The Possibility of Choice: Three Accounts of the Problem with Coercion

Philosophers' Imprint 11 (2011)
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Abstract

There is a strong moral presumption against the use of coercion, and those who are coerced seem to be less responsible for the actions they were coerced to perform. Both these considerations seem to reflect the effect of coercion on the victim’s choice. This paper examines three ways of understanding this effect. First, I argue against understanding victims as unable to engage in genuine action. Next, I consider the suggestion that victims are unable to consent to participate in the coercer’s plan. Although this suggestion is promising, I argue that the inability to consent reflects a more basic problem. Victims are unable to exercise what I call ‘normative authority’: they are unable to make discretionary changes in the permissions and obligations that they and others have. This final account yields a compelling understanding of why coercion is impermissible when it is and reveals a unique way in which impermissible coercion affects the responsibility of victims

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Japa Pallikkathayil
University of Pittsburgh

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