Are there ethical frameworks in which manipulation is acceptable? Knowing that we are being raised and conditioned to accept an ethical framework since early childhood is it fair to say that all ethical frameworks are forms of manipulation?

References to books and authors are greatly appreciated.

"There are two hundred million idiots, manipulated by a million intelligent men." Pablo Escobar

  • Utilitarianism, indeed, can allow manipulation. Another answer depends on what is manipulation. – rus9384 Sep 10 '18 at 15:37
  • Ethical frameworks are not animate and so cannot be manipulation. A wrench is not manipulation, though it could be used as a means of manipulation. Can people use ethics to manipulate other people? Sure. They can use nearly anything to do that. – user34017 Sep 10 '18 at 15:38
  • You need to be more clear on what you mean by "manipulation", also. Part of raising my child was getting him involved in some things. Does that count as manipulation? – David Thornley Sep 10 '18 at 18:01

Consider the following definition of "psychological manipulation" from Wikipedia:

Psychological manipulation is a type of social influence that aims to change the behavior or perception of others through abusive, deceptive, or underhanded tactics. By advancing the interests of the manipulator, often at another's expense, such methods could be considered exploitative, abusive, devious, and deceptive.

Note that the ethical problem is not with the manipulation itself, but with the reasons for the manipulation. Was the manipulation done through "abusive, deceptive, or underhanded tactics"?

A positive form of manipulation might better be called "social influence". The same article describes that:

Social influence is not necessarily negative. For example, people such as friends, family and doctors, can try to persuade to change clearly unhelpful habits and behaviors. Social influence is generally perceived to be harmless when it respects the right of the influenced to accept or reject it, and is not unduly coercive. Depending on the context and motivations, social influence may constitute underhanded manipulation.

Although "underhanded manipulation" exists, it is possible for social influence, perhaps interpreted generically as manipulation, to be "harmless".

One could view ethics as a form of manipulation or social influence. That in itself should not make ethics unethical simply because it is influential. Influence need not use "abusive, deceptive, or underhanded tactics".


Wikipedia, "Psychological manipulation" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_manipulation

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