Acts done as a result of coercion are acts done against one’s desires or against one’s will. Coercion limits a person’s or group’s freedom to act, often by threat of force or other forms of pressure (incentives, rewards, threats of penalty, etc.). To put it another way, when a person is coerced into acting in a particular way the autonomy of that person has been infringed upon.
Often, when a person is found to be the victim of coercion his or her actions are judged differently. The rationale behind this difference is as follows: a person can only be held responsible for his or her actions when the person chooses those actions freely, that is, of his or her own free will. Since a coerced individual does not choose his or her actions freely, the coerced individual cannot be held (fully) responsible for his or her actions.
In some cases, the coerced individual may be completely absolved of responsibility for the acts that he or she committed against his or her will. In others, the coerced person may still be found guilty of wrongdoing to some degree, however limited.
Coercion may be apparent or it may be inconspicuous. Blackmail, for instance, is a case in which the coercive threats at play are apparent. In other cases, coercion may be subtler, occurring undetected by the people whose freedom is being limited.« Back to Glossary Index