Eavesdropping is a form of human communication in which the information gained is stolen. It encompasses cheating to get unfair advantage, espionage to uncover secrets, and supervision to maintain power. John Locke considers the biological drive behind this behaviour as well as its social implications and consequences across history and cultures.
In this entertaining study, Locke examines the ways in which privacy has changed over the course of history. Putting the Facebook generation in perspective, he contends that a lack of privacy made our distant ancestors feel secure "because they could see each other at all times" (as is the case with animals and birds). As societies became more sedentary, we built houses, but privacy within was also limited. At times, the church urged congregants to watch one another for wickedness, and information gleaned was used at trial. As our fellow humans became increasingly hidden, gossip and the "busy body" achieved social prominence. Snooping became frowned upon and, by 1601, using ill-gotten information for blackmail was a criminal act in England. Locke suggests that our love of stories is based on a less personal sort of eavesdropping: not only do we empathize with other people but we seek to refine our knowledge of the minds of others. As Locke has proven with his book, taking a closer look at the ordinary can bring surprising insights. (Aug.) � Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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Oxford University Press, Incorporated
July 29, 2010
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