San Diego Law Review

Library of Congress Authority File


Document Type

Symposium Article


The purpose of this Article is to bring order to this theoretical chaos. In my view, none of these accounts of the right to privacy is accurate. As I will argue, we are better served by a completely different theoretical description of the relevant right. It is my hope that greater philosophical clarity in this area of ethics will lead to a more careful appreciation of the value of the right to privacy, as well as legislation and judicial reasoning that is more carefully crafted to protect against violations of the right. This Article is organized as follows: In Part II, I place the controversy over the nature of the right to privacy within the context of the Hohfeldian theory of rights developed by Thomson. In Part III, I describe some well-known paradigm cases in which the right to privacy is infringed, and explain how standard theories accommodate these examples. In Part IV, I consider counterexamples to the standard theories. In Part V, I return to Thomson's seminal article, The Right to Privacy, for clues to the nature of the right to privacy. As I will argue, the examples Thomson uses in defense of reductionism (ironically) provide the inspiration for a novel nonreductionist account that is theoretically superior to the standard views. I call this account the "Barrier Theory." I then conclude with a summary of the main points of the paper and a brief discussion of the possible ways in which the Barrier Theory might contribute to answering some pressing legal questions.