(mind) One of the more obvious, yet baffling, features of the mind is that I alone am privy to my experiences and thoughts. I have them, whereas you must go through some process of interpreting my utterances and actions in order to know, or guess, what they are. Philosophers of mind have either celebrated this privacy or sought to downplay its importance. To downplay it one might argue that what I know about myself, and you do not, may be simply a question of what words I am about to use or what actions I feel like performing. But in that case there is then no deep metaphysical gulf between what I know about myself and what you know, for it is merely a matter of my reports more quickly and accurately registering the state of my own system. There is no special knowledge displayed on a special inner screen, but only the natural upshot of self-monitoring functions of the brain.
(social) In moral and political theory, private conduct is that which it is no business of the public, and particularly the public institution of law, to notice. Similarly, private information about a person would be that to which there can be no right of public access. The right to privacy is deeply connected with a person's self-respect, with invasions of privacy being connected with shame and indignity. Liberal political theory makes essential use of this category in assessing the permissible sphere of the law. The private is the sphere of family, home, personal taste, and affection; the public is the domain of other relations, including institutional and contractual relations, and those recognized in law. However, it is controversial whether an action such as consuming various kinds of pornography, even within one's own home, is properly regarded as private. The distinction between public and private is attacked by some feminist theorists, who believe that the sphere of the private acts as a fig-leaf for areas of unrestricted male domination of children and women. But dismantling the distinction altogether has too many associations with fascist and totalitarian ideology to commend itself widely.

Philosophy dictionary. . 2011.

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