Coercion and Integrity*

Elinor Mason

in Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199662951
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745195 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies In Normative Ethics

Coercion and Integrity*

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Williams argues that impartial moral theories undermine agents' integrity by making them responsible for allowings as well as doings. This chapter argues that in some cases of allowings, where there is an intervening agent, the agent has been coerced, and so is not fully responsible. An analysis of coercion is provided. 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. It is argued that this approach cannot work and also argued 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. This account is defended and it is shown that it provides an explanation for why agents who are coerced do not act in a fully voluntary way.

Keywords: coercion; integrity; responsibility; voluntariness; negative responsibility; alienation; utilitarianism; reasons responsiveness; Harry Frankfurt; Robert Nozick; Bernard Williams

Chapter.  11271 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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