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Coercion

Jones, Thomas David Morris (1987) Coercion. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

In difficult times, political, social or economic, it is usually the case that opportunities for politicians, bureaucrats and men of power to exploit their fellow men and to threaten their liberties increase. No apology, therefore, is required to justify a re-examination of the nature of coercion, and the moral grounds, if any, for its justification. These two concerns constitute the scope of this thesis. A number of approaches are used to examine the concept of coercion and issues relating to it. These include conceptual analysis, a historical and comparative survey and evaluation of selected relevant idealist theories of freedom, a meta-ethical analysis of the logical structure of moral judgements and the origin and justification of moral principles, and a normative analysis of the bases upon which coercion might be justified in particular cases in the light of established and agreed basic moral principles. Philosophizing, which is not just analytic but prescriptive too, should not be limited to metaphyusical reasoning but grounded firmly in the empirical. The first two chapters comprise a linguistic analysis of the concept of coercion. In Chapter 1 R.F. Nozick's excessively refined concept of coercion is supplemented by the notion of coercion posited in this thesis. Whereas Nozick intentionally limits the notion of coercion to a reactive relation between two individuals thereby stressing the cause of individual liberty, it is proposed in this thesis that institutions representing the collective will of individuals may also properly be regarded as agents capable of coercing and being coerced. Additionally, it is proposed that coercion be not confined to coercion by threat, as Nozick supposes, where the individual is left with a choice of sorts, but also include coercion by irresistible physical and/or psychological force which leaves little if any choice to the victim at all. In Chapter 2 a variety of concepts relating to coercion in the context of getting a person to do or not to do something or other are analysed, and the conditions necessary for the two kinds of coercion suggested in this thesis are stipulated: coercion by threat and coercion by irrestible force. In Chapter 3 the notion of justification is introduced; the notion of coercion as the antithesis of freedom is examined; the assumed presumption in favour of freedom, which requires that coercion be justified, is explained; and negative, positive/idealist and commonsensical interpretations of the notion of social freedom are analysed. The relation of coercion to free will is noted and free will in the form of personal freedom of choice, assuming men may responsibly and dutifully choose to do things that their desires may not necessarily prompt or cause them to do, is recognised as a necessary condition in both agents in a coercive relationship. But the metaphysics of free will is not explored in detail. In Chapter 4 selected idealist theories of freedom principally from Rousseau, Hegel and Marx are compared and evaluated in the context of what might appear to be the paradoxical claim that individuals may be coerced to be free. An analysis of Christian or other theological or divine metaphysical theories as instruments of coercion in this context is noted but is not pursued in detail. The notion of personal autonomy is considered and it is suggested that on all counts, including Kantian and existentialist views of autonomy, it presents a logical barrier or limit to the extent to which the assertion may be made that a person can be forced to be free. In chapter 5 a variety of suppositions or claims of what coercion might do are eliminated on empirical and/or logical grounds, and it is argued that individuals cannot be successfully coerced to know, understand, believe, love or be moral, though it is conceded that coercive interference might be conducive to the development of such ends. Additionally, the logical possiblity of a person being able to coerce himself is questioned.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Humanities > Philosophy
Supervisor's Name: Supervisor, not known
Date of Award: 1987
Depositing User: Elaine Ballantyne
Unique ID: glathesis:1987-1678
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 23 Mar 2010
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:44
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/1678

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