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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. There are two influential accounts of promising, and promissory obligation, which attempt to solve the problems: The expectation account and the practice account. While those accounts solve both the bootstrapping problem and the problem of bare wrongings, it turns out that they encounter numerous problems of their own.