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Can someone force or manipulate another person to do something - say opening a can of beans (I don't mean physically forcing a body, coercive agreement to something, anything like that - and it's not an action that must involve consent, anymore than you must get someone to explicitly agree to do anything you ask of them) - without the former believing that they are (or even knowing that there is a can of beans), nor wanting to, if it is far more reasonable that there is no coercion nor suggestion it will be used? i.e. does an actor need some kind of epistemic state - or at least desire - to use force or manipulation, if they are doing so?

When is a rational and reasonable person - a reasonably virtuous epistemic agent say - responsible for accidentally coercing someone?

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    How do you define coercion in this context? Is refusing to pay until someone redoes a job to your satisfaction coercion? Is refusing to speak to someone until they apologize coercion? Is threatening to leave your spouse if they don't stop seeing an old friend of the opposite sex coercion? Jul 7, 2023 at 18:58
  • that's a fair comment @DavidGudeman i would suggest that these are all mildly coercive, even if some "coercion" is justified (rather than not coercive)
    – user66697
    Jul 7, 2023 at 19:00
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    "Intention (cetana) I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect" - Buddha, Anguttara Nikaya 6.63. So there is what a person knows about their own intentions, & there is what others can deduce about them.
    – CriglCragl
    Jul 7, 2023 at 19:02
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    A person who dissociates can undertake action without forming conscious memories of their actions taken while in the dissociative trance state. A warrior in mortal combat or athlete in The Zone may perform at a peak level often with knowledge of the activity but amnesia concerning the details. Even a rational, reasonable person can do things that unintentionally trigger residual trauma or dissociative states. A secret, not known to many psychologists, is that the norms of society or of their profession can evoke pain in persons who learned to suffer in the pattern(s) of social norms. Jul 8, 2023 at 1:03
  • i nearly but not quite get what you might mean @SystemTheory if you are unable to affirm that you are acting freely, then in some important way/s you are not. perhaps all it means not to is that you take this side over that, we are all so riven by alienating forces
    – user66697
    Jul 8, 2023 at 19:53

2 Answers 2

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The answer is yes, a person can coerce without characterizing it to themselves as it being coercion, and this is because a person can characterize a situation radically different from how others characterize it.

Let's do a hypothetical. Let's say person A and person B are in a relationship. A believes after B acts, that B is treating A grossly unfairly, but B believes that they are acting entirely fairly. B responds by seizing something of value to A under the belief that A owes B for mistreatment, despite the fact that A does not agree. A furthermore says that B can have the seizure back as long as B apologizes for the mistreatment. A and B may agree that if someone is mistreated, they are both entitled to secure an object of value and then an apology to have the object returned. So, from A's perspective, seizure and apology is warranted, but from B's perspective, they are not. Thus, A can label the events as 'restorative justice' whereas B can label the events 'an act of coercion'. And neither party is being irrational in the sense of the application of their logic, but rather disagree on the fundamental proposition of whether or not the initial act was 'mistreatment'.

Let us now say that B caves and gives an apology but protests it is an act of coercion. Now, if it happens that this matter is brought before a judge who is an arbitrator of facts on behalf of society, if the judge finds that A's characterization as 'mistreatment' is a gross distortion, then A has coerced B while believing they have not. The judge then may find that since A has conceded to the act of demanding the apology, A is responsible for coercion which might be seen as accidental in the sense it was unintended by A.

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  • in what was a "gross distortion" reasonable? if you think all morality and responsibility is relative, at least to a court room, then fine
    – user66697
    Jul 7, 2023 at 18:57
  • Two reasonable people may characterize an event in entirely distinct ways reasonably. The gross distortion may arise out of a difference in presumption. Reason is the act of constructing logical consequence, but it is done somewhat arbitrarily to the premises to which it is applied.
    – J D
    Jul 7, 2023 at 19:13
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    You probably should make an effort to understand conceptualism to understand the example fully.
    – J D
    Jul 7, 2023 at 19:13
  • metaphysics? like i said, if what classes as reasonable belief is context dependent, then sure
    – user66697
    Jul 7, 2023 at 19:19
  • Might be a shock for you, but all belief is context dependent.
    – J D
    Jul 7, 2023 at 19:22
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Think of a situation where someone is making you feel suicidal. It's rarely reasonable to suppose you will kill yourself, and they may not ever want you to, but you may still be responsible for their suicide, if they go through with it.

You force them to feel a certain way, one which increases the likelihood of suicide, just as you might their coercion. If that is deliberate/known etc., then you are arguably responsible: extrinsic guilty mind.

But yeah, epistemic states (Which?) are surely usually necessary for "moral responsibility."

the second condition [for moral reasonability] prompts us to ask “was this person aware of what she was doing (of its consequences, moral significance, etc.)?”

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-responsibility-epistemic/

Whether or not something is "coercive" just because I think or say it is.

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