Standard Article


  1. David Owens

Published Online: 1 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee232

The International Encyclopedia of Ethics

How to Cite

Owens, D. 2013. Promises. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 FEB 2013


When a writer wishes to give an example of something we are obliged to do, likely as not they cite something we have promised to do. Promising is a standard source of obligation (see Duty and Obligation). Promissory obligation is also widely regarded as a peculiarly difficult or problematic form of obligation, as posing questions which other forms of obligation do not. We find ourselves obliged to do many things but promissory obligations are our own creation. Or so it seems. And the idea of a freely created obligation has puzzled many thinkers. When did this puzzlement begin?


  • ethics;
  • philosophy