Moral Coercion

Philosophers’ Imprint, Vol. 14(11), pp. 1-18, 2014

18 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2017 Last revised: 27 Nov 2017

See all articles by Saba Bazargan-Forward

Saba Bazargan-Forward

UC San Diego; University of San Diego School of Law

Date Written: May 1, 2014


The practices of using hostages to obtain concessions and using human shields to deter aggression share an important characteristic which warrants a univocal reference to both sorts of conduct: they both involve manipulating our commitment to morality, as a means to achieving wrongful ends. I call this type of conduct “moral coercion”. In this paper I a) present an account of moral coercion by linking it to coercion more generally, b) determine whether and to what degree the coerced agent is liable for the harms resulting from acceding to moral coercion, and c) investigate factors relevant to determining whether we ought to accede to moral coercion. In so doing, I provide grounds for the intuition that we “allow evil to succeed” when we accede to moral coercion.

Keywords: Coercion, Moral Coercion, Duress, Hostages, Blackmail, Paradox of Blackmail, Extortion, Human Shields

Suggested Citation

Bazargan-Forward, Saba, Moral Coercion (May 1, 2014). Philosophers’ Imprint, Vol. 14(11), pp. 1-18, 2014, Available at SSRN:

Saba Bazargan-Forward (Contact Author)

UC San Diego ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0119
United States


University of San Diego School of Law ( email )

5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
United States

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