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A simple theory of promising\ud

By D. Owens

Abstract

[FIRST PARAGRAPHS] Why do human beings make and accept promises? What human interest is served by\ud this procedure? Many hold that promising serves what I shall call an information\ud interest, an interest in information about what will happen. And they hold that human\ud beings ought to keep their promises because breaches of promise threaten this interest.\ud On this view human beings take promises seriously because we want correct\ud information about how other human beings are going to act. Some such view is taken\ud for granted by most philosophical accounts of promissory obligation. I agree that\ud human beings do want such information and that they often get it by accepting\ud promises. But I doubt that promising exists because it serves this information interest.\ud \ud \ud I shall argue that promising exists because, at least when it comes to each\ud other’s actions, human beings often have what might be called an authority interest: I\ud often want it to be the case that I, rather than you, have the authority to determine\ud what you do. If you promise me a lift home, this promise gives me the right to\ud require you to drive me home; in that sense, it puts me in authority over you. So much\ud is obvious. What I claim is that human beings often want such authority for its own\ud sake (not just to facilitate prediction or co-ordination). I often have an interest in\ud having the right to determine whether you’ll give me a lift, over and above any\ud interest I have in knowing what you (or we) will actually do. And I claim that\ud promising exists because it serves this authority interest

Publisher: Duke University Press
Year: 2006
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.whiterose.ac.uk:1216

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