On the immorality of threatening

Ratio 24 (3):229-242 (2011)
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Abstract

A plausible explanation of the wrongfulness of threatening, advanced most explicitly by Mitchell Berman, is that the wrongfulness of threatening derives from the wrongfulness of the act threatened. This essay argues that this explanation is inadequate. We can learn something important about the wrongfulness of threatening (with implications for thinking about coercion) by comparing credible threats to some other claims of impending harm. A credible bluff threat to do harm is likely to be more and differently wrongful than making intentionally false warnings about other sources of harm. This essay surveys some examples to secure this point, shows that Berman's moralized account of their wrongfulness is wanting, and offers the outline of an approach better suited to explain the wrongfulness of threatening.1

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Scott Anderson
University of British Columbia

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