To coerce or not to coerce, that is the question

Let's say that I've made up my mind to do X, for my own reasons. Ignorant of my decision, Scott then threatens to harm me severely if I don't do X. I subsequently do X. Have I been coerced?

Bonus question: how does the answer to this question bear on the implications of the non-aggression principle?

(Thanks to Harry Frankfurt for the thought experiment.)

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Mr. Macker: I doubt Searle

Mr. Macker:

I doubt Searle is as out of his depth as you suggest even as you were correct to chide me in my rhetoric about Dennett. No, my borrowed joke about "Consciousness Explained" was not original, but was an oblique way of pointing to the very real problem I and others have about what Dennett appears to be satisfied with as an explanation of consciousness. Without questioning whether the book is worth reading, I'll simply note that you agree with me that it does not live up to it's title's promise.

I acknowledge Searle's inference from multiple to universal applicability is arguably invalid. (Note that the part you bolded did say "would seem" and not "would.") I take his point, however, to be that some configuration of the molecules in his wall might, in fact, have the syntactic structure to satisfy that formal condition of computation or, more importantly, always in principle could be so described. You appear to implicitly acknowledge this. Well, part of the problem, in my opinion, of the strong AI model is the way it appears or desires to generate semantic content from syntactic structures alone but, as with this ascribing process, always depends on some preexisting semantics to do so, i.e., ascribing (a semantic process). The heart would be pumping blood whether we ascribed the function of pumping to it or not. Can we say the same thing of a brain 'explained' in terms of computability, etc.?

By the way, the longstanding debate between Dennett and Searle probably goes back even earlier to difference in philosophical perspectives between their respective mentors at Oxford -- Dennett having studied under Gilbert Ryle and Searle under J.L. Austin and, I believe, Strawson. Not relevant, perhaps, but an interesting historical tidbit.

Matt, Let's re-cap: - I gave

Matt,

Let's re-cap:

- I gave a definition of coercion: any action which (unilaterally) removes another person’s right to disassociate.

- You claimed that it would be coercive (as defined above) for a man to buy up all the property around your house and then refuse to let you cross his property.

- I disagreed, and have been attempting to show why.

Now back to your latest post:

_______________________________________________

I have not agreed to interact. The other guy never consulted me before buying up all the land around my house and then refusing to let me leave.

You two have not interacted yet; he is on his land, you are on yours. It is your desire to cross his land which begins the interaction question. His refusal is simply the invocation of his right of disassociation.

I also don’t understand the distinction you’re trying to make between exit and disassociation – I’m using them synonymously here.

Perhaps this is the crux of the problem. Your exit is accomplished by interacting (i.e., associating) with the other guy. You are using opposite concepts as synonyms.

(3) I don’t understand why this is relevant. If anything it highlights the circularity - “negative freedom” is defined entirely by the absence of coercion, so if your definition of coercion is the violation of negative liberty…

I agree they are equivalent, but we've already covered the coercion definition, hence I'm not making any circular justification. What I am trying to do is show where you have gone astray with the enclosed property issue. You are claiming the "right to exit" (a positive right) is supported by my definition of coercion (a negative right). I'm not sure how much more obvious I can make the conflict for you.

(4) I dunno, how much does it matter?

It matters because your enclosure example is obfuscated by the notion of a single owner, and by the lack of prior contracts. If one of your neighbors can forbid you from trespassing (i.e., invoking disassocation), then so can two, or three, or all of the owners around your property. By using one owner you smuggle in a sense of malice which confuses the issue.

On the subject of land

On the subject of land enclosure. I wrote an article titled, Did John Locke Model Property Rights Correctly that I would appreciate some criticism on.

Cornelius, I think we might

Cornelius,

I think we might do better to backtrack a bit and keep "rights" out of the discussion at first and only introduce them later; IMO this puts cart and horse in the right order.

"You two have not interacted yet; he is on his land, you are on yours. It is your desire to cross his land which begins the interaction question. His refusal is simply the invocation of his right of disassociation."

If I walk up to the edge of his property and shout "I'd like to cross here to go to the store" and he shouts back "try it and I'll shoot you", we obviously have interacted and the conflict is established. It takes two to create a conflict, and so far as I can see we have no non-arbitrary reason to ignore one half of it: I have a desire to move freely to places other than the patch of land I own, and the owner of the land around me has a desire that I not do that.

Whose desire should trump whose? This is the problem rights arise to solve. In cases where effective (exogenous) enforcement exists and transaction costs are negligable, it works to assign tradeable rights over respective domains and let willingness-to-pay decide the optimal resolution. But let's say there isn't any such enforcement; it's a wild-west situation where rights aren't clearly delineated. If Brian builds a barbed wire fence at a radius of 100 meters away from my house and threatens to shoot me if I try to leave that area, he's pretty obviously coercing me; I previously could have ventured away from that patch of land and now I can't. So what makes it noncoercive if his behaviour is backed by some external rights-enforcing organization?

(Just for the record, if it's not obvious by now, I don't see any inherent moral significance in the positive/negative liberty distinction.)

"If one of your neighbors can forbid you from trespassing (i.e., invoking disassocation), then so can two, or three, or all of the owners around your property. By using one owner you smuggle in a sense of malice which confuses the issue."

If this is a problem, then it's a problem for more than just the argument I'm making: "If one man can steal from me then so can two, or three, or all of the other people in my society (i.e. by voting to tax me). By using one person you smuggle in a sense of malice which confuses the issue." You sure you want to stick to that complaint?

Whose desire should trump

Whose desire should trump whose?

Irrelevant. The issue we were discussing is which desire would be coercive. Given the definition above, the answer is clear. I'm done trying to hand-hold you through simple reasoning.

I think John Locke came up

I think John Locke came up with this example (or one very much like it) before Harry Frankfurt did. Locke uses it to distinguish the concept "free" from the concept "voluntary." In his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Locke writes:

"Suppose a man be carried, whilst fast asleep, into a room where is a person he longs to see and speak with; and be there locked fast in, beyond his power to get out: he awakes, and is glad to find himself in so desirable company, which he stays willingly in, i.e., prefers his stay to going away. I ask, is not this stay voluntary? I think nobody will doubt it: and yet, being locked fast in, it is evident he is not at liberty not to stay, he has not freedom to be gone."

Rod, Thanks, good find.

Rod,

Thanks, good find.

Cornelius,

Unfortunate that you chose to respond to the rhetorical question rather than the real one further down. Your definition turns entirely on how we define "right" (particularly with reference to what rights do and what they're for), and it seems to me that if you dismiss that issue as irrelevant then your definition hasn't got a foundation.