January 8, 2014
Why do we value our privacy? Why do we believe we have a right to it? And is it consistent to demand privacy for ourselves but transparency from others? This colloquium will begin from current debates about privacy, prompted by recent cases involving WikiLeaks, the NSA, and News International, and go on to explore the ancient and modern roots of our opinions about privacy, according to two foundational texts: Plato’s Laws and Hobbes’s Leviathan. We will pay particular attention to the tension between the ancient and the modern understandings of privacy in the Western tradition, and to the implications of this tension for privacy in this age of electronic surveillance and publicity.
Jeff J.S. Black received his PhD in Political Theory from Boston College, and he teaches at St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, where he is the Director of the Graduate Institute in Liberal Education. At St. John's he has been a member of a faculty study group on neuroscience, funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and of faculty study groups on Heidegger and on Quantum Field Theory, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is the author of Rousseau's Critique of Science: A Commentary on the Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts, published by Lexington Books in 2009. He has also written about Rousseau for Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century. Currently he is writing a book on the project of human enhancement in modern political thought, with chapters on Machiavelli, Rousseau, and Nietzsche.