Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 21 (4):851-868 (2018)

Carla Bagnoli
University of Modena
This paper argues that to understand the varieties of wrongs done in coercion, we should examine the dynamic normative relation that the coercer establishes with the coerced. The case rests on a critical examination of coercion by threat, which is proved irreducible to psychological inducement by overwhelming motives, obstruction of agency by impaired consent or deprivation of genuine choice. In contrast to physical coercion, coercion by threat requires the coercee’s participation in deliberation to succeed. For this kind of coercion to be successful, there must be a normative relation established by the coercer and the coercee, in which they recognize each other as rational agents. In such cases, the coercee is wronged in the exercise of her deliberative powers. As a consequence, this form of coercion does not cancel the coercee’s moral responsibility for coerced action. Reclaiming the coercee’s responsibility for action under threat does not diminish the visibility and gravity of the coercer’s wrongdoing. On the contrary, it allows us to capture some features of the coercive relation that otherwise remain unfocused and thus identify the distinctive ways in which the coercee is wronged.
Keywords responsibility  coercion  threat  Robert Nozick  Onora O'Neill  Harry Frankfurt
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DOI 10.1007/s10677-018-9904-8
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