Consent Under Pressure: The Puzzle of Third Party Coercion

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 17 (1):113-127 (2014)
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Abstract

Coercion by the recipient of consent renders that consent invalid. But what about when the coercive force comes from a third party, not from the person to whom consent would be proffered? In this paper I analyze how threats from a third party affect consent. I argue that, as with other cases of coercion, we should distinguish threats that render consent invalid from threats whose force is too weak to invalidate consent and threats that are legitimate. Illegitimate controlling third party threats render consent invalid just as they do in two party cases. However, knowing that the consent is invalid is not sufficient to tell the recipient of consent what she may or should do. I argue that when presented with a token of consent from someone whom she thinks is experiencing an illegitimate controlling threat, the recipient may act on that token if and only if doing so represents a reasonable joint decision for her and the victim of coercion. The appropriate action for someone faced with third party coercion therefore depends on the other options open to her and those open to the victim of coercion

Author's Profile

Joseph Millum
University of St. Andrews

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