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Promising - Part 2

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Abstract

The explanation of promising is fraught with problems. In particular the problem that promises can be valid even when nothing good comes of keeping the promise (the problem of ‘bare wrongings’), and the bootstrapping problem with explaining how the mere intention to put oneself under an obligation can create such an obligation have been recognized since Hume’s famous discussion of the topic. In part 1, I showed that two main views of promising which attempt to solve these problems fall short of explaining the promissory obligation nonetheless. In this second part, I will explain what it takes to show that there is such an obligation (rather than just a reason of a different kind) to keep one’s promises, and discuss a further account of promissory obligation – the normative powers account – which perhaps stands a chance to solve both the bootstrapping and the bare wrongings problem (or rather, to show why we needn’t be worried about those problems after all), and to successfully explain promissory obligation. It comes in at least two different forms: one which regards the normative power to promise as based on our ability to form special relationships, and another which regards the promisee’s ‘authority interest’ as the basis.

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