Consenting Under Coercion: The Partial Validity Account

Philosophical Quarterly 74 (3):709-731 (2023)
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How is the validity of our consent, and others’ moral permission to act on our consent affected by coercion? Everyone agrees that in cases of two-party coercion—when X coerces Y to do something with or for X—the consent of the coerced is invalid, and the coercer is not permitted to act upon the consent they receive. But coercers and the recipients of consent are not always identical. Sometimes a victim, Y, agrees to do something to, with, or for Z because they are being coerced by X. Recently, several philosophers have argued that consent under third-party coercion can be fully valid. We argue that this view has troubling implications. We develop a novel view of consent in third-party coercion cases, which we call the partial validity account. The core idea is that, under severe coercion, Y’s consent is at most partially valid—it reduces the strength of, but does not completely dissolve, Z’s consent-sensitive duties. We argue that the partial validity account gets the right results in important cases and explains the moral factors at play better than alternative accounts.



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Author Profiles

Patrick Tomlin
University of Warwick
Sameer Bajaj
University of Warwick

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