Public/Private

2013-14 Public/Private

The Conversations on Morality, Politics, and Society (COMPAS) program for 2013/14 focused on the distinction between Public and Private. This theme connects a wide range of pressing policy questions and fundamental scholarly problems across seemingly disparate domains.  Movements for social justice often press their cases by arguing that supposedly personal matters are in fact political and that the structure of public spaces often limits private choice, thereby reducing the impact of individual responsibility.  Conversely, governments have experimented with privatizing a variety of previously public functions and services such as prisons, roads, schools, and the military.  Developments in information technology, genetics, and neuroscience raise new moral, legal, and practical questions about personal privacy.  And the ubiquity of internet use and social media have changed the way we conduct our personal and social lives in respects that invite reflection on the distinction between public and private activity.  Thus, in addition to being a matter of enduring political and academic interest, the way in which societies define issues as public or private has important implications for the fundamental ethical question of how to live a good human life.  Our year-long program explored the many facets of these complex and critical issues and mobilized Ohio State’s multiple disciplinary perspectives and diverse resources to promote informed, civil discussion of the ever-shifting relationship between the public and the private.
 
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