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Abstract

Worries about the possibility of consent recall a more familiar problem about promising raised by Hume. To see the parallel here we must distinguish the power of consent from the normative significance of choice. I'll argue that we have normative interests, interests in being able to control the rights and obligations of ourselves and those around us, interests distinct from our interest in controlling the non-normative situation. Choice gets its normative significance from our non-normative control interests. By contrast, the possibility of consent depends on a species of normative interest that I'll call a permissive interest, an interest in its being the case that certain acts wrong us unless we declare otherwise. In the final section, I'll show how our permissive interests underwrite the possibility of consent.