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What’s Wrong with Motive Manipulation?

by Eric M. Cave
Ethical Theory and Moral Practice ()

Abstract

Consider manipulation in which one agent, avoiding force, threat, or fraud mobilizes some non-concern motive of another so as to induce this other to behave or move differently than she would otherwise have behaved or moved, given her circumstances and her initial ranking of concerns. As an instance, imagine that I get us to miss the opening of a play that I have grudgingly agreed to attend by engaging your sublimated compulsive tendency to check the stove when we are halfway to the theatre. Such motive manipulation is, I take it, widely regarded as morally worrisome. If it really is morally worrisome, then we should be able to explain adequately why it is so. But existing condemnations of manipulation come up short in this regard. In this paper, I develop and defend a more plausible account of the moral status of this phenomenon.

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