What do you have against coercion?

Sarah Fitz-Claridge

“What do you have against coercion?”

“I agree that coercion should be minimised but you are surely not suggesting that gentle coercion would be a problem in cases where the parent is right and the child in the wrong?”

That’s like saying: “I agree that coercion should be minimised but you are surely not suggesting that gentle coercion would be a problem in cases where the husband is right and the wife is in the wrong?”

How do we know for sure when we are right and our child is mistaken? Are we not fallible human beings?

Disagreements can either be resolved through reason, or they can be dealt with coercively.

Think about the logic of what coercion does. Coercion is a way of choosing between rival theories that is independent of the theories’ content, and depends only on which of the proponents of the theories is stronger. Coercion embodies the false theory that might makes right. So it can’t be part of a rational system. It introduces irrationality into the knowledge-creating system and gives the wrong answer.

As William Godwin wrote:

“The right of the parent over his child lies either in his superior strength or his superior reason. If in his strength, we have only to apply this right universally, in order to drive all morality out of the world. If in his reason, in that reason let him confide.
[…]
Let us consider the effect that coercion produces upon the mind of him against whom it is employed. It cannot begin with convincing; it is no argument. It begins with producing the sensation of pain, and the sentiment of distaste. It begins with violently alienating the mind from the truth with which we wish it to be impressed. It includes in it a tacit confession of imbecility. If he who employs coercion against me could mould me to his purposes by argument, no doubt he would. He pretends to punish me because his argument is strong; but he really punishes me because his argument is weak.

– William Godwin, 1793, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, and Its Influence on Morals and Happiness, VII.II p. 370

Sarah Fitz-Claridge, Taking Children Seriously FAQ: What do you have against coercion?, https://www.takingchildrenseriously.com/coercion-or-reason