Overprotection, Surveillance, and the Development of Virtue
By: David Matheson
The overarching thesis of this paper is that the surveillance society risks undermining the ability of its citizens to develop moral virtues for the same sort of reason that overprotective parenting can impair the moral development of children. In Section 1, I review the psychological evidence linking overprotective parenting of a certain sort to impaired moral development in children. In Sections 2 and 3 I go on to offer an explanation of this link: the overprotection carries with it an overt, disaffective excess of surveillance that vitiates a plausible condition on the development of virtues derived from Aristotle. I conclude in Section 4 by pointing out that the networked monitoring systems that pervade the surveillance society carry with them a similar kind of surveillance, which makes that society’s citizens as unlikely to meet the development condition as the overprotected children.