Coercion and Integrity

In Mark Timmons (ed.), Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics: Volume 2. Oxford University Press (2012)

Abstract

Williams argues that impartial moral theories undermine agents’ integrity by making them responsible for allowings as well as doings. I argue that in some cases of allowings, where there is an intervening agent, the agent has been coerced, and so is not fully responsible. I provide an analysis of coercion. Whether an agent is coerced depends on various things (the coercer must provide strong reasons, and the coercer must have a mens rea), and crucially, the coercee’s action is rendered less than fully voluntary by the coercion. The attack on voluntariness is usually explained by limiting coercion to threats rather than offers. I argue that this approach cannot work. Instead I argue that non-voluntariness (and thus coercion) must be understood in terms of the subjective state of the victim. It is a necessary condition of coercion that the coercee actually suffers alienation from her own actions as a result of domination by the coercer. I defend this account and show that it provides an explanation for why agents who are coerced do not act in a fully voluntary way.

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Citations of this work

Autonomy, Rationality, and Contemporary Bioethics.Jonathan Pugh - 2020 - Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
The moral irrelevance of moral coercion.Helen Frowe - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178 (11):3465-3482.

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