The concept of manipulation remains significantly under-explored in philosophy in
general and in moral philosophy in particular .Considering the pervasiveness of
manipulations in all spheres of human interaction, this neglect demands rectification.2
The understanding and assessment of manipulation, beyond their singular value, can
shed valuable light on central aspects of social intercourse (from education and child
rearing to negotiating, advertising, democratic process, and more). This paper pursues
one morally central angle of this exploration: it examines how reflection on manipulation can illuminate the boundary between manipulation and deception and, through it,
the ethical boundaries of misleading communication.
Manipulation has too often been understood as ‘a kind of deceptive non-coercive
influence’ [Coons and Weber 2014: 10]. That this cannot be true, however, is shown by
numerous mundane examples of unconcealed emotional manipulation (at times
involving active cooperation by the manipulated), non-deceptive yet manipulative
advertising, and the like. Once we acknowledge non-deceptive manipulations [Noggle
1996; Gorin 2014a], we may either view deceptions as a distinct subset of manipulations, or view the two as separate entities.3 In either case, the common tendency is to
see the intentional causation of false beliefs as the defining feature of deception, which
sets it apart from manipulation. This paper rejects that diagnosis, introduces the category of non-deceptive manipulations that cause false beliefs,4 and argues that it better
1 Patrick Todd’s  diagnosis is correct: ‘direct philosophical treatments of the notion of manipulation are
few and far between.’ 2 The first philosophical book on the concept of manipulation is very recent: Coons and Weber . 3 I favour the former understanding, but shall not pursue that debate, as it is inconsequential for any substantial
claim in this paper.
4 Two terminological clarifications: (1) if we viewed deception and manipulation as separate entities, then ‘nondeceptive manipulation’ would obviously be redundant; (2) hereafter, causing ‘false beliefs’ refers to false-beliefsthat-are-believed-to-be-false.
© 2017 Australasian Association of Philosophy
AUSTRALASIAN JOURNAL OF PHILOSOPHY, 2018
VOL. 96, NO. 3, 483–497
accounts for very many instances traditionally considered to be deception. Introducing
the new category will induce a re-evaluation of the field of deception, suggesting a significant narrowing of its scope. This will simultaneously allow a more complex understanding of the ethics both of manipulation and of deception.
Before commencing, note that recognition of the sheer existence of
manipulations that cause false beliefs is independent of possible disagreements on how
precisely to distinguish manipulation from deception. Consider this: Paul intends to
manipulate Mary emotionally (for example, into liking Paul). Paul’s actions cause
Mary to develop certain false beliefs, although this was no part of Paul’s intention.
Lacking that intention, his action is not deception;5 yet it is (intentional) manipulation
that causes false beliefs. Manipulations that cause false beliefs are clearly not IPOs facto
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