Comment – Himma and ISBF (Ross’s abstract)

In reading Himma’s article I find the waffling back and forth between legality, morality and rights dizzying. Granted he has a J.D. degree along with his Ph.D., but the philosophical arguments he makes seem to orbit tightly around definitions and semantics. As much a fan as I am of clarity of definitions, the argument is not served well by spending all of the time on one portion of the definition, as he spends on “information”.

As we discussed in class last week, had he delved deeper into “free” and “should”, it may have provided a more balanced insight to his point. However, I’m afraid he may have just come full circle had he done that. I appreciated the analogy from class: “Free like air, not free like beer” and Mark’s point in discussing “should” versus “must” or even “wants”. Nonetheless, the argument is as published. So be it.

There are interesting statements about moral rights that could act as springboards for further discussion. If you bring moral rights we think of as basic today (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, for instance), and then realize that these rights had not been canonized and enforced in this way before the founding of this country, then you can discuss extending other moral rights, along with what should and should not be regulated. His points concerning public safety of certain kinds of information (weaponized West Nile virus, anyone?) give me pause. If information should be free, can all members of the commons be trusted to have the benefit of the other members of the commons at heart?

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