Manipulative Actions: A Conceptual and Moral Analysis

American Philosophical Quarterly 33 (1):43 - 55 (1996)
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Abstract
Manipulative actions come in a bewildering variety of forms: direct and indirect deception, playing on emotions, tempting, inciting, and so on. It is not obvious what feature all these actions share in virtue of which they are all of the same kind and in virtue of which they are all morally wrong. This article argues that all manipulative actions are cases in which the manipulator attempts to lead the victim astray by trying to get her to have emotions, beliefs, or desires that, as the manipulator sees it, are not ideal for the victim. To attempt to lead a person astray in this way is to fail to respect the moral and rational agency of the victim. This analysis captures the fact that actions of many kinds--and with many different psychological effects--can be manipulative, and it tells us what is wrong with acting manipulatively. It also helps distinguish manipulation from non rational persuasion.
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