Manipulation and Dignity

For the Romans, as Ch. Wirszubski has shown, to be free meant not to be a slave. Being free was necessary, but far from being sufficient, to endow individuals with dignity. Dignity was ascribed only to those who played a role in public life. Politics was the key for dignity. It was Kant who made freedom in the sense of autonomy the property for which human beings are entitled to be the bearers of dignity. Freedom for Kant didn't mean social status, but a capacity to be self-legislatures. Autonomy as freedom retained the Roman sense that dignity is a political trait — turning each individual into a political unit.

 There is no question that humans who are coerced in their behavior are not autonomous, and their dignity is tarnished. But what about people who are manipulated?

 The question is morally and politically urgent, since manipulation seems to replace coercion as a main mode nowadays of submitting people's will to the will of others.

The lecture is an effort to answer this question.