A Framework for Assessing the Moral Status of Manipulation,

In Christian Coons Michael Weber (ed.), Manipulation. Oxford University Press. pp. 121-134 (2014)

Jennifer Swindell Blumenthal-Barby
Baylor College of Medicine
This paper deals with the ethics of using knowledge about a person’s particular psychological make-up, or about the psychology of judgment and decision-making in general, to shape that person’s decisions and behaviors. Various moral concerns emerge about this practice, but one of the more elusive and underdeveloped concerns is the charge of manipulation. It is this concern that is the focus of this paper. I argue that it is not the case that any of the practices traditionally labeled as “manipulation” are ipso facto morally wrong, nor is it even the case that any of these practices always has a single wrong making feature (e.g., infringement on autonomy) that is always present but may be outweighed by other morally relevant factors and be all things considered ethically permissible or morally right. I argue that the moral status depends on the extent to which the instance of influence (1) threatens or promotes autonomy, (2) has good aims and virtuous overtones or bad ones, and (3) fulfills or fails to fulfill duties, obligations, and expectations that arise out of the relationship between the influencer and influenced. I will explain in detail the moral relevance of these factors, showing why each is necessary, criteria for evaluation each, and demonstrating how they work in specific cases.
Keywords manipulation
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