Philosophy Ph.D. Dissertations


Seduction, Coercion, and an Exploration of Embodied Freedom

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Philosophy, Applied

First Advisor

Donald Callen, PhD

Second Advisor

Michael Bradie, PhD (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Marvin Belzer, PhD (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Scott Martin, PhD


This dissertation addresses how commodification as a seductive practice differs from commodification as a coercive practice, and why the distinction is ethically significant. Although commodification is often linked with technological progress, it has nonetheless been the focus of critiques which assert that many commodification practices can be considered coercive and, as such, are ethically suspect. Markedly less philosophical attention has been devoted to seductive practices which, despite their frequency of occurrence, are often overlooked or considered to be of little ethical concern. The thesis of this essay is that, in regard to commodification, the structural discrepancies between seduction and coercion are such that in widespread practice they yield different degrees of ethical ambiguity and without proper consideration this significant difference can remain undetected or ignored, thus establishing or perpetuating systems of unjust domination and oppression. I argue that a paradigm shift from coercion to seduction has occurred in widespread commodification practices, that seduction is just as worthy of serious ethical consideration as coercion, and that any ethical theory that fails to take seduction into account is lacking a critical element. Drawing on Theodor Adorno's aesthetic methodology as an approach to working with coercion and seduction within the framework of commodification, I begin by clarifying the main concepts of the argument and what is meant by the use of the term "critical" in this context. Next I present evidence for a paradigm shift in the systemic structure of commodification and argue for the need to recognize the ethical significance of seductive practices. I then apply the main argument to issues of freedom in contemporary bioethics by examining narratives pertaining to pharmaceutical development and sales. The aim of this dissertation is to show that by distinguishing between seduction and coercion as distinct modes of commodification, ethicists will have a stronger grasp on how commodification functions, its connection to oppressive frameworks, and the ways in which problematic practices can be resisted or overcome.