Dynamic Tensions – Hospitality and Privacy

Please excuse this very rough string of thoughts. I haven’t posted anything in a few weeks, and while I would prefer to work on this until it’s better researched, I want to a.) strive towards consistency in my writing practice, and b.) show that holding temporary thoughts is not a bad thing.

I’ll place posts that fit this form into what I’ll call Dynamic Tensions. Similar to the idea that I have in my mind of what thesis, antithesis, and synthesis gets at, I want to highlight potential perceived contradictions or contrary thoughts and write about them, how they might collide, and what resolutions might look like. I hold these ideas lightly and am willing to revise my thinking as I learn more.

The inspiration for today is from a video I was watching covering Derrida and Foucault. Derrida’s idea of unconditional hospitality was discussed. This is the idea of conceiving of hospitality as a maximally empathetic activity that strips out the normal boundaries of self and other. It runs with the “what’s mine is yours” approach and offers access to guests unlimited and unrestricted access to your belongings (usually discussed as house and resources). It’s been a while since I’ve revisited Derrida’s writing on it, so I might be hazy on some details – such as whether Derrida used this for State level interactions, or meant to apply it to interpersonal interactions as well. Also, it’s not clear if he meant to be prescriptive of this, or it was meant as a kind of thought experiment to critique norms. For now, I will set those questions aside.

On a level, I like the idea of unconditional hospitality right up until it meets “my stuff” – hence why I’m not sure if it’s meant to apply to individuals or as a function of the State. While yes, I’m squeamish of the idea of abolishing private property rights (or at least loosening my tyranny over how my stuff is to be used), I can see the intuition at play to bring more empathy into the world by bringing the Other closer to the sense of self. Perhaps in a Kantian categorical imperative, or in an ideal communist society, where these are norms that everyone follows, the division between my stuff and your stuff would feel different.

But one area that I have a harder time reconciling is an absolute sense of a right to privacy. I don’t quite mean in the data sense that I have a right not to be snooped on by the government, but in a more practical sense – the ability to have solitude and shut the rest of the world away. If someone has an absolute right to my dwelling (the front door doesn’t have a lock), can I still hold on to a firm line of privacy? Would it just be a first come, first served approach? Am I entitled to hold onto physical space as a domain inaccessible to others, or does my right to privacy end at my ability to hold private thoughts in my head?

I’m sure a number of assumptions above are wrong, and I’m missing some key premises to fill in the details. However I offer this as a rough sketch that flitted through my mind while being reminded of Derrida.

Stay Awesome,


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