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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-S007-2
Version: v2,  Published online: 2020
Retrieved September 27, 2020, from

Article Summary

Coercion is the use of force or threats to control a person’s actions. As such, it is different from persuasion and manipulation, it is allegedly an integral part of the law and the state, and it vitiates consent and exculpates wrongdoing. If someone is coerced into consenting to sex or to a medical procedure, their consent will be invalid (see Consent; Autonomy); and if someone is coerced into damaging another person’s property, they will normally not be blameworthy, or at least less so (see Responsibility; Praise and blame; Crime and punishment).

But coercion raises several difficult questions. (1) What types of coercion are there? (2) Are force and threats the only means of coercion? (3) Does conduct have to be morally illegitimate in order to qualify as coercion? (4) Must the attempt to change a person’s behaviour actually succeed? (5) Is there a single unified concept of coercion across different contexts or are there many irreducibly different concepts?

To a large extent, the philosophical discussion of these questions can be traced back to Robert Nozick’s (see Robert Nozick) 1969 article ‘Coercion’, which has remained the most important modern contribution to the topic. However, the twenty-first-century discussion has also transcended Nozick’s general category of coercion to some extent and started to focus increasingly on more specific ethical and political challenges.

Citing this article:
Kiener, Maximilian. Coercion, 2020, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-S007-2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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