Privacy and the Communitarian Self
Contemporary philosophical debates about privacy turn on important questions regarding selfhood. Minimally, someone who endorses the possibility of informational privacy is committed to the idea that there are ‘selves’ or ‘persons,’ and that it is possible to decide what information relates to them and how. I argue that most popular accounts of privacy rely on a liberal conception of the self. In the Kantian tradition, persons are characterised as ‘transcendental subjects,’ always partly prior to, and unencumbered by, their particular circumstances. Communitarians argue, however, that the liberal notion of the self offers only a partial account of personhood. It is not possible to reason as a transcendental subject because, in various ways, our sense of self is defined by circumstance. Our connections to various communities – such as a family, religion, or state – as well as the shared representations and meanings we rely on to gain self-knowledge, are indispensable parts of what it is be a person. Drawing on the work of Michael Sandel, Charles Taylor, and Alisdair MacIntyre, I argue that to properly account for our want of privacy and its moral significance, we must look to the complex relationships between a person, their personal information, and the communities they inhabit.