instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Another crack at coercion

Having read the comments on my post below and given it some more thought, let me propose this way of categorizing coercion:
  • Acts ordered toward getting another person to desire something
    • Persuasion: operates in a way that cooperates with the person's inclinations
      • Argument: operates by proposing a reasonable re-evaluation of the competing desires
      • Bribery: operates by introducing positive, otherwise unrelated consequences of desiring the thing
      • Etc.
    • Coercion: operates in a way that conflicts with the person's inclinations
      • Coerceion of the intellect: operates by introducing negative, otherwise unrelated consequences of not desiring the thing
        • Moral coercion of the intellect: operates by introducing only those consequences the actor has the right and authority to introduce
        • Immoral coercion of the intellect: operates by introducing consequences the actor lacks the right or authority to introduce
      • Coercion of the will: operates by interfering with the operation of and relationship between the person's intellect and will
        • Brainwashing: operates by suppressing the operation of the person's intellect
        • Breaking the will: operates by suppressing the operation of the person's will
    • Etc.
The live question, as I see it, is distinguishing between what I've called "moral coercion of the intellect" and "immoral coercion of the inellect." (All coercion of the will is immoral, and persuasion is a different discussion.)

Before the above is dismissed as simply pushing the problem off to deciding what rights and authority the actor has, let me suggest that this is exactly what we want to do. The difference between moral and immoral coercion has to lie in something added to the generic notion of coercion; my thought is to add the rights and authority of the actor. That he is acting to get another person to desire something in a way that conflicts with the person's inclinations is no longer the focus. Rather, that becomes the intent of the act, and we can focus on the object purely in terms of his right to act and his authority over the other person. If he lacks the right or authority to perform the act, then it is immoral. If not, then intent and circumstances will determine its morality.

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