Events / Department of Philosophy Seybert Lectures: Anita Allen, Lecture 1

Department of Philosophy Seybert Lectures: Anita Allen, Lecture 1

April 11, 2019
5:00 PM - 6:30 PM

Anita Allen
Department of Philosophy
University of Pennsylvania


Location: ARCH Building, Room 208 (3601 Locust Walk)


Personality, Privacy, and the Standing of Art


Which is more important, privacy or art? Personality or commerce?  The answer the law gives is clear: professional art and commerce trump privacy and personality. Arne Svenson is a fine arts photographer exhibiting widely in the US and in Europe. Svenson used a telephoto lens to photograph the people living near him in the Zinc Building in Tribeca. The Zinc Building has a largely glass facade, and each apartment has large windows. Hiding in the shadows of his residence, for about a year Svenson photographed Zinc Building residents without their knowledge. He eventually selected some of the pictures he shot for display. His show “The Neighbors” opened in 2013 at the Julie Saul Gallery in New York. Outraged neighbors sued Svenson for invasion of privacy, but Svenson won. Do privacy values count for so little?  Scottish-born painter Peter Doig was accused of wrongfully denying the authenticity of a painting he insisted he did not paint, to the financial detriment of the work’s.  Doig won the case against him. While victorious, Doig complained that justice was “long overdue” and that the issue that “a living artist has to defend the authorship of his own work should never have come to pass.” There is a moral argument from the importance of dignity and inviolate personality that Doig is correct. Yet, other arguments press in another direction. Don’t market values matter, too?


Anita L. Allen is Vice Provost for Faculty and the Henry R. Silverman Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania.  She is also Chair of Provost’s Arts Advisory Council. A graduate of Harvard Law School with a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Michigan, Allen is an expert on privacy and data protection law and ethics. She is President of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association (2018-19).  An elected  member of the American Law Institute and the National Academy of Medicine, and served under President Obama as a member of his National Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. Allen also has served on numerous US editorial, advisory, and non-profit boards including the Association of American Law Schools, the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics, the Hastings Center, Planned Parenthood and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law.  She served for two years on the IRB of the NIH Precision Medicine Initiative and the board of directors of the former WCG Foundation.  In June 2014, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington D.C. for her pioneering privacy scholarship and advocacy. She has been recognized by the Alaine Locke Society and the Collegium of Black Women Philosophers.  Allen is co-author of Privacy Law and Society (2016), the most comprehensive textbook in the field.  Allen’s other books about data protection, values and contemporary life include, Unpopular Privacy: What Must We Hide (2011); The New Ethics: A Guided Tour of the 21st Century Moral Landscape (2004), Why Privacy Isn’t Everything (2003) and Uneasy Access Privacy for Women in a Free Society (1988). Allen, who has written more than a 100 scholarly articles, has also contributed and been featured in popular magazines and blogs, including “The Stone” and “What It’s Like to be a Philosopher,” and appeared on numerous television and radio programs, and lectured on privacy in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.