Tiger Woods and the Right to Privacy, Again

The edifice of perfection surrounding Tiger Woods gave way on Thanksgiving Day last week. Not only did Tiger inexplicably crash his car into a fire hydrant and tree outside his Florida home, but he did so after an alleged fight with his wife about his now confirmed philandering. The resulting media frenzy has been both intense and constant: causing Tiger to issue an initial plea for people to “respect his right to some simple, human measure of privacy.” Tiger’s plea raises many important and interesting philosophical questions–some of which are discussed in this NY Times “Room for Debate” commentary.

One theme running through the aforementioned commentary is of particular interest, namely, the implications of modernity on privacy rights. So far the most oft cited reason why Tiger Woods is wrong to invoke a right to privacy is the ubiquitous and pervasive nature of new media in the internet age, coupled with society’s insatiable appetite for all things gossip. This line of argument clearly violates the Naturalistic Fallacy, however. Presumably, the power and desire to gossip does not make gossip right, much less does it require the objects of gossip to feed those who hunger for it. Furthermore, to deny Tiger’s claim to privacy might entail the seemingly absurd proposition that society has a right to know (almost) whatever it wants to know about public figures or celebrities involved in personal scandals. In any case, though, it seems that an academic and public discussion about the nature and scope of privacy rights vis-a-vis (i) public figures and (ii) individuals in public is in order.

For a different angle on the issue, and for related philosophical articles in Philosophy Compass, please see the immediately preceding post on Philosopher’s Eye: “Does Tiger Woods have a right to privacy in public?”

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