In ‘Secrecy and Moral Choice’ Bok explores the complex moral question of whether society should be based on secrecy or if it should be left as an element of personal choice. While this initially appears a simple formulation, upon philosophical investigation one understands…
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essay explores the main points of Bok’s argument, notably his contention that secrecy is a contingent to the very structure of society, and argues the extent that the argument is sound and convincing varies in different degress.
In ‘Secrecy and Moral Choice’ four hypothetical societies are put forward, each with varying degrees of transparency, or the lack thereof, of secrecy. The first society only a deity is able to keep secrets; in the second society only you are able to view other people’s secrets; in the third society nobody can keep secrets from people who desire to know them; finally, in the forth society everyone can keep secrets so that they are impenetrable by others. The article briefly considers the small minority that would prefer to live in one of the hypothetical societies, and then questions whether it would be beneficial to live in a society with a complete lack of secrecy. In this regard it quotes Eckhart who states, “We call him a good man who reveals himself to others, and in so doing, is of use to them” (Bok, pg. 2). However, as the article progresses it argues that secrecy is a fundamental element of both society and personal identity; “it is not inconceivable that the end result of the shift to the third imagined society would be chaos” (Bok, pg. 3). Bok argues both in favor and against varying degrees of secrecy. In defense of secrecy he puts forward four main points: identity, plans, action, and property. Towards the end of the essay Bock indicates his argument against secrecy, as it can cause character malformations as the individual doesn’t receive the appropriate criticism. Finally, he indicates his own personal approach that includes a hybrid formation of truthfulness and secrecy.
To some extent it’s evident that Bok is utilizing the four hypothetical societies as not merely a thought experiment, but as a means of examining the extent that each of the hypothetical societies represents an element of our own
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