I’m currently thinking about tensions between the public and the private, and the ethics of privacy and conscience.
I wonder if a language of privacy evolved, or an acceptance of it. And what of public as well, which is not simply the opposite of private.
It reads interestingly in Milton’s Samson Agonistes: ‘That grounded maxim so rife and celebrated in the mouths of wisest men; that to the public good private respects must yield.’
Defining privacy needs a lot of care, and it’s no surprise that a collection of essays on ‘privacy’ involves contributions from sociologists, philosophers, psychologists and experts in law.
Words connected with privacy involve solitude, secrecy, autonomy, anonymity, censorship and confidentiality.
Privacy relates closely to the modern day. This ‘information age’ has become the closest revolution in the distribution of news and information since the formation of cheap print in the seventeenth century.
Last Wednesday, upon a hunch, I travelled up to Edinburgh to see Adam Fox, Professor of Social History. I found him a most wonderful man – courteous, unassuming, very interested and extremely helpful.
I explained how this crop of ideas had emerged, and asked a few small questions from which quite a lot materialised. It was particularly illuminating on the topic of the public sphere.
On my hopes to build a PhD topic out of the current project, he aspired confidence, and even signed an essay print-out for me. How I relish academic paraphernalia.