PEA Soup is pleased to host this discussion on Sophie Gibert’s “The Wrong of Wrongful Manipulation”, recently published in Philosophy & Public Affairs, with a critical précis by Massimo Renzo.

You can find the article through open access here: https://doi.org/10.1111/papa.12247.

Over to Massimo:

What makes wrongful manipulation wrong? By far, the most popular answer philosophers have given to this question is that manipulation is wrong, when it is wrong, because it impairs or circumvents our capacity to exercise our practical reasoning. In her excellent paper, Sophie Gibert rejects this widely shared view, offering in its stead an alternative, reductive, account of the wrong of wrongful manipulation. Sophie’s account is reductive in that it dispenses with the idea that there is a distinctive non-moral feature of manipulation upon which the wrongness of manipulation supervenes. Rather, as she puts it, “the wrong of wrongful manipulation is nothing over and above the wrong of infringing other rights” (334). If she is correct, this is a significant result, one that should lead us to rethink the way manipulation is normally discussed in the philosophical debate. Ultimately, I remain unpersuaded, but I found Sophie’s article very stimulating, and I’m delighted to have a chance to discuss it with her and all the Pea-soupers out there.

I’ll start by offering a quick summary of the main arguments in the paper. I will then raise a few questions.

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Summary

Sophie’s target is “the Reasoning View” (her label). Here’s how she formulates the view:

“REASONING VIEW: Wrongful manipulation is wrong because it alters the target’s practical reasoning in a particular way—a way that is specifiable in non-moral terms” (336).

The distinguishing feature of this view, as presented by Sophie, is that it proceeds by identifying a particular way in which certain forms of influence affect our practical reasoning, and then uses this type of influence to ground the wrong of wrongful manipulation. So, for example, it is sometimes argued that we are wrongfully manipulated when someone influences our deliberation by offering us reasons that bypass our capacity for practical reasoning (Sophie calls this the “Non-rational Influence View”) or when someone interferes with our practical reasoning in a way that makes our reasoning worse (the “Quality of Reasoning View”.) On these views, the type of treatment upon which the wrong of manipulation supervenes is explained in non-moral terms. In this sense, Sophie argues, the wrong of wrongful manipulation is basic. The claim that a certain influence bypasses our capacity for practical reasoning, or that it makes our reasoning worse are not themselves moral claims. The wrong of wrongful manipulation is thus basic in the sense that it is not to be explained by appealing to further moral claims. The wrong is explained in non-moral terms.

Why should we reject the Reasoning View? Sophie’s central objection is that the view is overinclusive. The Non-rational Influence View, for example, seems bound to count as instances of wrongful manipulation behaviours that are clearly morally innocent. Wearing perfume on a date, dressing nicely for an interview, or baking cookies for an open house all constitute forms of non-rational influence. And yet, these clearly are not instances of wrongful manipulation.

The Quality of Reasoning View faces similar problems, given that we lack a general obligation not to worsen other people’s practical reasoning. For example, if you and I are conducting a financial negotiation, it’s permissible for me to use tactics like flattering you or pretending that I’m not interested in your offer, if I believe doing so will favour me in the process. Mind games are also permissible in games and sports. If we play poker, I’m allowed to bluff; if we are shooting hoops, some trash talk to get you off your game is permissible. Finally, if we are sitting opposite sides in the courtroom, I’m allowed to choose a charismatic witness over a less effective one, and to ask them questions that will paint them in a favourable light, even if the questions are not directly pertinent for the case. These behaviours are permissible despite the fact that they all involve making your reasoning worse in some respects.

This is not to say that in these contexts anything goes, of course. I’m not allowed to lie about the value of my assets or, say, forge documents, to improve my bargaining position. I’m not allowed to use a hidden card in my sleeve to make you believe I have a royal flush. Finally, while painting my witness in a positive light is a permissible way to attempt to influence jurors, intimidating them isn’t. So now the question is: How can we explain the difference between the cases in which I may permissibly make your reasoning worse and those in which I may not? Since both types of cases include situations in which I attempt to negatively impact your practical deliberation (either by circumventing it or by impairing it), this idea cannot be used to discriminate between them (353). What does then? For Sophie, it’s the fact that in some cases you have independent rights that are violated when I interfere with you in certain ways, whereas in other cases you don’t. For example, you have a right not to be lied to, but not a right that that I don’t flatter you. This explains why my attempt to manipulate you by lying about the value of my assets constitutes a form of wrongful manipulation, whereas my attempt to do so by flattering you isn’t. Similarly, when we play poker, you have a right that I don’t use hidden cards, and when we are in court, you have a right that I don’t intimidate jurors. It’s the fact that these rights are violated that explains why you are wrongfully manipulated by these conducts.

We thus get to Sophies’s preferred view:

REDUCTIVE VIEW: “Manipulation is wrong if, only if, and because it influences the target’s practical reasoning—though not by providing additional reasons—in a way that infringes one or more of their other rights—specifically, their rights against interference”

The view is reductive, Sophie clarifies, because “it implies that the wrong of wrongful manipulation is nothing over and above the wrong of infringing other rights. On the Reductive View, all wrongfully manipulative acts are wrong in virtue of some other wrong they involve—namely, a rights-infringement. It follows that the wrong of wrongful manipulation is non-basic: it cannot be explained in non-moral terms” (334-5).

Sophie then goes on to answer three possible objections to the Reductive View: the objection that the view fails to vindicate the idea that there is a distinctive wrong of wrongful manipulation; the objection that the view is uninformative (since all the work in determining whether a given behaviours constitutes an instance of wrongful manipulation will be done by the theory that specifies the rights against interference we possess); and the objection that the view is unable to vindicate the idea that manipulation undermines autonomy.

***

Comments:

Here, I will focus on Sophie’s criticism of the Reasoning View and her case for the Reductive View.

1) The ambition of the Reductive View is to provide an account of the wrong of wrongful manipulation without appealing to the idea that manipulation involves interfering with someone’s practical reasoning in the way suggested by the Reasoning View. A good way to test the view is thus to consider cases in which the conditions of the Reductive View are fulfilled but this kind of interference is absent. Consider:

Gossip: You know the identity of my biological father. I don’t. Suppose it is generally agreed in our society that this sort of information ought not to be shared with people, unless they explicitly request it, given how distressing it can be to have it. Still, ever unable to let a good bit of gossip go to waste, you decide to tell me.

Here, by revealing the information, you affect my practical reasoning in a way that infringes one of my rights against interference. The Reductive View would thus have to say that this is an instance of wrongful manipulation. But this seems implausible. While I am certainly wronged by your conduct, intuitively your behaviour does not seem an instance of wrongful manipulation. Why not? What’s missing? It’s tempting to reply that although you have affected my practical reasoning in a way that infringes my rights against interference, you haven’t affected it in the distinctive way required for the behaviour to constitute an instance of manipulation. Manipulation involves an attempt to intentionally (or perhaps recklessly) influence someone’s practical reasoning in order to induce a distinctive kind of failure in their practical reasoning – say, by leading them to act against what they have reasons to do or some such. Gossip is not an instance of manipulation because this component is absent.

2) If I’m right about this, the Reductive View turns out to be overinclusive, which is especially interesting since this is Sophie’s main criticism of the Reasoning View. Let’s now look more closely at her criticism.

As we have seen, Sophie proceeds by considering a number of situations in which someone negatively affects someone else’s practical reasoning in the way described by the Reductive View without this constituting an instance of wrongful manipulation. Examples include wearing perfume on a date, dressing nicely for an interview, choosing attractive salespersons to man a food stand or flattering a competitor in a financial negotiation. Some of these cases are best characterized as instances of non-wrongful manipulation; others don’t seem instances of manipulation to begin with. Regardless, the wrong of manipulation is absent from all of them.

I believe that some versions of the Reasoning View have a natural way to deal with this objection. Before we consider this line of reply, however, it’s worth pausing to spell out exactly where the Reductive View and the Reasoning View come apart. Sophie argues that within the Reasoning View the wrong of wrongful manipulation is basic in the sense that “the features of wrongful manipulation that make it wrong can be defined non-morally, without reference to any other wrong that’s involved” (333). Now, I take it that defenders of the Reasoning View can be assumed to share the standard view of wronging, according to which A wrongs B by ϕ-ing when A violates a directed duty not to ϕ that A has toward B, i.e. a duty that correlates to a claim B has that A does not ϕ. If so, the very notion of wrongful manipulation (i.e. manipulation that wrongs someone) necessarily involves appealing to the idea that someone’s right is being violated. In this respect, it’s potentially misleading to say that “the features of wrongful manipulation that make it wrong can be defined non-morally”. For an instance of manipulation to count as wrongful, according to the Reasoning View, it’s not enough that someone’s practical reasoning is negatively impacted in the way described by the view. It has to be the case that the target has a claim against their practical reasoning be impacted in this way and that this claim is being violated. What sets the Reductive View apart from the Reasoning View is not that the former involves appealing to the idea that someone’s rights are violated and the latter does not, but rather that the former grounds the wrong of wrongful manipulation in the violation of some further rights to non-interference, such as the right that we have not to be lied about the value of someone’s assets in a business transaction or the right that jurors in our trial are not intimidated (as Sophie makes clear on pp. 334-5).

With this in mind, the way in which defenders of the Reasoning View can address the cases discussed by Sophie by pointing out that they involve special practices or conventions in virtue of which the right against having our practical reasoning impacted in certain ways is suspended. This is why we are not wronged by conduct that has that effect on us. Basketball players know – and if they don’t, should know – that a certain amount of trash talk is tolerated on the court and they are expected to plan accordingly in preparing their game. Similarly, negotiators in a business transaction should know that certain types of mind games are tolerated and this is something they ought to consider in conducting their negotiation. So, defenders of the Reasoning View can deal with Sophie’s cases by noticing that although we normally do have a right against having our practical reasoning interfered with in a way that makes our reasoning worse, we lack that right in circumstances that are regulated by particular conventions and social practices. The fact that we lack that right is what explains why we are not wronged in these cases.

This is, of course, a fairly common feature of social life. For example, I have a right that you don’t lie to me, but if you are insincere when you declare that you are unwilling to consider offers lower than £400,000 for an apartment I’m keen to buy, I don’t think you wrong me. It’s understood that in this context, the right to be told the truth does not apply in light of an ongoing practice that regulates this sort of exchange. Given the practice in question, an honest answer to the question of whether you would consider an offer of £380,000 is not to be expected, and I’m not wronged when I’m not offered one. It would be a mistake, though, to conclude from this observation that we lack a general right not to be lied to. What we should conclude is rather that certain practices and conventions carve out exceptions in this general right and its correlative duty. The same is true for the right against having our practical reasoning negatively impacted in the cases discussed by Sophie. It would be a mistake to conclude from those cases that we lack a general right of this sort. What we should conclude is rather that certain practices and conventions carve out exceptions in this right and its correlative duty.

3) Sophie is aware of this sort of move, as she does argue against a version of it. Her focus, however, is on views that attempts to explain the absence of the relevant right by appealing to consent or forfeiture. Sophie’s arguments against these views are to my mind persuasive, but I don’t think they can be successfully extended to cover views that appeal to conventions. Consider, for example, Sophie’s discussion of consent (pp341-3).

Sophie correctly points out that in order to consent to something one needs to:

  1. understand that by acting in certain ways one is consenting to that thing; and
  2. have a sufficiently fine-grained control over what one is consenting to.

Neither condition, however, is satisfied in the cases she offers as counterexamples to the Reasoning View. For example, I’m not wronged by someone who’s trying to entice me to buy a house by baking cookies before the viewing, even if I happen to be unaware of this strategy, and thus I cannot consent to it. And my capacity to control what I’m consenting to in situations like this is very limited. For example, I cannot announce that I do not consent to being influenced by the delicious smell, thereby making it the case that I’m wronged by the estate agent. Whereas in cases of genuine consent, I normally do have this kind of control. For example, I can neutralize the normative implications of raising my hand while someone is asking for volunteers if I clarify that I’m only swatting a fly.

And these are not the only problems for consent-based accounts, Sophie argues. Suppose a plausible story can be offered to explain how, by behaving in certain ways, we thereby consent to having our practical reasoning interfered with in the way described by the Reasoning View. The story must also be able to explain why the behaviour in question waives our right with respect to specific treatments (and not others) and against specific agents (and not others). For example, say that we agree that by going out in public I consent to being non-rationally influenced by the good looks of street vendors to buy their product. Still, I do not consent to being non-rationally influenced to buy their products in other ways – say, by being bullied into it. And if I bump into a potential suitor who is keen to exploit certain insecurities of mine to lure me into agreeing to a romantic getaway, well, I certainly do not consent to that merely by leaving the house! But if it’s by choosing to go that I waive my right against others interfering with my practical reasoning, once I’m out, the right is no longer present, Sophie argues. And if the right is no longer present, we cannot appeal to it to explain why I’m wronged by these behaviours. The right is no longer there to stop bullying salespersons and dodgy suitors. Consent-based accounts are thus insufficiently fine-grained to do the job they are meant to do.

Forfeiture-based accounts are discussed more concisely in the paper, but they raise similar worries, according to Sophie. If we try to explain why my right against having my practical reasoning negatively interfered with (in the ways the Reasoning View indicates) is forfeited in virtue of the fact that I’ve engage in acts of wrongdoing, we will also need to explain why the right in question is forfeited with respect to specific treatments (and not others) and against specific agents (and not others).

I believe that, once suitably understood, the appeal to convention can be used to answer all these objections. To begin with, the way conventions operate is largely independent of how specific individuals understand them to operate. If the convention is that members of my college are permitted to read magazines that have been left in the common room, I am not wronged if another member reads the copy I’ve left there. I’m not wronged by that even if I happen to be unaware of this convention. If someone had a responsibility to alert me to this fact and they didn’t, I might have a complaint against that, of course. But, unlike in the case of consent, the way in which my rights are altered when certain conventions are in place does not depend on the fact that I have an accurate understanding of how the convention operates. Nor do conventions normally depend on us being able to control how the normative landscape changes when they operate. Conventions independently determine which rights are suspended and which are not, and against whom. If the convention is that only members of my college are permitted to read magazines that have been left in the common room, we don’t need to come up with an explanation of why I’m wronged by non-members when they read my copy, or of why I’m wronged by members that use the magazine to wrap their sandwich, rather than to read it. Conventions and practices carve out exceptions in the relevant right by identifying ab initio which agents and behaviours are affected by its suspension and which aren’t.

The same can be said for the cases discussed by Sophie. There’s an ongoing practice among basketball players to trash talk their opponents, among salespersons to use their charm and good looks to entice customers to buy their products, and so on. If this is the way these practices operate, we don’t need a further story to explain why it is not permissible to resort to other forms of interference such as bullying someone into making a purchase or luring them to go on a date. Here too, the relevant conventions and practices carve out exceptions in the relevant right by identifying ab initio which agents and behaviours are affected by its suspension and which aren’t.

4) Sophie acknowledges that appealing to convention might “go some distance toward explaining” the fact that the relevant right is absent in the cases we are interested in (343). However, she quickly dismisses the sort of strategy I’ve outlined above because she thinks that if we are to argue that conventions suspend our right only with respect to certain agents and certain behaviours, we need an explanation of why the convention has precisely that shape. As she puts it, “[t]he objector needs an independently plausible theory which predicts that the boundaries of legitimate influence will be precisely what the Reductive View predicts they will be. This is, at best, a tall order. It does not seem as though we can scrutinize the act, as performed by the individual, and thereby reveal why it shapes the normative landscape in precisely this way, or even describe the way in which it shapes the landscape without reference to moral phenomena. On the Reductive View, there is no such mystery, for there is no global right against reasoning-subverting influence to be given up. The normative landscape is as it is because individuals are only wronged by forms of reasoning-altering influence that infringe their other rights” (358).

Now, if the objection discussed in 1) above and the one discussed in 5) below are sound, the Reductive View does not correctly identify all and only the cases of wrongful manipulation. And if so, we should not want our account of convention to track the verdicts of the Reductive View. But even if I’m wrong about that, I’m not quite sure how to understand Sophie’s point in the quote. Conventions and practices are normally regarded as binding regardless of whether we can provide an accurate explanation of why they have exactly the shape that they do. To be sure, valuable conventions will be supported by adequate justifications. But these justifications normally are not expected to univocally determine a specific set of norms, such that the rights of participants are exactly what they are and could not have been otherwise. Trash talk is accepted in basketball and not, say, in tennis. Practices such as painting jurors in a certain light or dressing formally at job interviews are accepted in the contexts discussed by Sophie. I take it that we can agree that these facts are the product of binding conventions, even if we lack an independent theory capable of predicting why these conventions have precisely the shape they have, and even if we concede that they could have easily had different ones. (A possible world in which trash talk is accepted in tennis and not in basketball certainly doesn’t seem too remote from ours.) A central component of the justification of convention is after all that they serve a valuable coordinative function, thereby enabling participants to successfully pursue their goals. The specific shape that conventions take generally plays a less significant role in their justification. This is why very different practices about how transparent lawyers are required to be in court, or how pushy salespersons are allowed to be in a street market, can work perfectly well in different jurisdictions and social contexts.

If I am right about this, we can agree that the right against having our practical reasoning interfered with is suspended in certain circumstances in light of certain practices and conventions, even if we lack an independent account which predicts why the right is suspended exactly in the way it is.

5) So far, the discussion has focused on the charge of overinclusiveness. I have suggested that the Reductive View suffers from this problem, whereas the Reasoning view does not. I now want to consider the worry that the Reductive view is underinclusive, as well as overinclusive.

To see this, consider Sophie’s example of a business negotiation (352). A number of manipulative strategies are deemed not wrongful during a business negotiation, including flattering the counterpart, overwhelming them with useless information and surrounding them by good looking negotiators they might be especially keen to please.[1] Other strategies, such as revealing embarrassing private information about them or intimidating them through a violent fit of rage, are clearly wrongful. As we have seen, what explains this difference, according to Sophie, is the fact that whereas we have an independent right to privacy and an independent right not to be intimidated, we don’t have a right not to be flattered or not to be surrounded by good looking people. But suppose now that instead of arranging to have conventionally good-looking people in the meeting, your counterpart arranges for someone who bears a striking resemblance to your recently deceased mother to be there. That seems to me an instance of wrongful manipulation. But which further right of yours is being violated here? We don’t have an independent right to not be exposed to people who resemble those who are dear to us. If this is an instance of wrongful manipulation, it’s tempting to think that it’s because it involves playing with your emotions in a way that is meant to negatively interfere with how are able to exercise your practical reasoning during the negotiation process. Of course, we might say you have a right against this particular type of interference, but this will not do, since this right is precisely the right against having one’s practical reasoning negatively interfered with that the Reasoning View appeals to. The Reductive View cannot appeal to that. It has to appeal to some further right in the background. But it’s unclear what that right might be.

We might be tempted to reply that the right in question is the right to not be gratuitously upset. But here my worries are similar to those emerged in discussing Gossip. The violation of this right would certainly explain why you are wronged by being exposed to someone who resembles to your deceased mother. But unless this is done in the service of inducing a distinctive kind of failure in your practical reasoning, intuitively, the wrong you suffer is not the wrong of manipulation.

6) A final, related, point. It is a feature of Sophie’s view that whenever someone is wrongfully manipulated, it is because the target of the manipulation is wronged, insofar as one of their rights is being violated. But I wonder if there are cases in which this is not true. Consider:

Jealous Guy: Yoko and Guy are in an exclusive relationship. Because she has once made Guy jealous by flirting with someone else, Yoko consents to Guy making her jealous, if he wants. Guy flirts with someone else exclusively in order to make Yoko jealous.

Making Yoko jealous seems to me an instance of wrongful manipulation (assuming, as I do here, that doing so serves no good purpose), even if Yoko is not wronged by it. Yoko is not wronged because she has consented to this treatment, and thus she has waived whatever rights normally ground her claim against these treatments. But the fact that Yoko is not wronged does not mean that Guy does not act wrongfully in manipulating her. If there are no good reasons to make Yoko jealous, doing so seems wrong.

This is in line with how consent operates in situations that do not involve manipulation. If you consent to me punching you in the face, you make it the case that I do not wrong you by doing so. But punching you would still be wrongful, in virtue of the fact that it causes harm for no good reason. Now, if Guy’s conduct is wrongful, but Yoko is not wronged by it, how can we explain that? Again, the Reasoning View seems to have a natural answer to this question: Guy’s conduct is wrongful because undermining Yoko’s practical reasoning in certain ways is wrong, even if she lacks a right against it.

Perhaps Sophie might reply here that she is only interested in cases of manipulation that are wrongful in that they wrong someone. If so, her view is simply not meant to cover cases like Jealous Guy. That’s a perfectly acceptable answer, of course. But if it’s true that the Reasoning View provides a unified account that deals both with cases like this and the ones in which someone is wronged, reasons of parsimony and elegance would support it over the Reductive View.

Let me conclude just by reiterating how much I’ve enjoyed thinking about Sophie’s terrific article. I’ve learnt a lot from it and I encourage readers of this blog who haven’t read it yet, to do so. Looking forward to the discussion!

[1] The last one is a recurring example in Sophie’s discussion, though not one she herself uses in the negotiation scenario.

18 Replies to “Sophie Gibert’s “The Wrong of Wrongful Manipulation”. Précis by Massimo Renzo

  1. Thanks to Sophie for a challenging and insightful paper, and to Massimo for his informative precis. As the conclusion of the paper suggests, this is a pressing issue to think about and progress on it is valuable. Below are some questions I had while reading the paper, which touch on different issues from the ones that Massimo raises. For some context to these questions, I am generally sceptical of reductive arguments. They tend to make me think of the Principal Skinner meme (‘Am I out of touch?’) and I worry about how productive reductive arguments can be.

    Here are three questions I had about the argument:

    Conceptual Utility – I took the proposed view to offer a moralised account of interpersonal manipulative interference (e.g. manipulative interference is wrong when it contravenes a background set of rights and duties, akin to similar moves in the coercion literature). While such views seem intuitively plausible (after all, moralised work required moralised concepts), I worry that the moralisation of these sorts of concepts requires us to change how we use them in our everyday thinking. Manipulation would become just one of a variety of ways we can contravene each other’s rights and duties. While this is part of the story of manipulation, it is only one part of how we use these concepts in our everyday reasoning. We tend to also use them to capture a distinctive set of normative considerations (e.g. about autonomy of the will). Does the proposed view take that latter use of the concept off the table, thus requiring us to change how we use the concept more generally?

    Two Senses of Autonomy – An important move in the argument comes in section II.D. where two sense of autonomy are distinguished – autonomy as self-governance and autonomy as non-interference. It is accepted that there may be a connection between these senses, but it is suggested that we ought not to assume such a connection. With these two senses distinguished, the door is open to opting for non-interference and defending the reductive view. I wondered how intuitive this move was to those who don’t reject such a connection and, indeed, believe that we should assume that such a connection exists? Reasons for this assumption abound. For example, one reason may be the prevalence of this sort of assumption as a central theme in liberal political morality, tracing back to the enlightenment. Another reason may be scholarly. As noted at the start of this section, ‘There is nothing more pervasive…’ in the literature on this topic than such an assumption. Adopting it reduces the risk of talking past other potential interlocutors and making sure we are all on the same conceptual page. Given these sorts of considerations, why adopt an alternative assumption?

    Indirect Relations – On a related note, one reason for the alternative assumption could be the belief that any connection between the two senses of autonomy would have to be a direct one, where rights of non-interference simply derive from our favourite theory of self-governance. This seemed to me to be how the diagnosis in this section framed the matter. But I can’t see any reason to think this. The relation between the two senses of autonomy could be multifaceted, contextual, and dynamic – employing a range of different concepts to moderate the interaction between the two senses. For example, there may be contexts where freedom to self-govern grounds rights of non-interference, equality between self-governing citizens generates duties of non-interference, trust that others won’t interfere in our lives fosters robust self-governance, and so on through a variety of moral concepts. Is adopting a more nuanced understanding of the relation between the two senses of autonomy compatible with the assumption made by the reductive view, or does it provide additional reasons to rethink this important assumption?

    Thanks again for the interesting paper!

  2. Many thanks to Massimo for providing a terrific summary of my paper and raising such insightful objections. I’ll briefly respond to each of them here. Thank you also to Kartik Upadhyaya and Susanne Burri for organizing this discussion!

    (1)

    Massimo argues, against my Reductive View, that an agent can alter someone’s practical reasoning in a way that infringes one or more of his non-interference rights while not wrongfully manipulating him. He invokes the following example:

    “Gossip: You know the identity of my biological father. I don’t. Suppose it is generally agreed in our society that this sort of information ought not to be shared with people, unless they explicitly request it, given how distressing it can be to have it. Still, ever unable to let a good bit of gossip go to waste, you decide to tell me.”

    According to Massimo (and I agree), your conduct wrongs me in this case; however, he finds it implausible to say you wrongfully manipulate me. Thus, he concludes, the Reductive View is overinclusive.

    Massimo is tempted to say that what’s missing from Gossip is “an attempt to intentionally (or perhaps recklessly) influence someone’s practical reasoning in order to induce a distinctive kind of failure in their practical reasoning.” Now, the first thing I wish to say is that, as described, the case is missing both components: you do not induce a failure in my practical reasoning, nor do you intend to. Let’s add the former. Suppose that, by sharing this information and thereby causing me distress, you induce a failure in my subsequent practical reasoning about whether to (say) reach out to my biological father. Still, you do not share the information in order to induce this failure.

    Once we stipulate that your influence affects some subsequent piece of my practical reasoning, I am inclined to say that you do wrongfully manipulate me, though you do not mean to. One might have thought that to wrongfully manipulate someone into ϕ-ing one had to intend to do so, or at least intend to make them ϕ. However, there is disagreement about this matter in the literature, with some (e.g., Kate Manne) arguing that manipulation requires no such intentions. Given the role we might want the notion of wrongful manipulation to play in condemning social norms and institutional structures, we might see this aspect of my view as a feature, not a bug.

    Of course, the Reasoning View has the same implication, for it too is silent on whether the agent of manipulation must intend to make her subject reason less well about whether to ϕ (or even intend to make her ϕ at all). This brings me to my second point. It is open to me—as well as to proponents of the Reasoning View—to build requirements on the agent’s intentions into the descriptive content of the notion of wrongful manipulation. In other words, it is open to us to say that something is not manipulative unless it involves some intention or other, even though the wrong of wrongful manipulation is unrelated to the motive. In principle, I am open to this more concessive position, for my central project is about carving along the normative lines. I would then want to say that, in Gossip, you do not manipulate me, even though your act is wrong in exactly the same way that instances of wrongful manipulation are wrong—and in exactly the same way that your act would be wrong if you shared the information to get me to reason better about my subsequent choices. What matters to me is whether we can identify a form of wrongful influence that is distinct from coercion and various other things in virtue of being a wrongful influence on practical reasoning, and whether this form of influence is a basic wrong. I think our concept of manipulation provides some guide to what this category of influence looks like, but I am not wed to thinking all and only these influences should be classified as manipulative.

    To conclude, then, I’m inclined to think the agent’s conduct in Gossip is wrongfully manipulative regardless of intention, provided it affects not just the target’s distress levels, but their practical reasoning. However, I’m open to the more concessive view that the agent’s conduct is not wrongfully manipulative because it is not manipulative. If so, then the Reductive View is overinclusive, but its overinclusivity is very different from the overinclusivity with which I charge the Reasoning View. In the paper, I argue that the Reasoning View is normatively overinclusive, which is to say it gives the wrong normative verdicts by condemning too wide a range of cases as directed wrongings. If the agent’s conduct in Gossip is not wrongfully manipulative, this is because it is not manipulative, though it shares the wrong of wrongful manipulation.

    (2) – (4)

    Massimo contends that proponents of a certain kind of Reasoning View have a natural way to respond to my central objection. In the paper, I argue that Reasoning Views draw the line between wrongful manipulation and legitimate reasoning-altering influence in the wrong place. Not only do these views condemn as wrongfully manipulative conduct that is not pro tanto wrong, but they lack the resources needed to distinguish such conduct from related conduct that is wrongfully manipulative.

    An example will help illustrate the point. In a business negotiation, it does not seem wrongfully manipulative—for it does not seem to pro tanto wrong anyone—to subvert a competitor’s reasoning by flattering them; however, it does seem wrongfully manipulative to subvert their reasoning by breaching their privacy and causing a frenzied emotional state. The Quality of Reasoning View, which says manipulation is wrong when and because it subverts someone’s reasoning—i.e., makes it worse qua reasoning, condemns the flattery case as wrongfully manipulative while lacking the resources to distinguish between it and the case involving a privacy breach.

    According to Massimo, a version of the Quality of Reasoning View that appeals to social convention can avoid this problem. (Any Reasoning View can invoke the conventionalist strategy, but I’ll focus on the Quality of Reasoning View for simplicity’s sake.) The conventionalist version of the Quality of Reasoning View would say that we do have a basic right against having our reasoning subverted, but that this right is suspended in certain circumstances—like business negotiations—due to our social practices or conventions.

    As Massimo points out, the conventionalist strategy avoids certain challenges that face nearby views—specifically, views that appeal to consent or forfeiture as the mechanisms by which our basic right against reasoning-subversion is suspended. However, as I argue in the paper, it faces an explanatory challenge. The view must explain why the suspension of our right against reasoning-subversion has the precise shape that it has. For recall that it is not as though the right against having one’s reasoning subverted is suspended full stop in the context of a business negotiation. Rather, the right against having one’s reasoning subverted via flattery is suspended, while the right against having one’s reasoning subverted via an infringement of an independent privacy right is not. More generally, assuming the Reductive View is extensionally adequate, the right against having one’s reasoning subverted is suspended within a given context in all and only cases where there is no infringement of an independent non-interference right. In other words, the basic right against reasoning-subversion has a carve-out that perfectly tracks an independent order of moral facts.

    Now, there is no reason why a social practice or convention couldn’t have this shape. We can certainly imagine setting up (or finding ourselves with) a practice whereby some right of ours is suspended in all and only cases where some further moral fact does or does not pertain. Such a practice might serve a valuable role in facilitating our coordination. Moreover, I agree with Massimo that “[c]onventions and practices are normally regarded as binding regardless of whether we can provide an accurate explanation of why they have exactly the shape that they do.” Thus, in principle, I agree that “we can [hold] that the right against having our practical reasoning interfered with is suspended in certain circumstances in light of certain practices and conventions, even if we lack an independent account which predicts why the right is suspended exactly in the way it is.” My claim is not that we need to explain the shape of the carve-out to justify its existence; rather, my worry is that, on the conventionalist picture, it is just a kind of quirk—or mysterious accident—that the carve-out perfectly matches the extensional verdicts of the Reductive View.

    Perhaps I should put this as a concern about redundancy rather than explanation. I am open to thinking there is a basic, global right against having one’s reasoning made worse (or having one’s reasoning altered in some other non-morally specifiable way) whose contours are sensitive to social convention in the way Massimo suggests. However, it just doesn’t seem like we need to invoke such a right to explain what’s going wrong in any of the cases of wrongful manipulation. Moreover, there seem to be cases of wrongful manipulation that do not involve the degrading of reasoning. Therefore, it seems to me that once we fix the boundaries of our underlying non-interference rights, we can say everything we want to say about the wrong of manipulation. Crossing the boundaries in a way that subverts reasoning is wrong, and crossing them in a way that does not subvert reasoning is wrong, and subverting reasoning without crossing them is not wrong, but that’s because you do not cross them. This is all there is to say.

    It may be helpful to contrast the case of manipulation with that of deception. Although I do not defend a reductive view of the wrong of wrongful deception in the paper, I do suggest that such a view could account for some of our observations about deception (p. 369). I appeal to a pair of cases from P. Quinn White’s excellent paper, “Honesty and Discretion,” in which a woman named Claudia has been diagnosed with cancer and wishes to keep the matter to herself. In one case, Claudia’s nosy coworker, Nick, has noticed some subtle signs and asks her, bluntly, “Do you have cancer?” Claudia and Nick are not close, and by refusing to answer Nick’s question, Claudia would give away her secret. In the other case, Claudia’s partner, Sally, asks her the same question after observing the same signs. Claudia and Sally, we are to imagine, have an intimate marriage characterized by openness and a commitment to living their lives together. Now, it seems as though Claudia would not wrongfully deceive Nick by responding, falsely, that she does not have cancer, but she would wrongfully deceive Sally were she similarly untruthful. A reductive view, on which the wrong of wrongful deception depends on background rights and duties, could explain this contrast. After all, Nick oversteps his bounds in seeking information about Claudia’s cancer diagnosis, thereby infringing her privacy rights, whereas Sally does not.

    Now, personally, I doubt that the wrong of wrongful deception is reductive. That’s because there are cases in which it seems that we cannot explain the wrong of deception by appealing exclusively to background rights. I discuss one such case in the paper: “Molly wants Tom—a stranger she met at the bar an hour ago—to ask her out. She overhears Tom saying that he wants to ask out Molly’s friend Sue, but that he probably will not, since he thinks Sue does not like him. Molly knows that Tom is mistaken: Sue does like Tom. However, in the hope that Tom will ask her out instead, Molly […] truthfully tells Tom, ‘I hate to break it to you, but Sue has only ever dated really tall guys,’ hoping he will reasonably infer that Sue is not interested, since he is not tall” (367). In this case, Molly seems to wrongfully deceive Tom. However, he has no independent right against Molly that she not reveal accurate information about Sue’s dating history. Thus, if a right of his is infringed, it must be a right against being misled—something that seems like a basic right pertaining to honesty.

    If there were cases like this in the realm of manipulation—cases in which we couldn’t explain the wrong of wrongful manipulation by appealing exclusively to background rights—then I might come to doubt my own Reductive View. Thus, I expect that my ultimate verdict on this matter will come down to an examination of individual cases—either that, or metaethical considerations about the foundations of rights. Of course, it is worth noting that even if we ended up with a conventionalist picture like the one Massimo describes, this would be quite far from anything currently endorsed by proponents of the Reasoning View.

    (5)

    Massimo argues that the Reductive View is underinclusive, for it does not deem the agent’s conduct wrongfully manipulative in cases like the following: your counterpart in a business negotiation “arranges for someone who bears a striking resemblance to your recently deceased mother to be there.” Let’s assume that being in the emotional state induced by seeing this person leads you to reason less well and accept a deal that is worse for you and better for your counterpart. I agree that, in this case, your counterpart’s conduct seems wrongfully manipulative.

    Massimo is tempted to say the conduct is wrong “because it involves playing with your emotions in a way that is meant to negatively interfere with how you are able to exercise your practical reasoning during the negotiation process.” As Massimo predicts, I would want to say that the conduct is wrong because it infringes an independent right of yours against being gratuitously harmed. One reason to prefer my account is that the same conduct would seem wrongfully manipulative even if it were it carried out by someone on your team in an attempt to help you reason better. Suppose that seeing someone who resembles your deceased mother would make you acutely aware of your mortality and, as a result, acutely focused on the present in a way that would improve your negotiation skills. Your business partner knows this. So, he arranges for the stranger resembling your mother to attend. Assuming he does this without your permission, this conduct also seems wrongfully manipulative.

    Against this proposal, Massimo reiterates his concern about the case of Gossip (above). Although your counterpart (or business partner) would wrong you by arranging for the stranger to attend, it seems odd to say they would wrongfully manipulate you unless, at the very least, they intend to get you to accept a worse (or better) deal. At risk of repeating myself, I take it to be a desirable feature of my view that it can explain the wrong of wrongful manipulation in cases where the agent does not intend to manipulate. However, I am in principle open to building requirements on the agent’s intentions into a descriptive account of what manipulation is. It would then follow that, in a version of this case where there was no intention to affect your practical reasoning, the conduct would not be wrongfully manipulative, though it would share the wrong of wrongful manipulation—i.e., be wrong in exactly the same way, for the same reasons.

    It’s an interesting question why we are inclined to think the agent’s intentions matter to whether their conduct is manipulative. I suspect it is because our term “manipulation,” like our term “coercion,” does suggest something about intentions. For someone like me, then, who thinks an agent’s intentions are not directly relevant to the wrongness of their conduct, it is no surprise that when we try to identify the wrong of wrongful manipulation, we will at best slightly misfire if we focus on whether it seems natural to call something manipulative.

    (6)

    Massimo suggests that there might be cases of wrongful manipulation in which no one is wronged, in addition to cases where someone is wronged, and that the Reasoning View could provide a more unified account across these two kinds of cases. Here is his main example:

    “Jealous Guy: Yoko and Guy are in an exclusive relationship. Because she has once made Guy jealous by flirting with someone else, Yoko consents to Guy making her jealous, if he wants. Guy flirts with someone else exclusively in order to make Yoko jealous.”

    Let’s assume, as usual, that Yoko’s jealousy affects her subsequent reasoning about whether to ϕ. As Massimo interprets the case, Guy engages in wrongful manipulation—and therefore does something wrong. Yet, he does not wrong Yoko, for he does not infringe a right of hers. After all, she consents to his making her jealous.

    I take it to be a point of agreement between myself and proponents of the Reasoning View that when manipulation is pro tanto wrong, this is because it pro tanto wrongs someone. However, we can debate what happens when we drop that commitment. And I take it Massimo thinks the Reasoning View fares better. While I’m not entirely sure how to understand him on this point, here is what I think he has in mind: on the Reasoning View, Guy engages in wrongful manipulation despite not wronging Yoko because he brings about a state of affairs in which her reasoning is subverted, and doing this is wrong simpliciter (just as bringing about a state of affairs in which someone is harmed via punching is wrong simpliciter, even if punching them does not wrong them, for they give their consent). Meanwhile, as a proponent of the Reductive View, I cannot make a similar move, for I cannot say that in making Yoko jealous Guy brings about a state of affairs in which her other rights are infringed, and that doing this is wrong simpliciter. Her other rights aren’t infringed, since she consents.

    This case highlights a difficulty in one of the underlying commitments of my paper. I assume in the paper that, at least for some notion of a right, A wrongs B by ϕ-ing when A violates a directed duty toward B not to ϕ, which correlates to a claim-right B has against A that A not ϕ. However, it seems like the right thing to say about Jealous Guys is that, although Guy does not infringe Yoko’s rights, he wrongs her. After all, it seems apt for her to resent him, and perhaps for others to resent him on her behalf. Thus, there seems to be a notion of a right that’s narrower than the notion that correlates with directed duty—perhaps a notion that’s connected to things like enforceability and/or demandability. This is not a new idea, but rather a familiar challenge to the Hohfeldian framework. It seems like Yoko has waived a right in the narrower sense, which is why she cannot demand that Guy not make her jealous; still, she is wronged.

    Where does it leave us? I’m not entirely sure. It may be that there are two kinds of wrongful manipulation: wrongful manipulation that infringes a claim-right in the narrow sense, and wrongful manipulation that does not infringe a claim-right but does violate a directed duty. It’s easy to see how a Reductive View of each notion would go: the wrong of the first kind of wrongful manipulation would be reducible to the wrong of infringing other rights, while the wrong of the second kind would be reducible to the wrong of violating other directed duties. We would then say that Guy wrongs Yoko in wrongfully manipulating her, though he does not infringe a right of hers in the narrow sense.

    In concluding, I want to thank Massimo again for his excellent comments and thoughtful summary of my work. I look forward to others’ comments and our discussion!

  3. Thank you to Sophie for writing such an outstanding and provocative paper, and for being willing to discuss it in a forum like this. And thank you to Massimo for such an incisive summary and analysis of it.

    I’ll just say at the outset that while I like the paper a lot, I am not convinced by the thesis. But I am biased, since I’ve been developing an account of manipulation according to which at least part of its presumptive wrongness is non-reductive. So I’ve got a vested interest in rejecting the thesis that Sophie is defending 😉.

    I was interested to see Sophie write the following in her responses to Massimo:

    “I doubt that the wrong of wrongful deception is reductive. That’s because there are cases in which it seems that we cannot explain the wrong of deception by appealing exclusively to background rights. I discuss one such case in the paper: “Molly wants Tom—a stranger she met at the bar an hour ago—to ask her out. She overhears Tom saying that he wants to ask out Molly’s friend Sue, but that he probably will not, since he thinks Sue does not like him. Molly knows that Tom is mistaken: Sue does like Tom. However, in the hope that Tom will ask her out instead, Molly […] truthfully tells Tom, ‘I hate to break it to you, but Sue has only ever dated really tall guys,’ hoping he will reasonably infer that Sue is not interested, since he is not tall” (367). In this case, Molly seems to wrongfully deceive Tom. However, he has no independent right against Molly that she not reveal accurate information about Sue’s dating history. Thus, if a right of his is infringed, it must be a right against being misled—something that seems like a basic right pertaining to honesty.”

    Here’s why I find this comment interesting: Some theories of manipulation draw a parallel between deception and manipulation. Such theories say (or can say) that manipulation and deception are wrong for similar sorts of reasons. Indeed, on the view I have defended, being manipulated is a way of being “misled,” though the misleading here is more general, in that it includes not only having a false belief, but having other faulty mental states, like inappropriate emotions, etc. Now I agree with Sophie that the wrongness of deception is not reductive in Sophie’s sense. But I think that when she opens the door to saying *that*, she might also open it wide enough for a certain kind of theory of manipulation to provide a non-reductive account of the wrongfulness of wrongful manipulation. In other words, why not say that whatever makes deception non-reductively wrong (when it is wrong) is either the same as, or similar to, what makes manipulation non-reductively wrong (when it is wrong)?

    The Molly example provides a kind of blueprint for building the kind of case that would be a problem for Sophie’s thesis. We’d need a case of manipulation that is clearly wrongful but in which that wrongfulness cannot be plausibly explained in terms of the violation of any background rights. Let’s see whether this one would work:

    Phoebe is Joe’s physician. Joe wants to quit smoking, but he cannot summon up the willpower to do so. Phoebe knows that there are effective treatments for nicotine addiction, but she decides to take a short-cut. Phoebe knows that Joe has a contamination phobia. So she tells him in great detail about how tobacco grows in big fields, and how it is inevitable that birds will sometimes deposit their droppings on tobacco leaves. This engages Joe’s contamination phobia, so that the thought of smoking becomes disgusting. This allows him to quit smoking.

    The following things seem true about this case:
    • Phoebe manipulates Joe.
    • Phoebe’s action was at least pro tanto wrong. That is, even if it is justified on balance (I think that reasonable people can disagree here), it would have been morally preferable for Phoebe to use the standard treatments for nicotine addiction rather than doing what she did.
    • Phoebe has not harmed Joe, nor has she diminished Joe’s autonomy.

    Now, how do we explain the wrongfulness of what Phoebe did? Not in terms of harm or undermining autonomy. What about the doctor-patient relationship? Well, she benefitted Joe, who is likely to be far healthier than he would have been without Phoebe’s intervention. Phoebe has not interfered with Joe in any straightforward way, since, as Phoebe’s patient, Joe presumably consents to Phoebe’s health-promoting interactions with him.

    Now on theories like the one I defend, or on some versions of the reason views, what makes Phoebe’s act (at least pro tanto) wrongful is that she induced a misplaced disgust, she engaged an irrational element of Joe’s psychology, or something of that sort. But it’s not clear what the reductive view would say here. Perhaps we could say that Phoebe’s action was still some sort of wrongful interference. But if that’s the response, then I’m going to want to know more about when interference is wrongful.
    So I’d be interested in hearing what Sophie (or others) think about this case. Does it pose a problem for Sophie’s thesis?

    Since it’s philosophy, there’s a professional obligation to be argumentative. Now that I’ve done that, let me just say again that this is a wonderful paper, and that I’ve enjoyed reading and thinking about it.

  4. Thanks so much, Sophie, for a terrific paper and to Massimo for a wonderful discussion of it. It’s a little while ago that I read it, so I might be off base, but I had two comments. One is just terminological really. Sophie, is your view not better described as a dependence view – the view, as I understood it, is that manipulation is wrong because of interference with practical reasoning, but the wrongness of the interference depends on interference with some other right. If that is the view, wrongful manipulation can’t be reduced to other wrongs; it has its own wrong-making features, but they are only wrong-making in conjunction with other wrongs.

    I also wondered about this objection to Sophie’s view. It takes the form of an argument (quickly put together, so probably a bit rough), and is hinted at in Massimo’s comments:

    1) I have important instrumental and non-instrumental interests in good quality practical reasoning, and my practical reasoning is a central part of my life.
    2) Others often have no reason to interfere with my practical reasoning that distort it in a way that can set back these interest
    3) Normally, if X has an important interest in something and that thing is a central part of their life, and others have no reason to set back that interest, it is wrong to significantly set back that interest
    4) Therefore, my interest in practical reasoning can ground a wrong independently of other rights that I have.
    5) Certain kinds of interference that fall under premise 2) are well characterised as manipulation
    6) Therefore, there is a non-dependent wrong of manipulation.

    The paper does a really nice job of finding examples where there doesn’t seem any wrong of manipulation even though practical reasoning is distorted. But this general argument still seems right to me, and I wondered whether the examples are those where either the interference is not very significant, so might fall between a de minimis threshold for wrongdoing, or whether there are cvountervailing reasons why there is no wrong – implied consent, or reasonable expectations in some interference, or interests of the putative manipulator.

  5. I am very grateful that I get to comment on this excellent paper by Sophie and the thought-provoking précis by Massimo, and that I get the chance to participate in a debate that involves the people whose work I greatly admire.

    Like others, I am also invested in this discussion as I also struggle with the question of what makes up for the wrong of wrongful manipulation. In previous work, my co-author (Bart Engelen, at Tilburg University) and I have argued that personal autonomy accounts are hard-pressed to account for this wrongfulness. Manipulation is not wrong because it undermines or diminishes personal autonomy. At least, that is not necessarily the case (it might add to the wrongfulness, but it does not constitute it).

    It is also not wrong, I believe, on grounds that it alters “the target’s practical reasoning”, so I’m not fully convinced by the Reasoning Views as well. But neither am I persuaded by the Reductive View as defended by Sophie. So, I guess I’m the one who’s in real trouble here 🙂

    As this is a game where counterexamples turn out to be crucial, I want to present the following case, as it is laid out by Christopher Cherniak in his book Minimal Rationality.

    “In ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’ Sherlock Holmes’s opponent has hidden a very important photograph in a room, and Holmes wants to find out where it is. Holmes has Watson throw a smoke bomb into the room and yell ‘Fire!’ when Holmes’s opponent is in the next room, while Holmes watches. Then, as one would expect, the opponent runs into the room and takes the photograph from its hiding place. Not everyone would have devised such an ingenious plan for manipulating an opponent’s behavior; but once the conditions are described, it seems very easy to predict the opponent’s actions.” (Cherniak, 1986: 3-4)

    Now, one could argue that this clearly involves deception, as there is no actual fire in the building. But suppose that Holmes has Watson really set fire to the house. Is this a case of manipulation? Is it a case of wrongful manipulation (at least, pro tanto)? If so, can we account for that wrongfulness on the basis of impaired practical reasoning? Or on the basis of Holmes’ opponent’s rights being violated? And even if there is such a rights violation, is that what constitutes the wrongfulness of the manipulation? [Suppose he is not in any real danger in rescuing the picture. Or, if he is in danger, then this does not account for what is wrong with the manipulation – it is a distinct wrong]

    I believe the target’s practical reasoning is neither bypassed nor distorted, but rather exploited. There is also no irrational phobia triggered, as in Robert Noggle’s case above. On a more general note: it seems to me too quick to say that things like smells (cookies, perfume…) and compliments are doing such ‘bypassing’ because we are only vulnerable to the manipulation because we genuinely like these things (and would not rationally get rid of these proclivities). Again, manipulators strategically tap into these elements of our practical rationality to get things done. More specifically: to get their things done.

    As such, this is not a criticism of Sophie’s account. And perhaps the wrongfulness of Holmes’ manipulating tactics could be explained on the basis of a right to non-interference. The question is, at least to me, whether this is not too general; whether this doesn’t locate the wrongfulness at a level at which we miss the particular wrong of manipulation. My hunch is that it should not be sought in the way it affects the target (diminishing her autonomy, distorting her rationality, violating her rights…), but that we need the Bigger Picture: how – even when all of this is left intact – someone is nevertheless used to the manipulator’s ends.

    Thanks again, Sophie, Massimo, and all the others, for this stimulating exchange!

  6. Thank you, Sophie, for presenting such an engaging paper on an important topic, and Massimo, for providing a helpful summary. It’s truly valuable to have the opportunity to engage in this discussion.

    I wondered about two points in the exchange between Sophie and Massimo.

    First, Massimo challenges the reductive view with the ‘Gossip’ example. ‘Gossip’ seems like a case where the right to non-interference is violated (thus satisfying Sophie’s criterion for wrongful manipulation), and yet it does not seem to be a case of (wrongful) manipulation. Sophie writes , “in Gossip, you do not manipulate me, even though your act is wrong in exactly the same way that instances of wrongful manipulation are wrong […].” This makes me wonder what manipulation is, as opposed to the feature that makes manipulation wrong. A general moral right against non-interference explains what makes wrongful manipulation wrong, and what makes other forms of social influence wrong. Even if that is correct, we do not learn how to demarcate manipulative from non-manipulative forms of influence. It would also seem to imply that wrongful manipulation and wrongful non-manipulative influence ground the exact same moral response because their morally salient features are the same. A pertinent question is why we have the category/concept of ‘manipulation’ if it plays no distinct moral role. Of course, the nature of manipulation wasn’t under discussion, while the ethics of manipulation was, and my question can be taken as suggesting that both questions have come too far apart in the discussion?

    Second, Sophie charges the reasoning view of manipulation’s wrongness with over-inclusivity in cases like negotiation: in a negotiation, I influence you in ways that undermine your reasoning, but this does not (contrary to the reasoning view) amount to wrongful manipulation. Sophie suggests that this is because we lack a moral right to non-interference in these cases. Massimo retorts that we need not go that route but maintain that we have a non-moral right against (my words) ‘reason subversion’ that is conventionally suspended. If Massimo is correct, then one of Sophie’s arguments against the reasoning view would fall short. But Sophie replies with an explanatory challenge: why is the non-moral right against reason-subversion suspended in just those cases where you’d also find the moral right against non-interference to be suspended? This seems like a “mysterious accident.” I think this is a very neat challenge. But should we then not also wonder about the ‘shape’ of the moral right against non-interference? The explanatory tally would seem equal, at least if we can find an account of manipulation’s nature that tracks the ‘shape’ of the non-moral right against reason subversion.

    Beyond these clarificatory questions, I wanted to share a more substantial point on the link between manipulation’s wrongness and the right to non-interference. It seems to me that this perspective is too narrow insofar as we have a (conditional, context-dependent) right to be ‘cared for’ in our deliberative projects. Sure, sometimes you should leave me alone and not interfere, but oftentimes you need to influence me in ways that support my deliberation. Think about education, Robert’s example of the health practitioner, etc. Against this background, manipulation can be understood as an influence that is merely indifferent to that ideal. From my (partial!) perspective, the ‘indifference view’ of manipulation I defended elsewhere provides a neat conceptualisation of manipulation’s nature. But its implication for the ethics of manipulation seems to be interesting in that it would relate the wrong of manipulation to more than just a right of non-interference toward a right to be cared for. For that reason, I am inclined to think that Sophie’s account is not wide enough.

    Having said that, I fully agree with Sophie’s observation that our moral obligations toward other people – and thus questions about whether an instance of manipulation is wrong – vary with our relationships with those people. This is a very valuable addition to the debate about the ethics of manipulation, which will be fruitful to explore further.

  7. Thanks to Sophie for an excellent paper, and to Massimo for a helpful summary!

    I’m sympathetic to Sophie’s general view that many forms of nonrational influence are acceptable. And I like the comment at the end of the paper that we can think through the normative issues surrounding manipulation without a definition. I’m still thinking through the reductive view and its implications. But I wasn’t quite sure how the reductive view deals with a couple of the cases discussed in the paper.

    1. The first is subliminal messaging. I take it that the paper’s first move is to argue that the features in virtue of which subliminal messaging might circumvent reasoning are shared by the cases of innocuous influence discussed in the first part of the paper. This leaves the question of why subliminal messaging is wrong, on the reductive view. In discussing the Oliver/Coke can case of subliminal messaging, Sophie writes: “Oliver could not become consciously aware of the fact that there are images of Coke cans in his TV show—at least if the messaging really is subliminal. Although this does not translate into an important difference in how they reason—their reasoning is intrinsically quite alike—it does seem to affect whether the influence involved is wrongfully manipulative. Perhaps, then, the other right of Oliver’s that is being infringed is some sort of right to transparency in advertising. The pressing questions would then become: Do we have a right against businesses that they only use means of influence of which we could become consciously aware? If so, why? And do we have such rights against other entities?” (p. 347). In the end, I wasn’t quite sure how strong an argument the reductive theorist could mount against subliminal messaging. To be fair, as Sophie rightly points out, in applying the reductive view, we’ll rely on a general account of the rights people have. On the face of it, though, I’m not inclined to think that we have rights to be aware of the images to which we’re exposed. If we do, the right may be limited to certain contexts (e.g., whether the images appear on my television, rather than a public screen) narrower than those in which subliminal messaging seems wrong. (If projecting split-second images of Coke cans on a movie theater screen did not influence my reasoning or behavior, I do not think that it would infringe my rights. But if it does induce me to buy Coke, many would say that it’s wrongly manipulative.) A related concern is that in attempting to explain why we have a right to something like “transparency in advertising,” we might end up condemning some of the of the supposedly innocuous influence discussed in the paper (e.g., a company using attractive salespeople, especially if customers do not notice the salespeople are attractive). The more general concern here might be that the reductive theory can accommodate intuitions about certain cases of apparently wrongful manipulation only by relying on rights that there may be little independent reason to endorse.

    2. Another sort of case came up in the discussion of sales tactics (p. 354). “The difference is that business-owners do not overstep their bounds when they employ such tactics, whereas in-laws and spouses often do. Of course, it might matter what the business owner is selling. What if the supermarket owner uses the very same tactics to market unhealthy food or tobacco, rather than some brand of milk? On the Reductive View, whether this is wrongfully manipulative depends on whether it is wrong to sell unhealthy food or tobacco in the first place. If so, then it is.” I’d thought of this sort of case earlier in the paper. My sense is that many people do not think it is necessarily wrong for a store to sell tobacco. But many of the same people would think that it is wrong, e.g., to launch a slick tobacco advertising campaign, even if they would not find it wrong to launch slick advertising campaigns for other products. It wasn’t clear to me how the reductive view would explain this combination of judgments, which seems fairly common. (Of course, there are other similar cases: we might think it is OK for casinos to operate, but wrong for casinos to use the kind of marketing strategies that other businesses use.) There might be a general puzzle about manipulation here. But the puzzle might seem easier to solve if we endorse something like the Quality of Reasoning View: reasoning that leads someone to do something seriously harmful might generally be worse, all else equal, than reasoning that leads someone to do something non-harmful.

    I may share Sophie’s thought (above) that the success of the reductive view may come down to an examination of cases; these were just two that I had questions about.

    Thanks again, to Sophie, for an excellent and thought-provoking paper that has already advanced the debate on manipulation.

  8. Thanks to Sophie for allowing us to discuss her very clear and interesting paper in this forum, to Massimo for his excellent comment, and to Suzanne and Kartik for their behind-the-scenes work in making this happen!

    I share the minor terminological worry suggested by the comments of both Massimo and Victor. “Reasoning View(s)” vs. “Reductive View” suggests that only the latter analyzes the wrongfulness of manipulation by appealing to moral considerations. But as Sophie herself notes, versions of the Reasoning View that analyze the wrongfulness of manipulation in terms of moral considerations are not rare. For this reason, something like Victor’s suggested “Dependence View” might be more apt.

    I am myself sympathetic to the idea that there may not be one single shared feature that renders all forms of wrongful manipulation wrongful. For this reason, I am a bit puzzled by Sophie’s attempt to analyze the wrongfulness of all wrongful manipulation in terms of what looks like one single shared feature, namely, the violation of rights against interference. Now granted, the class of such rights looks pretty broad and variable. And one might think, accordingly, that appeal to this class of rights is not on a par with appealing to some specific conception of autonomy, or of what it is to corrupt someone’s practical reasoning. But others in this forum have done a good job already of proposing cases which Sophie’s view does not seem to handle aptly, like the Sherlock Holmes case, or the case of Joe and Phoebe, or the case of Guy and Yoko.

    I found Sophie’s response to the case of Guy and Yoko” instructive. She speculates: “It may be that there are two kinds of wrongful manipulation: wrongful manipulation that infringes a claim-right in the narrow sense, and wrongful manipulation that does not infringe a claim-right but does violate a directed duty.” This kind of view represents a limited kind of pluralism when it comes to the wrongfulness of wrongful manipulation (maybe there are “two kinds”).

    I am attracted to a pluralistic account of the wrongfulness of wrongful manipulation. I now regard some of my earlier efforts (in retrospect) as trying to get clear on the wrongfulness of a couple of different kinds of wrongful manipulation, and not as successful analyses of the whole phenomenon. Accordingly, let me suggest a possibility. Perhaps some wrongful manipulation is best analyzed in terms of a violation of particular conceptions of autonomy. Perhaps some is best analyzed in terms of corruption of practical reasoning. Perhaps some is best analyzed in terms of its evincing particular sorts of attitudes towards its targets. And perhaps some is best analyzed in terms of the account that Sophie offers. I don’t regard this list of possibilities as necessarily exhaustive.

    Such a wider form of pluralism about the wrongfulness of wrongful manipulation draws me because of the evident success of extant Reasoning Views at explaining some particular forms of wrongful manipulation. And it is attractive to me as well because if “manipulation” is not itself a single discreet phenomenon, it may require multiple kinds of theoretical appeals to get the status of different sorts of manipulation right.

    I wonder, accordingly, why we should feel constrained to analyze all wrongful manipulation in terms of Sophie’s Reductive View (and perhaps the extension of it suggested by her reflections on the Guy and Yoko case). Sure, having a unified account of wrongful manipulation would be a nice thing, but I wonder whether the account that Sophie proffers will be as true to our practices, and our considered judgements about our practices, as would the sort of wider moral pluralism towards which I have gestured.

    If I am right about this possibility, then it may not be advisable for us to embrace the “redirective” implications of Sophie’s project. Perhaps work on analyzing the wrongfulness of wrongful manipulation would be best continuing on multiple fronts, as opposed to everyone reorienting their efforts in the way that Sophie suggests at the end of her paper, by “arguing directly about the boundaries of the zones in which we are protected from interference.”

  9. I enjoyed reading the paper and thinking more about manipulation, and appreciate the invitation to come discuss it. (Apologies for being so late to the party!) I confess I may not be the best person to comment, as I’m generally confused by the project of explanatory appeals to rights. Perhaps my comments will only help identify why I find them confusing project, but I hope there are nonetheless of some general interest.

    To keep things brief, I’ll start with one general comment.

    The paper reminded me of Judy Thomson’s reductive account of the right to privacy (“The Right to Privacy,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 4(4): 295-31, 1975). She, too, is attracted to a reductive account at least in part because the definitional project strikes her as unprofitable. So, Thomson argues that there is no independent right to privacy. Instead, it is reducible to aspects of various other rights we have (like property rights and rights over our persons).

    One concern with such a reduction is that it passes the explanatory buck in unhelpful ways. Suppose there’s a clear enough case in which someone’s privacy is seemingly violated. We can’t explain that as a violation of their right to privacy directly. Instead, it will be that some other right of theirs was violated.

    Consider the discussion of the Molly and Tom cases. In the version in which Molly reveals Sue’s dating history in the hopes that he’ll make a reasonable but incorrect inference, Sophie says that Molly acts wrongly because Tom has a right not to be misled. My worry is that it strikes me as implausible to say he has a right not to be misled if by ‘misled’ we mean something like, ‘given information that leads him to a natural but mistaken inference’. That kind of right would be far too generic and seemingly generate lots of counterexamples. Instead, we might mean something like a right not to be intentionally misled, though again I worry that it will be too generic and subject to counterexample. (Suppose I get you to believe something false but on which none of your interests hang.)

    One very plausible sort of characterization would be that he has a right not to be *manipulatively* misled. (Or wrongfully misled or whatever.) But then we can see that sorting out whether he has the relevant right is really just asking whether he’s been wrongfully manipulated in the first place. So I’m left unsure as to how we can make (reductive) explanatory progress on the question of wrongful manipulation through examining these other rights.

  10. Many thanks to Sophie for this excellent article and to Massimo for his very helpful discussion. I am very sympathetic to Sophie’s view, but I wanted to register a concern in the neighborhood of the first one that Massimo raises. Even if wrongful manipulation always involves influencing the target’s practical reasoning in a way that infringes their rights, doing that does not seem to capture all of what is wrong about wrongful manipulation. Yelling at you might violate your rights and it might disturb you in ways that lead you to reason poorly. But so long as the latter is not part of my aim, it seems like I influence your practical reasoning without manipulating you. I wonder if we might have second order rights against being wrongfully interfered with in order to influence us and, if so, whether that might not enable us to identify a distinctive wrong in wrongful manipulation, though one that is still parasitic on an independent rights violation.

  11. Chris Mills:

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks so much for engaging with my paper and posing these great questions!

    Here are a few thoughts:

    Conceptual Utility – My hope is that much of what you’re looking for is consistent with my theory. I frame my central question as, “What is the wrong of *wrongful* manipulation?” rather than “What is the wrong of manipulation?” so as not to assume the concept is moralized—at least not in the sense that all instances of manipulation are pro tanto wrong as a conceptual matter. Personally, I prefer the moralized concept, but I want to remain neutral on that. In addition—and this may have come through more clearly in my response to Massimo—I think it’s consistent with of my view that there is some descriptive content to the notion of manipulation, such that certain influences are ruled out on grounds that they (say) don’t subvert reasoning, or don’t undermine self-governance, or don’t involve the intention to change someone’s behavior, despite sharing the wrong of wrongful manipulation. I’m not sure if this eases your worry, though.

    Two Senses of Autonomy & Indirect Relations – I appreciate the resistance here! I guess I was thinking that all I need in order to open up space for the Reductive View is the weak claim that there are two notions here, and they are in principle separable. This is why I take comfort in the fact that even those who are friendly to the direct connection between autonomy as self-governance and autonomy as non-interference rights (most notably, Kantian constructivists) consider it a great feat to have shown they’re connected. On the related matter about what kind of connection might hold between the two senses autonomy, I wanted to clarify that there’s at least one kind of indirect connection I’m open to—and neutral on. Specifically, for all I say, it may be that the reason we have non-interference rights in the first place is that we have the capacity for self-governance. That still would not show that our rights against interference are themselves rights to self-governance, or rights against being prevented from self-governing, which I take it is the claim that would make the Reasoning View hard to resist. (I say some of this at the top of p. 362, but it’s easily lost.) In any case, I think further examining the relation between the two senses of autonomy will prove fruitful in this debate.

    Thanks again for your comments!

  12. Robert Noggle:

    Hi Robert,

    Thank you for these questions and kind remarks! I’m not surprised that you weren’t convinced by the view 🙂 but I appreciate your taking the time to participate. I’ve enjoyed engaging with your work on this subject, and I found your comments here thought-provoking. Here are some initial reactions:

    First, on the general question of whether I’ve opened the door too wide with my concession about the Molly/Tom case and the wrong of deception. I do think I’m committed (personally, though not in the paper) to thinking manipulation and deception are wrong for very different reasons. Something about this seems right to me, and it seems to me as though the sense in which we are “misled” when we’re led to have faulty desires or emotions is largely metaphorical. There’s a big question, of course, as to what could explain the difference. I am inclined to think our epistemic and practical norms come from different sources, so that might have something to do with it. Or—and this is even more hand-wavy—it may have to do with differences in how we rely on others for access to the truth versus to the conditions for good reasoning, or it may have to do with the role knowledge plays in human flourishing. In short, I don’t yet have a good story to tell about why there is a difference, so this is something I’m hoping to work on in future projects.

    Next, on the specific case of Phoebe and Joe. Admittedly, on my first read-through, I didn’t have the sense that Phoebe pro tanto wrongs Joe (in virtue of manipulating him). In favor of that idea, you say that “it would have been morally preferable for Phoebe to use the standard treatments for nicotine addiction rather than doing what she did.” I’m not so sure! I assume those treatments would not operate via rational pathways either, and that they’d have other side effects and complications. Now, it may be riskier to use the method Phoebe uses because we have less evidence about its effects, and perhaps shouldn’t do it because she’s likely to reinforce his phobia in ways that’ll harm him down the road. But all else being equal, I am skeptical that there’s anything inherently worse about making his choice issue from a faulty reasoning process. This probably stems from a more general skepticism I have about overly glamorizing the rational.

    I suspect others will disagree, so I should consider whether the Reductive View has anything else to say. One thing to say would be that, although Phoebe doesn’t violate a duty of non-interference, she violates a positive duty toward Joe that she has in virtue of being his physician—in particular, a duty to treat or reduce Joe’s phobia. I consider a case with this structure on p. 365, note 53, in which I suggest a financial advisor might have a duty to correct certain kinds of flaws in a client’s reasoning about retirement plans. The fact that the source of Joe’s faulty reasoning is a phobia—something that, to my ear, sounds medicalized—does seem relevant to the case. Weaker still, we might say she violates a norm of the doctor-patient relationship (crucially, one that doesn’t concern her effects on his reasoning per se).

    Of course, the case still poses a problem for the Reductive View, since Phoebe doesn’t infringe a further non-interference right of Joe’s. However, the Reductive View consists of two separable components: (1) the reductive component, according to which the wrong of wrongful manipulation is reducible to some other wrong, and (2) the component that specifies what kind of wrong it’s reducible to—namely, the infringement of a non-interference right. I’m much more attached to the former component than the latter. So, I might be amenable to a reductive view on which the wrong of Phoebe’s manipulation is explained by her infringement of a positive duty or violation of a role norm.

    One might wonder how we should decide what kind of wrong to appeal to in component (2), apart from relying on verdicts in cases. I tend to think we’ll make progress on this matter by further examining the second notion of autonomy I discuss in the paper—the one that does not refer to self-governance. Traditionally, this other sense of autonomy, which I think of as being about what is mine and what is yours, has been understood in terms of non-interference rights; and that’s why I ended up defending a version of the Reductive View that appeals to non-interference rights. However, I have come to doubt whether this is the right way to go.

    Thank you again for your generous comments, and I hope this was responsive!

  13. I have read the paper, précis, and comments with great interest. This discussion of manipulation is new to me and my thoughts, as a result, may be way off the mark. My concern though would be very much in line with the final paragraph of Matt’s contribution and I would be keen to hear Sophie’s response to this. Is there a danger that we are headed in a great circle here? The proposal is that the wrong of wrongful manipulation is morally located in a breach of non-interference rights. How do we in due course characterise these non-interference rights? Is there not, as Matt suggests, a strong likelihood that we conclude that such a right is something like the right not to be wrongfully manipulated in a manner that sets back our interests? But are we not then back where we started?

  14. Thomas Nys:

    Hi Thomas,

    Thank you for participating! I really appreciate your remarks, and I’m glad to learn of your work with Bart Engelen, which I look forward to reading. (Are you referring to “Nudging and Autonomy: Analyzing and Alleviating the Worries”?)

    The Holmes case is an interesting one. As you point out, the original case involves deception, but we can imagine a version in which Holmes and Watson do set fire to the house to get the opponent to run in and reveal the photograph’s hiding place. My first reaction is that this is a case of wrongful coercion, not wrongful manipulation. The mechanism of influence, I take it, involves generating a new reason for the opponent to run in—namely, that if he does not, the photograph will burn—and relying on him to act for that reason—that is, to run in to save the photograph. I talk about cases like this in II.A., “The Appeal of the Reasoning View” and follow proponents of the Reasoning View in saying that manipulation characteristically involves influencing someone’s behavior by altering their reasoning, not in a way that generates new reasons for them to act.

    Given that Holmes and Watson influence the opponent by generating a new reason for him to act, I take their conduct to be a candidate for wrongful coercion. I’m then inclined to think it *is* wrongfully coercive because—while I don’t have my own theory of wrongful coercion—I’m attracted to reductive theories that ultimately explain the wrong of coercive threats in terms of the independent wrongfulness of the act that is threatened. On this kind of view, Holmes’ and Watson’s conduct is paradigmatically wrongfully coercive, since they coerce the opponent by threatening to destroy the photograph, and destroying the photograph is independently wrong.

    Thanks again for your question!

  15. Michael Klenk (with reference to Robert’s comments from above):

    Hi Michael,

    Thank you for these challenging and insightful questions, and for participating! I fear I won’t be able to address them adequately given the time pressure, but here are a few thoughts:

    First, on the point about demarcation. I think this is a really difficult question, and I’m not sure what to say. So far, on my picture, manipulation is demarcated from other forms of influence just in that it operates by altering the target’s reasoning, not by generating new reasons for them to act. This distinguishes it from threats and offers, which operate by generating new reasons for the target to act. I take the latter kinds of influence to be candidates for wrongful coercion. Now, I am attracted to reductive accounts of the wrong of coercion. So, one might worry that the two concepts won’t play distinct moral roles, given that neither identifies a basic form of wrongdoing. I am hopeful this isn’t the case. That’s because I suspect the reductive stories about the wrongs of manipulation and coercion differ quite a lot. In order for them to be the same, it would have to be that coercion is wrong when and because it involves constraining someone’s option set in a way that infringes a further non-interference right of theirs; and I don’t think this view is very plausible. So, in the end, I think there will be different stories to tell about why manipulation and coercion (as well as deception and exploitation, for that matter) are wrong, when they are wrong. Hopefully, that difference justifies our having different categories/concepts, even if they don’t all refer to basic forms of wrongdoing.

    Second, on my explanatory challenge for the conventionalist picture. You ask whether we should also wonder about the shape of the moral right against interference. I think we should, but I don’t think this makes the explanatory tally equal, as you suggest. Both the Reasoning View and the Reductive View face a major challenge, which is to explain why our right against manipulation has the shape that it has. In other words, why is there a right against manipulation (by which I mean, reasoning-altering influence that doesn’t operate by generating new reasons) in some cases and not in others? At the relevant point in the dialectic, both views maintain that the right has the same shape. And both are on the hook for explaining that shape. However, there is a further fact to be explained, which is that the shape of our right against manipulation perfectly tracks the shape of what we would independently call our non-interference rights, even without a full theory of those rights. On the Reductive View, this is no accident, for it is what the view predicts. But on the Reasoning View, this is an accident.

    Third, on whether my account is too narrow. I share your worry here. In the paper, I recognize that certain special relationships might call for special duties against (say) subverting someone’s reasoning, even though there is no general duty not to do this. However, my account doesn’t leave room for the possibility that some relationships involve special duties to care for and promote people’s good deliberation, and that the wrong of wrongful manipulation depends on the infringement of these duties as well. Education is a great example, as is Robert’s example of the health practitioner. (In fact, I made a mistake in my response to Robert above when I said it was crucial that the independent norms of the physician-patient relationship don’t concern reasoning per se.) Other fiduciary relationships might be good examples as well, such as the relationship in my case in footnote 53, with the financial advisor. It’s for all these reasons, as I say in reply to Robert, that I’ve come to wonder whether what I call the second component of the Reductive View needs some revision. Of course, due to my general skepticism about the role of motives in determining permissibility, I’m not sure I’d want to opt for (at least the narrow version of) the indifference view. But I certainly need to think about this more.

    Thank you again for your thoughtful comments!

  16. Hi Jason,

    Thanks very much for these comments! I really appreciate your participating in the discussion, and it’s great to hear you are sympathetic to some of the views in the paper.

    Here are a few thoughts on the cases:

    1. Subliminal messaging: I agree it’s not plausible that we have rights against being shown images we are not *in fact* aware of. Moreover, it may not be plausible that we have rights against being shown images we are *in principle incapable of becoming* aware of. (I agree that projecting split-second images of Coke cans on a movie theatre screen wouldn’t seem to infringe my rights if it didn’t influence my behavior.) I guess I was thinking of the independent right to transparency in advertising as being a right against a certain kind of influence—namely, influence that employs means we’re in principle incapable of becoming aware of. The motivation for this is something like the following: in a society where people are subject to influence, including through advertising, what we want to guard against is a situation where people are literally incapable of raising a complaint against the kind of influence they’re subject to because they do not know it exists. Thinking there is such a right wouldn’t condemn the influence in the Sadie case because even though customers often *do not notice* attractive salespeople, they are fully capable of noticing them.

    Now, this right is supposed to be distinct from a right against being influenced via non-rational pathways. You might think it’s not independently plausible that we have such a right unless we also have a more general right against having our reasoning bypassed or circumvented. But I take cases in the paper like the Sadie case to rule this out. Given the dialectic of the paper, of course, we are forced to choose which is less plausible—that we have this sort of independent right, or that Sadie is wronged by the people who hire attractive salespeople. To me, the latter is clearly less plausible. However, others may disagree.

    Two other notes on this: First, I wonder if proponents of the Reasoning View have a stronger argument against subliminal messaging than I do. After all, any objection they raise will apply equally to the Sadie case, as well as other cases like perfume-wearing and painting the dentist’s office pink. Second, I’m not sure how much to worry about subliminal messaging. Given what colleagues in psychology and marketing have told me, it sounds like subliminal messaging as philosophers envision it doesn’t actually work.

    2. Supermarket sales tactics: I have less to say about this, as I think you’re probably right that the Reductive View cannot vindicate the set of judgments you have in mind: namely, that it is not independently wrong to sell tobacco; that it is wrongfully manipulative to launch a slick advertising campaign for tobacco products; and that it is not wrongfully manipulative to launch a slick advertising campaign for (say) a car. The Quality of Reasoning View certainly can’t vindicate them, assuming both advertising campaigns subvert reasoning. A modified Quality of Reasoning View like the one you suggest seems to vindicate the first two but not the third, since it has to say both campaigns are wrongfully manipulative. Perhaps it can say the former is more wrongfully manipulative because it also harms the target? This might be palatable to people. However, I do think it’s a significant loss not to be able to condemn any reasoning-neutral or reasoning-improving influences as wrongfully manipulative. In any case, I agree with you that a deep question is lurking here, and I need to think about this kind of case more.

    Thank you again for the comments and kind words!

  17. Victor Tadros:

    Hi Victor,

    Thanks so much for these comments! I really appreciate your participating in the discussion.

    On the terminological point, I like your suggestion. What I like about it is that it makes clear that I do think there is a right against being manipulated and a correlative duty not to manipulate – just not a basic one. What I’m hesitant about is the word “interference.” Often people take interfering with reasoning to be more than just altering it. In particular, they think interfering with reasoning is altering it in a particular kind of nefarious way. For instance, they might not count rational influence that improves reasoning as interference, or they might exclude informing, whereas I would want to include those among the interferences that can be wrongfully manipulative.

    On the argument, I do worry that an argument of this very general form—that is, one based on the foundations of rights—could cause trouble for my view, especially given independent considerations about deception. (See my comments to Massimo in response to his points #2-4). However, I’m not sure this particular argument does so, as I’m worried about premises (1) and (2). With regard to (2), I suspect it’s almost never true that others have *no* reason to interfere with our reasoning, though they may not have very good reason. With regard to (1), I’m amenable to thinking we have an instrumental interest in good quality practical reasoning, but I’m doubtful that we have a non-instrumental interest in it. If we only have an instrumental interest in it, then I don’t think it can ground an independent, basic wrong. (I could be mistaken about this!)

    With that being said, I do agree it’s an important feature of many of my cases that the interference is not very significant, simply because significant effects on the quality of reasoning can be instrumentally bad for people, causing them harm. And once there is a very significant detrimental effect on someone’s interests, there may be an independent non-interference right against being gratuitously harmed.

    Thank you again for your comments, and I apologize that I don’t have time to address them more thoroughly here!

  18. Thanks very much to everyone for reading my article and participating in the discussion! What a delight to engage with so many people whose work I admire. Your terrific comments have given me a lot more to think about on the subject.

    My apologies to anyone whose comment I didn’t get to – I’ll follow up by email after the forum closes, but please don’t feel any pressure to respond. Thank you again to Susanne and Kartik for organizing, and to Massimo for his fantastic précis.

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