including privacy law, Inness undermines privacy skepticism, providing a strong theoretical foundation for many of our everyday and legal privacy claims, including the controversial constitutional right to privacy.

Excerpt

Robert Bork's ultimately unsuccessful Supreme Court confirmation hearings presented me with a dilemma about privacy. Those opposed to his nomination argued that Bork would undermine legal protection for one of our most cherished interests: privacy. By doing so, Bork would leave a wide range of privacy claims without legal support, claims covering such diverse issues as abortion, contraceptives, and access to the home. In response to this criticism, I initially expected Bork's supporters to deny that he would endanger the constitutionally protected right to privacy. Curiously enough, many of them failed to do this; in fact, they argued that Bork ought to attack the notion, stripping it of constitutional sanction. To support this contention, they pointed out that a right to privacy is not stated in the Constitution; furthermore, they argued that privacy is neither conceptually nor morally separable from other legally protected interests, such as liberty from undue state intervention. The conflicting stances of Bork's supporters and opponents constituted the core of my dilemma. On the one hand, I wished to retain privacy, since it seemed to protect so many vital areas of life. On the other hand, I realized that I was unclear about what I meant by "privacy." I could neither define it nor explain its value. My book emerged in response to this dilemma. It embodies my concern that our vital privacy claims might diminish under skeptical attacks, perhaps even vanish, unless supported by a strong theoretical foundation.

Faced with this threat, I originally turned to the legal and philosophical literature on privacy, seeking to understand its conceptual and normative underpinnings. However, I discovered that both are marked by an unusual amount of heated disagreement, a fact publicized during Bork's confirmation hearings. These disagreements cover considerable ground, ranging from privacy's conceptual independence from other interests to its definition and the source of its value. To resolve such numerous, crucial conflicts, I decided to explore privacy for myself. It seemed to me that the following three questions needed answers before privacy could . . .

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